How to Nix a Sugar Addiction
DR. ROBIN BERZIN SHARES HOW TO DITCH THE SWEET ADDICTION
Nature offers plenty in the realm of sweet—think juicy plums that drip down your chin, mineral-rich dates, tasting like heaven with a dollop of nut butter, manuka honey drizzled on, anything—but refined sugar has changed the game.
Refined and processed sugar can alter our brain chemistry and have us crossing signals, craving more of what makes us feel sluggish, bloated and anxious. Dr. Robin Berzin, Integrative Medicine Doctor and founder of the members-only modern clinic, Parsley Health, breaks down some practical tips for ditching this addictive substance. It's not as easy as willpower, so leave that head trip at the start. It's about changing the microbes in your gut to crave what will serve your body and spirit best.
Raise your hand if you crave dessert after dinner, frequently find yourself buying packaged foods, or tend to eat out or order in a few times a week. Sound like you? You’re probably consuming more sugar in your diet than you think, even if you’re not pounding soda or eating candy. The problem is, sugar activates the same reward center in your brain that cocaine does, so it can be addictive. But doing a sugar detox can help you cut sugar cravings and reverse some of the side effects of too much sugar.
Effects of sugar on the body and brain
The most immediate effect sugar has on your body is through your blood sugar. When you eat things like simple carbohydrates in the form of bread, cookies, soda, candy, or anything containing table sugar, it enters the bloodstream quickly, causing a spike in the sugar content of your blood. When this happens, your body experiences a sudden energy high and your pancreas kicks into gear and releases insulin to balance out blood sugar. As your body clears the sugar in your blood, this leads to the infamous sugar crash when your energy dips. Constantly put your body through this cycle and your pancreas goes into overdrive, leading to diseases like type 2 diabetes.
Sugar overconsumption also feeds the bad bacteria in your gut. Your gut is made up of trillions of bacteria (a.k.a. bugs) and what you eat influences which bugs are in control. Sadly, bad bugs thrive on simple carbs, especially sugar. When you eat too much, you’re promoting the growth of candida and yeast—both of which cause brain fog, rashes, digestive issues, and more.
Overloading on sugar and refined carbs can also cause inflammation. Short term inflammation is a good thing when your body is repairing a cut or a broken bone, but chronic inflammation, the kind that comes from a poor diet, can have serious health implications. It’s associated with depression, heart disease, and eczema, among other things.
Luckily, you can improve the state of your body and reverse your symptoms by changing your diet and cutting out refined foods full of sugar.
1. Clean out your pantry.
The easiest way to avoid sugar is when it’s not in your kitchen, to begin with. Toss obvious sources like bread, pasta, and other packaged foods, but also be wary of hidden sugar sources. Things like store-bought salad dressings, sauces, condiments, juices, frozen meals, dried fruits, and flavored yogurts all contain sugar. Check the label if you’re unsure. Cutting these foods will improve your digestion and mental clarity.
2. Take a 5-day break.
Sugar can easily sneak into your diet if you’re not thinking ahead about what to eat, because it becomes easy to reach for something in the freezer, get take out, or fill up on other convenience foods. A whole-food, organic, zero refined-sugar cleanse can help you reset your palate and change your gut microbiome. [Level II serves as an amazing option to kick-start this gut and palate reset].
3. Eat lots of leafy greens.
Kale, collard greens, and spinach are your best friends right now. They will help alkalize the body (reduce inflammation) and give you a high dose of nutrients like Vitamins K, C, and A, and filling fiber.
4. Drink more water.
Hydration is important all the time, but it’s especially important when your body is going through a sugar detox mode. Water helps your vital organs move toxins and stagnation out of the body.
5. Move your body.
Getting your heart rate up will not only get you sweating, but it will help naturally boost your energy and normalize insulin levels. Exercise helps move sugar into your muscles for storage, immediately increasing your insulin sensitivity. The effects can last for up to 48 hours.
6. Remember the ratio.
Commit to eating meals using only natural, unrefined sugar sources (like pure maple syrup, wildflower honey, whole fruit, and dates). All of our Sakara dishes—even our sweetest breakfasts—are nutritionally designed with the ideal 1:1 ratio of fiber to sugar to balance and stabilize blood sugar, promote weight loss, and encourage a healthy microbiome.
Lastly, it's important to not let sugar become the enemy, just like fat was in the '90s. No one nutrient is the devil, it’s about balance and getting it from high quality, whole food sources.