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Sugar Monsters

Updated: Nov 20, 2022

When you have cravings, where do they come from? When you experience negative emotions or anxiety about 30 to 90 minutes after eating, is it a sign? Do you feel bloated, sluggish, or tired after eating?

The microbiome in your gut can influence your cravings, emotions, and overall health. Can you believe that? These tiny little microbes can actually influence your emotions and cravings for certain foods. What you eat had a profound effect on the kinds of microbes you are growing in your gut and in turn, these microbes can influence many areas of your life. There is a brain-gut connection that is being explored by researchers and what they have found is fascinating.

Our gut health is connected to all aspects of our lives. What we choose to eat or to drink can lead to immense health benefits or tragic disease states. We can either feed the right kinds of microorganisms or the pathogenic or opportunistic species.

The Standard American Diet, fast foods, sugary carbohydrates, processed foods, and synthetic sweeteners promote the wrong kinds of species in the gut, breakdown the mucus layer (that is supposed to be there), and may lead to an overgrowth of fungi (yeast species) or bacteria in the wrong part of your intestines. This overgrowth is called small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) or small intestine fungal overgrowth (SIFO).

Yeast species LOVE sugar and will communicate those cravings to your brain! I call them the sugar-monsters. I was recently put on a course of antibiotics and almost immediately experienced such strong sugar cravings that I knew I had a sugar monster in my gut. By taking the antibiotic, I removed the competing bacterial species that were keeping the yeast species in check. So, I took a probiotic that contains Saccharomyces boulardii to help tame my sugar monster.

SIBO or SIFO can lead to or exacerbate many chronic diseases like diabetes, auto-immune disorders, mood disorders, skin issues, chronic allergies, and neurodegenerative diseases. The list is still growing as more research is conducted on the gut and its connection to different body systems.

If you visit your family doctor with complaints of bloating after eating, skin rashes, or depression, they may prescribe a medication or two to help with those symptoms. They might give you an acid-reducing medication or something for gas, a cream for your rash and an anti-depressant medication for your mood. If you ask about SIBO or SIFO, your family doctor and even a GI doctor may look at you funny or joke about “Dr. Google.”

Unfortunately, conventional medicine is not so great at looking for underlying causes of disease. They are taught that a certain list of symptoms is given this name and you prescribe these medications to treat it. If this prescription does not work, move onto the next one. They are not taught to see the connection between bloating, a skin rash, and mood changes. All these things are related to gut health. Giving steroids, acid-reducing medications, and anti-depressants might even make it worse!

What can you do if you have SIFO or SIBO? If you suspect you have SIBO or SIFO, I recommend not trying to fix it on your own. I highly recommend working with a Functional Medicine Practitioner who can guide you through eliminating the wrong kinds of species and replenish the good species. They may use a breath test to determine if you have dysbiosis in your gut. They may “prescribe” certain supplements that can help with elimination of these destructive species like a probiotic, curcumin, berberine, and certain herbal oils (like oil of clove, cinnamon, or oregano).

If you want to get started making changes, today, start with eliminating or significantly reducing sugar in your diet. If you need something sweet, choose natural sugars like honey or maple syrup (but limit those as well) or monk-fruit (aka luohan guo), an extract from a perennial vine in the gourd family that gives a sweet taste, but does not raise the blood sugar. Avoid artificial sweeteners like aspartame, saccharin, or sucralose. These can cause more damage to the gut lining than straight up sugar.

Many processed foods contain emulsifying agents to keep creamy things creamy and keep the oils from separating out. It makes foods look nicer (like ice cream creamier, or peanut butter from separating) and have a good mouth feel. However, emulsifiers like Polysorbate 80 and carboxymethylcellulose can damage the mucus lining in our gut, increase intestinal permeability (leaky gut), and promote the harmful bacterial species in our gut.

The right kinds of bacteria, fungi, viruses, and protozoa that live in a symbiotic relationship with our bodies, make some of our vitamins (Vitamin K, Vitamin B12, thiamine, and riboflavin), promote immune functions, and help our metabolism LOVE vegetables, phytonutrients, and prebiotic fibers.

Increase your food diversity with fresh fruits and vegetables (eat the rainbow), include fermented foods in your diet, increase dietary fiber and plant-based carbohydrates, and limit foods grown with pesticides, antibiotics, or hormones.

Stress also plays a role in gut health, so take mini breaks throughout the day to balance stress and have recovery periods. Make sure you are getting adequate sleep. Get out into nature and expose yourself to new diverse microorganisms.

Be kind to your microbiome and they will reciprocate! Don't let the sugar monsters take control of your life!

Are you ready to PIVOT to functional health and wellness?

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