How do I deal with sugar cravings?
This is one of the most frequently asked questions I encounter as a Holistic Nutritionist
It's such a common hurdle for so many people, and unfortunately, the answer isn't as simple as some people hope it to be.
I use a Holistic approach to all that I do. And in doing so, the firs step is to zoom the lens back in order to find the WHY behind the issue. I am never satisfied finding a quick solution for someone, nor will their changes be long-lasting. Any solution will never be effective until the root cause of the challenge itself is explored and tackled first.
So here are some of the most common reasons people have intense sugar cravings to begin with. Have a read through and see if any ring true for your own life.
1. High Stress
Stress causes many hormones to be secreted in the body (typically in excess), one of which is cortisol. Excess cortisol creates many imbalances in the body, but in the case of sugar specifically, over time it will cause dysregulation in your blood sugar levels , creating more intense cravings to keep blood sugar levels elevated. Sugar also stimulates serotonin, which gives us an immediate feeling of satisfaction and relaxation, which is something (of course) that we tend to crave more of.
2. Yeast Overgrowth
Due to excessive stress, poor food choices and perpetual high sugar/high carb choices, oftentimes I see clients with something called Candida, which is a yeast overgrowth in the body. Candida grows by feeding on sugar, and therefore will create cravings to get more of it.
3. Lack of Magnesium
Stress actually causes a depletion of an important mineral in the body - magnesium. (yes, stress is a contributing factor to a TON of health issues!). A strong craving for chocolate specifically is a good indication of this deficiency, and until you give your body what it's actually needing (magnesium), you will continue to have strong cravings for chocolate.
4. Low blood sugar
When we are dealing with low blood sugar, our body craves sugar. Our brain functions on glucose (which comes from food), and it becomes an emergency situation when levels drop. Why do they drop? They do so because of high sugar diets (creating a spike, hormones are secreted to reduce that spike, then levels drop quickly), and also from waiting too long to eat. A steady supply of glucose is required to keep our blood sugars regulated, eliminating a need for cravings. (so stop skipping meals!!!).
5. Low fat or protein diet
If your diet is low in fat and/or protein, chances are good that it's higher in carbs. Carbs create large blood sugar spikes, resulting in low blood sugar. Fats and proteins also slow down the rate of absorption of foods, maintaining and more steady supply of blood sugar. A diet low in fat and/or protein is highly likely to create many sugar cravings because of this.
6. Not drinking enough
Lack of hydration creates lots of imbalances within the body. If you have those times when you crave SOMETHING but aren't even sure what and you start eating a bunch of random things without ever feeling satisfied, it's likely that you just need more water.
Of course there are other reasons we might be craving sugar - adrenal or thyroid imbalances, fatigue or lack of sleep, PMS are some of the other common reasons you might be craving sugar.
So now what?
Hopefully you've identified your issue(s), or at least brought an awareness to some possibilities.
Your first step will be dealing with your WHY behind the cravings. Do you need to spend more time relaxing? Drinking more water? Eating more regularly? Eating more fats or proteins? (hint: good fats include nuts or nut butter, avocado, and oils such as coconut, EVOO, avocado and grapeseed)
Then, once you've addressed what you think to be your root cause, you can add on the following:
1. Drink some water
2. Drink an herbal tea and add a bit of honey
3. Make a quick, sweet alternative. Here is a recipe for a quick energy ball that should satisfy the craving - double benefit is that it contains a decent amount of healthy fat
4. Eat a piece of dark chocolate
5. Eat a protein or fat source
I hope you found this helpful!