Healthy Aging Kuel Category Expert: Deb Gutierrez
Believe it or not, you are not alone or crazy for having insane sugar cravings. Most women, whether still menstruating or post-menopausal, tend to crave a little sugar. And yes, it can be completely normal, and at other times it is not.
If you fight sugar cravings day in and day out, chances are your hormones are the culprit. Many things contribute to this imbalance in hormones. And there are ways to balance them to end the insane sugar cravings.
Many women may have sugar cravings. It may start about ten days before their period. It can last about five days for those who still cycle. However, these cravings should not drive you to eat an entire pint of ice cream.
I was one of the many women, like those I see daily in my practice, who craved something sweet every day. When I cut out sugar, including all refined carbohydrates, the irritability, mood swings, fatigue, and insane cravings disappeared. Similarly, my clients and friends who take the steps and stop eating sugar experience little to no cravings, fewer hot flashes, and improved immune, heart, brain, health, and oh so much more!
I hear the fear daily, and it breaks my heart. Believe it or not, some of the women I work with are so addicted to sugar they would rather stay sick than give it up. It has nothing to do with a lack of control or willpower. Your hormones are in the driver’s seat.
Sugar will give you significant highs and lows in energy and mood. And it is responsible for both the hormone insulin and cortisol to be overextended. Insulin and cortisol are connected to all other hormones in your body, including estrogen and testosterone.
Speaking of estrogen, when estrogen is low it can cause intense sugar cravings because the body is trying to boost serotonin and endorphins.
What You Need To Know About All These Dang Hormones:
Many sugar cravings stem from a blood sugar imbalance. One of the main reasons your body craves sugars, starches, sweets, potato chips, pasta, and bread is because the body has trouble maintaining stable blood sugar levels.
When your blood sugar drops, your brain will get signals to increase your blood sugar immediately, and of course, will trigger a sugar craving. Now you are on the blood sugar roller coaster, which is where insulin resistance and diabetes get their kick start.
Craving the sweets and starches indicates a problem in your cells; you will eat them when you have a physiological craving to eat sugar. Once you start, it becomes out of control. Your cells act like they are starving, especially if you have excess fat. Unstable blood sugar levels throughout the day may be a result of insulin resistance. This means your cells are resistant to the action of Insulin. Insulin is the hormone responsible for putting glucose (sugar) where it needs to go. If the glucose is not used or stored in the appropriate cells, the glucose will accumulate in your fat (adipose) cells or as new adipose tissue. These adopocytes are bossy and will demand more glucose from sugar and carbohydrates. Hence, you will continue to store more fat and increase insulin resistance.
A Vicious Cycle:
WHAT TO DO
The key to balancing blood sugar is to eat foods that prevent too much insulin from being released from the pancreas. Focus on balancing nutrients at each meal, include more protein, healthy fats, and fiber-rich vegetables.
I was one of the many people who believe I had to eat every 2 -3 hours, which included way too much sugar. I was “Hangry” often. When I switched to a higher fat, lower carbohydrate, and plenty of protein (more of an ancestral/paleo/keto combo) and instituted an intermittent fasting schedule – BOOM – the sugar rollercoaster cravings disappeared. Man, it felt incredible to stabilize the blood sugar. (Yes, I lost 10% body fat as well).
WHERE TO BEGIN
If you find you crave sugar often, are insulin resistant (89% of the US is insulin resistant, and more than half do not know they are), shortening your feeding window (the hours you eat in a day) is a brilliant place to begin. I encourage you to determine if you are insulin resistant, know your A1C, fasting blood glucose, and insulin level. If A1C is above 5.2 (not the standard measure of 5.6), it is the red flag you need that you may be insulin resistant and on your way to Type 2 Diabetes.
“The key is to ensure you are still getting enough calories because if you are starving, this approach will backfire.”
Tip #1 Try Intermittent Fasting:
Establishing an intermittent fasting routine will shorten the time in which you eat every day, which is beneficial for many reasons. Every time you eat, even if it is low carb, blood glucose will increase, and insulin spikes. Shrinking your eating window down to 8 hours a day, for example: 10 AM – 6 PM or 11 AM – 7 PM, is a great first step before completely cutting out all carbohydrates. Once that becomes easier, try 12 AM – 6 PM, see how that works. The key is to ensure you are still getting enough calories because if you are starving, this approach will backfire.
Your body will thrive on protein, fat, and fiber-rich vegetables. My clients’ sugar cravings disappear with this consistent approach to their meals. Fasting does not need to be the same every day. It may be best to cycle your fasting windows. Some days, I eat earlier in the day and break my fast at 12 or 14 hours. For women who still cycle, it is best not to practice fasting on days 11 – 14 of your cycle.
The pancreas needs a break from always being asked to release insulin. If all you can do is shrink the eating window down – it will help with the cravings because your body will not release so much insulin. You will not be on the sugar rollercoaster.
Tip #2 – Eat No Carbohydrates In The First Half Of The Day:
“Less blood sugar spikes the better, and fewer cravings.”
Eat low to no carbohydrates in the first half of the day – then you will not begin your day with a spike in blood sugar. Fasting is not an option for some, and therefore this is the best place to start. Many with thyroid or adrenal issues may not practice extended fasting as it can place too much stress on the endocrine system.
The old paradigm that oatmeal with berries is a healthy meal is the opposite. Beginning your day with oatmeal will immediately spike your blood sugar and put you on a blood sugar rollercoaster for the entire day.
Less blood sugar spikes the better, and fewer cravings.
Think high protein, high healthy fats, and fiber-rich vegetables.
Be patient, give yourself a little grace, but build on it daily to get rid of the cravings for good.
If you are insulin resistant, are not sleeping well, and experience a high level of stress, you most likely need guidance, support, and even lab tests to know the best steps to get your health on track.
About the Author:
Deb Gutierrez is a Certified Holistic Health & Nutrition Coach and Fitness Trainer. Her transformational coaching method helps women identify the imbalances within their bodies so they can reverse weight loss resistance, ditch the chronic fatigue and anxiety, and feel incredible. For her, Health and Fitness are at the cornerstone of what brings meaning to life. It is the process of pushing, pulling, moving, failing, and prevailing that equals feeling fully alive. She has been married for 30 years to her husband Jim, and they have a daughter and Identical twin sons. She loves speaking, creating, and working with other women to create and celebrate the life they deserve and desire.