Why is giving up sugar so hard? We know that sugar can be addictive, but is there another force at work which makes giving up sugar feel impossible?
If you have ever known someone who is truly addicted to something, whether it is drugs or anything else, you have experienced first hand the grip that addiction can have on people. It can seem as though when a person is addicted to something, all their control over their decisions has been hijacked by whatever their addiction may be.
We as a people, however, seem to have an addiction to a white, powdery substance that is not so illicit: Sugar.
On average, Americans consume well over 100 pounds of sugar per year, in the form of sweets, sodas, processed food, and the generally abysmal diet we call the standard American Diet. Sugar, it seems, has found its way into virtually everything; perusing the label of any processed food will likely reveal added sugar in some form, whether it is sucrose, corn syrup, or any other name that sugar is disguised as.
But just because sugar is everywhere (and we know that we all likely consume far too much of it), does that really mean it is addictive? It helps to know a little bit of biochemistry.
Our bodies are designed to crave certain flavors. These include:
- saltiness; this signals the presence of sodium, a necessary nutrient for many biochemical processes
- fat; fat is an abundant source of energy and nutrition for the body
- sweetness; sweet foods are rich in carbohydrates and sugar, which supply the body with energy that is readily available
The taste of sugar is a signal to our brain that, “This food has energy!” Sugars and carbohydrates immediately break down to glucose, which can be used by our brain and cells immediately as fuel. Our brains want to “reward” this type of behavior––finding foods high in energy, which is a survival mechanism. So when we eat foods high in sugar or simple carbohydrates, the brain is flooded with chemicals like dopamine that makes us feel good, reinforcing that behavior.
So we eat more of those foods to feel those “feel good” chemicals again. In similar ways, this is what happens to drug addicts! Many studies done in clinical settings have revealed that our brains respond to sugar in many of the similar ways that they do to illicit drugs; consuming sugar follows many of those similar pathways that drugs like cocaine and heroin light up on brain scans.
Honestly however, all you need to do is ask someone who has tried to give up sweets what it feels like; often they’ll tell you they feel like they are having a withdrawal from sugar!
But is there something else at work here that makes sugar so difficult to give up?
Oftentimes, parasites are known to hijack the cravings of their host. And there is another organism that craves sugar perhaps even more than humans: Yeasts. If you have an underlying yeast problem, it is likely you crave sugar in insatiable ways. And when you do not have it, you likely feel awful.
When people go on The Kaufmann Diet––a diet which restricts sugar and carbohydrates––they often feel bad for a few days, which is known as a Herxheimer reaction. People will feel flu-like, which is in some way similar to withdrawal symptoms. This simply known as a die-off reaction; yeasts suddenly begin to die as they are being deprived of their source of food and in the process they try to make their hosts as miserable as possible.
So if you have a sugar addiction, it might not just be your own biochemistry at work; you might have the added weight of a parasitic fungus inside you trying to get what it needs to survive. The issue is that these yeasts bring with themselves many problems of their own, including a long list of symptoms and health problems. We should make it a goal to eliminate them by any means necessary.
Trying The Kaufmann Diet is the best way to break sugar addictions while simultaneously starving yeasts that may be contributing to your sugar addiction.
Best Sugar Substitutes for The Kaufmann Diet
Iced Shamrock “No-Sugar” Sugar Cookies
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