How to Stop Sugar Cravings with Nutritional Supplements
Let’s be honest.
Sugar cravings can be an absolute nightmare to deal with.
Sugar cravings creep up on you slowly. One day, you’re snacking on a single Hershey’s kiss… And the next? You’re demolishing the entire bag.
Sugar cravings don’t affect you so much at first… But quickly you’ll realize they’ve taken over your life. Hangry much?
Sugar cravings can even make you feel a little crazy. They’re an unwelcome house guest that just won’t leave… And on top of it, giving into these cravings is seriously detrimental to your health.
The question becomes…
What do we do about sugar cravings?
It’s an excellent question that deserves a full answer.
Ultimately, we’ll be discussing how to stop sugar cravings with nutritional supplements.
But first, we must dig a little deeper into sugar and the accompanying cravings.
We have to understand the problem before we jump to the solution.
So let’s discuss the negative health impacts of sugar, and the effect sugar cravings have on us.
Why is Sugar so Bad for you?
We all know that sugar is unhealthy.
However, we aren’t always told exactly why this is the case.
Knowing exactly how detrimental sugar is to your health is a motivating factor to avoid it.
So how detrimental is it… Exactly?
Sugar harms our bodies in a variety of ways. Almost too many to count.
So let’s break it down.
Sugar Contributes to Liver Damage
The liver is one of the unsung heroes of the human body. It’s responsible for so many functions... Yet doesn’t get the credit it deserves.
Sugar is one of the many kryptonites that wrecks liver function.
Our lovely liver is responsible for processing sugar. It decides whether to store the sugar (as glucose) or use it immediately for energy.
Normally, this is a seamless process. The problem is… Most of us consume way more sugar than the body is equipped to handle.
The liver is able to store 100g of glycogen and muscle tissue is able to store 400g glycogen at maximum. The rest is stored in adipose tissue, aka fat.
The massive quantities of sugar many of us eat taxes and overburdens the humble liver. Much like too much alcohol.
Chronic overconsumption of sugar leads to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Obviously, we don’t want that! So keep on reading to discover how we can break up with sugar.
Sugar Packs on the Pounds
I think we all know this one. But it’s important to mention.
Sugar is an incredibly efficient way to put on weight.
And as we all know, obesity is a significant risk factor for virtually all disease.
How does this happen?
Well, I mentioned above the amount of glycogen that can be stored in our liver and muscle tissue. This is a fixed amount.
Anything above what can be stored in our liver/muscle, is stored in our fat tissue. Our bodies tap into these stores when our body is in a fasted state.
It’s recommended by the AHA that:
Women consume a maximum of 25g of sugar a day
Men consume a maximum of 37.5g of sugar a day
This amount you should easily be able to burn in a day without risk of storing as fat.
The average American consumes 94g of sugar a day… Which 3-4x the recommended daily allowance (1).
This massive influx of sugar… Day after day… Leaves our body no choice but to store this energy as fat for a rainy day.
We don’t want that either.
Excess Sugar Leads to Insulin Resistance… and Worse
We’ve already alluded to this point, but I’ll explain in a bit more detail.
When we consume sugar, it must be processed by the liver.
Once processed, the hormone insulin is secreted by the pancreas to store the excess glucose. Insulin signals the cells in our liver, muscle, and fat tissue to open up and absorb the glucose.
When consuming a balanced diet there is no issue.
But sugar sabotages yet again…
Excess sugar causes the pancreas to constantly secrete massive amounts of insulin. It becomes a ‘boy who cried wolf’ situation.
Our liver, fat, and muscle cells become ‘deaf’ to the constant call of insulin.
This leads to a situation called insulin resistance.
Excess glucose is not being easily accepted by the cells… So it builds up in our blood instead.
Left unchecked, insulin resistance quickly snowballs into Type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
For those who aren’t familiar… Metabolic syndrome is a combo of high triglycerides, reduced HDL (‘good’ cholesterol), increased blood pressure, high fasting blood glucose, and excess fat around the waistline.
Now that doesn’t sound like much fun. Neither does the rest of this list.
Sugar Increases Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
Based off the previous mentions, this should be of little surprise!
Sugar is also deleterious to heart health.
As I touched upon before, excess sugar contributes to elevated triglycerides and reduced HDL, or ‘good’ cholesterol.
It’s a little known fact that HDL cholesterol actually acts as a healing agent in the body. So when levels are low, this is an indicator that there is a wound actively being healed in the body. Likely, the location of the injury is in the arteries.
Caused by sugar, of course.
Think about it.
What is one of the main properties of sugar?
The same thing happens inside of your body. Sugar takes residence in your cells and hardens. As you know, the last thing you want your arteries to be doing is harden.
Sticky sugar and hardening arteries put you on the fast track to cardiovascular disease.
But it doesn’t have to be this way!
Sugar Zaps our Immune System
I know, you’re starting to wonder when we’ll discuss how to stop sugar cravings with nutritional supplements. We’re almost there! We just have a few more points to go over so you understand how important this all is!
Germs and life forms of all kinds love sugar.
What do you feed yeast for your sourdough bread or beer?
What do you feed your countertop kombucha project?
What does the bacteria in your yogurt feed off of?
Sugar certainly wins the popularity contest for being universally liked.
Unfortunately, the microbes that make us sick also love sugar.
The detriment to our immune systems is two-fold.
First, sugar has a pro-inflammatory effect on the body that actually suppresses our immune system. So by nature we are more susceptible to infection.
Second, the microbes that make us sick feast on sugar. They grow and grow in population, just making the situation so much worse.
You become more prone to gum disease, skin infections, yeast infections, etc.
It also makes the symptoms of the flu, cold, and other viruses way worse.
You’ll notice if you cut out sugar when you feel sick… You’ll recover much quicker.
Sugar Sabotages our Gut Microbiome, and Makes us Tired
On the topic of fermentation…
We know that sugar feeds the yeast in beer and sourdough.
Well, the same thing happens to the microbiome in our gut.
Too much sugar = fermentation in the gut.
In some people, the toxic by-products of this fermentation actually makes them feel drunk. It also causes many to feel fatigued and like they have brain fog.
Sugar gives the opportunistic bacteria/yeasts/fungus in our guts to take over and wreak havoc on our health.
Candida, SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), dysbiosis, and more are all a possibility.
We don’t want our intestines to resemble a wine barrel. Keeping our sugar intake in check will prevent this!
Sugar Ages Us Inside and Out… Yikes!
As if all that wasn’t enough… Sugar makes us age.
There’s even a name for it that quite literally spells it out for you:
Advanced Glycation End Products. Abbreviated AGEs.
Like I explained earlier, sugar is sticky. That stickiness translates to our cells internally as well.
AGEs cause this stickiness in our skin, resulting in less plasticity and more wrinkles.
And if it wasn’t bad enough sugar makes us look older...
These molecules also age us from the inside.
AGEs “Stick to proteins and possibly denature them (irreparably change their structure) in such a way as to cause prion disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease. Indeed, Alzheimer’s has been renamed type 3 diabetes” (2).
Alzheimer’s has become a growing concern in recent years. It’s happening to younger and younger people… Research is revealing that a primary cause is once again related to sugar.
I hope I’ve sufficiently convinced you the detriment of excess sugar in your diet! You really don’t want to be messing with this stuff.
Even if we’re aware of this, however… There’s another problem.
Sugar is addictive.
Before we can address how to stop sugar cravings with nutritional supplements…
We have to grasp the hold sugar addictions have over us.
Sugar: More Addictive than Cocaine
More than likely, you’ve heard the concept that sugar is more addictive than cocaine.
It’s not an urban legend, either. It is a cold, hard fact!
There was an experiment done with rats which you can find here. They were given the option to drink sugar-water or water with cocaine added.
Every time, the rats chose to drink sugar water over the cocaine water. Every. Time.
It didn’t matter if artificial sweeteners were used either. Pure saccharin was enticing enough for rats to prefer it over cocaine as well.
So what does this mean for us?
Well, obviously humans aren’t the same as rats! However, our brains respond similarly to addictive substances.
We’re wired to crave sugar. Think about our caveman (and cavewoman!) ancestors for a moment. They didn’t have grocery stores filled with fruits and sweet things shipped from all around the world.
What they ate is what was in season. Fruit, nature’s candy, was only available in the summertime. Our ancestors had to pack on the pounds to survive a harsh winter… And the best way to achieve that? Eat lots of sugary foods.
This addictive, sugary feedback loop is wired into our brains. It was necessary for survival!
Now, not so much. But that tendency is still alive and strong within us.
So now we finally arrive to the point you’ve all been waiting for!
How to Stop Sugar Cravings with Nutritional Supplements
Before we dive in, I just want to add a little caveat here. The supplements I’m about to mention are excellent! However, every body is different. So I would encourage you to experiment and find what is best for you.
In my work as a holistic nutritionist, I’ve learned that the root cause of many unpleasant symptoms is due to a nutritional deficiency. Sugar cravings are no exception.
Most often, sugar cravings emerge from dysregulated blood sugar. And where does the dysregulated blood sugar come from? A deficiency in vitamins and minerals.
But of course, which ones?
Let’s start with vitamins.
Vitamins for Sugar Cravings
We all know vitamins and minerals are foundational to health. But we don’t necessarily realize how these deficiencies can cause unpleasant symptoms… Like sugar cravings.
I should note that when taking vitamins for sugar cravings, it may take a bit of time to notice the difference. Most of us are deficient and it takes time for these nutrients to build up in our tissues. There are faster options I will discuss below, however, we also want to address the root cause.
So what vitamins are helpful to curb sugar cravings?
Thiamine (vitamin B1) and vitamin D are particularly helpful.
They help regulate blood sugar.
Thiamine in particular is required to metabolize glucose, aka sugar. If we don’t have enough B1 to process the carbs we’re consuming, our blood sugar is a crazy roller coaster. We want blood sugar levels to be more like a lazy river.
Thiamine will improve carbohydrate metabolism, assist blood sugar regulation, which improves sugar cravings. In fact, thiamine is proven to reduce blood sugar levels in diabetics.
Next on the list is vitamin D.
While not as strong as thiamine, there is some evidence that vitamin D can help you manage your sugar cravings.
Like B1, vitamin D helps manage your sugar cravings in an indirect manner. Studies have shown that vitamin D helps improve insulin sensitivity.
Improved insulin sensitivity means your cells are using glucose more efficiently. This leads to more well-regulated blood sugar. And yes, you guessed it, improved sugar cravings!
Minerals for Sugar Cravings
Now let’s discuss mineral supplements for sugar cravings.
Like vitamins, minerals address the root cause of dysfunction. Therefore, they are also a longer term solution.
Let’s start with magnesium.
Ever crave chocolate? It’s likely not just the sugar you’re after… It’s magnesium too! Cacao is naturally rich in magnesium, which is essential for processing glucose.
This is especially key if you are eating foods high in processed sugars. Whole food sources of sugar, such as fruit, naturally contain the minerals needed to process the glucose within them. Refined sugars have had these minerals stripped out. This makes it even more taxing for your body to process!
Ensuring you have adequate magnesium levels will go a long way to keep your blood sugar stable. Sugar cravings too!
Other minerals to keep an eye on are zinc, chromium, and selenium. All of these minerals are also crucial for glucose metabolism. It also happens that diabetic individuals tend to be deficient in all of these minerals.
Herbs for Sugar Cravings
As mentioned previously, vitamins and minerals address the root cause of why you crave sugar. But what if you need relief now?
Herbal supplements can be an excellent way to ameliorate sugar cravings in the short term.
First on our list is bitter melon.
If you’re familiar with Asian cuisine, you’ve likely heard about bitter melon before. It also has strong roots as a medicinal in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
The bitter compounds in bitter melon have a profound and fast-acting effect on our blood sugar. They actually have insulin-like properties that help shuttle glucose into your cells. Pretty fascinating, right?
Bitter melon can even suppress appetite, which can directly assist with sugar cravings.
Next we have Gymnema.
Gymnema is an herb with strong traditional use in Ayurvedic Medicine. And let me tell you, it is powerful!
The primary active compound is called gymnemic acid. This compound actually suppresses your ability to detect sweet flavors! More specifically, gymnemic acid blocks the sugar receptors on your taste buds.
You can even suck on the tablet for a few seconds before you swallow to really clue in your sugar receptors.
How’s that for stopping sugar cravings with nutritional supplements? With gymnema, you can stop it in its tracks!
Supplement Dosages for Stopping Sugar Cravings
Undoubtedly, you’ve noticed I haven’t put any dosages down for these supplements. There’s a reason for that.
Every body is different.
We all have unique requirements, and it’s best not to guess what those requirements are.
It’s also important to constantly be working toward addressing the root cause of your sugar cravings. It is a sign of a deeper imbalance.
So if you decide to try supplementation, that’s great! At the same time, we highly suggest working with a practitioner who can help you address the root cause.
Not sure where to start?
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We hope you’ve found this article useful! And if you ever require extra guidance, you know where to find us.
In health and healing,
Gabrielle, Kristen, and the Nourish Team