Dr. Gray's Straight Talk

Honest and blunt healthcare discussion and advice.

Five Ways To Kick the Sugar Habit and Avoid Diabetes

Posted by Dr. Gray on Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Crave sweets? How many times have you told yourself, “I shouldn’t…” but had an urge you couldn’t resist?

Sugar addiction, whether you know it or not, is the most prevalent eating disorder in the country. More than one and a half million new cases of diabetes are diagnosed every year. That is an incredible figure! According to death certificate reports, diabetes contributed to a total of 233,619 deaths in 2005, the latest year for which data on contributing causes of death are available. However, diabetes is likely to be under-reported as a cause of death. But, what is the “epidemic” or “pandemic” we’re all hearing about? Swine Flu??? I’m not discounting the seriousness of this disease, but there have been less than 50 deaths in America related to the swine flu virus… and nearly 250,000 deaths per year due to diabetes and pancreatic exhaustion. Where’s the perspective?

To understand better the reasons for this onslaught of diabetes, we need to understand how the body processes sugars. Basically, sugars come in two forms: simple and complex. Simple sugars are composed of one to three molecules, while complex sugars are hundreds or thousands of sugar molecules linked together. Simple sugar sources are table sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, etc. The more simple the sugar, the sweeter it tastes. Complex sugar sources include potatoes, tomatoes, whole grain breads, cereals, pasta, etc. The beauty of complex sugars are all of the corresponding nutrients that accompany them… vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and other essential compounds. As sugar is “refined,” converted to simple sugar and thus sweeter, all of the supporting nutrients are stripped away, leaving a very sweet substance… with no nutritional value.

When the body ingests sugar, it must convert it down to glucose, or blood sugar. With simple sugars, there is relatively little breakdown the body needs to do, so it rapidly goes right into the bloodstream. Whereas, with complex sugars, the body has to breakdown very long molecular chains and the glucose is metered into the blood more slowly over time.

Next step: getting the sugar to the tissues. In response to blood sugar levels, the pancreas releases insulin to transport the sugar to the organs and tissues. A big spike in blood sugar levels, such as after drinking a soda (high amounts of  simple sugar), forces the pancreas to release all available insulin as quickly as possible to respond to the high amounts of sugar dumped rapidly into the blood. This taxes the pancreas to the brink, after which it must work extra hard to produce more insulin in preparation for the next spike. With high amounts of insulin, the sugars are rapidly transported and either used up or stored for later (making you fat). Now, your blood sugar level dive bombs and you experience what’s known as the “sugar crash.” With complex sugars, glucose is slowly released into the blood like a “time released capsule” allowing the pancreas to release small amounts of insulin and keep a good supply ready while producing more. In this way, the pancreas is never pushed to the edge or forced to work beyond its capacity.

Analogy time: Two identical cars. The driver of car #1 always floors the accelerator, then slams on the brakes at the next light. The driver of car #2 gently accelerates and then coasts to a slow, controlled stop at the next light. Who’s car is going to last longer? Obviously, car #1 is going to break down or need extensive repairs much sooner than car #2. In the same way, the constant barrage of rapid stop-and-go on the pancreas leads to abnormal wear-and-tear, and eventually… the pancreas wears out. That’s a simplified version of diabetes in a nutshell.

So, how do you avoid diabetes? Drive smart… check and change the oil… get the right gas… you following the analogy? Make smart health choices… practice preventative health care… eat the right foods… etc.

Still craving sweets? First, detox the liver and colon (more on that in another post). Then check out these 5 ways to kick the sugar habit:

  1. Exercise regularly – Rigorous exercise brings a rush of endorphins (feel good chemicals) normally associated with high sugar intake… this is what your body is craving, and one of the main components of sugar addiction
  2. Graze On Healthy Snacks Throughout The Day – The full feeling after a meal turns to hunger in a matter of three or four hours, leaving you susceptible to sugar cravings
  3. Drink Water. Lots Of Water – A craving is often a sign of plain dehydration, not a cry for food
  4. Cut Back On Caffeine – Plain and simple, caffeine can cause a drop in blood sugar levels. Switch to herbal tea if possible
  5. Grab A Piece Of All-Natural Fruit – Reward yourself with a piece of fruit, such as a pear, apple or orange. Fructose sugars don’t send blood sugar levels on a rollercoaster ride, and the fiber in the fruit will fill you up

References:

Engebretson, J; The Truth About Sweets; To Your Health; February, 2007 (Vol. 01, Issue 02)

National Diabetes Statistics, 2007; National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse

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4 Responses to “Five Ways To Kick the Sugar Habit and Avoid Diabetes”

  1. Dr. Arthur said

    Just found your blog and have bookmarked it. Nice to see fellow Cleveland grads blogging and spreading the message!

  2. […] Five Ways To Kick the Sugar Habit and Avoid Diabetes […]

  3. DrD said

    Hey Jim,

    The vibration sweet served our species for its entire existence until the invention of food processing. The taste sweet tells our body the the food is good. It is not bitter or spoiled. It is just right for nutritional needs.

    The problem is, (as with MANY other of our current problems), just after the turn on the 20th century scientists discovered this fact and set about inventing profitable chemicals that gave us the same feeling as we get from eating good food.

    It’s not the sugar that is bad for us. It is the food processing that turns food into drugs that is killing us off. Nice blog bro, keep it up.

    DrD

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