Before I was diagnosed with SIBO it was no secret that I was OBSESSED with sugar. I was the queen of sweets and anyone who knew me knew I had a major sweet tooth. From candy to pastries and cake I “adored” sugar – but the problem is, I never realised it can be a serious addiction.
However, fast forward to today and I am completely refined sugar free. In order to heal SIBO I needed to cut out all sugar (including natural sugar and fruit) and it was definitely a roller coaster for me. I had absolutely 0 sugar for about 5 months, and let me tell you, I went through a major detox! I craved sugar immensely, to the point where it made me moody and I even had dreams of cake! Part of this is from the cleansing steps of SIBO and the bacteria dying, but I also feel it was also just general sugar withdrawal.
As Samantha from Naked Nutrition writes:
Sugar is in 99.9% of foods we buy. There are hundreds of names “sugar” is disguised behind (fructose, corn syrup, glucose, natural flavour, sucrose, xylitol, brown rice syrup, cane juice, maltodextrin, etc). Anything ending in “ose” or “tol” is sugar of some sorts.
Sugar and sugar substitutes have drug like effects on the brain, essentially causing you to feel a “high” and tells your body you need more. When you don’t give in, you get detox symptoms (cravings, mood swings, low energy, brain fog) which is what makes it addicting. I personally have gone through an intense sugar detox due to candida overgrowth resulting in some not very nice symptoms including the mood swings, irritability and low energy. The cravings were as crazy as ever and it truly felt like withdrawl. It took about 2-3 weeks but after that, I had zero cravings which was mind-blowing considering how bad they previously were.
Sugar can wreak havoc on so many different body systems- physically, mentally and emotionally but especially our gut. Ever heard “your immune system is in your gut”? or that serotonin is made in your gut? Essentially, everything starts with digestion and if that is off, it can cause some issues such as an overgrowth of candida (yeast) which thrives on sugar. Candida is often paired with leaky gut which is basically little tiny holes in your gut lining. These holes allow toxins to pass into the blood stream and eventually circulate into your brain. To go even further, these toxins can cause more serious issues such an anxiety, poor sleep and lack of focus. When these toxins are in our blood stream, our body reacts to them because they aren’t supposed to be there, so an immune response occurs. Your body can go into fight or flight mode to try and fight off this “danger” which in this case is sugar. This response raises cortisol (stress hormone) and when that is raised often, it can cause hormone imbalances.
I’m all about enjoying life and your favourite foods. Cutting whole food groups out is not necessary unless you have a health condition in which you need to do so, like SIBO. Depriving yourself of foods that you can eat can cause more harm mentally and is not worth it. Moderation is key. Eating 12 donuts in one sitting is not helpful but having one or two is not going to cause harm if your body can tolerate it.
I genuinely was experiencing withdrawal from an addiction, which has caused me to reevaluate the role sugar plays in my life. It didn’t sit well with me that I was so dependent on something, just as it would be negative to be addicted to anything else. So I vowed that once I healed SIBO I would still avoid refined sugar. For some people, this sounds like a nightmare, and I can understand why, but I can reassure you that it’s so worth the sacrifices. So how do I curb my sweet tooth cravings now?
1. Stevia or Honey
I choose to naturally sweeten with stevia or honey when I have sweet cravings. Stevia is a natural sweetener extracted from stevia leaves and is great for baking. Honey is awesome to add into teas, coffees and even granola bars.
2. Dried Fruit
If you’re like me and a candy fiend, replacing your sweet treats with dried fruit can be an easy switch. Once you cut out sugar completely you’ll find that your usual candy is too sweet anyway!
Cinnamon is a fantastic natural sweetener as well. I love adding cinnamon to my almond butter or even drinking cinnamon tea. Cinnamon is also a bonus as it’s great for your gut health!
4. Raw Chocolate
My saving grace and all time favourite find is raw chocolate! I LOVE Ombar chocolate, but I am sure there are plenty of brands that make vegan/refined sugar free chocolate. My “regular” diet friends have even claimed its the best chocolate they’ve had, and to boot this chocolate is actually GOOD for you! Raw chocolate has many health benefits and is a very strong antioxidant.
5. Shop in Health Food Stores
Shopping in health food stores is going to open up so many options for you and you’ll be less tempted by the junk food sections of regular supermarkets.
6. Keep Sugar Out of the House
If you can have self discipline while shopping it will save you that much more effort at home. Out of sight out of mind! The less temptation you have the better, so ban sugar from your home.
When you get an intense sugar craving it can be a good idea to turn to exercise. This will release the same good feelings that we get from sugar in a much healthier and productive way, and will also distract you from your cravings.
8. Gain Support
I’m lucky as my partner is also dedicated to eating healthy so it makes it that much easier, as we’re both keen on keeping the right foods around the house. It’s important you find a supportive circle that will encourage you to stick to your goals and not be a bad influence.
9. Remind Yourself Why You’re Doing It
At the end of the day, this is for you and your health. Truly remind yourself why you want to cut out sugar, focus on the positives it will bring you (better health, weight loss, more energy etc) and have your own back. You’ve got this!
So, in my opinion, YES sugar is a serious addiction, and it can bring many health issues along with it. For me, I feel much brighter, energetic and all around healthy without sugar and you can get there too! Believe it or not, it is possible to retrain your palate, crave less sugar and be completely refined sugar free.
Sending healing vibes your way,