How to beat sugar cravings
Do you feel like you lack the willpower to tackle your sugar cravings? You start the day with every intention not to give into your sugar fix and then your day doesn’t quite go to plan, you start to feel stressed, and you think “sod it” and reach for a sugary snack. Then you start to feel guilty that you ‘gave in’. But what if I told you the reason why this happens isn’t due to your willpower?
Your digestive system contains trillions of live bacteria, some good and some bad. They all have a role in maintaining our health. They help with the digestion of food and the absorption of nutrients; they produce certain vitamins and chemical messengers; they support the immune system; help keep our brain and gut healthy. So, as you can see, they are important for our health.
Sometimes, the balance of your gut bacteria can get out of balance, where there is more of the ‘bad’ bacteria and less of the beneficial microbes. When this happens, you may experience symptoms such as fatigue, diarrhoea, cramping, constipation, bloating, and indigestion. Another symptom you may experience could be sugar cravings. When there is an overgrowth of bad bacteria certain types of microbes may cause you to crave sugar.
This craving for sugar can turn into a bit of a merry go round that can be hard to get off. To some extent we are hard wired to want sugar as glucose is the main source of energy for your brain. When you consume sugar, the reward system in your brain is activated and releases the feel-good messenger dopamine and this may reinforce your desire for sugar.
Added onto this merry go round, is the effect of eating sugary foods has on your blood sugar levels. Eating sugary foods raises blood sugar levels that quickly drop off. This may leave you feeling low on energy and seeking another quick energy fix, this can drive your craving for sugary snacks as your body needs energy. So, you could have all the willpower in the world, but your brain, body and your gut are creating a physiological desire to eat more sugar.
So, what can you do about it?
The number one thing you can do to help with your sugar cravings is to change your diet. There are a few things you can do:
· Increase your protein intake
· Make sure you are getting enough healthy fats
· Increase your vegetable intake
· Eat slowly and chew your food properly
· Satisfy the craving with an alternative
Protein and healthy fats keep you full and satisfied and sustain your energy levels. They can help control your blood sugar levels by decreasing a blood sugar spike and keep your energy levels stable. Compared to unhealthy processed fats, healthy fats help with our energy levels by keeping us motivated and alert. Research has shown that healthy fats encourage a diverse of beneficial gut flora and protects the lining of the gut.
Gut bacteria love vegetables, it is their source of fuel and helps them do their job. By eating a lot of different coloured vegetables, you will be getting a good variety of vitamins and minerals. This supports not only our general health and wellbeing, but also our gut bacteria by allowing the beneficial bacteria to colonise. This may also encourage a diverse range of beneficial bacteria to help keep us healthy.
The digestive process starts when we smell our food, this stimulates the stomach to make and release stomach acid. When we chew our food, this releases saliva which contains enzymes that start to breakdown your food. If your food is not chewed properly, it may hinder this process. Once you have chewed your food and you swallow it can then be further digested by your stomach acid and trigger the next phase of digestion. Eating too quickly may disrupt the digestive synchronisation as the food is not able to be digested properly as it moves through the digestive tract. Chewing your food properly and eating slowly allows your food to be properly digested and may reduce any discomfort associated with unbalanced gut bacteria.
When you have a craving for sugar you could satisfy your craving with something alternative. You could try a herbal tea that contains liquorice. This is naturally sweet, and my help curb your craving. You could also try adding sweet tasting vegetables to your meals, such as sweet potato, beetroot, carrots, corn, or peas.
If you find yourself feeling guilty because you’ve ‘given in’ to your sugar craving, don’t beat yourself up. Remember that it could be your body creating a desire to eat something sweet.