Brain Health Starts in the Gut
Last week I watched Dr. Hyman's entire Broken Brain docuseries and found it absolutely fascinating! I especially enjoyed episode four on Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Autism. The theme of this docuseries was, "brain health starts in the gut".
Dr. Hyman featured a variety of the world's top experts on brain health in this series explaining how the Standard American Diet (SAD) causes inflammation in the body and brain, which can lead to brain disorders like Autism and ADHD. Sugar was one of the top inflammatory foods that was mentioned.
What Eliminating Sugar Did For Me And My Boys
I have found that sugar causes inflammation in my own body as well. Not only does sugar cause constant cravings, but it also makes me angry, tired, and fat.
In 2011 I began having severe allergic reactions to different foods, so I spent an entire year working through an elimination diet to figure out the cause. I diligently tracked all the food I ate, and the way my body responded to each food. I lost 60 pounds and my depression in the process.
If you're a mama who has struggled with depression or you have a "spirited" child, I urge you to try eliminating sugar from your diet and your child's diet. When I did this for my two boys with ADHD, I saw a 75% reduction in their frustrating behavior. I couldn't believe what a difference it made for all three of us.
Even if neither of those apply to you, I really think everyone can benefit from cutting out sugar for a short period of time (at least two weeks) to see how much different their body will feel. Two weeks is the perfect amount of time to make the cravings go away, and will allow you to stop the junk food cycle.
Sounds Great, But It Seems Impossible
You've probably been told a million times to keep the sugar out of your child's diet if they have ADHD, but knowing you should, is way easier than doing it successfully. Let me assure you that removing sugar from your child's diet IS possible and it can make a huge difference in their behavior.
There are two things you need to know when trying to remove sugar from your child's diet:
Sugar cravings will subside after 2 weeks with no sugar (You can do anything for 2 weeks, right!?)
Sugar cravings are caused by your body's need for glucose and can be satisfied with a piece of fruit (Read Anthony William's blog post on healing sugar addiction)
Cutting out sugar is probably the best thing I've ever done for my boys' health. I no longer buy sweets for the house, period. The best my kids will find (and they do go looking) are dried dates, but they refuse to eat them because they look "weird". Good, more for me.
How to Eliminate Sugar
So, if you're ready to try eliminating sugar, where do you start? Let's start with the most effective way to get rid of the sugar in your life. Remove all processed sugar from your house. If it's not there, you can't eat it.
You don't have to get crazy and get rid of the ketchup (which can have tons of sugar by the way), but definitely get rid of things like soda, candy bars, cookies, sugary cereal, pie, and such. Start with the most obvious offenders, and work your way down to the ketchup, BBQ sauce, and salad dressing if you want to continue after two weeks.
Now, let's take a look at WHY you reach for sugar in the first place. There could be many reasons you reach for sugar, but here are the most common:
- You're starving and haven't planned ahead for your food, so you grab a "snack".
- You're exhausted and your body knows that sugar will help wake you up.
- You have built up a habit of eating dessert after dinner or stopping at Starbucks on your way to work.
- You're frustrated and looking for something you know you shouldn't eat.
Let's look at these one at a time, to see how to deal with the reasons you eat sugar to begin with:
You're starving and haven't planned ahead for your food, so you grab a "snack".
Number one is actually pretty simple; plan ahead. Make sure that you always take a piece of fruit or some cut up vegetables with you when you leave the house, so you'll always have a healthy snack.
You're exhausted and your body knows that sugar will help wake you up.
Number two is a little bit harder, but still pretty doable. Set a timer on your phone and make sure you get to bed before 10:00 pm and get up no later than 6:00 am. This will ensure that you are well rested for the tough two weeks ahead.
You have built up a habit of eating dessert after dinner or stopping at Starbucks on your way to work.
Number three can be quite difficult, but still not impossible. Don't try to quit your habit cold turkey, instead replace it with something else. Replace dessert with your favorite fruit after dinner or replace coffee with a tea that you love. Eventually you'll want to skip dessert altogether, but we're taking baby steps here.
You're frustrated and looking for something you know you shouldn't eat.
Number four is the most difficult and may require some inner work around emotions of self sabotage and the like. The best way to combat this one is to take it one day at a time. Just focus on making it to the end of each day, and keep reminding yourself to reach for fruit instead of that energy bar, cheesecake, or vanilla latte.
If you've removed all of the sugar from your house, you only have to face this challenge when you're out and about. Being prepared can really help you here because you're more likely to eat the "free" food that you brought with you than spend money on fast food.
What About Sugar Substitutes?
A lot of people think that they can just replace sugar with a sugar substitute and be okay, but that is definitely not a good idea. Most sugar substitutes are just as bad, or worse, for your body as regular sugar. The only substitute that I can recommend is date sugar
, because it is made from dried whole ground dates and has lots of helpful antioxidants. Although, you still need to use it sparingly.
That sounds way too easy
I know I'm making it sound simple, and we both know that it's not, but this is just the start. Things get more complicated when you start looking at all the foods with hidden sugar, like BBQ sauce. Take it one day at a time and implement the changes slowly, so that you will be able to maintain them. As you go along, you will have questions and difficulties, but that's what I'm here for.
In peace and happiness,