Why are we addicted to sugar? An underlying health condition could be the reason!

Why are we addicted to sugar? An underlying health condition could be the reason!

Author -  Good Health

Last week, we revealed shocking scientific research showing that sugar consumption affects the brain in a similar way to some drugs, such as cocaine! This week we investigate further into what can make sugar so addictive.

Why is sugar so addictive? Sugar fuels all the cells in the brain and sugar, like some other addictive substances, all affect the same area of the brain – the reward centre which controls the chemistry of the limbic system; the part of the brain that’s associated with emotional control. Our brains are wired to pleasure, and the pleasure we get from eating sugar causes a release of mood enhancing neurotransmitters (including serotonin, dopamine and beta-endorphin) in the brain that make us feel good – reinforcing the sugar craving behaviour. When the brain sees sugar as a reward, we crave it because sugar is reinforcing the reward, which is why it can be so difficult to stop.

If you have a predisposition to addiction, or are already addicted to sugar, you can see how sugar can have a powerful influence over your brain chemistry – hijacking rational thoughts and control so we eat more, crave more, eat more and so the cycle continues...

Craving sugar could be a pure, down and out addiction; but here’s the news – perhaps it’s not your sweet tooth addiction, it could actually be related to an underlying health condition.

Sugar cravings are a sign of imbalance in the body. There are a few conditions that cause sugar cravings. Remember, if it is an underlying condition, it’s not just you! It can actually be the infection causing the cravings.

For example, Candida loves sugar because it feeds off the sugar (making you feel automatically better when you consume sugar). Other conditions also have a similar effect such as low blood sugar associated with diabetes or PMS.

Examples of health conditions that can increase sugar cravings:

Candida overgrowth - Candida is a normal and natural part of the flora in your digestive system. However, antibiotics kill off the good bacteria; antacids neutralise stomach acid so bugs have a better environment to grow; and oral contraceptive pills, steroids, and stress (both of which suppress immunity) can trigger an overgrowth of bad bacteria and yeasts. Candida overgrowth feeds on sugar and triggers sugar cravings, which cause the yeasts to multiply and so the vicious cycle continues. A course of probiotics, fermented foods, good yogurt, avoiding sugar and using supplements to help suppress the sugar cravings, such as Good Health’s Sugar Stop could all help you overcome this common condition.

Menopause and PMT - When estrogen and progesterone drop during menopause, or fluctuate due to PMS, women become more prone to insulin resistance, a condition where the body’s cells don’t respond as efficiently to insulin. In response to fluctuating hormone levels the body craves sugar to raise feel good hormones especially serotonin. The sugar fix is only a short term remedy. For longer term remedies, you could increase fibre, Chromium (a trace nutrient for healthy insulin function), Magnesium, essential fatty acids and/or B vitamins particularly Vitamin B6.

Insulin resistance is a condition where glucose is not able to enter the cells where it is needed by the body for energy which results in the sugar staying in your blood and increasing blood sugar levels. Your body needs to move glucose out of the bloodstream into the cells for energy, if not your body is starved of fuel to operate. The pancreas is the organ responsible for making a hormone called insulin which transfers the sugar from the bloodstream into the cells. Certain conditions such as PCOS, hypothyroid, type two diabetes, insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome all cause problems with this mechanism. Even though you are eating enough, the cells are starved of fuel so the body compensates by naturally trying to increase insulin and this results in sugar cravings. Horrible symptoms of insulin resistance result in feeling shaky, tired, unfocused and wiped out. The solution is to eat small frequent meals including protein, fibre and healthy fats to stabilize blood sugar levels. Certain nutrients are also beneficial including; chromium, magnesium, decaffeinated green coffee beans and white mulberry leaf.

Adrenal overload - Do you get dizzy when standing up, feel irritable and stressed? Prolonged stress, physical illness or difficult times have a dramatic effect on the adrenal glands and cause adrenal overload. Our adrenal glands help us respond and cope with stress and release adrenalines and cortisol when under pressure. Constant stressors result in low energy and stamina over time as the adrenal glands become sluggish and tired. Over time this causes low cortisol levels which leads to a feeling of fatigue and feeling like you have to drag yourself around. This makes the body crave sugar for an energy fix but adrenal fatigue can make it harder for the body to regulate blood sugar levels healthily. A sugar treat is a short-lived solution because a sugar high causes excessive insulin to be released which then leads to a blood sugar crash and results in fatigue, anxiousness and feeling jittery. This causes further damage to the adrenal glands as they try to cope. A better alternative is to snack on high protein foods, nuts, protein bars, hummus and veggies or a vegetable juice to maintain healthy energy levels. Green tea can also be helpful as it is rich in L-theanine and amino acid which have a positive, calming effect.

Low thyroid function causes major fatigue when left untreated. Whenever the body is fatigued we will naturally reach for energy fixes; and sugar is a major energy fix – short term. Make sure that you have your thyroid tested and seek advice from your health care professional, particularly if you are also suffering with unexplainable weight gain, fatigue, feeling the cold, puffy hands, face and feet, dry skin, hair and nails, joint pain, problems conceiving, to name just a few. There are a few trace minerals, vitamins and herbs which are useful for supporting an underactive thyroid (and overactive) but a test first is needed to validate this. B vitamins, iodine, tyrosine and the Indian ginseng Withania and Coleus forskolii are both herbs for improving the function of the thyroid gland.

There are a few trace minerals, vitamins and herbs, which are useful for supporting an underactive thyroid (and overactive) but a test first is needed to validate this. B vitamins, iodine, tyrosine and herbs such as Withania and Coleus Forskolii can help to improve the functioning of the thyroid gland.

So, now that we know what is potentially causing our sugar cravings, next week we’ll be helping you to identify those nasty hidden sugars to help you more effectively reduce sugar in your diet.

Not all products recommended may be available in South Africa at this time


Post New Comment

Not all products recommended may be available in South Africa at this time