What if your “guilty” carbohydrate cravings aren’t guilty?You had to have that donut. You couldn’t resist the craving, and you didn’t. When we know it’s bad, and do it anyway, we feel not so good about ourselves. “I’m weak… I have no will power…” Dear reader, there’s nothing more anti-health than a negative self-opinion. So don’t beat yourself up. Because imbalances in the brain chemicals that manage your moods—hormones and neurotransmitters—are to blame for at least 70–80 percent of your cravings. So it’s not just an idea you’re battling—“I shouldn’t eat this. ” It’s much more powerful—it’s your brain and body running the show, sending strong chemical messages. Here’s the scenario.
A craving is bornA healthy diet keeps your blood glucose pretty level through the day. No striking highs or lows. It takes just one glucose spike to set off a chain reaction:
- You have a high carb or high sugar meal, drink, or snack.
- Your bloodstream is quickly flooded with glucose (sugar).
- Your body responds with an insulin surge.
- This sends your blood sugar levels crashing below optimal levels. Your brain, which depends on sugar for its energy, senses a threat.
- This causes your stress hormones, such as cortisol, to call for more carbs or sugar right away to make sure your brain doesn’t run low on fuel.
Not helpless, not guiltyWe can’t stop the signal, as I said. But knowing why it’s happening—and knowing that it’s essentially a false alarm—is a powerful deterrent to giving in and grabbing the donut.
Knowledge is powerSo we know we don’t need that donut. We also know that a high sugar or carb indulgence will kick off the same craving again. We know we can say “no. ” It doesn’t take “will power,” just common health sense.
You’ll get by with a little help from your friendsI don’t mean to make this sound easy. It isn’t. So I’ve chosen a few tried and true helpers that can help you make good sugar choices. Gymnemna sylvestre has been used for thousands of years in India and Asia to balance blood sugar. It has an uncanny ability to reduce sugar cravings—so effectively that its Hindi name, gurmar, means “destroyer of sugar. ” Chewing gymnema leaves appears to paralyze the tongue’s receptors of sweet and bitter tastes. So when that sugar hits, there’s no sweet taste, and often a bad taste. Hardly satisfying. But you won’t be chewing the leaves. In supplement form, gymnema contains an acid that has a molecular structure very similar to that of sugar. It’s thought that these molecules “take over” the taste receptors that glucose (sugar) would ordinarily dock with. It happens in the mouth and also in the intestine. There’s nowhere for glucose molecules to dock. Gymnema takes up all the usual parking spaces. Bingo! Sugar absorption in the intestine decreases. That’s more than a little help. It’s huge. As a bonus, gymnema also appears to increase the amount of insulin in the body and has been shown to help regrow pancreatic beta cells—the cells that produce insulin. If you want to try a supplement, look for one with 400 mg of gymnema.
Practice safe eating—and livingFinally, remember that no supplement can overcome a diet filled with doughnuts, pasta, and ice cream. Even if one of these supplements helps you suppress those carbohyrate cravings, a healthy diet of nutrient-dense foods and moderate daily exercise are what win the day. And, as always, consult with your doctor before experimenting with any new supplements. Take good care.
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