By Cynthia Perkins, M.Ed. (c) 2002
What is the most common addiction in our society today? Well you may be surprised to learn that it is sugar. That’s right, those pretty white crystals sitting on most people’s kitchen table. The average American consumes 32 teaspoons of sugar a day. Not only is it addictive, but this very common everyday product that is falsely believed to be harmless is responsible for many health problems we find in our society.
There’s a very significant difference between white refined sugar and naturally occurring complex sugars that are found in whole foods. In this article we are speaking specifically of refined white sugar, or its cousins, the other refined sugars, such as brown sugar, powdered sugar or raw sugar.
White refined sugar is not a food. It is a chemical. It is an addictive drug. Yes, that’s right, an addictive drug and when you remove it from your diet you can experience withdrawal symptoms as excruciating and serious as alcohol withdrawal, including tremors, flu like symptoms, headaches, and mood swings so intense you would damn near kill for a chocolate bar. Some say it is as addictive as heroin.
The biochemical make up of white sugar is almost identical to alcohol, except for one molecule. Refined white sugar is stripped of any nutritional value and is an empty calorie food. In addition to that, in order to be metabolized in the body it has to draw from your vitamin and mineral reserves and therefore is responsible for depleting mineral and vitamin levels, which in itself creates numerous health problems.
What is very sad and devastating is that sugar is an acceptable addiction. It’s not uncommon for people to know they have a sugar addiction and to make a joke of it. It’s not seen as a serious matter, when in reality it is very serious indeed.
The list of health problems associated with sugar is enormous and too large to go into completely in one article, but some of the most common symptoms created are: depression, mood swings, irritability, depletion of mineral levels, hyperactivity, anxiety, panic attacks, chromium deficiency, depletion of the adrenal glands, type II diabetes, hypoglycemia, candida overgrowth, raised levels of cholesterol and creates anti-social behavior such as that found in crime and delinquency.
One of the most important issues that pertains to all of us living with chronic illness is the impact sugar has on the immune system. Sugar suppresses the immune system. It depletes levels of phagocytes (the white blood cells that are needed for strong immune function and that eat up harmful bacteria) and this reduces the bodies’ ability to fight infection and disease.
Next to exercise, removing sugar from your diet is probably one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your health.
Removing sugar from your diet is not as easy as you think, because sugar is used as an additive for preservation and to make things more palatable. So it is basically found in most commercial foods. Unless you are living a health conscious life-style and picking your food wisely, sugar is in your catsup, morning cereal, spaghetti sauce, soup, salad dressing, peanut butter, pancake syrup, bread, yogurt, you name it and it probably has sugar in it. They even put sugar in your salt. You must learn to read labels very carefully to eliminate sugar from your diet.
Other steps to take to help you kick the sugar habit are as follows:
-Keep sugar and all sugar products out of the house, so you won’t be tempted and give in during times of stress and hunger.
-When you go to a social event, take your own food, or eat before going.
-Use alternative whole foods snacks such as fruit, dates, whole grain crackers in place of sweets.
-Exercising will reduce cravings
-Supplementation with l-glutamine can reduce cravings.
-Get emotional support.
-Keep healthy snacks on hand for when cravings come on. -A chromium supplement may be helpful.
-Be patient and forgiving of yourself. It will take time to be successful. More than likely you will fall off the wagon repeatedly. Get back on and start again.
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