The holiday season is upon us again and while I love everything about the holiday season, I don’t like the never-ending temptation to binge on sugar-laden foods. In the next two posts I though it would be useful to share the things I’ve observed both in clinical practice and personally regarding sugar so that when you’re offered yet another cookie or candy during the holidays, you’ll think about the larger impact all that sugar is having your your health.
My relationship with sugar started early. As a child I would spontaneously eat sugar cubes- the one’s intended for my mom’s coffee. In high school I had a Fun Dip obsession and in university, I remember having such intense sugar cravings late at night that I would run out to the 7-Eleven in my pyjamas for bags full of chewy candy at 11pm. And it didn’t stop there, even as an adult I added copious amounts of sugar to my coffee and ‘treated’ myself to donuts after a long, hard week at work. So I understand the power of sugar addiction, but I didn’t really understand it until I left my 9-5 and decided to make use of my science degree by returning to school and obtaining further training in clinical nutrition.
Why Do Sugar Cravings Happen?
1.) Some people have the genetic predisposition to be less sensitive to sugar and therefore crave sweeter and sweeter foods.
2.) Cravings arise from eating a high sugar diet. Sugary foods give you quick energy fixes and the more you consume, the more your body wants as an easy fuel source.
3.) Cravings arise from low protein in the diet. When sugar cravings hit, the body usually needs protein.
4.) When the sugar cravings take over in an unrelenting and powerful way there’s a high chance that there’s some dysbiois happening in your digestive system and a gut bacteria is craving all that sugar so it can survive.
This organism is called Candida. And, over 70% of North Americans have it because of the overuse of prescription antibiotics, antibiotics in our meat supply and the over consumption of refined sugar. It is normal and healthy to have a small amount of the Candida bacteria in the intestinal lining as part of a healthy intestinal micro biome but it’s the overgrowth of Candida we want to avoid as it leads to many problems.
If you have any of the symptoms below you may be dealing with Candida:
- Intestinal distress like constipation, bloating or gas
- Mental/emotional issues like depression and anxiety
- Mental fog or unclear thinking
- Debilitating fatigue/exhaustion
- Intense sugar cravings
- Chronic sinus infection
- Excess mucous
- Nail fungus
- Yeast infections
- Persistent food or environmental allergies
- White coating on the tongue or thrush
I see varying degrees of candida in my practice all of the time and there’s a lot that can be done to eradicate Candida and stop the sugar cravings. In fact I’m going to change can to should in the above sentence because candida and other forms of dysbiosis can become very serious problems. When candida is left unchecked, it can become systemic, leading to weaknesses in the digestive system the immune system and the body as a whole. The severity of the dysbiosis will determine the approach that is taken within a standardized protocol to reverse and eliminate symptoms, so an individualized approach that evaluates your personal health history and your bio-individualized chemistry will provide the best results.
So, while I understand and empathize that sugar addiction can be a powerful force, I recognize how important it is to rebalance the gut microflora to optimize nutrient absorption, digestive function, immune function, and general health.
Stay tuned for next week’s post where I’ll share some strategies for relieving sugar craving and shifting your relationship with sugar one bite at at time.