This is the second article in a 3-part series on The Elimination Process. These articles are built on the principles of elimination and the power it holds in healing and optimising our health.
Do you often crave sugary foods?
If so, you aren’t alone! Sugars are in fact very addictive, and in today’s modern world full of packaged and processed products, it’s hard to avoid them when they are hidden everywhere. Some of us have even developed an unhealthy relationship with sugars and rely on them to deal with difficult emotions in periods of distress or simply boredom.
The problem arises when we consume an excess of added sugars i.e. sugars added to foods by the manufacturer, cook or consumers to increase the food’s palatability, taste, texture, and shelf life. Most of the bread, yogurts, and soups you buy off the shelf are packed with the unhealthy kind. Sugar is simply unavoidable unless we consume only whole foods. The result is that we are consuming way more sugar than we should.
In many parts of the world, people are consuming an average of more than 500 calories per day from added sugar alone (Lustig et al., 2022). According to the World Health Organization (WHO), consumption of added sugars should be limited to 10% or less of total caloric intake. Each gram of sugar provides 4 calories. It means if you consume 2000 calories per day, you should aim for 200 calories or 50 grams or less of sugar per day.
The bitter truth of sweet sugars
Not only do sugars fill us up with empty calories without much nutritional value and spike our blood sugar levels, but they are also a major source of human diseases and disorders.
Added sugars contain sucrose – a glucose molecule bonded to fructose. As blood sugar levels rise, the pancreas produces insulin, a hormone that signals cells in the absorption of glucose. This leads to a drop in blood sugar levels. Excessive consumption of sugars and the continuous cycle of insulin increase and decrease ultimately leads to insulin resistance i.e. the cells simply stop responding to insulin in the blood and don’t take up glucose. The result is high blood sugar levels, resulting in all kinds of degenerative diseases including hypertension, diabetes, liver dysfunction, obesity, cardiovascular diseases, and even cancer (Gillespie et al., 2023).
While sugar is often associated with these chronic diseases, it also has a significant impact on our emotional state. Several studies provide evidence that high-sugar diets influence the development of hyperactivity, mental distress, conduct problems, anxiety, and depression (Jacques et al., 2019).
Let’s get into how sugar affects our emotional and mental state, takes control of our mood, and impacts our behavior.
Sugar Addiction: The Hit, the Rush, the Crash
and the need for another Fix.
Did you know that sugar can be as harmful as alcohol and drugs?
Just like alcohol, sugars are highly addictive and have the ability to manipulate our brains. No wonder alcohol is produced by fermenting sugars! When we consume sugar, the cells in our stomach sense the presence of sugars and send the information to the brain.
This signal stimulates the release of dopamine in our brains. Dopamine is the feel-good neurotransmitter that gets released in our brain when we fall in love or when we accomplish a difficult task. It activates the reward pathways of our brain and motivates us to go after the stimuli.
Whereas eating an apple might cause a moderate release of dopamine, eating a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream is so rewarding that it releases a much larger amount. This provides the body with the same addictive high as drugs such as heroin, morphine, cocaine, and alcohol. In fact, excessive consumption of sugar has been shown to induce addictive behavior such as craving, bingeing, withdrawal, tremors, mood swings, anxiety, and depressive behaviors (Wideman et al., 2005; Beecher et al., 2021).
A meta-analysis from April 2023 indicated that insulin resistance, which develops because of excessive sugar consumption, might affect pathways involved in schizophrenia neurobiology (Bartolomeis et al., 2023).
Frequent consumption of sugars and repeated spikes of dopamine can desensitise the neurotransmitters, which then leads to less and less dopamine release. This then leaves us in a vicious sugar cycle, needing more and more sugar-based fast foods to score the same dopamine rush (Winterdahl et al., 2019).
Moreover, sugars are also experts in creating a hunger-like state in our brains. While glucose is well-known to induce satiety by increasing insulin and leptin hormones, fructose reduces these satiety hormones. Also, fructose intake inhibits the reduction of ghrelin, a hormone that promotes over-consumption (Payant et al., 2021). In other words, after you eat fructose, your body never gets the message, “You’ve eaten enough, now stop.”
Curb your cravings
Even though we are evolutionarily hardwired to be attracted to sugar, the sugar we are consuming in the modern world on a daily basis isn’t similar to the natural sugars that our ancestors binged on. I know it’s hard not to start your day with a coffee double-double or not to end your day with a dessert. The key is to be conscious of what you put in your body that you love so much.
One general rule can be to avoid any packaged food with a lot of added sugar, with “sugar” as the first or second ingredient on nutrition labels. And why not avoid processed foods altogether? Why not choose fresh fruit or a few dates instead of that chocolate bar? As you slowly reduce your sugar intake, your cravings will also be reduced.In our new online program Thrive, we give you the process and protocols necessary to beat those cravings once and for all and create a whole new baseline for your health.
Click here to learn more and join the journey towards a thriving life.
Article by Dr. Chanchal Chauhan – Biocellular Expert
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