By now, most of us know sugar isn’t good for us, but somehow we eat it anyway. When we try to break away from sugar, we experience the challenges of its vicious cycle. We are naturally wired to like and want sweet food. So how can we decrease our sugar intake and gain control over Type 2 diabetes? Firstly, it helps to understand its effects on our brain and body.
Is a high sugar intake really that bad?
Sugar is implicated in many major diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and liver disease. It is the one common denominator in recent research, which has been increasingly achieved with unbiased funding. The harm and cost of sugar in our lives has a lot to answer for!
Sugar can be regarded as a toxin, however the poison is in the dose consumed. In our western diets, we have a very high sugar intake which is at odds with what the human body was designed to handle.
The damaging effects of sugar come from its ability to disrupt the hormonal system, create inflammation, alter mood, affect concentration and much more. Yet sugar’s prevalence became silently ‘normalised’ and accepted before this was more widely understood.
Many of the chemicals added to sugar products are neurotoxins that affect brain health. Recent research has linked sugar to the alarming rise in Alzheimer’s and dementia cases that can be considered glucose intolerance of the brain, now referred to as diabetes type 3. Dementia remains a significant risk of complication with Type 2 diabetes.
Are you addicted to sugar?
Did you know that the molecular structure of processed sugar is similar to cocaine? Generally, the more sugar we have, the more we develop a taste for it, just like other mind-altering substances. As we consume sugar it releases dopamine, both a hormone and neurotransmitter, that kicks in to remind us that we like it and want it again.
When you consider that it’s been shown that babies choose sugar over plain water or milk and rats choose sugar over cocaine, the addictive properties of sugar are clear!
Understanding why our sugar intake has increased
The beast that sugar is today, can be traced back to its harnessing by manufacturers. For example, the marriage of sugar and tobacco showed a massive spike in smoking with the first brand ‘Camel’ coming out in the 1930s. Likewise, honey and sugar were added to more wine over the course of history. Sugar has steadily increased its presence in our diets and lifestyles.
Processed sugar was profitable, was sought after and became affordable. Artificial sugars and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which made sugar even sweeter (and cheaper) were developed in the 1980s and have added significantly to the harm of sugar to our health. Research on these sugars is growing and is particularly linked to colon cancer and brain diseases.
How sugar became king
Did you join the low-fat shift that began around 50 years ago? This shift saw natural fat demonised and removed from our food, with sugar often added instead, in order to make our food taste better. The result? With less satiation (sugar does not satiate) we ate greater quantities of food and therefore consumed more sugar.
Dramatically, food scientists discovered the ‘bliss point’ or the ‘sweet spot’ for us to get ‘just’ the right amount of sugar before feeling sick. This processing ensured high profits of course for food manufacturers, however it fuelled a health crisis in lifestyle diseases.
Sugar has become an over-abundant presence in our foods, easily available, affordable and in an increasing variety of options. It is often hidden in our foods and cleverly disguised in food labelling.
Sugar is a cheap filler to add to products AND it works so effectively because we like it! We associate it as a treat and emotional saviour (even WW2 soldiers were given candy and coca-cola to raise their morale!).
How to reset your sugar intake
Seeking sugar out may appear to have been in the hard wiring of humans forever. Wherever you are on the continuum with sugar, it’s normal to have a conflicted relationship with it! However, it is indeed possible to reset your sugar intake and fulfil a healthy, satisfying diet without excessive sugar. Join our sugar busting video series to be given the steps and recipes to make this happen – click here to learn more
Our approach to change
The best approach to reducing your sugar intake is slowly and sensibly, to ensure that changes can be lasting. Shifting your diet toward specific nutrients to help counter sugar cravings and rebalance the hormones, resets your relationship with food for better overall health.
‘Quitting’ sugar is not a case of going cold turkey. It’s more realistic to avoid the ‘all or nothing’ approach and ensure long term change.
It’s important to note that there are two aspects to address when decreasing your sugar intake – firstly the physical aspect of cravings and hormone imbalances and secondly the emotional associations and ‘mind’ cravings.
What to expect when you start decreasing your sugar intake
At a physical level, 3-5 days can usually break the back of sugar cravings. However, your insulin levels need to be lowered at the same time, as insulin drives cravings.
As with all change, it’s the habits that we continually turn to that need to be redesigned. If you’ve tried this before with sheer willpower and motivation, you may already know that these run out, abandoning us in our quest to avoid the sugar treat! Instead, we need simple plans that give birth to new habits that can crowd out and disrupt any unhelpful habits.
It will get emotional
Out of balance hormones, especially insulin, drive sugar cravings more than we often realise. We may simply think that we have no willpower or we are just an ‘emotional eater’, however, it’s often the imbalance of nutrients we’re consuming or creating by consuming sugar and our hormone imbalance that drives this behaviour. We have taught the body to tolerate processed sugar!
The emotional aspect of the desire for sugar could need unpacking and analysing so that change can happen. Perhaps the discomfort of consuming sugar has finally become greater than the desire for it?! Of course, there will be conflicting motivations and opposing forces in altering your sugar intake, and that is ok. ANY change away from sugar will benefit the body.
Remember we are wired for sugar, so don’t be harsh on yourself throughout the changes you are making to your sugar consumption.
Your genetic predisposition, as well as your environment and lifestyle, can also influence your level of sugar intake. Remember your big picture aspirations and that it’s possible to reset the levels of sugar we include in our diet. [Can’t do it alone? Our members reset their sugar intake within 4-6 weeks on average, on their way to reversing Type 2 diabetes. Learn more here.]
What about natural sugar? Is that better?
Unfortunately, ‘natural’ sugar is no better, having the same effect of raising blood sugars and creating similar health issues, however, they do hold just a bit more fibre and fewer chemicals added in with them.
In the end, sugar is sugar and the body was only ever designed to handle 1 tsp of blood glucose within the entire bloodstream. That is one apple per day! Our pancreas, producing the hormone insulin, is tasked to push the blood glucose into the cells within our body. Insulin is a necessary and important hormone, however, when its levels are too high for too often, it can harm every cell, tissue and organ in the body. With a high intake of sugar, our pancreas becomes overloaded and overworked, leading to ever increasing Type 2 diabetes health complications and risks.
Excessive sugar creates havoc within the body and sooner or later, there are consequences to our health.
Reversing Type 2 Diabetes by decreasing your sugar intake
Type 2 diabetes can be described as ‘carbohydrate intolerance’ and sugar is an unhelpful carbohydrate. Have you thought about all other types of carbohydrate foods you eat and how they convert and contribute to your blood sugar levels? A bowl of rice, for example, is equivalent to approximately 10 tsp of sugar.
Reversing Type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance is possible through eating real whole foods that the body recognises, with occasional ‘treats’ that are actually enjoyable and ok for us to eat. Those ‘treats’ can also be low in sugar to keep blood sugar levels stable whilst satiating a sweet tooth.
Enjoy our Diabetes Friendly LCHF Treats Recipe Book here or join The sugar busting video series if you would like to explore simple and small changes that will make a big difference to you, your body and Type 2 diabetes. Mastering this decrease in sugar is one of the foundations of reversing Type 2 diabetes.
The Diabetes Clinic Online team are available to chat to you about your diabetes right now by clicking here for a free consult. Take one more step toward recovering your health.