Understanding WHY we crave sugars (refined sugars, breads, pastas, starches) is often an overlooked step in the process of losing weight or improving energy or conquering emotional eating. We know sugar is addictive. But how did it get that way? Without knowing the WHY, we may win some battles, but lose the war… losing and gaining the same 10-20 lbs. and stuck in a frustrating cycle of failure and what’s worse continuing down the path to illness.
But the good news is… identifying the root of why we are craving gives us focus…a starting point. Let’s explore what’s going on behind the scenes of how a sweet tooth or sugar habit can turn into an addiction and ultimately disease by highlighting the 8 Root Causes for Sugar Cravings.
**Take the Food Craving Questionnaire (link at the end of the article) to discover YOUR why/s!
#1. Depleted Brain Chemistry
This is the #1 reason we crave sugars. Refined sugars and starches force a release of our brain’s feel good neurotransmitters, serotonin and endorphin, but it’s a short term fix. What goes up must come down. And it will continue to take more and more for the same effect UNLESS brain chemistry and neurotransmitter amounts and bioavailability are restored. The exciting news is that the process to restore neurotransmitters levels can be resolved fairly quickly with targeted amino acids.
#2. Nutrient Deficiencies – Low calorie dieting (including dehydration)
Dieter’s malnutrition… dieting usually means low calorie and often low nutrient density. This speeds up cravings, overeating and unneeded weight gain after the diet is over. Certain cravings have been linked to certain nutrient needs – ie. chocolate craving = magnesium need. Sugar /starch cravings may be another sign of dehydration. You’re not hungry. You’re thirsty. By replenishing these nutrients, many times cravings fade away. The NutriQ Assessment that we is included in the Discovery Club Membership allows us to evaluate potential nutrient needs to provide customized plans to restore nutrient levels!
#3. Stress or Blood Sugar Imbalances
Our main stress response hormone is cortisol produced by our adrenal glands. This key hormone is also responsible for regulating blood sugar if needed. Cortisol also does a dance with melatonin to regulate sleep/wake cycles. If cortisol is too high for too long as a result of chronic stress… inflammation, disregulated sleep, hormone imbalance, food cravings and mood issues can be experienced. Acute stress (fight or flight) of a car accident or injury is not so much the issue as chronic stress of illness, emotional issues, ongoing relational strife, job stress or a build up of unresolved multiple stressors that we carry long term is really the culprit. These chronic stressors causes our stress response hormones to affect our metabolic processes, drive inflammation and lead to dependence on the craving cycle for relief.
#4. Low Thyroid
We turn to high sugar or starchy foods for mood shifting or lack of energy related to low TSH or low conversion of thyroxine T4 (inactive form) to the active form triiodothyronine (T3). If you have a hard time losing weight, fatigued all the time, have dry hair/skin, experience chronic constipation, blah depression and lack of energy… thyroid may be to blame. Make sure to get a COMPLETE thyroid panel (like the panel we recommend from our partner lab True Health Labs) run including antibodies, not just the conventional TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone). Often bloodwork can come back “normal”, but you still feel awful. This could be an indication that the conversion isn’t happening optimally in the liver or you have an autoimmune condition called Hashimotos (antibodies are present). The complete thyroid panel gives the full picture of thyroid function and can reveal where the breakdown truly lies, so it can be addressed and resolved!
#5. Food Sensitivities/Allergies
Often times we crave the foods we are sensitive to. Foods that trigger a mild (or not so mild immune response). If we are sensitive to a certain food, we are also not absorbing the nutrients from that food, so our bodies crave those foods. Food sensitivities also elevate insulin, our sugar regulating and fat storage hormone which can cause blood sugar and metabolic imbalances that lead to more cravings. You can do a simple at home test called Coca Pulse test or get a IgG blood test through True Health Labs.
#6. Hormone Imbalance
Imbalances in sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone and testosterone) specifically can set up intense food cravings especially for women whose cravings are briefly before your cycle. If this is you… Vit. B6 and magnesium as well as an adaptogenic blend of herbs may just do the trick to remediate hormone related cravings. Since hormones and neurotransmitters are interconnected, rebalancing brain chemistry with amino acids can also help to rebalance hormone levels and quiet these cravings. If hormone balance isn’t resolved by addressing brain chemistry, diet, digestive wellness, then getting your hormone levels tested is the next key step. It’s important to test adrenal hormones like DHEA, cortisol, and cortisol metabolites as well as sex hormones.
#7. Digestive Dysbiosis (yeast overgrowth or microbiome imbalances)
This is a KEY one for most people!! Bad bacteria and microbes in our guts feed on sugars. Yeast, candida, opportunistic bacteria call for sugar constantly. That’s one reason a quality probiotic is one of the Core Supplements and in our Sugar Detox Program. However, if there is a major overgrowth a special cleanse related to the specific kind of microbe to REMOVE these nasty monsters would be key to be done first before we could see results long term. (See Functional Nutrition – Module 2 Course) Our lab partner, True Health Labs offers a fantastic, comprehensive stool test to assess the complete microbiome and gut health.
#8. Fatty Acid Deficiency
Healthy natural fats like grass fed butter, ghee, olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, avocados… these fats PROTECT. Lipids or fats form the cover of every cell in a phospholipid membrane. The integrity of these membranes allows our cells to respond to insulin and other hormones optimally. In fact fats are essential nutrients to form many hormones themselves! Fats protect vital organs. Fats provide energy. Plus, fats are key for balancing blood sugar levels. They make our food taste good; they help manage inflammation and keep us satiated. If we lack healthy fats in our diets we will be hungry and tempted to reach for that quick sugar food. Sugar or starches need to be combined with a healthy fat or protein to slow the absorption of glucose in order to avoid the spike and crash to follow…which triggers more cravings. Adding these healthy fats to vegetables is a great way to increase the mineral absorption from the vegetables and gain the benefits listed!
*NOTE: The gallbladder is a small organ that assists in fat metabolism. It regulates bile produced by the liver to break down fat. When fat digestion isn’t optimal either gallbladder is slugish or full of stones, nausea and other undesirable bloating and digestive symptoms may be experienced when increasing fat in the diet. Consider trying a gallbladder flush, then supplementing with bile salts and swedish bitters. Beet kvass ( a fermented beet drink with origins in Eastern Europe) has also been known to cleanse and support liver and gallbladder function. For those who have had their gallbladder removed, it is essential to help regulate fat digestion with targeted supplementation like Biotics Beta TCP for example. (See Module 2 – Functional Nutrition)
Can you relate to any of these? Find out your WHY….TAKE a minute to fill out this Food Craving Questionnaire. Also check our E! Favorites under our Resources tab for a full Lab Testing Catalog related to each of these 8 Root Causes.
Talk with a E! Coach today to start your nutrition solution discovery!
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It may just change your life.