- Jun 07, 2017
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Want to curb sugar cravings? Here is the solution by Dr. Ilana Goldberg
In the practice of functional or natural medicine, nutrition becomes a primary focus. The presence or absence of key nutrients will affect every single reaction in the body. As a result I talk about diet with every patient I see, even if they have come to me for something seemingly unrelated like pain, stress, or sleep issues. One of the main things I look at is sugar consumption. We now know that too much dietary sugar is related to diabetes, high cholesterol, cancer, obesity, nutritional deficiencies, increased blood pressure, leaky gut syndrome, autoimmune disease….the list goes on! Patients will often sheepishly admit to me that they are addicted to sugar or carbohydrates. They usually see this as a character flaw; as if their inability to stop eating chocolate ice cream, French bread, or raspberry Danish is a sign of weakness or faulty willpower. I see sugar cravings as something else entirely – a physiological imbalance. Humans are designed to like “sweet”. It prevented us from starving to death even when acquiring food was difficult or dangerous. But overwhelming cravings that are difficult or impossible to resist are often a sign of an underlying problem:
- Problems balancing blood sugar – Your body HATES having low blood sugar, much more than having high blood sugar. I’ve had diabetic patients in my office with blood glucose levels four times higher than normal who feel perfectly fine. But once your blood sugar starts to go too low you will immediately feel it, you may feel shaky, light-headed, and start sweating excessively. Confusion, dry mouth, and palpitations can be symptoms as well and eventually nausea, vomiting, and unresponsiveness will set in. Before you get to this state, your body will try to fix the situation by conjuring cravings for cupcakes, cookies, candy, soda, anything that will bring your blood sugar back up. I often see this in patients who have impaired ability to keep their blood sugar stable and their blood sugar goes back and forth between being too high and then being too low. Once you’re on this blood sugar roller coaster, it can be very hard to get off.
- Stress- Did you know that your stress hormone cortisol increases your blood sugar? So even if you are not eating a lot of sugar, you can find yourself on the blood sugar roller coaster during periods of emotional or physical stress.
- Mood disorders – Anxiety and depression are often related to a neurotransmitter imbalance. Serotonin and Dopamine are “happy” and “rewarding” neurotransmitters that make us feel good. Eating sugar causes the pancreas to release insulin, and it just happens to release a bunch of serotonin at the same time. Eating sugar also causes the brain to produce high amounts of dopamine, the main neurotransmitter involved in pleasure and addiction. Many people actually “self-medicate” their mood disorder by eating sugar for the temporary boost…but end up creating a vicious cycle that can result in sugar being as addictive as heroin. I’m not overstating this! Studies have shown that lab rats will choose Oreos more often than morphine once they are “addicted”!
- Low energy – Sugar can give you a temporary energy boost (mentally and physically). Many people will crave sugar when they have trouble generating enough energy - due to thyroid issues, hormone imbalance, adrenal fatigue, mitochondrial dysfunction, or sleep disorders.
- Inadequate Nutrition – Sugar cravings often indicate that the body is missing something. Frequently the “something” is actually potassium, magnesium, calcium, sulfur, chromium, or tryptophan.
The inconvenient truth is that the best way to curb sugar cravings is to cut out sugar completely. By depriving your body of sugar, you force your body to figure out how to burn fat instead which results in more stable blood sugar throughout the day and an eventual reduction of sugar cravings. But this conversion process to fat-burning can be incredibly challenging. You will go through about 3-5 days of INTENSE sugar cravings. Some people are able to “white-knuckle” through, but it isn’t easy. And, if you try to reduce your daily sugar intake slowly, you may experience milder sugar cravings, but for much longer.
That’s why I was so excited when the makers of a product called Sweet Zap by Seynani reached out to me to ask if I would review their product. Sweet Zap is an oral spray that contains the herbs Gymnema Sylvestre, Holy Basil, and peppermint. In larger amounts, Gymnema has been used as an herbal treatment for diabetes because it can actually lower blood sugar. But Gymnema has another magical quality…It temporarily blocks your sugar receptors on your tongue and reduces the sensation of sweetness. This can help curb sugar cravings and lessen the desire for high-sugar and high-calorie foods. It may also curb appetite in general. Researchers examined the effect of gymnema on people who were fasting and found those who took the herb one hour before being offered food ate less than the control group. Holy Basil not only lowers blood sugar but may help cravings because it can lower cortisol, the stress hormone that wreaks havoc with your blood sugar.
Sweet Zap by Seynani can be an invaluable tool while you are decreasing your sugar intake to improve your health. By blocking your body’s ability to taste sweet, Sweet Zap works as a conditioning tool that ends the cycle of sugar addiction. Instead of being a tortured and stressful experience, making healthy choices will be easier than ever!