Those sensitive to refined sugar or sweeteners may experience genuine symptoms of abuse and withdrawal, which can include fatigue, anxiety and irritability, depression and detachment, rapid heart rate and palpitations, and poor sleep.
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In The Detox Diet, 3rd Edition: The Definitive Guide for Lifelong Vitality with Recipes, Menus, and Detox Plans (Ten Speed Press, 2012), Dr. Elson M. Haas offers a variety of fasting and juice-cleansing options, fifty deliciously satisfying follow-up recipes, and specially designed menu plans to help you safely and effectively detox your body, whether you’re struggling with sugar, caffeine, nicotine, alcohol or common chemical sensitivities. In this excerpt from chapter 10, “Sugar Detoxification,” Haas discusses ways to reduce sugar cravings and replace sugary foods in your diet with healthier ones.
Although sugar addiction is common, sugar withdrawal is usually physically mild, with periodic strong cravings. Emotional attachments and withdrawals may be more pronounced. For those who are sensitive to refined sugar or sweeteners, or who consume them in large amounts, genuine symptoms of abuse and withdrawal may occur. Some of these symptoms include fatigue, anxiety and irritability, depression and detachment, rapid heart rate and palpitations, and poor sleep. Most symptoms, if they do occur, last only a few days.
We can decide to cut down on or eliminate sugar quite easily by simply avoiding many of the sweet foods. There are plenty of nutritious nibbles to replace sugary snacks or treats—see below for suggestions. We should clear our cupboards of unhealthy sweetened foods. Once sugar has been removed from the diet, it is still possible to use it once in a while, as it is not as readdicting as many stronger drugs. Most people who have kicked the sugar habit find that they no longer tolerate sugar very well.
A diet that is rich in whole grains and other complex carbohydrates, vegetables, and protein foods can also help stabilize blood sugar and minimize the desire for sugar. Many people who are protein deficient seem to crave sugars and carbohydrate foods. Conversely, eating a diet that focuses on protein and vegetables is a good way to minimize sugar cravings. If you don’t tolerate sugars and sweet foods well, fruits should also be minimized and fruit juice avoided.
Supplements and Sugar
Nutrients that can help reduce sugar cravings and the symptoms of sugar withdrawal are the B vitamins, vitamin C, zinc, the trace mineral chromium, and the amino acid L-glutamine. Chromium is a cofactor in helping insulin work more efficiently in removing sugar from the blood and nourishing the cells. L-glutamine, which can be used directly as a fuel source in the body and brain, is also helpful in reducing sugar (and alcohol) cravings.
Children can also benefit from a nutritional supplement program that includes some of the above-mentioned nutrients, of course in lower amounts than for adults. Use of a good quality children’s multiple vitamin-mineral, additional B vitamins to support the nervous system and general development, vitamin C at about 250 mg twice daily, and extra chromium (50 to 100 mcg one to two times daily) all help minimize sugar cravings and the transition from sugar and sweetened foods. The supplement plan applies to children ages six to eleven; amounts may vary depending on the age and size of each child. These vitamins are water soluble and basically nontoxic. However, if your child has a special problem or is below the age of six, you should check with your pediatrician or health-care provider for specific recommendations.
The use of sugar in our culture re-sembles the use of a drug and can be treated as such. Make a clear plan for withdrawal while working on your emotions to eliminate the habit. Responses to flavors, certain food compulsions, and the feelings we get from them are usually conditioned. Self-reflection can be valuable. To change our habits, to stop and see things clearly, or to talk them through helps us transition from compulsion to the safe and balanced use of foods, sugar, and sweetened foods, as well as other substances we may use in our life.
Good Foods to Replace Sugar Treats
Note: Use in moderation and don’t substitute high-fat foods for high-carbohydrate foods.
* Plain yogurt without sweeteners is a healthful snack. Fresh fruit can be added along with seasonings such as vanilla, cinnamon, or nutmeg.
Reprinted with permission from The Detox Diet, 3rd Edition: The Definitive Guide for Lifelong Vitality with Recipes, Menus, and Detox Plans by Elson M. Haas, MD, copyright © 2012. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group.