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By Olivia Janisch

Sugar is the worst. It sucks our natural energy, accelerates aging, makes us fat, messes with our hormones, contributes to degenerative diseases, and literally turns us into cranky little babies.

While people are generally getting the picture about why sugar is bad for us, it’s still a massive force in our daily routines, and causes more pain and suffering than a week-long Kardashian marathon.

Why can’t we stop?

Sugar is addictive. Studies have shown it to be more addictive to rats than cocaine. What we have now, loose on the streets, is a bunch of raging sugarheads.

Because sugar is in everything, the sweet receptors on our tongues are abnormally over stimulated and generate excessive reward signals in the brain. Additionally when we eat sugar, it triggers the brain’s natural opioids. This interferes with our normal self-control mechanisms, which leads to addiction.

It’s safe to say that this widespread accepted addiction is the primary underlying cause of the health crisis in the United States.

It’s not just the candy aisle

The sugar business has its hands all over the food industry. If you’re buying packaged foods, whether it’s pretzels, frozen dinners, or soda, there’s a big chance it contains sugar. Thus, we’re unknowingly consuming sugar in the most unlikely of places. Ketchup? Yes. Bread? Yes. Dairy? Yes. It’s everywhere, and contributes to the staggering amount of sugar Americans eat each week, which is on average 2.5 pounds.

What do we do?!

All of this information blows. But, we can protect ourselves. If you think you may have a sugar addiction, fear not, and try these three ways to kick it.

1. Read Labels

An easy way to reduce sugar is to choose food options that have low to no sugar in them. At the grocery store, if you’re buying yogurt, look at the various options and choose a brand that has the lowest amount of sugar. Also, avoid things with high fructose corn syrup, sucralose, aspartame, or any ingredients that end in –ose. Even if something says it’s a no calorie sweetener, it still causes the same response in your body that regular sugar does, so stay away from those too.

For healthy, natural sweeteners, try date sugar, stevia, honey, or pure maple syrup. Yes, it’s an adjustment, but your taste buds will adjust and your entire body will thank you for it.

2. Balance Your Microbiome

Processed foods, stress, poor sleep, and lack of exercise all disrupt the delicate balance of bacteria we have in our stomachs and intestines. Good bacteria works to support our immune system, digestion, metabolism, mood and mental health, but when it goes out of whack due to our lifestyles it can lead to serious health problems, not least of which is sugar cravings.

To reduce sugar cravings, we can fix our microbiome by eating certain foods that support the healthy bacteria in our bodies. These include kimchee, kefir, alkaline food such as grapefruits and celery, and probiotics. Deep breathing and yoga can also help with this process, as it activates the stomach muscles and organs, and helps wring out toxins.

3. Limit Your Consumption

I hate to restrict myself to extremes so I don’t expect others to do it either. However, becoming mindful of your sugar consumption and limiting it to certain days of the week or times of day will help reduce how much you eat. This will help reduce cravings and also prevent you from unconsciously ingesting sugar at every meal and snack of the day.

You can try not eating sugar until dinnertime, only on the weekends, or something along those lines. Pick something you are comfortable with and stick to it. And if you fall off the wagon, it’s fine, just recommit and get back to it. This is a process, not a challenge to be perfect 100% of the time.

Oftentimes, reducing and cutting out sugar heals a lot of issues that people suffer from on a daily basis including headaches, skin issues, anxiety, body pains, indigestion, and fatigue. It’s likely you’ll notice an improvement in any place you might be suffering, so being aware of yourself and your growth will be extremely gratifying during this process. When making a commitment to get healthier, honor your efforts and commit to a program that works for you.

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