Are You Addicted To Sugar?

Dr Sandra Cabot and nutritionist Louise Belle talk about sugar addiction in their latest podcast. They outline sources of sugar in the diet and how bad gut bugs could be fueling your sugar addiction. They discuss the problematic effects that a high sugar diet can have on our insulin levels and provide some helpful strategies for overcoming sugar addiction.

Listen to my podcast and leave a comment below if you have any questions.

DR CABOT: Hello. My name is Dr Sandra Cabot and I’m joined today by nutritionist Louise Belle.

LOUISE: Hi, Dr Cabot.

DR CABOT: And we’re talking to you today about sugar. Are you addicted to sugar? We see many people who are and they really struggle because sugar can be very addictive, just so much as alcohol or nicotine or drugs. I mean, in a way, sugar is a drug for your body and it sets off a whole lot of chemical reactions in your body that are undesirable. And also affects your brain, making you want more and more sugar.

But I thought we’d start, Louise, by giving people an understanding where sugar is found. Because some people think it’s just in a sugar cube or candy or a lolly or ice cream. But sugar is found in so many foods that we call carbohydrates.

LOUISE: Yes. So, what a lot of people don’t realize when they’re going sugar-free, that this doesn’t just mean soft drinks and lollies. There’s lots of foods that contain sugar, such as bread, pasta, rice. These contain carbohydrates and carbohydrates are sort of a form of sugar. It reacts the same way in the body. So, when you consume these refined carbohydrates, they spike your blood sugar levels like you have had a teaspoon of sugar. They react the same way. And therefore, when we talk about beating your sugar addiction, these foods that you need to look at as well are things like potato chips and pasta and bread. Things you might not have thought about that are actually sugars. And they react like sugars in the body.

DR CABOT: That’s right. Pastry, crackers, even things like rice crackers. People think, “Oh, well! That’s gluten-free. I can have that.” But it’s very high in carbohydrate. And when you eat rice, it will get turned into sugar in your blood, albeit a little bit slower than if you had a candy. But it’s still the same end result.

LOUISE: Exactly. And this is a common misconception that we have from our patients. Particularly those with diabetes, for example. And you say to them, “You need to reduce the amount of sugar that you’re eating.” And they’ll say, “Oh, but I don’t eat chocolate.” But they’re eating potato chips and they’re eating lots of pasta and bread. And they don’t realize that these things are sugars. They are spiking their blood glucose levels and acting in the same way. So, when we say, “You need to reduce the amount of sugar in your diet”, we’re including these things as well.

DR CABOT: That’s right. And a lot of people who have sugar addiction also have the wrong type of bacteria in their gut, what we call Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth or SIBO. And those bacteria shouldn’t be present in such large amounts so high up in your gut. And they can even be in your stomach. And the best-known parasite is Helicobacter pylori. And these bacteria are unhealthy and they will increase your addiction to sugar because they want to be fed sugar.

LOUISE: Yes. That’s right.

DR CABOT: And so, a lot of people can’t get rid of these parasites because of that addiction thing. And it’s not always their fault. They’ve got these parasites making them crave as well.

LOUISE: Yes, that’s right.

DR CABOT: Yeah. And the other thing, when you eat a lot of sugar, your hunger hormones are thrown way out of balance and you end up with high levels of insulin and leptin. And those hormones make you crave more sugar. And then you go on a sugar slippery dip, where your blood sugar is too high, then too low. You may not be diabetic but you’re in a state known as insulin resistance. So, the insulin, even though it’s present in too high an amount, is not working properly. So, your body makes more and more, and that makes you more hungry. So, no wonder it’s hard for people to quit sugar, isn’t it?

LOUISE: Yes. And insulin resistance can be quite confusing to some people. One of my friends, she is insulin resistant. And she said to me, “Louise, I don’t understand”, she said. “When a diabetic, they need to inject insulin in order to live. But my doctor is telling me I’ve got too much insulin. And what does that mean?” And I had to explain to her that it means your insulin isn’t working properly. So, when you consume sugar, you need more and more insulin in order to balance that out. So, your body is just producing more and more because it’s not working properly. So that’s something to be mindful of.

DR CABOT: It is hard for people to understand.

LOUISE: People to understand. It’s really confusing.

DR CABOT: Yeah. Well, see, most diabetics are type 2 diabetics and they don’t have a problem, in that they’ve got plenty of insulin. Their problem is the insulin doesn’t work and so they have way too much insulin. And their blood sugars are not well controlled because the insulin is not working. So, if you are insulin resistant, your insulin cannot get the sugar from your blood into your cells to be used as energy. Instead, it takes the sugar to your liver and gets turned into fat. So, a lot of people are with insulin resistance and sugar addiction do have a fatty liver and that makes it even harder for them to lose weight. So, they’ve got the parasites, the high insulin, the fatty liver, the insatiable hunger from their hunger hormones. And it really is a battle.

But we’ve got some wonderful tips for you today. If you are addicted to sugar, you’ve got to have a strategy that you can eat something else. You’ve got to distract yourself by eating something that will bring your insulin down, make you feel energized and stabilize your blood sugar. So, Louise, being a wonderful nutritionist is going to give us some of these life-saving tips.

LOUISE: Yeah. So, I guess the first place to start is by increasing protein in your diet. So, protein sources, such as chicken and fish and steak. But also things like eggs and nuts, seeds, unsweetened yogurt. These are really good sources of protein. And protein is really filling and it helps to stabilize your blood sugar levels. So, if you’re not consuming enough protein throughout your day, then that can cause you to be excessively hungry and to crave carbohydrates because you’re not feeling full.

So, the first thing to do is to make sure you increase protein in your diet. We’ve got a really great protein powder called Synd-X powder. It’s just whey protein powder. It’s really, really low in carbohydrates. So that’s particularly good because a lot of protein powders on the market do have lots of added sugars, which aren’t going to help you. So, you need something that’s high in protein, really low in carbs. So that’s going to just stabilize your blood sugar. You can have that as a snack between meals, if you’re feeling hungry. Rather than reaching for a chocolate bar or a biscuit, have a protein shake. Or have a handful of nuts or a boiled egg. Those things are really going to help.

And also increasing fiber in the diet as well. So, lots of leafy green vegetables and things like chia seeds are really great sources of fiber. And fiber is very filling and it absorbs slowly. So, fiber is often found in sources of carbohydrates. But the more fiber that is in there, the slower it’s absorbed. And when it absorbs slowly, it’s less likely to spark your blood sugar and cause that ripple effect of the spike in insulin and causing weight gain. So, high fiber and high protein are very important, don’t you think?

DR CABOT: Yes, because your liver can turn protein into sugar. Your liver is very clever. Some people think, “But I need carbohydrate. It’s healthy.” We’re told that we should have carbohydrate for breakfast, maybe mid-morning, lunch, mid-afternoon, so our blood sugar doesn’t drop. Well, that will never work. You’ll never lose weight and you’ll never not be hungry. So, what you need to do is avoid the snacking, if you can. Or if you do snack, have protein, as Louise says.

And a lot of people find salt is good. Your body needs salt because it helps to regulate your blood pressure. And your adrenal glands really need salt to enable the hormone aldosterone to work. And so, try having something a little bit salty. That can work.

And also, Louise mentioned the Synd-X Extreme Protein powder. And it’s extremely low in carbs. Indeed, it’s only 5% carbohydrate, which is virtually insignificant. And it’s not only whey protein. It’s got taurine, which is good for your liver. It’s got glutamine, which your body can use for energy, instead of glucose. And it’s got chromium and that’s important for insulin to work better. And it’s sweetened with stevia and it tastes really nice. And you can have it in water or you can have the Synd-X in coconut cream diluted with water. And that’s like a meal. And it will often stabilize your blood sugar and really stop those cravings, as well as give you energy.

LOUISE: Yes, that’s right. And another thing to keep in mind is that if you’re feeling hungry, you might not actually be hungry. You could be dehydrated. And this is a real common thing. People don’t drink enough water and they reach for a snack thinking that they’re hungry. And in actual fact, they could have just had a glass of water and that would have taken those hunger pangs away.

DR CABOT: You’re right! And add some salt to the water, put a bit of magnesium powder, a bit of lemon. And then you’re getting the vitamin C from the lemon and you’re also getting the magnesium. And that will energize your adrenals. And your adrenals are involved in blood sugar control as well.

LOUISE: Yeah, they are. So, I usually suggest to people that are battling sugar addiction or trying to lose weight, if you do feel hungry, first of all, have a big glass of water or a cup of herbal tea and wait about 15 minutes. And if you’re still hungry after that, have a healthy snack. But you might find that your hunger actually goes away because you’re just thirsty.

And another thing to think about is are your sugar cravings caused by stress? So, this is something that we commonly see.

DR CABOT: Yes. Adrenal stress.

LOUISE: People are stressed out or they’ve got a lot going on in their life, whether it’s with family, work, financial stress. And they see food as an outlet. And usually those foods they’re reaching for aren’t carrot sticks. They usually chocolate or ice cream or chips.

DR CABOT: Crackers.

LOUISE: Yeah. Or pizza or pasta, these high carbohydrate foods. So, if stress is one of your triggers for eating sugar or high carbohydrate foods, and that’s something that you really need to address. So, things like yoga or journaling, exercise, meditation. There’s lots of different strategies that you can implement to reduce stress levels, as well as supplementation. So, there’s lots of great supplements that can help to reduce stress. Aren’t there Dr Cabot?

DR CABOT: Well, magnesium we call the “great relaxer” is very, very important. And a lot of people who have chronic stress have adrenal gland exhaustion. And this will make their blood sugar levels very unstable and make them more prone to go to sugar for a quick fix. So, by drinking more water and putting some magnesium powder in it, some lemon, a little bit of salt. You’re actually nourishing your adrenals so that they can stay the distance. Your adrenals are your survival glands, so you don’t want them to be depleted, particularly in the mornings or when you’re faced with a difficult situation. So, you’ve got to look after them all the time by having the magnesium, having lemon, lime or vitamin C, a little bit of salt in the water. It’s very, very important to do this regularly because if you’re stressed and tired, that’s when you’ll go for the sugar.

LOUISE: Yes, and that’s a really good point. Lots of people aren’t sleeping well. They’re staying up late. They’re on their devices and they’re really, really tired. And when you’re tired, you crave carbs. That’s really common. So, working on your sleep and your sleep hygiene; so, getting in a good routine before bed and making sure that you’re in bed in at a reasonable time and trying to get really good quality sleep. Again, magnesium is really great for inducing a good night’s sleep. So you can have that just before you go to bed and that will help you to sleep really well and just to really relax. And if you’ve had a good refreshing sleep, then you might find that you’re not craving those carbohydrates because you’re feeling energetic, you’re feeling good. So, you don’t need that quick sugar boost.

DR CABOT: Good. And so, if you have any questions from listening to our podcast, feel free to email us from, or or Cabot Health. And we’ve hope you’ve enjoyed this podcast and we hope that we can help you get over that sugar addiction. And have a great day. Thanks for listening. Bye.

LOUISE: Thank you!