Confessions of a Sugar Addict
I love Chinese Medicine for so many reasons. One of my favorites is the philosophy of everything in moderation. For someone who loves sweets as much as I do, it’s been a welcome relief to keep a portion in my diet.
Throughout over 25 years of practicing medicine, I have researched extensively to improve the health of my patients often experimenting on myself to see the results of anintervention. Sugar has been my weakness. Even when I’ve been on really strict low carbohydrate diets, I’ve somehow found a way to keep having a little on the side. My favorite is a small piece of dark chocolate. It’s full of anti-oxidants so it’s healthy.
I’m a sugar addict!
Recently I decided that I really wanted to eliminate all sweets from my diet. I wanted to see what would change in my body/mind/spirit if I really did it. But as the thought stayed, my mind quickly began to negotiate. Was a small amount of sugar a day really so bad? Some studies say that we even need a little sugar in order for our brain and muscles to function well…(What a great excuse!)
Apparently I’m not alone in my addiction. The average American gets a whopping 42 teaspoons of sugar a day. A can of soda has 11 teaspoons of sugar in it. While I call myself a sugar addict, I still only have an average of four to five teaspoons of sugar a day when I’m having sugar.
In doing my research to avoid sugar entirely, I found that very few items at Whole Foods or Trader Joes are actually without sugar. Gluten free items abound but sugar-less items are hard to come by. So my effort to stay away from sugar was also a research project. Can you buy any packaged foods that have no sugar? (note to creative entrepreneur – this could be a gold mine! Creating sugarless healthy and tasty treats)
By managing your body’s sugar levels, you are maintaining appropriate levels of serotonin, which is a chemical in your brain that affects your moods. Low serotonin levels can cause anxiety, fatigue, depression, and more. When your body is low on serotonin it automatically wants to balance the body with sugar. That’s when you start to get cravings.
There has been debate over the years as to whether sugar is biologically addictive. Recently, David Ludwig, author of Ending the Food Fight, created a study confirmed that indeed sugar is.
What happens when you eliminate sugar from your diet?
Foods that that have a high glycemic index (such as sugar, white flour, white potatoes and refined starch) activate a specific region in the brain called the nucleus accumbens that is known to be fertile ground for conventional addiction, such as gambling or drugabuse.
Its tricky blaming sugar for all the health problems we have, because by itself it really isn’t a problem in moderation. The big problem is that we get so much sugar hidden in various places in our diet, that we get way too much, even when we think we’re avoiding it. That being said, it can contribute to joint pains, obesity, and diabetes. Diabetes andobesity have increased so much that there is now conversation about regulating sugar consumption.
On to my experiment, for four months, I didn’t eat any sugar at all. No honey, agave, maple syrup, or any other type of sweetener, except the occasional stevia (an herbal sweetener that doesn’t raise blood sugar).
Within a week I lost my cravings entirely. Certain body aches that I was used to living with disappeared. The more miraculous change was that a low-grade depression I chronically lived with disappeared, and my reaction to emotional triggers was gentler. I felt clear- headed in a new way. I could even say that I was happier.
If you eat almost no processed foods, and you stay out of restaurants, you probably get the amount of sugar you think you do in your diet. But if you don’t, you’re getting way more than you think. You might want to try changing your life by cutting it out entirely and see how you feel. I’d love your feedback if you do.