Are you a sugar addict? As with most addictions, by the time people ask this question, the answer is usually yes. A simple way to tell? Stay off sugar for two to four weeks, and see how you feel.
In the United States, with—18 percent of the average American diet coming from added sugar; sugar addiction is becoming the rule rather than the exception. Many people eat their weight in sugar every year. And it may be why you are tired, achy, "brain fogged," anxious, and unable to lose weight.
Some chronic medical problems associated with excess sugar in our diet include metabolic syndrome with high cholesterol and obesity1 and heart disease.
This is the short list. The actual list could go on for pages. In fact, research from the American Heart Association suggests that sugar contributes to over 180,000 deaths each year.2 Meanwhile, in what is a remarkable example of corporate cynicism, people who have sugar-induced irritability are being told to eat more sugar. Candy bar ads have even coined the term "Hangry."
Eating a candy bar or drinking a sugar packed soda is the worst thing you can do to address "hanger." Although you feel better initially as blood sugar rises, the rebound drops in blood sugar in response to spikes in blood sugar makes the problem worse a half hour later, putting you on an emotional "sugar roller coaster."
As most people have found though, simply trying to cut out sugar usually does not work very well.
In addition, who wants to cut out things that give you pleasure? Put simply, if you live a long life because you’ve cut out everything you enjoy, why bother?
The answer? As Mark Twain so beautifully put it, "Moderation in all things, including moderation!" It is okay to enjoy sugar, and chocolate actually is a health food.3 The trick is to do it in small amounts instead of doing it because you are craving sweets.
Sugar cravings are driven by a number of factors, and we find that there are four main types of Sugar Addiction. What is critical is to address the source of the sugar cravings. When you do this, the sugar cravings go away. And you will feel much better. When three or four of these Sugar Addiction types are present in the same person, I usually find that they either have, or are on the verge of developing, fibromyalgia. Addressing these problems can result in marked improvement in fibromyalgia symptoms.
The four Sugar Addiction types are:
- Fatigue causing you to reach for sweets. Sugar is an energy loan shark. It gives a quick energy fix, but then triggers adrenaline releases that burn energy while making you anxious. The free "Energy Analysis Program" at www.EndFatigue.com can show you how to optimize your healthy energy. For supplements ribose, and the Energy Revitalization System vitamin powder are good ways to begin, with marked improvement in fibromyalgia often being seen after three to six weeks.4
- Severe irritability when hungry. This reflects inadequate adrenal function. The job of the adrenal hormone cortisol is to keep sugar from dropping too low during stress. When people have "adrenal fatigue" from the stress of modern life, cortisol stress hormone response is inadequate as blood sugar plummets, allowing the drops in blood sugar. Fortunately, this can be helped dramatically with nutritional support including vitamin B5, adrenal glandulars, vitamin C, and licorice. In my patients, I recommend the supplements Adrenaplex (by EuroPharma) or Adrenal Stress End (by Enzymatic Therapy), which contain all of these in a single capsule. This offers dramatic relief within a week.
- Sugar cravings without the "hanger." A group that I call the "Happy Twinkie hunters" tends to be associated with Candida/ yeast overgrowth in the gut. Other markers of this include nasal congestion and irritable bowel syndrome. These cravings and problems also go away when the Candida overgrowth is treated.
- Anxiety and depression associated with perimenopause. People learn to reach for sugar, because this increases tryptophan moving into the brain, which raises serotonin levels. Serotonin has been called the "happiness molecule." Unfortunately, over time excess sugar causes this to get blunted (because of insulin resistance), so that the sugar actually causes excessive anxiety and depression. Using bioidentical hormone replacement can help this.
You can have your cake and eat it too!
Jacob E Teitelbaum, MD
Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, is a board certified internist and Medical Director of the national Fibromyalgia and Fatigue Centers and Chronicity. He is author of the popular free iPhone application "Cures A-Z," and author of the best-selling book From Fatigued to Fantastic! (Avery/Penguin Group), Pain Free 1-2-3 (McGraw-Hill), Three Steps to Happiness: Healing Through Joy (Deva Press 2003), Beat Sugar Addiction NOW! (Fairwinds Press, 2010), and his newest book Real Cause, Real Cure (Rodale Press, July 15, 2011). Dr. Teitelbaum knows CFS/fibromyalgia as an insider — he contracted CFS when he was in medical school and had to drop out for a year to recover. In the ensuing 25 years, he has dedicated his career to finding effective treatment.