Natural health: How can I stop my post-Christmas sugar cravings? 

Megan Sheppard has advice on how to deal with post-Christmas sugar cravings and has remedies to treat mouth ulcers
Natural health: How can I stop my post-Christmas sugar cravings? 

For some people, simply ditching the obvious sugary snacks and eating more fats is all that it takes to regulate insulin and cravings.

Q1. I got into the habit of eating biscuits and chocolate over Christmas. Is there a natural remedy to help curb my sugar cravings?

A. Carbohydrates, and in particular processed and refined carbohydrates, stimulate areas of the brain associated with cravings and addiction, making it a little too easy to overdo it on the carbs and sugary treats. 

This is particularly true over Christmas where all of the usual sensibilities around eating tend to fly out of the window.

Consumption of carbohydrates leads to a spike in insulin, a hormone released by the body to help lower glucose levels in the bloodstream by allowing it to enter the cells as an energy source. Unfortunately, elevated insulin levels suppress the hormones responsible for burning sugar and fat.

The consumption of protein causes just a moderate release of insulin, while there is no production of the hormone when fat is consumed.

By swapping out your biscuits and sweets for healthy fatty snacks, such as nut butters, avocado, nuts, and seeds, you will feel more satiated and be less likely to reach for high glycaemic load foods.

It is important to note that for some people, simply ditching the obvious sugary snacks and eating more fats is all that it takes to regulate insulin and cravings. 

Others may need to go a step further and temporarily eliminate pasta, bread, crackers, rice, grains, legumes, and potatoes to reset their system, particularly where there is an underlying issue such as insulin resistance, adrenal fatigue, or hormonal imbalance. If this is the case, then it's best to consult a registered dietitian. 

Snacking itself can be problematic when it comes to blood sugar levels, since this triggers a sustained release of insulin, maintaining it in the bloodstream for much longer. 

If the idea of cutting out sugars and starchy carbs is too much of a leap, then simply ensuring that you include these items as part of your main meal and not as an ongoing snack fest will make a huge difference.

Continue to eat plenty of leafy greens and vegetables — these are valuable in helping to reduce cravings and to ensure that your nutrient and fibre requirements are being met. The aim is not to eliminate all carbohydrate foods from your meals, simply the more problematic ones.

Intermittent fasting is a useful tool, and far easier than it sounds. In fact, it can be as simple as finishing your last meal of the day before 7pm and not eating your first meal of the day until 9am. Even the act of skipping snacks between meals is a form of intermittent fasting. 

The benefits of intermittent fasting include decreased insulin resistance, hormone balancing, blood pressure regulation, healthy cholesterol levels, and often a better night's sleep. The body needs time to rest, digest, repair, and restore.

There are also herbs and supplements that may help to suppress sugar cravings, such as Gymnema sylvestre (known as ‘sugar destroyer’ in Ayurveda), fenugreek seeds, and cinnamon bark, or you could try Chromium picolinate. 

Chromium picolinate supplements are typically recommended at 200ug (micrograms) daily for at least three months to help reduce blood sugar, lower insulin levels, and manage insulin resistance issues.

Q2. I get painful mouth ulcers on a regular basis. I am careful to floss and brush my teeth twice a day. What else can I do?

A. It's good to hear that you are continuing to brush and floss regularly, as this can be rather painful and difficult when you are suffering with mouth ulcers. 

Make sure that you include a warm salt water rinse as a final part of your morning and evening oral hygiene routine.

Since stress is one of the main triggers for mouth ulcers, it's wise to begin with stress management where possible. Another common underlying cause includes a reaction to the SLS/SLES in toothpaste. The solution is to simply change your toothpaste. 

Two herbal remedies may help — the first is to drink and swish thoroughly with raspberry leaf tea two to three times daily. The second is to apply a tincture of myrrh directly to the ulcers with a cotton bud.

NOTE: The information contained in this column is not a substitute for medical advice. Always consult a doctor.

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