Understanding The Science Behind Your Cravings
"The Beta Endorphin"
First, we need to understand this silent but important chemical.
Beta-endorphin is a natural opioid chemical in the brain that is crucial for emotional well being; directly influencing levels of self-esteem, tolerance for pain (including emotional pain), connecting with others, ability to take personal responsibility for our actions, cravings for sugar, capacity to handle painful situations and feelings of hope (or despair) about the future. If you have ever felt ‘runners high’ after a long distance run, it is because the body is flooded with beta-endorphin which produces a sense of euphoria.
When beta-endorphin levels are low, you feel depressed/hopeless, impulsive, victimised, tearful, emotionally overwhelmed, anxious, and again, have a craving for sugar. P.S. Beta-endorphin levels are at their lowest just before you get your period! Explains those cravings now right?
The Sugar Cravings
Sugar (and alcohol) cause beta-endorphin to be released in the brain, making you feel good.
Some people are born with naturally lower levels of beta-endorphin in the brain, and their brains adapt to sort of ‘be able to use as much of whats available as possible.’ In turn, this causes sugar (and alcohol) to affect these people much more dramatically (i.e. making them feel happier/more hyper) than others, meaning they crave sugar/alcohol more & will struggle more trying to stop eating it.
So if the sugar makes you feel good why not eat it?
For example, chocolate releases beta-endorphin, which causes an increase in feelings of self-esteem and dulls pain….fantastic. The problem is, sugar-induced self-esteem doesn’t last very long and sets us to become dependent on that feeling - it sets us up for harmful cravings (craving chocolate during PMS suddenly makes sense doesn’t it?).
Over time, the more sugar you eat, the less sensitised to it your body becomes, and the less beta-endorphin is released each time you eat. So, to counteract this, you eat MORE sugar to get that same high, then more and more and more. The result: sugar addiction, maybe a bit overweight plus feeling slightly depressed almost all the time. This addiction affects the same systems as heroin, refined sugar does make you ‘high’, and is bad for you.
What Can You Do?
- Swap white, refined sugars/carbs for brown, unrefined, whole-wheat complex carbohydrates
- Swap highly refined chocolates for dark chocolate (70% cacao +)
- Swap high sugar candies for fresh fruits
Lots of love,
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