You could make the argument that sugar goes hand in hand with the holidays. From Sugar Plum Fairies to candy canes, gingerbread, hot chocolate and more, our sweet tooth is getting its fix. Hate to be a buzz kill, but the sad truth is too much sugar is far from sweet. Before it gets you down there are things you can do to regain control, including dropping a single thing many of us enjoy everyday.
First, it’s worth addressing the sugar fix. And I do mean fix. Sweetness is addictive, our body craves it in much the same way we develop an addiction to tobacco and alcohol. The average American consumes a whopping 140 pounds of sugar each year!
Board-certified internist Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum, who also specializes in integrative medicine, says, “By beating addiction, you can get multiple monkeys off your back.” Namely it is linked to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, anxiety and other medical problems. Furthermore, we’ve all experienced crabbiness where we need some sweetness; and then the crash that comes afterwards.
Dr. Teitelbaum describes common complaints which include: fatigue, irritability, chronic sinusitis, digestive problems (irritable bowel syndrome and spastic colon), weight gain, and poor concentration.
None of these are a good thing; especially during the busy holiday season. To help rein in the sugar shakes, the doctor offers expert advice. As a precursor, sugar is okay, in reasonable amounts. The key is to avoid binging and giving into cravings.
Here are 7 tips to overcome your sugar cravings
Pace yourself. Slowly savoring a small square of chocolate helps you feel satisfied and satiated. Sometimes less is more. If you just try to go cold turkey without addressing the underlying cause of the sugar addiction, you’re likely to fail, and be miserable.
If you’re fatigued, instead of reaching for sugar as an “energy loan shark,” create healthy energy by augmenting with a better diet.
Get “hangry”? Fatigue of your adrenal “stress handler” gland is driving the sugar craving. Try increasing your salt and protein intake and also drinking a cup of licorice tea each morning.
Have chronic sinusitis or irritable bowel syndrome? If so, you may have Candida/yeast overgrowth that’s driving the sugar craving. Treating the Candida and taking a good probiotic is a good one-two punch.
In your 40s or 50s with anxiety and depression? These may be caused by estrogen or testosterone deficiency, and bio-identical hormones can make a world of difference.
Lastly, Stevia can be an excellent sugar substitute for those who like the taste.
The Mayo Clinic recommends giving yourself a two-week break from sugar to reset your system. This doesn’t have to be an outright full-stop or complete detox, but try to limit yourself to foods with little to no added sugars or sweeteners — shoot for less than 5 grams of added sugars per serving. The biggie is cutting out sugary drinks.
It’s worth noting: soda accounts for for almost half of the added sugars Americans consume. A 12-ounce can of soda can contain as many as 10 teaspoons. So if you only have the stamina to change one thing for starters, this is it.
The American Heart Association recommends men take in only nine teaspoons of added sugar a day; women and children, six. If you do the math, you can exceed your daily allotment in five or six gulps of soda!
If all this leaves you feeling a bit sour, you should remember that sugar is pleasurable and has its place — as a carefully measured sweet treat.