Ahhhh, SUGAR. Oh, how we crave thee! Many of us crave sugar so deeply that we seemingly can’t say, “No”.
Let me ask you something. Have you ever decided that you are going to “turn the corner” and quit sugar for good, only to find yourself at the end of a row of Oreo cookies within a few days, maybe a couple weeks? So maybe it’s not Oreos but you can probably identify… you find yourself asking, “Why? Why?” Or, maybe you’ve moved past the questions and just settled into the guilt and blame cycle highlighting your lack of willpower.
Here’s the good news… and bad, really. We are genetically programed to want carbohydrates and sugars. If we did not have a built in receptors for sugar and a strong desire to consume it, we would never have survived as a species. We are deeply programmed (mentally and physically) to want, to need, to demand and to find sugar.
So, it’s not your fault.
Craving sugar is an instinct that begins with mother’s breast milk but endures as a survival mechanism forever.
The physical and mental drives are deep. I liken resisting them to holding your breath. You can set your mind to holding your breath forever but at some point, rather quickly, your body says, “cute, that was fun… but I need oxygen and you’re being silly” – Then… inhale with a deep breath. Your body’s physiologic drives are very persuasive and often have the final say on many matters of survival.
You see, sugar and carbs do a few essential things for us:
- they are the primary fuel for every cell in our body.
- they help produce serotonin (our happy, peaceful, “the world’s a safe and wonderful place” neurotransmitter)… a serious coping mechanism.
- they bathe neurons in the brain – boosting brain function
- they stimulate the pleasure centers (dopamine) in the brain and body
Bottom line: Our need for sugar is not unlike an addiction. Table sugar is essentially a drug: It’s a highly refined concentrate with deep physical action and physical dependence develops quickly and easily. Here’s the unique nature of it as a drug that makes it so problematic.
- It is easily accessible, abundantly available and cheap.
- Its a generally well accepted drug with socially approved norms for its frequent use.
- Kids love it and we love our kids. Our parents generally loved us the same way.
- We are hardwired to desire it from birth, unlike other drugs. It’s in our nature.
You may already know but I find many people have no idea how much they love sugar: Consider answering the questions below – are you one of my sugar people? Your answers may serve as subtle (sometimes less than subtle) clues to your dependence on sugar.
- Crave sweets, breads, pastas or alcohol?
- Trouble skipping meals without feeling shaky or irritable?
- Feel overly sluggish or foggy shortly after a meal high in carbs?
- Alcoholism or Type 2 diabetes in the family?
- Able to avoid eating sweets on a regular basis, but simply can’t have them in the house b/c you know you’d eat them?
- Is having a piece of bread, a square of chocolate or 1 cookie a trigger for wanting more?
- Do you have carbohydrate or sugar cravings after a well-balanced meal?
- Screening labs show triglycerides over 100 and/or fasting blood sugar over 95?
- If you were asked to pick up trail mix at the store, would you find the kind with all the raisins, cranberry and other dried fruit? Similarly, if you were to make a smoothie, would you sneak in as many sweet fresh fruits (mango, pineapple, banana) as you could find?
Even if you’re not a “sugar person”, I feel it’s invaluable for everyone to find the “Sweet Spot” for Carbohydrate Intake.
Additionally, you may need to find ways to balance your blood sugar and deal with your cravings. Our favorite supplement for cravings of any kind is CraveBalance. It is an amino acid formula in balanced ratios to support serotonin and dopamine production. If mood enhancement is one of the reasons you crave sugar, amino acids provide the building blocks for mood so that you are not as likely to search outside of yourself (ie, eat sugar) to get a mood boost.
Let me know if we can help,
In the meantime, take care of yourself.
Drs. Sherri and Stockton