-- Sophie Anson
This article was originally written for the www.hypothyroid.com blog
It will come as no surprise that cravings are one of the primary reasons people struggle with weight loss and maintenance, and people suffering from hypothyroidism must be particularly aware of the signals provided by food cravings, as they work to manage their weight. In particular, late night food cravings can be a sign of blood sugar issues. Hypothyroidism may reflect blood sugar dysregulation, so night cravings can indicate underlying thyroid Issues.
Sugar cravings can also be a red flag for adrenal dysfunction or lack of nutrients such as magnesium. Have you had your magnesium levels tested? Estimates suggest that nearly 60% of Americans do not meet daily magnesium requirements. Adrenal and nutrient deficiencies disrupt normal thyroid function, so sugar cravings may indicate hypothyroidism. Furthermore, certain sugar substitutes have been linked to thyroid Issues, in particular, hypothyroidism and autoimmune thyroiditis, so easy substitutions may carry risk as well.
Blood-sugar dips, insatiable hunger, moodiness, and lethargycan all trigger intense sugar cravings, and the more we succumb to these the more likely we are to get caught in a cycle of sugar addiction.
The biggest culprit is added refined sugars that encourage our taste for even more sugary foods, cause insulin resistance over time and initiate a vicious cycle. Sugar is pervasive in so many foods, even savory ones, which means the majority of people aren’t aware they consume too much on a daily basis.
To top it all off, cutting out sugar can make us feel like addicts because it will lead to symptoms of physical withdrawal. Sometimes we feel as if we can’t win!
WHY WE CRAVE SUGAR
Added sugar wreaks havoc on our bodies, physiologically and psychologically. Over time, it is likely to lead to impaired glucose and insulin function, which in turn leads to more serious issues such as weight gain, diabetes, and increased cholesterol and triglycerides. It suppresses our immune system, exacerbates inflammation and triggers mood disorders.
Refined sugar contains no fiber, no minerals, no protein, no healthy fats, no enzymes, only rapidly-digested and easily-stored, empty calories. The consumption of sugar actually pulls minerals from the body during digestion, depleting it of essential nutrients.
In my practice, successfully cutting out sugar starts with focusing on what you CAN have, not what you can’t. Creating deliberate awareness of how your body responds to sugar (by keeping a journal for example) helps us recognize the onset and repercussions of sugar cravings that in turn helps us plan, prevent and avoid them.
11 WAYS TO STOP CRAVING SUGAR
1. ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS
Often, when trying to eliminate sugar from their diets my clients will introduce diet sodas and artificial sweeteners. Over-consumption of these sweeteners can trick your body into thinking it is getting fuel when it’s not. Insulin is released, but since there is no actual sugar circulating, one can experience horrible blood sugar drops, leading to MORE cravings for sugar. Proceed with caution.
2. CREATE NEW HABITS
Sometimes we reach for sugar simply because we always have, not because we’re hungry. We have to ask ourselves if we’re really listening to our bodies. Replacing the snack with another ritual, such as tea or a decaf latte can surprisingly curb afternoon sugar cravings. Cinnamon regulates blood sugar, so a decaf latte made with nut milk and cinnamon is an excellent soothing substitute.
3. EAT MORE PROTEIN
In order to be satiated, our meals and snacks need to emphasize protein and provide sufficient calories. This is why chronic dieters often fail, by eating salads without protein or grabbing just an apple as a snack. Protein consumed together with a healthy fat fiber (salmon with avocado, apple with Greek yogurt) will ward off cravings, temper your appetite and keep you from overeating. There are hundreds of options, such as a hard-boiled egg and a bowl of berries, zucchini linguine with grilled chicken, lentil pasta with sauteed veggies and marinara, low carb bread with vegan or regular turkey, avocado and tomato.
4. DRINK MORE WATER
Thirst is often confused with hunger or food cravings. If you feel a sudden urge for a specific food, try drinking a large glass of water or tea and wait a few minutes. You may find that the craving fades away, because your body was actually just thirsty. If it doesn’t, reach for a snack with healthy fat and protein (see above).
5. TRY APPLE CIDER VINEGAR
Support your efforts with natural herbal supplements such as berberine and cinnamon for blood sugar management, vitamin D for fat loss support and apple cider vinegar – a natural and inexpensive appetite suppressant. A tablespoon of ACV in 8 oz of water before meals might not taste wonderful, but has numerous healthy benefits including supporting healthy insulin levels and lowering cholesterol.
6. DISTANCE YOURSELF
Don’t keep trigger foods in the house.
7. REPLENISH YOUR GUT
More and more research indicated that an unhealthy microbiome(the ecosystem of bacteria that benefits your gut health and immune system) greatly exacerbates sugar cravings. Gut dysbiosis (or the imbalance of “bad” bacteria in the gut) usually triggers sugar cravings in the form of sweets, bread, fruit, or dairy. This also creates an inflammatory environment in the body. On the other hand, when our guts are in balance, with healthy bacteria thriving, inflammation and bad bacteria overgrowth is controlled. Consuming fermented vegetables (think kimchi and pickled veggies), probiotic liquids (such as coconut kefir and some kombucha), bone broth or quality probiotic supplements can also help rebuild healthy gut bacteria levels, protect intestinal integrity and boost overall immune function. If you ‘d rather an easy and effortless solution, you could consider taking a high quality supplement with a broad range of healthy probiotics.
8. AVOID GETTING EXTREMELY HUNGRY
When we don’t eat enough calories, our bodies look for readily available fuel as a way to catch up, usually in the form of simple carbs and sugar. By being prepared, and avoiding long periods of hunger, you may be able to prevent the craving from showing up at all. Including healthy fats at lunch such as nut butters, avocados, whole eggs and wild salmon can go a LONG way to avoiding a crash later in the day.
9. FIGHT STRESS
Unfortunately stress induces food cravings, especially in women who have been shown to eat significantly more calories and experience more cravings when anxious or stressed, most likely because high levels of cortisol increase Grehlin, the hunger hormone. Furthermore, stress raises your blood levels of cortisol, a hormone that can encourage abdominal weight gain (think unhealthy belly fat).
10. GET ENOUGH SLEEP
Your appetite is largely affected by hormones that fluctuate throughout the day. Sleep deprivation disrupts normal hormonal fluctuation and may lead to poor appetite regulation and strong cravings. Sleep-deprived people are up to 55% more likely to become obese, which is a powerful incentive to get a good night’s sleep.
Speak to your doctor about running a full endocrine panel to make sure you don’t have insulin resistance. Hormones are messengers that tell our tissues and organs what to do. A slight change can cause fatigue, weight change, mood disruptions, acne and more. 47% of American women aged 30–60 have experienced the symptoms of a hormonal imbalance. PCOS, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, adrenal dysfunction and insulin resistance are but a few of the conditions to be ruled out.