Chronic cravings for sugars and carbohydrates can be linked to our diet, lifestyle, motivation, mental and physical state. Multiple pregnancies can tax the body by decreasing nutritional status, reduce kidney energy and cause alterations in blood sugar metabolism. It is often difficult for women who have given birth to reduce their body weight and begin an exercise regime due to the demands of mother hood, however this is the healthiest place to start to change the physiology of the body.
When we crave super sweet foods, refined foods, carbohydrates and junk food it causes a vicious cycle to occur in the body, this is because these foods typically cause the pancreas to become overworked due to their high glycemic index (GI) reading. High GI foods can play havoc with our blood sugar regulation mechanisms in the body and contribute to our eating behaviours. A spike in blood sugar (energy) naturally occurs about 15 minutes after we eat and then typically drops about 1 hour after eating. These dips and spikes in blood sugar often influence our habits around food choices.
When the digestive organ the pancreas is unable to secrete enough insulin to maintain a normal blood sugar (glucose) levels it eventually leads to high blood sugar levels and irregularities, these changes cause us to crave more sweet foods. When this occurs over and over again it places a burden on the pancreas and may cause a decrease in its effectiveness to properly function resulting in dysregulation of blood sugar and therefor more cravings. Insulin is a hormone which enables the cells to absorb glucose yielded from foods, it acts as the transporter to get glucose into the cell to be used as energy.Some of the more common reasons that we crave sweet foods are:
- Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy..
- Chromium mineral deficiency results in dysregulation of the pancreas in its ability to produce sufficient insulin
- Pancreatic insufficiency (pre-diabetic state).
- Hyperglycemia (sweet blood, high blood sugar) or hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) are severe fluctuations in blood sugar levels due to wrong diet and pancreatic conditions.
- Metabolic syndrome or Insulin resistance or insufficiency, this occurs due to the body not responding to insulin produced by the pancreas.
- Nutritional deficiencies of B Vitamins, Vanadium, Chromium and Manganese.
- Diabetes. Type 1 diabetes results from the bodys failure to produce insulin due to destruction of the cells in the pancres. Type 2 diabetes results due to insulin resistance or deficiency. This is a diet controlled form of diabetes.
- Depression as an emotional disorder. In Louise Hays book "You can heal your life" she talks about excessive sweet cravings to be an emotional indicator of no sweetness in ones life.
- Weight gain can increase insulin resistance, hormonal changes and lead to feelings of low energy, stress,self-esteem, motivation and emotional stability.
Please speak to your healthcare professional regarding weight loss and blood sugar levels as it may benefit you to have a blood test which includes fasting blood glucose test, kidney filtration test, thyroid and liver enzymes. This will help you to better determine the causative factor behind sugar cravings.The following are some guidelines and tips to help balance blood sugar levels:
- Eating a good breakfast will make it easier for your body to balance blood sugar levels throughout the day. Try to combine a small portion of protein with complex carbohydrates - for example unsweetened muesli with yoghurt and nuts, or whole grain toast and egg. The protein content helps to slow the release of sugars into your blood stream. This helps to maintain a more consistent level of energy throughout the morning and avoid the sugar lows. It's fine to eat your fave fruits as long as you combine them with some protein such as nuts and yoghurt. Or put them in a smoothie. In fact, the majority of your food intake should be from fresh fruits and vegetables. These foods are cleansing to the system and provide the best nutrients for your baby. Also include whole grain foods and quality protein sources (such as almonds, fish, and organic dairy products).
- Reduce all simple sugars in all forms such as lollies, cakes, sweets, biscuits, soft drinks etc. (Hint: When reading labels, look for words ending in -ose, such as glucose, maltose, lactose as these are all forms of sugar).
- The mineral Chromium supports the pancreas to produce insulin (which draws sugar into the cells) to ultimately balance blood sugar levels. Chromium is a nutrient which many people have a deficiency of due to it being used by the body in high amounts and is not at optimal levels in the soil or foods we eat. Chromium is a trace mineral which is depleted in Australian soils due to over farming practices, and eating a diet high in refined foods further depletes the body’s levels. Many people who are diabetic have low stores of chromium even though only small amounts are needed for proper body metabolism. Chromium is an important nutrient for the management of blood sugar levels because it is needed by the pancreas to produce insulin which helps to regulate blood sugar levels, it is also needed for carbohydrate metabolism which is a common weakness in diabetics. The Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) of this mineral is around 200mcg/ day and a therapeutic range is up to 600mcg/ day. Clinical trials have been performed on adults administering 1000-2000mcg per day of Chromium with no adverse effects.
- Maintaining a healthy body weight, keeping a regular exercise routine, eating healthy foods and minimising simple and refined sugars in your diet may reduce the possibility of pancreas and insulin insufficiency in the future.
- A diet which high in fiber, low in saturated fats and low in concentrated sugars (foods which have a high Glycemic Index).
- Reduce your consumption of fructose, simple sugars, transfatty acids (bakery foods, fatty foods and deep fried foods), artificial sweetners (sorbitol and aspartame).
- A low glycemic index diet may help to control diabetes and reduce high blood sugar levels. Low GI foods are foods with a glycemic index of below 50 and help to better stabilise the blood sugar because they don’t contain high amounts of simple sugars. If you wish to have a list of foods and their GI value, go to the following website: www.lowglycemicdiet.com/gifoodlist.html
- The minerals Magnesium, Zinc and Vanadium may help to control blood sugar levels, consider taking a colloidal mineral formulation as it will contain the trace minerals you may be depleted in.
- Gymnema is like the herbal equivelant of the mineral Chromium. It has been used traditionally in Ayurvedic medicine to treat what the Indians refer to as madhu meha meaning "honey urine". In other words it can be used in the treatment of Diabetes 1 and 2 as it appears to lower serum glucose. Another effect of Gymnema is taste alteration. After taking Gymnema, sugar products tend to lose their taste and this helps to lower sugar cravings which may assist in helping to maintain balanced blood sugar levels by removing the urge for sugar bingeing.
- B Vitamin complex containing Biotin and Lipoic acid may help to restore function to the pancreatic cells (Islets of Langerham), reduce destruction of these cells and improve blood sugar regulation.
- Eating small meals regularly can help to maintain blood sugar levels during the day, blood sugar levels are typically highest one to two hours after a meal. Not overeating means that the body is better able to regulate blood sugar levels without being overloaded.
- A balanced diet means not depending on carbohydrates only for an energy source. A diet high in carbohydrates means the body will need to produce more insulin which can cause dysglyemia (sugar irregularities) as well as energy slumping an hour or so after eating. Foods that contain carbohydrates are grains, pasta, rice, crackers, cereals, legumes, cakes, sweets, deserts, potatoes, corn, peas, starchy vegetables and squash.
- Beta glycans and fibers may help to better regulate blood sugar levels.
- Other herbs which help to maintain blood sugars and improve pancreatic health are: Cinnamon, Fenugreek, Flaxseed, Korean Ginseng, Siberian Ginseng and Stevia.
- Regular exercise is an important part of weight loss and blood sugar regulation as physical activity moves sugar from the blood into the cells and helps to reduce insulin resistance and stabilising blood sugar levels.