Before elaborating on this topic, we should all be on the same page about which sugar I’m referring to in this article; antifertility sugar. The forms of sugar we need to limit and eliminate from our diets to better our overall health and fertility are some simple and all refined sugars. I share what they are below.
“To many people, the word “sugar” has a negative connotation.
Many nutrient-dense foods, such as fruits and vegetables, naturally contain sugar and shouldn’t be avoided as they benefit your health.
On the other hand, added sugars — such as in sugary drinks, candy, and desserts — can contribute to many health problems.”
~ Registered Dietician Gavin Van De Walle, MS, owner of Dakota Dietitians.
Types of Sugar; Simple, Complex and Refined
When we refer to “sugar” or “sugars”, most of the time we mean simple sugars- a type of carbohydrate found in whole grains, breads and cereals, rice, and starchy vegetables. Stick with me, not all of these are bad! It’s simply best to limit them and choose whole food sources of healthy carbohydrates and to eat them with a balanced meal that includes lean, organic protein, healthy fat and fiber.
Simple sugars are quickly broken down by the body and processed to make energy for our cells. The problem is that we often eat too much of the wrong simple sugars at once—more than the body can handle so some of it goes directly to make fat. Simple sugars are sometimes called “bad carbs” because they are known to contribute to diabetes, obesity, chronic inflammation and fertility problems. This is due to serving sizes being out of proportion (too large) and to the standard American diet being filled with too many simple carbohydrates. Frankly, we’re inundated with them.
Are all simple sugars bad?
Not for everyone! There are many who will argue that few simple sugars are good and many who will agree with us and say that a limited amount of simple sugars are often fine* as a part of a balanced, whole food diet like the Fertility Diet.
Good-for-health simple carbohydrates come from:
- Glucose: whole fruits, vegetables and honey
- Fructose: whole fruit
- Galactose: organic, raw milk, cheese, butter, and yogurt
Bad simple carbs come from:
- Glucose: Syrups, candy, sports drinks, desserts and processed foods
- Maltose: beer and malt liquors
*Some people have health conditions or food sensitivities making some of these simple sugars not beneficial to their health. We acknowledge that not everyone should consume these.
Complex or long-chain sugars or carbohydrates, aka starches, come from whole fruits and starchy vegetables like peas, beans and whole grains.
Complex carbohydrates made up of long chains of sugar molecules—are considered “good carbs” because they slowly enter the bloodstream from the gut, they take longer to digest and the body processes more efficiently. Complex carbs don’t cause quick blood sugar spikes as quickly as simple carbs. For this reason, it is better to eat complex carbs rather than simple sugars.
“Complex carbohydrate foods provide vitamins, minerals, and fiber that are important to the health of an individual. The majority of carbohydrates should come from complex carbohydrates (starches) and naturally occurring sugars, rather than processed or refined sugars, which do not have the vitamins, minerals, and fiber found in complex carbohydrates…” says Robert Hurd, MD, Professor of Endocrinology and Health Care Ethics, Xavier University, Cincinnati, OH.
Refined, Antifertility Sugars…
Refined carbs are found in bread, cookies and baked goods, sweets, alcohol, sugary drinks and soda. Refined carbs are mostly empty calories that stimulate the release of insulin, and are more responsible for causing obesity and a slew of other health issues than simple or complex carbs.
What Causes Sugar Cravings?
If you are trying to conceive, decreasing simple sugar intake and stopping refined sugar consumption altogether is a good idea. What might set you back a little bit, though, are sugar cravings. What causes sugar cravings in the first place?
The biggest cause of sugar cravings is low blood sugar—a sign your body is lacking in fuel. Skipping meals altogether will make this problem worse. The answer to this sugar-craving issue isn’t to grab a candy bar or soda for quick energy, those things are filled with antifertility sugar. Instead, avoid skipping meals and load up on protein, healthy fat and complex carbs, which will help maintain reasonable blood sugar levels and adequate energy resources.
Low blood sugar activates the adrenal gland and causes it to release cortisol and epinephrine—both of which are considered “stress hormones”. As you can imagine or may have experienced, too many stress hormones make you jittery, anxious and crave sugar. If you keep your blood sugar steady, these feelings can be avoided.
Another cause of sugar cravings is chronic dieting. Chronic dieting starves the body of nutrients, including healthy fats and protein. If you don’t eat enough protein, oddly enough you will crave sweets. Instead of trying to lose weight through chronic dieting, eat a sensible diet that contains proteins and healthy fats so you don’t crave sweets as much.
Insulin resistance can also cause you to crave sweets. Insulin resistance comes when you eat too many sweets, resulting in the body’s cells shutting down and refusing to respond to the large amount of insulin in the system. The downside of this is that the cells are starved and sugar-deficient, leading to sugar cravings. Eating more sugar, however, does not solve the problem but only spurs it on. Other nutrients, though, like protein, complex carbs, and healthy fats, can help the cells get the nutrients they need.
Sugar is addicting, which would, of course, cause sugar cravings. It turns out that the pleasure centers of the brain are activated when you eat a lot of sugar, making sugar consumption possibly addicting. Like any addiction, it takes commitment and overcoming cravings to beat the problem and to retrain the brain to be “happy” in different and healthier ways.
How do you know you’re craving sugar?
It turns out that there are several unpleasant emotional and physical symptoms that will help you recognize exactly what is happening. Sugar cravings can last up to two weeks after you stop eating sugar and will be worse if you’ve been consuming a lot of sugar over an extended period of time. Unfortunately, stress will worsen your symptoms so you can expect them to be worse if you are stressed for any reason. The mental and emotional symptoms you can expect with sugar cravings include these:
- Feeling depressed—this can feel like full-blown depression at worst. At its best, you might feel less enjoyment and pleasure in life.
- Anxiety—sugar detoxification can make you feel irritable, restless, and nervous, which are classic findings seen in anxiety.
- Sleep problems—you might develop insomnia when you are detoxing from sugar. It may be hard to fall asleep or stay asleep.
- Thinking problems—concentration and memory can be impaired during sugar detoxification. You may find it hard to focus on everyday tasks and activities and may have difficulty concentrating.
- Physical symptoms—headaches are extremely common as is fatigue or exhaustion. Some people will feel dizzy or lightheaded, tingling body parts or nausea.
Combat Sugar Cravings!
So, how do you get around sugar cravings?
1. The first thing you need to think about is quitting cold turkey. It sounds harsh but it will much more quickly get rid of cravings than gradually tapering off antifertility sugar-containing foods. You should also eat more protein to avoid energy deficits in the cells. This means eating cold-water fish, lean cuts of meat (grass-fed is best), nuts, seeds, and high-protein veggies.
2. Increase your dietary fiber intake. Fiber will help you combat hunger and stabilize your blood sugar levels by slowing the absorption of nutrients – peas, legumes, artichokes, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, pumpkin and squash, whole apples and pears (organic with skin on), etc.
3. Drink plenty of water. Your cells will be more hydrated and will prevent constipation. Water also helps to combat hunger.
4. Avoid artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners might sound like the thing to do but they actually prolong sugar cravings.
5. Manage stress! Because stress increases cravings and lessens your ability to handle the addictive properties of sugar, you should work on stress management and avoid those stressors that contribute to feeling out of control or put upon. Take a walk, meditate, and do pleasurable activities to moderate stress. Exercise is one of the best stress managers you can participate in. Getting enough sleep will also help.
Dealing With Sugar Detox Symptoms
There are some supplements you can take in order to deal with antifertility sugar detox in addition to cutting sugar out of your diet:
1. L-glutamine: Many sources indicate that L-glutamine (an amino acid) will reduce sugar cravings by stabilizing the blood sugar. There are supplements that can help. You can also eat wild fish, chicken, fresh egg, beets, beans, carrots, parsley, spinach, and miso, which contain the amino acid.
2. Digestive Bitters: Some types of bitters can decrease sugar cravings. The sensation of tasting something bitter has a positive effect on your need to eat sugar. Bitters will help absorb nutrients and will soothe your endless cravings for something sweet.
3. Spices: Spices that also seem to combat sugar cravings include these:
- Cinnamon—this is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory spice that is naturally sweet and will help to combat sugar cravings. The polyphenols in cinnamon help to control blood sugar levels.
- Fenugreek—this herb tastes like burnt sugar or maple syrup and is helpful in insulin resistance. If you have diabetes or prediabetes, fenugreek will help support balanced blood sugar levels..
- Cloves—this is also naturally sweet and can halt sugar cravings. People who have diabetes will have a reduction in blood sugar levels when they take cloves as a supplement.
- Ginseng (Panax ginseng)—this herb is an adaptogen that will help to reduce stress, enhance wellbeing, and enhance the immune system. It also appears to stabilize blood sugar.
- Gymnema (Gymnema sylvestre), aka the “sugar destroyer”—Gymnema is known to block the taste of sweet foods and because of this, it can ease sugar cravings. According to Hethir Rodriguez, “2007 research published in the Journal of Clinical and Biochemical Nutrition shows Gymnema encourages normal insulin production and helps to lower blood sugar levels,” good news for men and women with insulin resistance.
You’ve got this! You Can Quit AntiFertility Sugar!
Sugar cravings are real and can be difficult to manage when you are trying to improve your fertility. Try to stop consuming harmful simple and refined sugars! Look for the signs of sugar detoxification and combat them through strategic changes in your diet and by using supplements that can help you.
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