As a child, our first taste of sugar is our introduction to addiction. Our mother’s milk and/or formula is very sweet, containing large amounts of lactose. We become accustomed to a regular intake of sweetness from day 1. Sugar releases the same reward hormone in the brain that cocaine does. This is our reward centre… Dopamine! This explains why kids go crazy for ice cream and not for broccoli.
Sugar is not just actual sugar. It is everything that breaks down into sugars in the body. Carbohydrates all do that (maybe why they got such a bad reputation amongst dieters). Our body actually needs sugar in the form of glucose for fuel to make energy. The problem arises when sugar intake is excessive or when it enters the blood too quickly (i.e. no fibre to slow the entrance of sugar into the blood).
To understand how the body reacts to sugar, it is important to understand insulin and glucagon. These 2 protein hormones released by the pancreas, control blood sugar levels. Insulin is released after we eat sugar, and it basically carries the sugar from the blood to the cells for uptake and use to make energy or store for later in the liver as glycogen. Glucagon does the opposite. When blood sugar is low, it tells the liver to break down and release some sugars (known as glycogenolysis) so that our body can maintain a steady blood sugar level and continue to carry on with our daily activities.
What you may not know about these hormones is that insulin actually increases lipogenesis (fat creation) and decreases lipolysis (fat breakdown), and glucagon does the opposite! It helps to stimulate fat breakdown (lipolysis) and inhibits fat creation (lipogenesis). This is why it is important to let the stomach empty completely before eating another meal. There are 2 schools of thought:
Snacking every 2-3 hours to keep the blood sugar stable
3 meals a day, separated by about 4-5 hours
If you look at the physiological response to insulin and glucagon, it is quite clear, that glucagon needs a chance to stimulate fat breakdown, making 3 meals and no snacks the winning option to keep the body efficiently using fat stores. The trick is to ensure that the blood sugar is not spiked too drastically during these meals. Lots of fat, fibre and protein are needed here to maintain a stable blood sugar (paired with the removal of any refined grain or sugar).
When the blood sugar spikes (after eating any refined sugar in the absence of fibre), insulin is released in large amounts to bring the blood sugar down. When this happens, it generally releases too much insulin, which results in a drastic drop in blood sugar, which results in SUGAR CRAVINGS! And the cycle continues. We go on this blood sugar rollercoaster over and over again until the cells have so much sugar in storage that they actually refuse insulin at the door. This is known as insulin resistant (or type 2) diabetes.
So how do we fix this situation once and for all? Sugar detox here we come…
Sugar Detox & Withdrawal
When our body becomes accustomed to a constant and consistent influx of sugars, it can be quite difficult to break this pattern. There is not easy way out here. If you are serious about managing your blood sugar for weight control or for general health, you will have to go through the withdrawal phase of the sugar detox, complete with headaches and irritability, possible breakouts and symptoms worsening before they improve.
The trick is to ensure you are eating things that keep you satiated. A general rule of thumb is to make sure you are getting some protein, fat or fibre with each meal. Your meals will consist of proteins (organic poultry and fish mostly), fats (avocados, nuts, seeds, oils) and fibre (vegetables). You will need to remove fruits from the diet just for 2 weeks, and then reintroduce low sugar fruits back in slowly, such as berries and green apples (no tropical fruit). No grains at all (for a 2 week period). Reintroduction, like fruits, should be slow and minimal (quinoa, buckwheat and amaranth are great grains to add into the diet slowly). You should spend another 2 weeks, slowly introducing complex carbohydrates back int the diet (such as sweet potato and grains), and never reintroduce refined carbs/sugars into your regular diet again.
To support your body during this tough 2 week period, there are some supplements to consider taking. This supplement protocol can be taken for 4-6 weeks during and after you finish the detox period.
Supplements to be taken during a sugar detox:
Chromium: the central molecule in glucose tolerance factor. This trace mineral helps us bring sugars from the blood into the cell. It helps reduce cravings as well (200mg, 3x/day with meals)
Glutamine: used by the brain, can reduce cravings, and also helps heal the digestive tract (5g in your lemon water every morning).
B vitamins for energy: AOR makes a great B complex formula. (3 capsules/day)
Vitamin C for immune function. Also, sugar fights vitamin C for transport into white blood cells – immune cells, and have the opposite effect on the immune system (1000mg daily minimum)
Magnesium: helps to metabolize/process sugar, and relax the muscles (400 mg/day at bedtime is ideal).
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