Can You Kick the Sugar Habit?

Do you find yourself helpless at the thought of a Dove Bar? Do Mrs.
Fields’ cookies drive you wild with desire? If so, you’re not alone. Few of of have our sugar addictions licked. Our patients ask us all the time for help in kicking their sugar habits. Whether you are a diehard supporter of Sugar Blues and feel that all sugar is downright poisonous, or whether you’re a committed cookie monster who’s not the least bit interested in reducing your sugar intake, this article will hopefully provide you with some interesting information.

Everybody does it

What’s the big deal about a candy bar now and
then? The problem is that many of us can’t stop with an occasional sugary
treat. In the times of the American colonists, sugar really wasn’t any big
thing. The average amount of sugar consumed per person per year was four
pounds. If that were still the case, we wouldn’t be writing this article. Take
a guess at how much sugar each American consumes, on an average, in l990.
Believe it or not, estimates exceed l30 pounds. Now if you think about it,
that’s about a third of a pound of sugar a day…and a lot more for those folks
who are making up for the sugar teetotalers! Approximately l8% of the total
caloric intake of the average American comes from sugar. The highest source of
sugar in the diet is pop. One l2-oz. bottle of pop, such as Coca Cola or
Sprite, contains approx- imately nine tablespoons of sugar. Can you imagine
gorging yourself on that much sugar at one sitting? According to The Center for
Science in the Public Interest, an extremely nutritionally-conscious
educational and political organization based in Washington, D.C., merely
reducing the sugar in soft drinks by one-tenth would cut annual sucrose
consumption by 480 million pounds.

The Not-So-Sweet Facts About Sugar

Sugar comes in a number of
different forms. such as sucrose (white sugar), fructose (fruit sugar), lactose
(milk sugar), or dextrose (corn sugar). The body eventually breaks down all of
these substances into glucose. Natural fruit sweeteners, maple syrup, honey,
barley malt syrup, brown sugar, raw sugar, etc., may be less refined, but, in
excess, the overall effect is pretty much the same.

Too much sugar, can create, or exacerbate, a number of health problems.

l) Obesity Overindulging in sugar can result in excess, often permanent, weight gain,
which carries with it an increaed risk for various chronic degenerative

2) Blood sugar imbalances – Too much sugar can result either
in hypoglycemia or diabetes. You don’t need a fancy test, most of the time, to
tell you whether hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) is a problem for you. Just ask
yourself how you feel after not having eaten for four or five hours and after
you’ve eaten sugar or drunk alcohol. People with hypoglycemic tendencies will
complain of feeling weak, shaky, confused, and irritable if they miss a meal
and are the first ones to race to the potluck dinner tables, especially if
dinner is late! They usually crash after sugar, sometimes after an initial
euphoria. This is because the sugar in their food enters the bloodstream and
then is quickly transferred into the cells to be metabolized, depriving the
brain of blood sugar, at which time the person’s energy abruptly plunges.
Diabetes (high blood sugar) is a much more serious illness in which the sugar
remains in the bloodstream and there is insufficient insulin to carry the sugar
into the cells. Both of these conditions can be triggered by sugar consumption
and a no to low sugar diet is recommended in both cases.

3) Cavities
It is no mystery that sugar causes dental decay. The New York Times reported in
l975 that 44% of all Scots over the age of l6 had lost all of their teeth and
that only 2% of the Scottish population surveyed were considered “dentally
fit”. The report concluded that Scotland had one of the highest sugar
consumption rates in the world; l20 pounds per person annually. Another study
at Tufts University School of Dentistry reported that the diet of a group of
indigenous Brazilians consisted of two staples-potatoes and fish-but no sugar.
Not one permanent molar cavity was found in anyone under 20. By l962 this same
group of people was consuming about one pound of sugar per week per person and
the same age group was found to have 50% of their molars decayed. These
statistics speak for themselves.

4) Heart disease – High sugar intake
has been correlated with elevated triglycerides (blood fat), LDL’s (low-density
lipoproteins which are the type of cholesterol which predisposes to a greater
risk of heart disease), and high blood pressure.

5) Arthritis – High
sugar consumption has been linked with increased uric acid levels in the blood,
which can cause gouty arthritis.

6) Hyperactivity – As any schoolteacher
will attest, after having spent November lst (the day after Halloween) in the
classroom, sugar can sometimes have a drastic effect on behavior. The same may
be true in adults.

7) Immunosuppression -Sugar has been found by some
researchers to decrease the ability of the white blood cells (neutrophils) to
digest harmful or toxic materials in the body through the natural process of
phagocytosis. We often see patients who have developed upper respiratory or
other acute illnesses after having overdosed on sugar, such as after the
Christmas holidays.

8) Vitamin and mineral depletion – Sugar has been
called an anti-nutrient. Particular vitamin and mineral stores, such as those
of thiamine and chromium, can be used up more rapidly when a person is eating
sweets in excess.

9) Empty calories – Many people (teenagers are the
most notorious) stuff themselves with so much sugar that they don’t have room
for food which is actually healthy. This is why sugar is often referred to as
containing “empty calories”.

What’s so sweet about sugar?

We have found in our hypnotherapy and
counseling work with patients that the desire to eat something sweet often goes
much deeper than meets the eye. We may try to use sugar to console ourselves or
escape when our lives are too stressful, aren’t going the way we want, or we
feel unhappy or disgusted with ourselves for one reason or another. The
sweetness of sugar may make up for the bitterness of our lives. Some of us
nurture our inner child by feeding it sugar or chocolate, much as many of our
parents did with us, or use sweets to find the love we never received.
Compulsive sugar consumption can be a self-destructive behavior through which
we punish ourselves and literally make ourselves sick. Or it may be a way for
the rebellious, angry parts of us to let us know that something’s not right
with our lives. It’s very important to understand our underlying motivations
for overindulging in sweets and to resolve those issues in a positive and
healthy manner. If not, your giving up your sugar addiction may not be
successful or may result in a substitute addictive behavior.

So, how do I “just say no?

Understand your personal
relationship with sweets
. As mentioned above, first figure out, on your own
or with help, why you’re so drawn to sugar. What is the inner message which is
being broadcast by your subconscious mind? If necessary, get help in resolving
and releasing your underlying psychological attachments to sweets. Pay
attention to what you eat
. Take a good look at how much sugar you’re
actually eating. Keep a sweets diary in which you record exact quantities and
types of treats eaten. Be honest. Record in your diary how you feel or what
happened immediately before and shortly after you indulged in the sugar.
Make a plan. Decide how much sugar, specifically, you wish to remove
from your diet. Cold turkey is probably best if you’re really hooked.
Consider a detoxification diet. It is often helpful to do a cleansing
diet (eliminating all sweets, refined foods, caffeine, red meat, and, if you
wish, chicken, fish, and dairy) or to fast prior to giving up sugar. Once you
clean yourself out and feel really healthy, it often becomes clear how much you
really don’t need sugar in your body. Eat lots of whole grains and
(preferaby organic) and don’t smoke. The more you clean
up your diet, the less sugar will appeal to you. Exercise regularly.
Regular aerobic exercise will improve your overall health considerably, thus
decreasing the desire for addictive foods. Relax and manage your stress
so you’re not using sugar to do it for you.

If you’re still saying “yes” to sugar

There are some nutritional
supplements which may help balance your body and decrease your sugar cravings.
Taking a B-complex is often helpful to stabilize blood sugar and for increasing
general energy. We recommend chromium, a trace mineral which helps insulin
transfer glucose from the blood into the cells, to help correct blood sugar
imbalances. Pantothenic Acid, which nourishes and strengthens the adrenal
glands, is also helpful. There is an Ayurvedic herb called Gymnema sylvestre,
recently on the market in this country, which is reported to decrease sugar
cravings. We haven’t yet used it with enough patients to know for sure. We have
found homeopathic remedies, as prescribed for the overall constitution of the
person, to frequently change food cravings for the better. As the individual’s
vital force comes into balance, the sugar crav ing may simply fall away as an
unnatural habit.

If you still consider yourself a hopeless sugar addict

We’ve saved
our most extreme measure for the end. This is a technique from NLP
(Neurolinguistic Programming) called “The Compulsion Blowout”. Be sure you
want to get rid of your compulsion before you use this technique, as the
results may be permanent. It’s done as follows. Find out how you picture the
sweets that compel you and exactly what attracts you to them. Is it the size,
nearness, color, or brightness of the image, or the imagined smell, taste or
texture of the sweet? Now compare your image of the sweets with the image of
something neutral or mildly distasteful, like lima beans. See how you picture
the images differently. Now test what makes you feel attracted to the sweets by
imagining increasing or decreasing it and seeing whether that makes the
attraction more or less. Now picture the sweets in your minds eye. Very
rapidly increase the quality that makes you crave the sweets until it becomes
ridiculously intense. Repeat this rapidly over and over until you feel
something pop or change. For example if you were attracted to chocolate kisses
by imagining their delicious taste, you could rapidly increase that chocolatey
flavor from a mild to overwhelmingly powerful in a matter of a few seconds.
Quickly repeat the visualization several times. You will feel a change in
yourself as you go over your threshold and the craving will be gone. We wish
you success in kicking your sugar habit, but remember not to take it too
seriously. Life can be sweet, with or without sugar.

Drs. Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman and Robert Ullman are naturopathic and
homeopathic physicians and cofounders of the Northwest Center for Homeopathic
Medicine in Edmonds, WA. They are coauthors of
The Patient’s Guide to
Homeopathic Medicine and Beyond Ritalin: Homeopathic Treatment of ADD
and Other Behavioral and Learning Problems. They can be reached at (206)

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Written by Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman ND MSW

Explore Wellness in 2021