All you sweet Ladies….
Of course, sugar is not just sugar – it’s white sugar, and brown sugar, white carbs (ie. bread, pasta, potatoes), agave, maple syrup, cane sugar. There are so many ways in which sugar is now packaged, but also so many alternative sweeteners out there, that while marginally better than refined sugar, still have the same negative impact on our blood sugar levels and therefore our overall health. It’s not that I avoid, or expect you to avoid, sweeteners entirely – but we do need to choose the right kind of sweeteners and use them in controlled, small amounts.
Refined sugar is the white processed stuff. Highly addictive (studies have show its seven times more addictive then cocaine) and highly inflammatory. With PCOS and Endo we want to keep the bodies inflammation down
Reasons why we crave sugar include:
• High stress levels, body craves a quick high
• Leptin resistance
• Low levels of serotonin (the “feel good” hormone)
• Low energy or lack of sleep
• Hormone changes (e.g. during the premenstrual period)
• Sight, sound and smell (e.g. colourful packets of lollies in a bright supermarket)
When we eat more sugar than our body needs, it gets stored in the body as glycogen (a fuel reserve). When glycogen stores are full, the body converts the excess sugar into fat and stores it as adipose tissue. Which causes weight gain. Sugar causes an increase in the hormone insulin, and the more sugar we eat, the more insulin is produced, which can lead to health problems such as insulin resistance, which is common in women.
Sugar and your hormones
So, how does this relate back to your hormones? Our bodies and brains need glucose as fuel – so we do need some sugar, just not as much as you’re probably eating at this time. It takes a concerted effort to avoid over-consuming sugar and to keep your blood sugar in check. Your endocrine system perceives mismanaged blood sugar as a stressor. Your adrenals glands respond by sending out a lot of cortisol (the stress hormone) and adrenaline. This begins the hormonal havoc.
Here’s a breakdown:
- When you eat sugar or carb-based food it stimulates your insulin response. Your metabolism is designed to preserve the glucose you receive from carbs or sugar, because your body and brain needs it for fuel.
- Sucrose and other kinds of sugars have to be converted into glucose for your body. The only way the glucose can get into the cells in your body that need it is with insulin. When you eat a lot of sugar or carbs, and there’s a ton of glucose in your system, your body sends out lots of insulin to deal with this.
- Your body is saying – “I want to save this glucose for the brain and body now as we don’t know if we’ll get it again” (consider this evolutionarily – early woman only got glucose via fruits and berries very occasionally). Our bodies are actually better designed to get fuel from fat than from sugar.
- The glucose in your body enters the cells, but there’s excess insulin and glucose. Your body doesn’t need all that much glucose and cannot use it all. It is then packaged up as glycogen. This is why sugar-holics, like alcoholics, can have fatty liver disease.
- This glucose over-exposure saturates your cells and sends your blood sugar levels soaring and then crashing. A glucose and insulin spike disrupts ovulation – preventing your hormones from triggering ovulation and the creation of progesterone as a result of ovulation. Disrupted ovulation causes hormonal imbalance – without ovulation you cannot produce progesterone, which leads to estrogen dominance.
- Your fat cells in your body secrete estrogen. The more sugar you eat, the more fat cells you create, the more estrogen they secrete. This estrogen adds to the estrogen your endocrine system produces. Add in xenoestrogens in our environment. You’re set up for estrogen dominance, progesterone deficiency, and hormonal imbalance. This hormonal imbalance is a root cause of common issues like PMS, cramps, irregular cycles, acne, along with PCOS and infertility issues.
- If you have insulin-resistant PCOS then having excess glucose in your bloodstream will cause inflammation, which leads to many chronic health issues.
10 tips to stop sugar cravings
1. Consume foods high in magnesium, chromium and zinc
Include high amounts of nutrient-dense foods, including magnesium-rich green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds and dark chocolate, and chromium found in whole grains, broccoli, and legumes
Foods high in magnesium: green leafy vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds, legumes, vegetables, seafood, whole grains, raw cacao, dark chocolate, tofu, chlorella powder.
Foods high in chromium: broccoli, whole grains, wheat germ, brewer’s yeast, bran cereal, citrus, romaine lettuce, raw onions, potatoes, green beans, bananas, apples, raw tomatoes, and black pepper
Foods high in zinc: oysters, beef, lamb, spinach, pumpkin seeds, nuts, dark chocolate, pork, chicken, beans, mushrooms.
2. Eat macro-nutrient balanced snacks and meals- For each meal of the day, aim for a balance of macro-nutrients. This will help keep you full for longer and your blood sugar levels more stable, therefore helping to reduce sugar cravings during the day. Balancing out blood sugar levels can help. Eat regular meals and include quality protein, good quality carbs and good fats to maintain satiety and prevent blood sugar highs and lows.
3. Add spices to your meals– To help avoid sugar crashes and cravings, add spices like cinnamon to your meals and snacks. Try banana, peanut butter and cinnamon on toast, vegetable curry with Indian spices, and baked pear with cinnamon and nutmeg.
Cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg have shown some promise in improving blood sugar control, especially in people with poorly controlled diabetes
4. Manage stress levels
High stress and cortisol levels can also lead to sugar cravings. Try 10 minutes of meditation or deep breathing, go for a walk with a friend or family member, take a hot bath, drink herbal tea, and don’t forget exercise.
5. Swap sugary junk food for naturally-sweetened alternatives
Swap processed sugars with fresh fruit alternatives, While fruit does contain sugar, it also comes with fibre, which is the way to make sugar safe for our bodies.
6. Add extra healthy fats to your meals. Healthy fats such as avocado, extra virgin olive oil, salmon, nuts and seeds provide satiety and they help to keep your blood sugar stable.
7. Remove temptation. Don’t buy it. Don’t hide it, By not having it hiding in your pantry, you reduce the urge for a instant sugar gratification
8. Get quality sleep. As insufficient sleep can affect the hormones that control our appetite, a bad night’s sleep could be why you’re overeating or craving sugar during the daytime
9. Keep a food diary. This can help with unconscious food habits and awareness of healthy portion sizes. Practise mindfulness by becoming aware of the craving and when they arise. Is it emotional comfort eating.
10. Don’t skip meals. Going for long periods of time without food may cause your bloods sugar levels to drop. This will promote hunger, and more likely for carbohydrate or sugary foods. And actually slows your metabolism do.
Your body will thank you!