A few weeks ago I wrote about Nourishment Over Willpower and there is nothing more true when trying to battle insistent sugar cravings. When you have those cravings, it does not mean you need to find some Herculean Willpower to get over your sugar desires. Cravings of any kind are an indication your body is looking for something, and it is time to do a little decoding.
Here are 4 typical reasons why your body is looking for sugar:
- Digestion is off.
This is a vicious cycle. The more sugar you eat the less effective your digestion will be, the less effective digestion is, the more you will crave sugar for quick energy. If you aren’t digesting your proteins and fats appropriately, then your body is essentially handicapped when it comes to stabilizing blood sugar. You will continue to crave sugar no matter how strong your willpower is.
To reverse this trend, you have to work on fixing digestion and the best place to start is at the top. First you need to slow down when you eat and take a few deep breaths before taking that first bite. Digestion is a parasympathetic process (relaxed) not sympathetic (stressed). The second piece is to take Betaine HCl with each of your meals. Sugar inherently decreases the levels of HCl your stomach produces, and in order to get those levels back up to sufficient, you have to hit the reset button by supplementing with HCl for a time.
- Gut Imbalance.
With the onslaught of antibiotics in our society and our increasing penchant for refined, processed, sugary foods we have created a prime environment in our digestive tract for the ‘bad bugs’ to proliferate. And, when the bad bugs are in abundance, they dominate your cravings. Those bad bugs need sugar and white flour to thrive and they are going to speak loudly about their preferences.
Taking probiotics, particularly a high-powered probiotic like this one or this one can help, but you also need to kill off some of the bad bacteria. A great tool, specific to sugar handling, is called Berberine HCl. Berberine has been shown in clinical studies to be identical to Metformin in regulating glucose metabolism, without depleting you of some critical B vitamins. I suspect that the reason it is so effective at rebalancing sugar handling is that many sugar-loving pathogens are sensitive to Berberine such as: candida, chlamydia, e. coli, entamoeba hystolytica, giardia, streptococcus species, staphylococcus species and more. It is a serious powerhouse of an herb.
- You Need Minerals.
It takes minerals to process the sugar and remove it from the body. The more sugar you eat without replacing those minerals, the bigger the deficiency and the greater the need. Magnesium (the jack of all trades mineral) is a great one to incorporate but another mineral that can be particularly useful to combat sugar cravings is chromium. Chromium is a critical component of the glucose tolerance factor in the body.
According to Elson Haas, “GTF (and thus chromium) is vital in regulating carbohydrate metabolism by enhancing insulin function for proper use of glucose in the body.” (177)
In the United States, particularly, our soils are very depleted of chromium and it is theorized that this is a contributing factor to the rising rates of Diabetes. Incorporating more chromium for a period of time can have a dramatic impact on improving your ability to utilize and stabilize glucose levels and ultimately reduce your sugar cravings.
- You Need B Vitamins.
B vitamins act as spark plugs for many biochemical reactions in the body. They convert carbohydrates to glucose and they are critical for fat and protein metabolism. Because of their task in breaking down carbs, fats and proteins, they are a critical component in blood sugar regulation. B vitamins are water-soluble and don’t stick around in the body long. Therefore, they do need to be replenished each and every day to maintain sufficient levels. To add insult to injury, taking birth control pills, antibiotics, eating or drinking high amounts of sugar, processed food or alcohol all depletes your levels of B vitamins in the body.
Taking a good quality B-complex on a daily basis is a good insurance policy to incorporate. Not all B vitamin supplements are created equal though. If you don’t feel a difference from your B’s, then it isn’t the right one for you. My current favorite is Seeking Health’s B-Complex Plus. It has the correct formulations for those of us who need a little extra help absorbing and utilizing our B’s.
When it comes to sugar cravings and the endless battle, we all just incessantly beat ourselves up over it. Cravings are not all in your head. Cravings are a symptom of some form of imbalance in the body. You don’t need to turn into She-Ra (remember her?) to get over the cravings, but you do need to do a little detective work and then support yourself through to the other side.
Haas, E. M. (2006). Staying Healthy with Nutrition. New York: Random House, Inc.
Yin, J., Xing, H., Ye, J. (2008). Efficacy of Berberine in Patients with Type II Diabetes. Metabolism, May 57 (5). 712-717.