So, we got your attention. Whether sugar is "really" more addictive than heroin remains to be seen. One thing we do know is that sugar is addictive and it is deadly. It just takes longer to kill you than heroin. In the early 1900’s rates of diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease were much lower than today. Obesity was rare. At that time the average American consumed about sixty pounds of sugar per year. Today, that is approximately 180 pounds. Too much sugar consumption is at the core of the chronic diseases that plague us today. Quite simply – the human body was not designed to process the amount of sugar that we are now putting into it.
The Low Down on Sugar
Why is sugar so addictive? There are a few reasons. The first is rooted in our biology. Humans can not manufacture vitamin C so we must consume it. Since we couldn’t get vitamin C pills until recently, traditionally we got it from nature where it is found in many sweet fruits.
To satisfy this desire for the sweet taste, we created more foods to deliver that taste. Here is the second biological aspect to sugar. Eating it causes a biochemical chain reaction that leads to a temporary increase in the hormone serotonin. Serotonin is our “feel good” hormone. It helps us feel more relaxed, less anxious, less stressed, and improves our mood. This is the well known “sugar high”. The key word here is temporary. Once the high is gone, the body desires to return to it. Thus, sugar can become an addiction; and it is a very difficult one to break.
What fuels this addiction is the fact that most of the sugar we consume is refined and has no nutritional value. Our hunger is not satisfied. Hunger is a sign from our body that it needs energy to function. After eating sugary foods we will soon be hungry and eat again. We’ve all experienced this. Unfortunately this often means eating more sugar, which keeps this pattern going and the addiction continues.
There is one more player in the equation. We are not alone in our body. We have “guests.” Sugar is also the “food” for the bad bacteria and yeast (Candida) in our body. As we feed them, they take over our digestive system, leading to bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, yeast infections, hormonal imbalances, and a variety of other problems. Often the sugar cravings we experience are these critters sending us the “feed me” signal.
How We Get From Sugar to Disease
How does sugar lead to disease? There is obesity; officially not a diagnosed disease, but a major risk factor for heart disease and diabetes. Sugar causes spikes in our blood sugar levels. The body desires constant blood sugar levels. Therefore, it must move sugar out of the blood. Insulin does this by either moving the sugar into the cells for energy, or by converting and storing it as fat. Here’s a little secret for you – we do not get fat by eating too much fat, we get fat by eating too much sugar.
Eventually our cells become insulin resistant, our pancreas begins to revolt and can not keep up with insulin production. We become pre-diabetic, and ultimately diabetic. On top of that, the constant spikes in our blood sugar are causing inflammation and irritation to our arteries which ultimately leads to heart disease.
But there is more to the story. As our body digests the sugar, it is also depleting nutrients from our body so we can adequately process it. So, not only are there no nutrients in the sugary food, it is taking nutrients out of our body in its processing!
Get Off the Sugar!
I can not emphasize enough the importance of reducing sugar in your diet. It is one of the key factors behind the diseases that are rampaging through our population. Reducing your sugar intake is an important aspect of living a healthier lifestyle and at the core of the individualized wellness programs developed for my clients.
A healthy alternative is the powdered probiotic sweetener Flora Key available from UniKey Health. Made from fructooligosaccharides (FOS) it not only has a naturally sweet taste, but it also boosts your immune system and crowds out the bad yeast that feed on sugar. One caveat, Flora Key cannot be used in heated foods or drinks.
It’s not east to break addictions, but I have a plan for you. In Get the Sugar Out I offer 501 simple ways to get the sugar out of your diet. There are tips for eating, shopping, cooking, and dining out. For a look at the book go to Get the Sugar Out.
Visionary, health guru, diet/detox expert, and natural foods icon Ann Louise Gittleman is the award-winning author of 30 books on health and healing including the New York Times bestsellers The Fat Flush Plan and Before The Change. Her most recent release is The Gut Flush Plan.
For the past two decades she has been considered one of the foremost nutritionist in the United States.
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