In the first article in this six-part series, we discussed Candida (or yeast infection) – a type of fungus most commonly found on our skin and mucus membranes; the wet moist tissue of the mouth, female and male genitalia and digestive tract. You can also read more about Candida, the symptoms and an overview of my 3-part protocol for treating it.
In this article I will explain in more detail how sugar feeds Candida and how this can lead to a serious sugar addiction that only serves to perpetuate the problem of Candida overgrowth or yeast infection.
What Is Sugar Addiction?
Sugar can be one of the most addictive substances. A sugar addiction leads to strong cravings for sugar in any form: candy, cookies, cakes, alcohol, bread, chips or pasta. These cravings can be so strong that you cannot stop yourself eating a box of cookies, an entire chocolate bar or perhaps cake frosting straight out of the container. There is a physiological reason for this: sugar affects our brain chemistry in two ways:
1) By increasing the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin
2) By increasing our endogenous opioid receptors
Let me explain each of these in turn.
The Effect of Sugar on our Neurotransmitters
Neurotransmitters are chemicals that travel between nerve cells allowing them to communicate with each other. Neurotransmitters are categorized as stimulatory or inhibitory – simply put neurotransmitters are either ‘on’ or ‘off’ switches.
Dopamine is a stimulatory neurotransmitter (an ‘on switch’). It is a feel-good hormone that controls reward-motivated behavior. When we eat sugar, or foods that break down into sugar, we get a surge of dopamine in the brain that makes us feel good and gives us a temporary “high”. Unfortunately, in order to maintain this high we must continue to consume more and more sugar.
The other neurotransmitter produced when we eat sugar is called serotonin; an inhibitory neurotransmitter (an ‘off switch’) whose main function is to regulate sleep, mood and appetite. A significant amount of serotonin is produced in the cells of the digestive system. After the initial rush of dopamine when you eat sugar, serotonin kicks in and you will crash and get sleepy.
Sugar addiction happens because, when we crash after a sugar high, we crave more sugar to get back to that feel-good place.
The Effect of Sugar on Endogenous Opioid Receptors
Don’t worry too much about the technical term, the key word here is opioid – meaning similar to the highly addictive opiate drug class (e.g.: heroine, morphine and oxycodone). The opioids we are talking about are endorphins which are normally produced in response to pain and extreme physical exertion.
Endogenous opioid receptors are the cell receptors, located primarily in the brain, spinal cord and digestive tract that opioids bind to make us feel good and decrease pain. When we eat sugar it stimulates endorphins to bind to these receptors producing another mechanism for feeling good.
The net result of this, as with any addiction, is that the more sugar we eat the more sugar we need to eat in order to feel good. The cravings can be so strong that no matter what you do you are unable to control yourself from eating all the sugar in your pantry – and, a word of warning, sugar comes in some surprising forms.
What Is Sugar?
This is an easy question right? We all know what sugar is; it’s what we add to coffee, to cakes, to our breakfast cereal. Well, unfortunately, it’s not that simple and, as a result, it may not always be obvious that you are consuming sugar. This is because it will not be listed on the ingredient list as sugar because any carbohydrate can also be broken down into a simple sugar. To help you out, here are a couple of lists of things you need to look out for.
Common Sources of Sugar
*Bagels and all bread products
*Pretzels & Crackers
Common Names of Sugar
*Brown Rice Syrup
*High Fructose Corn syrup
*Evaporated cane juice
What Are The Long Term Side-Effects Of Sugar Addiction?
Chronic sugar addiction can lead to many ill–effects on your health. These include but are not limited to:
*Weakened immune system
*Chronic fatigue syndrome
*Digestive system complaints
The constant rise and fall of our blood sugar resulting from eating sugar in any form leads to swings in levels of insulin (produced by the pancreas) and cortisol(produced by the adrenal glands). I will discuss this in more depth later on in this series but, for now let’s simply say that, regulating blood sugar and energy are one of the functions of the pancreas and adrenals and when these glands are stressed from the constant swing in blood sugar we feel the effects:
*We gain weight
*Our risk for type 2 diabetes increases
*We are constantly tired
*We are risk for infections that are treated with more antibiotics
This all feeds into the cycle of more sugar cravings which are all part of the addiction.
What Role Does Candida Play In Sugar Addiction?
When you have an organism such as candida that lives inside you and feeds off sugar, this organism will consume the sugar you eat from your digestive system. Candida is a yeast that consumes the sugar we provide it with and then demands more and more and more – making us crave more and more sugar. This creates a vicious cycle of craving sugar, then eating sugar which feeds the yeast and causes it to grow, causing us more sugar cravings. I have treated this vicious cycle time and time again and I have found that, once we treat the candida imbalance, people lose their sugar addiction.
You can also find out more about my Yeast and Candida Detox protocol – a 4-month natural treatment program designed to rebalance your gut bacteria and rid you of candida once and for all. If you want to talk to me in person, you can set up an appointment by sending me an email, calling or using the book online tool. Next time I will be addressing stomach bloating and its connection to Candida.
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