Thin Mints. Samoas. Tagalongs. Music to my ears; a party on my tongue. Sugar has a grip on many of us. What causes this craving and how do we get off of the sugar high and low craving cycle?
One reason, or excuse, for the need to eat dessert is conditioning. If your meal isn’t finished until you’ve had something sweet you may be a victim to family traditions. Sugar may equate to comfort and security. You’ve got a habit that needs to be broken.
Another reason for craving is that your body has a low serotonin level. Serotonin is a brain chemical that makes you feel content and happy. Medications like anti-depressants work by keeping serotonin levels high. Sugar may increase the absorption of an amino acid called tryptophan, which the body uses to make serotonin. That sweet treat may make you happy and avoiding sweets may make you feel deprived and irritable.
A third reason for sugar craving is candida – that dreaded yeast beast. The very foods that should be avoided when fighting a candida overgrowth are the ones craved: sugar, carbs, alcohol, cheese, and vinegary foods. It comes as no surprise that these foods (eating too much of them) may be the culprit causing this condition in the first place. These dietary errors cause a craving for more of the same.
Candida albicans is a single-celled yeast-like fungus. In a healthy immune system with amounts of ‘friendly’ bacteria, this fungus remains in check. However, when the healthy balance or correct intestinal medium is disturbed, the friendly bacteria loses its stronghold, this fungus is allowed to multiply in the mucous membranes of the gastrointestinal system. Along with diet, antibiotics, environmental stresses and long term use of steroids and birth control pills can throw off the body’s balance. The good news is that candida can be treated and managed.
So, how do we avoid the craving?
1. Treat Candida if you suspect that you have an imbalance in your immune system. Some of the symptoms are: bloating, excessive gas, skin conditions, fatigue, dizziness, ‘brain fog’, sinusitis, depression, low self esteem, vaginal itching or yeast infection. Consult your physician and/or research the many over the counter candida cleansing programs available.
2. Willpower may not be enough. Rid your home of poor dietary choices. Gift those Girl Scout Cookies to the neighborhood retirement home. Eat balanced meals which include complex carbs. These complex carbs guarantee a slow absorption of sugar which stabilizes insulin levels.
3. Avoid artificial sweeteners. Yes, this includes diet soda. These artificial sweeteners actually generate a craving for real sugar and more calories without bringing satisfaction.
4. Eat fruit, not cookies – an apple or citrus. Avoid mangos, pineapple and bananas because of their high sugar content. Fruit juice is loaded with sugar – avoid it.
5. Drink green tea. It helps with the stress response of craving and the bitter taste kills the desire for sugar. Try drinking it with stevia, a safer plant-based sweetener that is known as a craving reducer.
6. Exercise when you crave sugar. Go for a walk.
7. Keep a food diary so that you can record what you are putting in your mouth. Recognize eating habits that sabotage your ‘best you’. Awareness is the first step to changing behavior.