The Sugar Hangover

by Anna

Presently I am feeling slightly queasy and mildly unwell. And despite my face only being slightly puffy and my nose only a little blocked, the overall tiredness, listlessness and ill feeling in my tummy are the common tell-tale signs that I am currently acting out a sugar hangover. And yes, I do vaguely remember reaching repeatedly into that luminous biscuit box and also unwrapping some chocolates hidden in mesmerizing colourful tinfoils.

In case you are wondering: sugar has been having an increasingly detrimental influence on me. I have been watching it for a few years now and already have previously written about it here. I even raised my hand and admitted that I am a sugar addict. But despite my awareness and my continuous effort to educate others about the damaging effect of the common white sugar on our health and wellbeing, I still find myself relapse again and again and again. It raises the question whether it is even a much bigger issue than even I had dared envisioning.

What is it that gives me this longing feeling of needing sugar and why can’t I control it despite repeat experiences that I will feel ill after?

As with all addictions, there is something else running in the background that might need to be addressed first. As I once was reprimanded by an insisting Irish catholic (no offence): “Only Jesus can fill that hole in you!” Well, I obviously preferred biscuits and chocolates.

Addiction in general terms is a compulsive recurring behaviour that is difficult to stop, despite harmful consequences. Biological or psychological factors may play a part here too. Researchers say that sugar and the taste of sweet is said to stimulate the brain by activating the same chemicals activated in the brain by the ingestion of heroin and morphine. Sugar stimulates the release of endorphins which makes us feel good. So when we’re stressed, we crave foods that trigger this sensation. However, if we try to cut it out of our diet, we can experience withdrawal symptoms.

Watch this sweet little poem about the sugarcane:

Sugarcane is a tall growing grass, which mainly grows in warm southern regions of the globe. Interestingly, it is one of the largest crop produced in the world, with the main produce being sucrose which is being processed into other forms of sugar for food or ethanol for fuel production. It appears that sugar found its way around the world as an expensive sugar spice after the sweet reeds were discovered by Persians and Greeks in the 6th and 4th centuries BC in India. It wasn’t until after the 18th century that cane sugar became a world crop and arrived in the form of white granules in our kitchen cupboard.

Is that the reason why it is in nearly every prepared meal or snack on earth? Just for a cheap flavour adjustment? It is just unfortunate that the whole process of extraction, bleaching, filtering, heating, drying and the ultimate use in food products completely destroyed most properties that would have been good to start with. We are unwittingly made addicted to it because of the masses of it that we encounter in everyday food. Sucanat (sugar cane natural) or organic whole cane sugar is the most natural form of sugar because the juice of the sugarcane is simply evaporated at low heat. It can be found it in health food stores or online.

The glycemic index plays an important role too. High GI foods cause our blood sugar to soar up and drop down just as quickly. This is not good for our body and can not only lead to diabetes and obesity but also impacts on us with tiredness and lack of concentration hence we grab hold of the “next sugar fix”. Refined sugar has a GI of about 64, compared to raw sugar cane which has a glycemic index of  30 to 40. I only just heard of raw sugar cane juice which can be found in India, for example, but which I did not have the pleasure to try yet. It is packed with calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, vitamins, antioxidants, proteins and fibres, to mention but a few.

Sugar is basically a naturally occurring substance in most fruits and vegetables. So are carbohydrates, which are a common food source said to give us energy, and also one that we crave for most. But carbohydrates are actually not an essential nutrient since our body can get all its energy from protein and fat. High carbohydrate foods are amongst others fruits, bread, pasta, potatoes, rice and, guess what: sweets. Refined sugar is composed entirely of carbohydrates. We really do not need it to survive and it is also most likely linked to obesity and diabetes.

I found this article of great interest:

I have a predisposition to compulsions that include food. It literally fills a hole in me when I feel anxious or stressed. Every single cell in my whole body gravitates towards those biscuits in times of need. I might not even be aware of any particular anxiety, but when I listen deeply, I can feel this subtle restlessness coursing through my bones. My anxiety unknowingly started somewhere in the middle of my teens and carries forward until today. It has been years since I last brought up a binge eating attack, following the guilt of eating way too many cakes and biscuits. I have learned, I am still learning and I will learn for the rest of my life. And what I learn, what you learn, what others learn will hopefully lead to a better understanding of ourselves and of how we behave and what we agree with best.

Many different sources claim that refined cane sugar has a negative effect on our health, and I totally agree, but don’t have any credibility or evidence other than my own experiences, to prove what I believe to be true. I believe that many many people out there are addicted to refined cane sugar and that most of their little niggling ailments will disappear should they be strong enough and withstand the felt need and longing to consume it. Just be aware that once you can live without it, don’t think just one won’t do you any harm! You will only relapse and will have to start the battle again.

I am working on it, swimming against the tide as much as I can. I actually don’t even buy any commonly mass produced chocolates or sweets and rather make my own raw chocolate with natural sweeteners. The pitfall presents itself at work, where there is always a tin of chocolates on the table. Most of the times I master the control needed to ignore it. Just sometimes, especially at certain times of the month, my body is just stronger than my mind, or maybe rather wildly out of control. But I am working on that too, in the hope that the world will one day come to its senses and rethink where we were coming from and where we are heading.

And now the authorities want to force us to consume genetically modified foods and on top of that change all food labelling so we really have no idea what we are eating anymore? It is better anyway to cook from scratch, just to find the time… 😉