Digestion, Diabetes, Diets | August 10, 2016 | Author: Naturopath
If it’s 3 pm and your reaching for that chocolate bar, stop right now! There are many effective ways in which you can manage your cravings by balancing your blood sugars, and you can simply do that through diet, supplements, exercise and lifestyle changes.
The problem with sugar is that it is highly addictive. Researchers at Yale University found that a dramatic fall in blood sugars after eating high GI foods such as biscuits and sweets, affects the part of the brain controlling impulse, thus creating the self-perpetuating cycle of craving high calorie foods with a loss of self-control.
Carbohydrates also release serotonin which is a neurotransmitter related to improved mood and endorphins which promote a feeling of calm and give us a natural high.
This research certainly explains why sugar still makes up a third of our calorie intake and significantly contributes to the obesity epidemic.
Naturopathic practices also see sugar cravings as an important sign in an underlying health condition such as under-active thyroid, adrenal overload, high stress levels, yeast infections, menopause or PMS.
Hypoglycaemia occurs when your blood sugar levels are too low. When this occurs the body secretes cortisol and adrenaline in high levels to prevent a further reduction. Reactive hypoglycaemia occurs 2-5 hours after a meal and is usually caused by an over secretion of insulin from the pancreas. Insulin is then released into the bloodstream where it helps to move glucose into the cells, especially those of fatty and muscle tissue, to be used as energy.
Symptoms of hypoglycaemia include:
Taking too much diabetic medication, skipping meals, exercising or eating less than normal can lead to having a low blood sugar episode. The most common cause of low blood sugars is referred to as functional hypoglycaemia which is precipitated by a poor diet.
In contrast to hypoglycaemia, hyperglycaemia is caused by an excess of glucose in the blood stream.
This occurs when the body can’t use insulin properly (insulin resistance) or produces too little.
This often occurs in people with diabetes and can lead to major health complications.
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The symptoms of hyperglycaemia include:
Whether your blood sugars are high or low the same healthy eating principles, supplements & lifestyle suggestions apply.
Protein is an important nutrient to help reduce appetite and cravings. It helps to balance blood sugars & is also important for muscle maintenance & growth. Make sure protein is consumed with every meal. Sources include meat, soy, eggs, milk, yoghurt, cheese, nuts & seeds.
Now this is the trick! When you get a craving, eat protein instead. It will help break the cycle of sugar addiction by making you feel more satisfied for longer.
Complex carbohydrates are important to have in every meal also. Choose grains that are unprocessed so as to retain the fibre and nutrients. This includes oats, quinoa, wholemeal bread & pasta, rye, spelt, millet, barley and brown rice. Other sources include fruit, vegetables, beans, lentils & peas. A healthy diet should contain a variety of these foods with an aim to include 7-8 serves of vegetables each day and 1-2 serves of fruit. These foods are referred to as low GI as they are slowly digested and allow a slow and normal increase in blood sugars.
Other tips include eliminating refined sugar in tea/coffee, soft drinks, juice, biscuits, chocolates, lollies & processed foods. Don’t skip meals or eat meals too large. For stabilized blood sugars eat small regular meals with small snacks. Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper!
Exercise is an important factor to reduce blood sugars by facilitating the uptake of glucose into the cells lowering insulin resistance. A study found that Tai chi significantly improved glycaemic control in diabetic women. However, it is not recommended to exercise if your blood sugars are excessively high or too low. Eat one to three hours prior to exercise to prevent fatigue and blood sugars that drop too low.
Stress has also been shown to have a negative impact on blood sugars (both high and low) and may also contribute to poor dietary choices, such as the consumption of sugary foods. It is important to manage stress levels through supplementation, change in diet, exercise, balancing your work load, meditation & getting a good night’s sleep.
Protein powders can either be whey or plant based and help to reduce appetite and cravings while maintaining healthy muscle and growth. They can either be used in conjunction with a meal or when you get a sugar craving in between a meal.
Chromium helps to reduce sugar cravings and has been shown to increase fat loss. It is involved in the metabolism of glucose and helps to maintain stable blood sugar levels, useful for both hypoglycaemia and hyperglycaemia. Chromium picolinate is an ideal form for easy absorption. Dietary sources of chromium include brewer’s yeast, brown rice, cheese, meat, wholegrains & even beer.
Cinnamon – scientific research has shown that this humble spice is very effective in helping to normalise blood sugars and insulin levels. This in turn helps to reduce cravings for foods containing sugars and carbohydrates.
Add ground cinnamon to smoothies, baking, porridge, cereal & curries.
If a stronger dose is needed you can also take as a supplement.
B vitamins are important to help convert the carbohydrates we eat into fuel (glucose), which the body then uses as energy. It is best to take the B vitamins as a complex as they work synergistically and a deficiency in one can indicate a deficiency in another.
Magnesium is an important mineral involved in over 300 enzyme reactions in the body. It is important in carbohydrate metabolism and helps with maintaining a healthy mood. Magnesium helps to increase GABA and dopamine which may also reduce emotional eating. Magnesium is found in green leafy vegetables, dairy products, meat, seafood, bananas, apples and wholegrains.
As you can see it may only take some dietary changes, adding supplements if needed, initiating some exercise, employing "mindfulness" for stress and your health will benefit.
Balch, J. & Balch, P. (2000). Prescription for Nutritional Healing (3rd ed.), Penguin Publishing, United States of America Bandara T, Uluwaduge, I, Jansz ER.
Bioavailability of cinnamon with special emphasis on diabetes mellitus: a review. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2012 May