Dr. Nina’s What You Need to Know: To Kick That Sugar Addiction to The Curb

Help! I’m Addicted to Sugar

I am a sugar-holic: I crave it, I indulge in it, and I lose control. While sugar is in no way nicotine or other street drugs, it is possible to be addicted to sugar. Our sweet tooth (in my case, plural, sweet “teeth”) stems from the reality that sugar can hack into an area of our brain that releases “feel good” hormones. These hormones were designed to help us survive and provide a reward mechanism, similar to when we see someone we love. That makes sense, like Cookie Monster, “Me love cookies…and all things sweet.”

Although sugar is sweet to our taste buds, it can sour our health. Added sugar can pack on the pounds and cause associated problems of obesity, including diabetes. More recently, researchers have discovered that added sugar, on its own, regardless of other health problems, can more than double the risk of death from heart disease!

Dr. Nina’s What You Need to Know: To Kick That Sugar Addiction to The Curb

Cold Turkey Or Gradual Wean? We are talking about sugar, not crack. Because it is not immediately harmful or deadly, we can afford to kick the habit gradually. Like the turtle and the hare, slow and steady will win the race, and make it more likely that we will stick with it.

Knowing is Half the Battle One of my greatest life lessons came from the cartoon GI Joe. On that note, knowing that when you first start cutting back on sugar, you may feel tired or edgy can help you get through this temporary rough patch. Not to fret; it is a short rocky patch on the road to better health.

Sugar Highs Our blood sugar levels, and “feel good” hormones, skyrocket after consuming soda, cookies, and cake. This party, or “high” is cut short because our bodies respond by releasing the hormone insulin. Insulin moves glucose from our blood into our cells and drops our blood sugar levels. This can make us “crash” and feel shaky. We try to get “high” again by eating more sweets, and literally and figuratively, feed our addiction.

Fruit & Fiber: Satisfy your sweet tooth (or teeth) with fruit. Although fruit contains simple sugars, it also contains vitamins, nutrients, antioxidants, and fiber which can slow the process. Fiber delays the absorption of sugar and decreases the sugar highs and consequent lows. Additionally, fiber makes our tummies feel full and can decrease the number of calories we consume.

Instead of reaching for that cookie, indulge with a banana, apple, mango, pear, or pineapple; the list goes on. Consider blending fruit with nonfat yogurt for a fun and healthy treat. And for the kids, or the kids at heart, make popsicles!

Dehydration Sometimes what we perceive as a sugar craving may really be thirst. So reach for a glass or two of water the next time you crave for sugar.

Brush Your Toothsies And rinse with mouthwash. The clean, mouth-refreshing taste from toothpaste and mouthwash will make many sweets taste bad.

Get Your ZZZ’s Not getting a good night’s sleep can make a “sober” sugar addict relapse, or “fall off the wagon.” Sleep deprivation sends our hormones out of whack and makes us crave for high calorie, high sugar foods.

Move It We often hear the term “work up an appetite.” But did you know that exercising can actually reduce our appetite rather than increase it? It sounds like a win-win: burning calories and eating less.

Watch Out For Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing Sugar comes in many forms and names, including glucose, sucrose, brown rice syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, and dextrose. Additionally, foods that do not taste sweet can be loaded with sugar; for example, ketchup, pasta sauce, bread, pasta, and rice. To avoid them, read the nutrition labels.

“Dear Mr. Cookie, Me am writing this to you. And Me hope that you understand. Me heart beats like a hammer. You make Me stutter and Me stammer. But it’s time for Me to say farewell to yee. Me wanna stay stealthy and Me realizes you make me unhealthy.” Excuse my improvising but it is important to admit it, understand it, and say good bye to sugar addiction. Kick it to the curb – you will be healthier every step of the way!

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Photograph by K. Cecchini

Notice: This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither Dr. Nina Radcliff or Kimberly Cecchini take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.
Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, including the use of natural or herbal remedies, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies. Use of these remedies in connection with over the counter or prescription medications can cause severe adverse reactions. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness.