Pour Some Sugar on Me
With the New Year upon us, I've seen lots of sugar detoxes flying around. Be it seven day, Whole 30, Sugar Busters (pretty sure no one does that anymore), or any other variation on the theme, we all crave a clean slate as the fresh pages of our calendars collectively tempt us with "plenty of time to do the things we always said we were going to do." I'm not above it! I just ordered a parasite colon cleanse due to the fact that I'm pretty darn convinced my large intestine is the victim of some of the causalities (or casualties) discussed in the four part series: Gut Health for the Holidays.
For anyone embarking on a wellness journey, no matter what time of the year, I do a silent "Hallelujah"! Sometimes an out-loud one (when appropriate) with a fist pump.
Why do we feel a need to cleanse from sugar, though? We abstain from it in the same way one abstains from alcohol. We know we'll feel better. Our skin will likely improve. We may even find that we have more energy.
You know I'm asking a reciprocal question here, though, because we all know that it's an undeniable fact of life: sugar is addictive.
Why is sugar so addictive?
Sugar is a powerful and highly addictive stimulant that produces euphoria that can last anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes.
To be honest, I copied the above from a website about cocaine, but when I swapped out the word “cocaine” for “sugar,” it’s remarkably accurate, and, for me, feels like a spot on association to how I feel post ice cream/cake/sugary beverage.
We don’t often think of sugar as the white powder that is easily addictive and contributes to overall health issues and problems in your work and home life, but sugar is a highly addictive drug (it was a 2007 study from the University of Bordeaux which found sugar to be four times as addictive as cocaine), and it can be treated as such.
Am I saying we have to cut it out entirely? No! I love birthday cake, chocolate, and cookies as much as the next girl. However, I do approach sugar with mindful awareness.
On average, Americans are consuming about 22.2 teaspoons of sugar a day, or nearly 89 grams. Let's compare this to what is the recommended consumption of sugar per day by the American Heart Association:
- Women: 25 grams a day (or 6 teaspoons)
- Men: 36 grams a day for men (or 9 teaspoons)
One Snickers bar has 30g of sugar.
One can of Coca Cola has 39g of sugar.
Addiction is defined as the loss of control with continued use despite adverse consequences.
Compulsion. Addiction. Confused relationship with food. No matter how we slice it, dice it, and serve it up, if you are like most humans, you don't like feeling uncomfortable—not mentally or physically. We are hardwired to seek comfort—it’s what drives us to seek shelter, clothing, relationships, education, and whatever brings us joy.
With these facts, one could conclude that America is suffering from a sugar addiction.
What if we could shift this thought line a bit and experiment with viewing discomfort as your invitation to GROW. Deciding to explore the idea of seeking comfort within the feeling of discomfort is the first step toward that growth.
Our brains are controlled by powerful appetite and mood optimizing neurotransmitters, and these are being depleted by our diet (excess sugar) and our stress levels. In response, we are inclined to become addicted to drugs like sugar, alcohol, and heroin for temporary relief from the depression, anxiety, pain, and insomnia that results from our brain fatigue.
Sugar makes us feel better, short term.
Diet and stress are inextricably linked. Consuming excess sugar, in particular, is like rubbing salt in the wound.
Stress and sugar are both detrimental to our gut bacteria (refer to part four of Gut Health for the Holidays). Sugar and stress both increase inflammation in the gut, and this allows harmful bacteria to grow more plentiful.
We talked about how gut dysbiosis can affect the endocrine system, and one of the ways this can happen is insulin resistance, or when the cells that typically receive glucose because of insulin stop accepting insulin. They've basically gone mute and can't hear insulin saying, "hey! hi! let us in please!" Insulin resistance can develop after a period of time, which is when the sugar (glucose) you eat is going to your cells, as it should, to provide energy, but the cells are ignoring the call. The insulin should act as a receptor, inviting the glucose in, but instead, the cells are resistant to insulin. They think they still *need* insulin, so they send a signal for the body to make more insulin. Blood sugar stays high, and insulin is high. Now we've got a pathway to adrenal exhaustion, disrupted detox pathways, and overall whacked out metabolism.
In case you don't already know by now, I'm not a fan of fear mongering or demonizing food. I don't share this to scare you into quitting sugar, but instead to bring an awareness to where the sugar may be sneaking in unawares.
The food industry adds sugars to many foods you wouldn't think would have sugar and are touted as health foods (spagetti sauce, yogurt, nut butters, and dressings, just to name a few).
I've made you a worksheet (it's actually from my upcoming book: Glowing Goddess Guru Beast Manifesto) so that you can explore where "Hidden Sugars" may be lurking unawares.