Written by Annabelle Blythe
When I remember my Halloween celebrations as a child, I recall my excitement and joy for creating a costume, spending time with friends and of course trick-or-treating for candy! As adults, we may no longer go door to door, but Halloween can fall into a predictable pattern. Costumes, parties and being surrounded by sugar. On occasion it can be enjoyable and fun to indulge in sweet treats, however overconsumption of sugar in the long term can lead to a variety of health scares. Today, the average American consumes over 30 teaspoons of sugar per day!
A scary side effect of excess sugar intake is insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone released by the pancreas that helps maintain our blood sugar balance. As blood sugar levels rise, the pancreas releases insulin which signals cells to absorb the sugar for energy or storage, allowing the blood sugar level to fall. But if there is constant blood sugar spikes and falls, our cells can begin to not respond to the overload of insulin. When we eat something sugary, our blood sugars rise rapidly and our insulin levels spike. If our body is overloaded with sugar and thus insulin day in and day out, we develop insulin resistance which can lead to weight gain and even diabetes. To avoid this, simply reduce your sugar intake and choose your sweet foods to be whole - like fruit! Fibre and fat slows the absorption of glucose in the blood, making it easier for your body to process.
In addition to insulin resistance, sugar can imbalance your gut bacteria. We have about 100 trillion bacteria living in our gut, which make up our microbiome. These bacteria, when beneficial, help our whole body run smoothly. Bad bacteria can take over for a variety of reasons, and a key cause is high sugar intake as this is what these bacteria feed off of. An imbalanced microbiome can lead to weight gain, mood swings, cravings, lethargy, inflammation, skin issues and more. Spooky stuff!
After overindulging for one night there is no need to panic. If you have constant sugar cravings or this is an ongoing issue, seek help from a naturopathic doctor or health practitioner to address any challenges you may be having. After halloween we don’t have to beat ourselves up or starve our bodies with extended pricey juice cleanses. There are some easy supplements and day to day fixes can help us feel better fast, and reduce our sugar cravings long term.
1. Read labels
The key to get back on track is to eliminate what got us off track! If you are not reading labels already, the time to start is now. Sugar is hiding in most packaged foods and can have many different names. Be aware of what you are putting in your body, and choose sugar and sweetener free options as much as possible.
2. Increase hydration
To help your body detox, it needs sufficient water to help flush your system. A great routine to get into is sipping warm lemon water in the morning before breakfast - it boosts the metabolism, increases energy, will help detoxify and alkalinize your body. Throughout the day, aim to drink 2-3 litres of water! The best way to judge if you are hydrated enough is to check your urine, which should be clear to a light straw colour.
A good probiotic is key to reduce sugar cravings, rebalance your gut bacteria, and boost your overall wellbeing. Taking a probiotic once or twice daily can be a mini detox in itself, with no negative side affects! Make sure when purchasing a probiotic it is in the fridge section of your health food store. These are not designed to be shelf stable, and the highest quality ones will need to be refrigerated.
4. Add more greens
Be sure to have something green with every meal, preferably raw or steamed. If you find it is difficult to get enough veggies, look for a nutrient dense, minimally processed, high quality greens powder! Vegetables will help alkalinize the body and reboot your system so you can feel your best.
5. Up your nutrients
To avoid sugar binges late in the day, be sure to consume adequate fibre from fruits and vegetables, proteins from lean sources and fats from nuts and seeds or healthy oils throughout the day. Fibre, protein and fat will keep you full and your blood sugar low, helping you make better choices throughout the day. So be sure to start your day with a protein rich, nourishing meal!
I hope these simple tips will help you feel your best. It is important to remember that sugar is an addictive substance, and while okay once in a while it is crucial to balance your consumption. Treat sugar as it should be treated, in the words of Dr. Mark Hyman “as a recreational drug”. There is no need to stress or guilt yourself over an indulgence, simply choose to make better choices the following day.