Have you ever suddenly felt exhausted, anxious, jittery, overwhelmed or cranky, only to reach for a muffin or donut, down a handful of M&M's, or slam back a sweet frothy vanilla latte or iced cappuccino and suddenly feel a sense of peace and calm wash over you? I'll be honest with you, I lived this scenario every day until I finally took control of my blood sugar.
When your blood sugar bottoms out because you've been too busy to eat, or you haven't been eating a well balanced diet full of nutrient dense foods, your brain will send out a distress signal to the rest of your body that you have gone into survival mode and that the only way to fix the situation is for it to receive a good dose of sugar or other fast-burning carbohydrate. Why? Because your brain's main source of fuel is glucose and it needs it to survive. Cravings for sugary, fatty and carbohydrate dense foods are a sign that your blood sugar has gotten too low and, when you give in to those cravings, you feel almost instantly better. You relax and all of the survival mode hormones that had you feeling like you were ready to rip the head off of your nearest co-worker settle down and get tucked away into your cells where they belong. World peace is restored...temporarily.
But there is one problem with this feel good moment. It doesn't last for long. Give it an hour and you're right back on the rollercoaster craving those fast burning carbohydrates to keep you afloat for the rest of the day. The next thing you know, it's 5:30pm and you're stopping into a convenience store or grocery store on your way home from work to grab a pack of Reese's Peanut Butter cups or a bag of chips to tide you over until dinner is made. You are in the throws of survival mode and your brain is going to see to it that you cave to the cravings so it can survive, no matter how badly you try to steer your thoughts in another direction in order to override the messages. Your brain doesn't give two hoots about whether or not you are going to still be able to fit into your skinny jeans.
So What's the Big Deal With Sugar If Our Brain Needs It to Survive?
We all love a sweet treat from time to time, and that's perfectly okay! Even our prehistoric ancestors had a sweet tooth. But the difference between us and them is that they satisfied their cravings for sweetness with fresh, nutrient dense foods like berries or the occasional serving of raw honey. The Western diet that the majority of North Americans consume has taken our love of sweetness to a level that is completely off the rails. The average North American consumes approximately 160lbs of sugar and 200lbs of white, refined flours each and every year. Combine these amounts and we're looking at approximately 1lb a day. Yikes!
This constant intake of quick burning, blood sugar spiking, carbohydrate is creating a state of chronic blood sugar imbalance and, in turn, an epidemic of chronic illness across North America. Type 2 Diabetes has become an epidemic, as has cardiovascular disease and obesity. This continual influx of sugar and refined carbohydrates creates a host of metabolic imbalances and inflammation within the body which can be linked to a laundry list of chronic, yet preventable, illnesses.
Additionally, when your blood sugar is constantly on a roller coaster of being too high and then crashing too low, it puts an enormous amount of stress on your adrenal glands, further adding to the overall stress burden on your body and your brain. When you are stressed out, your body increases production of a stress hormone called Cortisol. Consumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates further drive Cortisol production, so the more stress you have, the more sugar you crave and the more Cortisol you produce. Because of its effect on Leptin and Ghrelin (two hormones involved in our feelings of hunger and satiety), and the reward centres of the brain, Cortisol keeps you wanting more and more sugar. What happens when you constantly reach for the sweet and sugary foods to stay satisfied? You lose your taste for healthy and nutrient dense foods because they just don't taste as good as the sugary, fatty, salty and carb-heavy options.
Chronic and continual consumption of sugar can lead to a depletion of your beneficial gut bacteria which, in turn, translates into systemic inflammation, leaky gut and problems with proper nutrient absorption which is HUGE because if you're not absorbing nutrients, your body isn't nourished and you end up becoming sick.
Finally, sugar suppresses your immune system functioning. A robust and well-functioning immune system is the foundation of good health and longevity and is directly affected by the foods we consume every day. Studies show that ingestion of 100g of glucose inhibits the function of our white blood cells by upwards of 50% for a good 5 hours. These white blood cells are what protect us against viruses, bacterial infections and even cancer.
How To Break Up With Sugar
So how do you get off the blood sugar roller coaster, take back control and break up with your addiction to the sweet demon? By getting your blood sugar back into the normal zone that your brain and body expect it to be in through eating a nourishing whole foods diet, rich in fresh vegetables, fruits, lean proteins and healthy fats. It is astounding how quickly we can reign in our cravings for the bad and replace them with cravings for the good when we give our body the foods that it is designed to run off of. Foods like unrefined traditional whole grains, dark green leafy veggies and other colourful veggies, beans, legumes, hormone and antibiotic-free lean animal proteins, and fats such as avocados, coconut, nuts, seeds and their cold-pressed oils.
But where do you start? Well, if you want to go hard core and rip the Band-Aid right off, open up that fridge, pantry, desk drawer, etc., toss all of the processed sugar-laden food and replace it with whole foods that come in the same state as they are found in nature.
Or, you can take things step-by-step with guidance and support with my 5-Day Break Up With Sugar Challenge. This program is 100% FREE and comes complete with a 5-day meal plan, recipes (including snacks), and daily emails FULL of useful and practical information, tips and tricks to help you kick your sugar addiction, feel better, sleep better and improve your overall health. Ready to take the plunge? Sign up here and then check your inbox for all the goodies! Want to really have some fun with it? Get a friend to do it with you and make it into an even more exciting challenge!
As a certified nutritionist and former sugar (and caffeine) addict, I promise you that once you start to nourish your body with the glorious and nutrient dense foods that Mother Nature has to offer, you'll get your blood sugar balanced and start feeling amazing in no time.
If you would like to explore how working with a holistic nutritionist can help you achieve your best and most vibrant health, please feel free contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 519.404.9919 to schedule your FREE 30 minute discovery session to discuss how I can help you reach your wellness goals.
Jill Taylor is a Certified Holistic Nutritionist based in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. She is the mom of two pretty awesome teenagers, s very dramatic dog, a hedgehog and a snake (yikes!). Jill assists her clients in achieving true wellness through thoughtful and compassionate dietary and lifestyle coaching. Feel free to visit the "Contact" page to get in touch. Jill would love to hear from you!