Just as drugs of abuse such as nicotine, cocaine and heroin can hijack the brains reward pathway and make us dependant, sugar does the same.
If you are sick and tired of feeling like crap physically and emotionally, changing what goes into your mouth could actually be life changing.
Eating sugar may be doing more harm than good.... and we're not talking about weight gain!
How many times have you reached for that block of chocolate or packet of chips after a long day at work or used food as a way to deal with stress and told yourself that your new diet starts on Monday?
Have you ever found your self craving sugary treats or greasy take away foods and being extremely grumpy until you have those items in your hands and are happily devouring them?
If this happens to you, you are not alone and the reasons that this may be happening are not as black and white as you may think. If you would like to spare the sanity of yourself and those around you when those sugar cravings and mood swings hit, and want to stop the “Hangy Bitch” inside from being released, then read on and maybe we can help keep those demons at bay.
Eating highly processed foods like sugar and junk food, may be causing a lot more damage to your body than you may think and the effects are not always related to weight gain and here's why.
Within your gut live hundreds and thousands of tiny communities of good bacteria and each of them play a very important role in your body. These bacteria help with detoxification, inflammation, nutrient absorption, they determine if you feel hungry or full and how your body utilises carbohydrates and fat.
These bacteria, which are known as micro-biome also affect your mood, libido, the way in which you view the world and the clarity of your thoughts. A dysfunctional micro-biome could also be the root of your headaches, anxiety, inability to concentrate or negative outlook on life.
(So pretty much) nearly everything about our health, how we feel both physically and emotionally can stem from the state of our micro-biome and what we have put into our bodies. Cue the never ending circle of.....
Scientists have learnt that the link between the gut and the brain is a two-way path. Think back to the last time you felt sick because you were nervous or anxious... just as your brain can send butterflies to your stomach, your gut can send back signals of calmness or alarm back to the brain. So an unhappy gut is an unhappy mind.
Another major factor about how you feel about yourself and why it is so hard to control your diet, and your cravings, is sugar. Eating processed sugar does more damage to your body than just make you gain weight and the side effects it can have are a lot scarier then you may think.
Food is something called a “natural reward”. In order for us to survive (as a species), things like eating, having sex and nurturing others must be pleasurable to the brain so that these behaviours are reinforced and repeated. Not all foods are as equally rewarding as most of us prefer sweet over sour and bitter foods. Evolution has reinforced that sweet things provide a healthy source of carbohydrates for our bodies. Back in the day when our ancestors were scavenging for berries sour was an indication of “not yet ripe” and bitter would mean “poison”.
Due to how easily accessible highly processed sugary foods and treats have become, we are consuming alarmingly huge amounts of sugar. As sugar is highly addictive, we have become hooked. Just as drugs of abuse such as nicotine, cocaine and heroin can hijack the brains reward pathway and make us dependant, sugar does the same.
Sugar has the ability to create a vicious cycle of intense cravings. When a person consumes sugar, just like any food, it activates the tongue’s taste receptors. Signals are then sent to the brain, lighting up the reward pathways and causing a surge of feel-good hormones like dopamine to be released. So stimulating the brains rewards system with a piece of chocolate every now and then is pleasurable and probably harmless but when the system is activated (to much and) to often, thats when we start to run into problems. Over-activating this reward system kickstarts a number of unwanted side effects such as loss of control, cravings and an increased tolerance to sugar.
Sugar also contributes to any feelings of depression or anxiety that you may have. If you have ever experienced a sugar crash, then you know that sudden peaks and drops in blood sugar levels can cause you to experience symptoms like irritability, mood swings, brain fog and fatigue. Thats because eating a sugar filled donut or drinking a soft drink can cause our blood sugar levels to spike once you have consumed them and then inevitably plummet. When your blood sugar dips back down again (sugar crash), you may find yourself feeling anxious, moody or depressed.
The good news is that you can easily correct this by changing the foods that you are consuming. If you are choosing the right foods as well as incorporating exercise into your routine, you can start to feel the benefits in as little as 7 days. Don't get me wrong, quitting or limiting sugar is not going to be easy, but if you are truly sick and tired of feeling like crap physically and emotionally, changing what goes into your mouth could actually be life changing.
You can do this by avoiding sugary and highly processed foods. A diet that keeps your blood sugar balanced will also keep your gut bacteria balanced. A diet high in fibre sourced from whole vegetables and fruits, feeds good gut bacteria and helps keep the intestinal lining in check.
Diets that are high in sugar and low in fibre only fuel unwanted bacteria and increase the chances of intestinal upset.
Fibre rich foods to include in your diet are spinach, broccoli, peas, carrots, pairs, apples, prunes, raspberries, legumes, barley, quinoa, almonds, peanuts, ect.
Also, include foods that are rich in probiotic's like:
Live-culture yogurt - make sure you avoid products that are heavily sweetened - Coconut yogurt is also a great alternative for people who are sensitive to dairy.
Kombucha Tea- A cold fizzy fermented black tea.
Kefir - A fermented-milk product that has more of a liquid texture than yogurt.
Miso Soup - Miso is one of the mainstays of traditional Japanese medicine and is commonly used in macrobiotic cooking as a digestive regulator. Made from fermented rye, beans, rice or barley, adding a tablespoon to some hot water makes an excellent, quick, probiotic-rich soup, full of healthy gut bacteria.
These foods provide probiotic bacteria that help maintain the integrity of the gut lining and serve as natural antibiotics, antivirals and anti fungals. They also regulate immunity and control inflammation as well as improve nutrient absorption.
Water!! A magical clear liquid. Consuming plenty of water is important to intestinal health and has a number of beneficial qualities. Since your brain is mostly made up of water, drinking it helps you to think, focus and concentrate better and be more alert. As an added bonus, your energy levels are boosted. Water also helps to flush out any toxins through sweat and urination which reduces the risk of kidney stones and urinary track infections.
So.... the next time you are about to reach for that block of chocolate or bag of chips, stop and ask your self a few simple questions. Are you hungry? Are you stressed? Are you anxious? If you give in to those cravings and temptations, will it actually be worth it in the long run? Try having a glass of water, a piece of fruit or a healthy snack or go for a walk to help clear your head. Once you start developing new and healthy habits to deal with your stress and sticking to them, stressful situations will be easier to manage and you will be on your way to a happier and healthier life and thanking yourself for it.
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