Dr. Mark Hyman: 8 Ways to Kick Your Sugar Addiction
“I love junk food and I can’t stop craving it,” a reader posted on my Facebook page. “What do I do?”
If you can identify with my reader, you’re not alone. Of the more than 600,000 food products—note I said food products, not food—80 percent have added sugar.
We went from eating about 10 pounds of sugar per person, per year in 1800 to 152 pounds of sugar (and 146 pounds of flour) per person, per year today. Think about it: On average we eat about one pound of sugar every day!
Those sugar-loaded foods literally become drugs: Doses of sugar and flour that hijack our metabolism and make us fat and sick.
Many patients tell me once they dive into a box of chips or cookies, they literally can’t stop eating. Have you ever wondered why you would devour a box of cookies but you wouldn’t binge on wild salmon?
The reason isn’t because you lack self-discipline or are weak-willed. You are not emotionally weak or lazy. You are biologically addicted to sugar and willpower doesn’t work here.
The good news is that I have something that does work. But let’s take a quick look at what created that addiction.
The Science of Sugar Addiction
A powerful study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition proves that higher-sugar, higher-glycemic foods are addictive in the same way as cocaine and heroin.
Dr. David Ludwig and his colleagues at Harvard proved that foods with more sugar—those that raise blood sugar quickly or have what is called a high-glycemic index—trigger a special region in the brain called the nucleus accumbens. This is your brain’s pleasure center that, when activated, makes you feel good and drives you to seek out more of that feeling. This area becomes ground zero for conventional addictions such as gambling and drug abuse.
The study ultimately proved two things:
- Your body responds quite differently to different calories, even if the protein, fat, carbs and taste are exactly the same.
- Foods that spike blood sugar are biologically addictive.
That addiction triggers a vicious cycle of hunger and cravings that sets the stage for diabesity and other chronic diseases.
Constantly eating sugary foods causes a spike in your blood sugar which in turn, activates your brain’s pleasure center. This triggers more cravings and drives you to seek out more and more of the substance that gives you a “high.”
You become powerless against your brain’s hardwired response to seek out pleasure. No wonder you feel trapped.
Evolutionarily, we are programmed genetically to crave sugar and refined carbs. When we evolved as hunter-gatherers, we would binge on berries and honey when we could find it, so we would store fat for the upcoming winter.
That served us well when we hibernated and slept all winter, but that doesn’t happen today. Today we eat all winter: Not just naturally sugar-rich foods, but also the trillion Frankenfoods our ancestors wouldn’t have recognized.
Why Your Junk Food Addiction Isn’t Your Fault
How long can you hold your breath underwater?
That might seem like a strange question concerning sugar addiction, but if I tell you to use your willpower to hold your breath for 15 minutes and that I will give you a million dollars if you do, there is still no way you can do this.
Sure, you might try, but you would fail. That’s because we are programmed for certain needs like air, water, food, sleep and sex.
These things are essential to our survival. If you are addicted to sugar and I tell you to resist giving in to your cravings by using willpower, I might as well tell you to hold your breath for 15 minutes. It simply won’t work.
Nobody wants to be overweight or suffer the emotional or physical consequences of diabetes or obesity. But willpower simply isn’t enough to overcome the cravings for chips, cookies, soda and more.
We’re up against powerful biochemical mechanisms created by food addiction. Willpower becomes useless when industrial junk food and sugar are in charge of your brain chemistry.
Fake foods we’ve been introduced to in the 20th century—many of which contain high-fructose corn syrup and other added sugars—have hijacked our brains, our hormones and our metabolism. These Frankenfoods have literally created a vicious cycle of hunger and cravings.
There is no such thing as junk food. There’s just junk and there’s food.
I have a simple yet radical proposal: Let’s send the trillion-dollar junk food industry a message and eat real food. That means foods nature created, which don’t come with barcodes, fake ingredients or an ingredient list at all.
To do that, we need to rewire our brains. A researcher at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) told me the real regulator of our weight and metabolism isn’t our stomach, but our brain chemistry. The right foods send a message to your brain to shut down hunger and cravings so you burn fat and feel great. Sugary, processed foods send the opposite message.
The Right Mind Shift to Fight Cravings
Making the right choices to opt for real, whole, unprocessed foods becomes crucial to ditch the junk food habit, but so do your emotional triggers and emotional health.
Whenever you get a strong desire for a chocolate chip cookie or other junk food, ask yourself two questions:
- What am I feeling?
- What do I need? What we need does not involve stuffing your face, I can assure you of that.
We have a chance today to stop and detox, not only from junk food, but also from junk thoughts. We must de-clutter our bodies and our minds.
Breaking these addictions and rewiring your brain is easier than you might think. It doesn’t take weeks or months. These eight strategies can help:
- Eat real food. You need to eat fat and protein for each of your meals. Whole foods carbohydrates like veggies, legumes, nuts and seeds are perfectly healthy. Broccoli is broccoli. Processed, sugary junk foods are not real foods. They set the stage for sugar addiction and all its ugly consequences.
- Steady blood sugar levels. Eat a nutritious breakfast with some protein like eggs, protein shakes or nut butters. Studies repeatedly show that eating a healthy high-protein breakfast helps people maintain weight loss. Also, have smaller meals throughout the day. Eat every three to four hours and have some protein with each snack or meal (lean animal protein, nuts, seeds, beans). Avoid eating three hours before bedtime.
- Ditch sugar. Go cold turkey. If you are addicted to narcotics or alcohol you can’t simply just cut down. You have to stop for your brain to reset. You must eliminate refined sugars, sodas, fruit juices and artificial sweeteners from your diet. These are all drugs that fuel sugar addiction.
- Reduce stress. Stress eating and junk food go together. When you’re feeling stressed, you’re more likely to reach for that bag of chocolate chip cookies or whatever your vice might be. Learn to address the root cause of your stress and address it with something like yoga, meditation or deep breathing. My UltraCalm CD becomes a great way to melt away stress and anxiety and beat your junk food addiction.
- Exercise smartly. The next time you get a hankering for something sweet, walk it off, literally. Besides creating a healthy distraction to avoid nose diving into a pint of butter pecan ice cream, exercise tapers cravings and raises feel-good endorphin levels. Whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned athlete, you can find an easy-to-implement exercise plan here.
- Determine whether food sensitivities could be causing your cravings. We often crave the very foods that we have a hidden allergy to, including gluten, dairy and sugar.
- Sleep well. Ever notice you’re hungrier for something sugary after a terrible night’s sleep? Studies show lack of sleep increases cravings. To get eight hours of solid sleep every night, check out these 19 tips here.
- Implement crave-cutting supplements. These include vitamin D and omega-3s. Also consider taking natural supplements for cravings control. Glutamine, tyrosine and 5-HTP are amino acids that help reduce cravings. Stress-reducing herbs such as Rhodiola rosea can also help. Chromium balances blood sugar and can help take the edge off cravings. Glucomannan fiber is very helpful to reduce the spikes in sugar and insulin that drive cravings and hunger. You can find all of these and other crave-busting supplements in my store.
To permanently bust sugar cravings, I highly recommend you read and implement The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet. I’ve specifically designed this book to help you conquer your addiction in, yes, just 10 days.
Simply following the exact instructions in The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet will help you quickly reset your brain chemistry and gain back control over your eating behavior. You don’t have to struggle to let go of your cravings; your cravings will naturally let go of you.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
As protests are taking place across our nation in response to the killing of George Floyd, we want to acknowledge the importance of this protest and the Black Lives Matter movement. Over the years, we've aimed to be sensitive and prioritize stories that highlight the intersection between racial and environmental injustice. From our years of covering the environment, we know that too often marginalized communities around the world are disproportionately affected by environmental crises.
- Lead Poisoning Reveals Environmental Racism in the US - EcoWatch ›
- First-of-Its-Kind Study Finds Racial Gap Between Who Causes Air ... ›
- Pollution, Race and the Search for Justice - EcoWatch ›
By Peter Beech
Using waste food to farm insects as fish food and high-tech real-time water quality monitoring: innovations that could help change global aquaculture, were showcased at the World Economic Forum's Virtual Ocean Dialogues 2020.
Fly fishing. nextProtein
BiOceanOr's AquaREAL system. BiOceanOr
- Environmental Innovation Will Transform Business as Usual ... ›
- How an Army of Ocean Farmers Is Starting an Economic Revolution ... ›
The big three broadcast channels failed to cover the disproportionate impacts of extreme weather on low-income communities or communities of color during their primetime coverage of seven hurricanes and one tropical storm over three years, a Media Matters for America analysis revealed.
Researchers at the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly announced yesterday that it will start a trial on a new drug designed specifically for COVID-19, a milestone in the race to stop the infectious disease, according to STAT News.
- Dogs Can Smell COVID-19 - EcoWatch ›
- Drugs Touted by Trump for COVID-19 Increase Heart Risks, Studies ... ›
- Coronavirus Vaccine Candidate Shows Promise in Mice - EcoWatch ›
The sixth mass extinction is here, and it's speeding up.
Terrestrial vertebrates on the brink (i.e., with 1,000 or fewer individuals) include species such as (A) Sumatran rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis; image credit: Rhett A. Butler [photographer]), (B) Clarion island wren (Troglodytes tanneri; image credit: Claudio Contreras Koob [photographer]), (C) Española Giant Tortoise (Chelonoidis hoodensis; image credit: G.C.), and (D) Harlequin frog (Atelopus varius; the population size of the species is unknown but it is estimated at less than 1,000; image credit: G.C.).
- Humanity 'Sleepwalking Towards the Edge of a Cliff': 60% of Earth's ... ›
- New Border Wall Construction Threatens 8 Species With Extinction ... ›
- The Insect Apocalypse Is Coming: Here Are 5 Lessons We Must Learn ›
By Cathy Cassata
With more than 1.7 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States and more than 100,000 deaths from the virus, physicians face unprecedented challenges in their efforts to keep Americans safe.
They also encounter what some call an "infodemic," an outbreak of misinformation that's making it more difficult to treat patients.
When Leaders and Doctors Spread Misinformation<p>When people in charge of towns, cities, states, and countries spread misinformation, the potential for belief in misinformation to result in policies can have harmful effects.</p><p><a href="https://www.northwell.edu/find-care/find-a-doctor?q=Bruce+E.+Hirsch%2C+MD&insurance=&location=&query_type=provider&physician_partners=false&default_view=list&gender=&language=&sort=relevancy" target="_blank">Dr. Bruce E. Hirsch</a>, attending physician and assistant professor in the infectious disease division of Northwell Health in Manhasset, New York, says an example of this is when President Trump informed the public he was taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventive measure.</p><p>"To approach this enormous challenge, we need some intellectual honesty and clarity, and to disregard expertise and to make decisions and model decisions based on hunches is inviting us to handle challenges on the basis of rumor and uninformed opinion. The magnitude of that error is epic," Hirsch told Healthline.</p><p>Stukus agrees, noting that the harm of this proclamation is documented.</p><p>"Early on when the president touted the benefits of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, people started to hoard this medicine, and state boards had to shut it down because they were getting so many prescriptions for this unproven therapy that it was not available for those who truly needed it, such as those who have lupus and autoimmune conditions," Stukus said.</p><p>He adds that calls to poison control centers increased after the president suggested using disinfectant to prevent contracting the new coronavirus.</p>
Listen to Science, Even When it Changes<p>When recommendations change or evidence flip-flops, skepticism may arise. However, Stukus says change is the beauty of science.</p><p>"That shows us that we can evolve, and if the evidence shows that our prior thoughts were incorrect, we need to be able to change our recommendations and advice based upon the best quality of evidence at the time," he said.</p><p>Pierre agrees.</p><p>"Science is an iterative process, whereby we arrive at facts and truth through repeated and controlled observations. That means that it's inherently self-correcting as we revise conclusions based on ongoing research. Scientific facts aren't immutable dogma chiseled on a tablet. They change based on the best available evidence we have at a given point in time," he said.</p><p>Because research of COVID-19 has only been underway for 6 months, information is evolving rapidly, and new information may contradict old.</p><p>"There's still much we don't know about exactly how [COVID-19] spreads, what effects it has on the body, or how to best treat it. That means that the best available evidence is preliminary, but that doesn't mean that we should ignore it or turn to other sources of information or opinion as if they're just as valid," Pierre said.</p><p>He explains that conspiracy theories based on mistrust lead to vulnerability to misinformation.</p><p>If people mistrust science because it sometimes "changes its mind," Pierre said, "that shouldn't be used to embrace other opinions based on no evidence at all, which are typically selected based on confirmation bias: what we want to believe rather than what the objective evidence supports."</p>
Where to Find the Best Information<p>Stukus says to start with the <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html" target="_blank">CDC</a> and <a href="https://www.nih.gov/health-information/coronavirus" target="_blank">NIH</a>. Then check with your local health officials, because COVID-19 guidelines may vary depending on where you live.</p><p>If you can't find information you need or have questions specifically related to you, call your primary care doctor.</p><p>"Your personal doctor should always be a resource for individual specific questions because they know best how to apply all the nuances retaining to your health, and how to incorporate all the other general [COVID-19] recommendations," Stukus said.</p><p><a href="https://www.eehealth.org/find-a-doctor/b/boyd-laura-b/" target="_blank">Dr. Laura Boyd</a>, primary care physician at Edward-Elmhurst Health Center in Elmhurst, Illinois, says her clinic receives a lot of calls about COVID-19.</p><p>"Most doctors' offices are receiving calls and answering questions, and doing phone or video visits to help clarify and/or order testing over the phone based on patients' symptoms. It is always best to call your doctor's office first instead of worrying about symptoms and waiting too long to seek treatment," she told Healthline.</p><p>If your primary care doctor has limited testing, she suggests looking on your state's public health website for available testing sites.</p><p>With a lot of unknowns related to this virus and disease, Boyd says many patients are feeling overwhelmed and anxious for a treatment.</p><p>"Unfortunately, there is no specific medication recommended for COVID for outpatient. There are a lot of ongoing studies with various drugs going on within the hospital setting. Patients should always contact their doctors about their specific symptoms as they can treat the symptoms that go along with COVID, but there is no cure," Boyd said.</p><p>While we wait for treatment and a vaccine, Hirsch, who treats patients hospitalized for COVID-19 complications on a daily basis, says everyone can do their part by washing hands, wearing a mask, and staying 6 feet apart.</p><p>"As an infectious disease doctor working in the hospital, I see the damage of the pandemic and the worst cases of what's happening. We are trying to get the best possible outcome and confronting this overwhelming biologic reality of this terrible epidemic the best we can," Hirsch said.</p><p>Everyone at home can help in the fight too, he adds.</p><p>"Follow information that is science- and evidence-based, and avoid that which is not," he said.</p>
- WHO Declares Global Health Emergency as Coronavirus Cases ... ›
- Here's What We Know About Ibuprofen and COVID-19 - EcoWatch ›
- Trump's Budget Plan: A Push for Even Greater Environmental ... ›
- Trump Pushed for Mining Project That Could Destroy Alaska Salmon ... ›