Sugar's Effect on Your Neurotransmitters
Here is the deal on adding in sweeteners. We use too much, as I have mentioned. These should not be eaten daily. "On occasion" occasion means 1-3 times per week, and in super small doses. Notice the granola I made had 1 TBSP for 5 cups of granola.
Part of the process of removing and reducing sugars in the diet, is having to change your palate for sweets. For many people who are consuming vast amounts of sugars at every meal, in high concentrations, your palate has weakened. Sweet isn't sweet anymore, you need high amounts of refined sugar to taste any presence of sugar. This needs to change.
When you can take a bite out of an apple, and say to yourself, "Wow, that's sweet." You are there.
Refined Sugar is Addicting
Most sugar comes from sugar cane or sugar beets (which are white). From sugar cane there is a natural sap. This sap, or raw sugar cane juice, is actually nutritious, supplying 15% of your daily fiber (which are removed in processing), rich in antioxidant phenols (which are destroyed in the heating process), rich in vitamins and minerals (all removed), it is actually low glycemic in it's raw state. The sugar found in sugar cane is mostly Sucrose. Of the two (sugar cane and sugar beets), sugar cane actually has more nutritional value. Sugar Beets have no really nutrition to right home about. It does have some fiber (not as much as raw sugar cane), and some vitamin c, but is really in antioxidants (compared to it's colorful cousins).
Refined sugar is not the same as sugar found natural in food sources. It has been extracted through a multitude of processes, stripped of any enzyme and nutritional value and then often bleached to make it really white. Even "Raw" sugar is highly processes. They take refined sugar, before bleaching, and add back a percentage of molasses. Sigh! Refined sugar is concentrated, being make up of 99.99% pure sugar. When you take the sugar out of it's natural sources, you are missing out of a multitude of fibers, vitamins, enzymes and antioxidants that help to balance the sugar intake, and provide health benefits. You have made a Drug!
Did you know that refined sugar excites the brain just like Cocaine? Except, Cocaine only excites one region of your brain, and sugar excites multiple regions of your brain. Sugar is addictive. Just like any other drug we see a pattern of addiction in those who consume excess refined sugars; cravings, binges, and withdrawals.
There have been many scientific breakthroughs on how refined sugar excites the brain.
The Effects of Refined Sugar on Dopamine
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain. It is responsible for sending messages between nerve endings. In a certain part of the brain, called the rewards center, dopamine receptors become active when exposed to an excitability toxin, such as Cocaine and Refined Sugar. This area of the brain also lights up when we are happy, or something good happens to us. This is why it is called the reward center. When this section responds to stimuli, it is our body's way of saying, "that made us happy...do it again."
There is still some questions that need to be answered about the Reward Center of the brain. Not all the neurons in this region release dopamine. There are also other neurotransmitters that respond to negative stimuli, such as pain, located in this region. This region should really be labeled the Consequences and Rewards section of the brain, as it is used to remind our bodies of what made us feel good and what made us feel bad.
So how does play into sugar? Sugar or any drug, excites the dopamine receptors. This makes us happy. Every now and again, is not a big deal. Neurons can only produce a certain amount of neurotransmitters at a time. When large amounts of sugar are consumed, there is a huge rush of dopamine. Then a huge drop off because we have depleted the neurons of this neurotransmitter. This is the high and drop of sugar highs. We then feel tired and depressed, which causes us to crave more of the substance that made us so happy. This is the addiction cravings. When we are constantly consuming sugar, and are causing an almost constant stimulation of dopamine receptors, eventually produce less and less dopamine at a time (because there is not time to make much more), causing an increase in sugar cravings and harder swings from happy to depression.
When our levels of Dopamine are weakened, the effects of the negative neurotransmitters are more pronounced. Such as our pain responses.
The Affects of Refined Sugar on Natural Opioids
Opioids are the body's natural pain killers. They are produced in response to pain stimulation in neurons. When you cut yourself, and damage nerves, substance P (pain) is produced. This substance P travels to the brain to signal there is a problem. The brain then produces opioids to make the pain manageable.
Opioids also excite Dopamine. This is also a coping mechanism for times of acute pain.
If there is constant stimulation of the natural opioid pathways, just like dopamine, they being to run out. Causing an increase in pain perception.
Increased sugar intake stimulates the production of natural Opioids in the brain, just like Dopamine. You get a sugar high, literally, from it. Like dopamine, there is only so much natural opioid that can be produced at one time. If there is constant stimuli, then the body's natural ability to cope with pain is diminished, as there is not enough opioid produced to treat the body's pain.
Another effect, is that with constant stimulation of the opioid receptors on the nerves, they become desensitized to opioids. This means you need more opioids to decrease pain perception. We see this same thing in opioid medication and drug use. You need more to get your high. This is the same reaction when you are consuming large amounts of sugar, which stimulates Opioid production. This becomes even more important when you are taking pain medication that works on opioid receptors.
The Effects of Refined Sugar on Acetylcholine Production
Acetylcholine is found, not only in the brain, but also neurons in the muscles. It is a neurotransmitter in the brain that plays an important role is motor function, attention and arousal. It is the cholinergic pathways that are affected in diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. In the muscles it works as a neurotransmitter to send signals between nerves and muscle cells. For example: your brain says to move your right finger. These signals travel to the neuromuscular junctions (where the nerve and muscle fiber come together), and acetylcholine transmits the signal.
Naturally Acetylcholine rises at the end of meal. Glucose in meal increases the production of Aceytlcholine in the brain, stimulating an increase in muscle energy and brain function, when consumed in normal amounts.
When excessive amounts of sugars, particularly glucose, are consumed in a meal there is a hyper excitability of acetylcholine production, just like the other neurotransmitters. Just like other neurotransmitters, over production depletes the amount of acetylcholine that can be produced.
The Effects of Refined Sugar on GABA Production in the Pancreas
GABA is a neurotransmitter protein that works to reduce excitability in the brain, and body. It's the downer of the neurotransmitter bunch. It's job is to keep the effects of Dopamine in check. It's a regulator.
In the Pancreas, GABA is produced in response to Glucose stimulation in the B cells (same cells that produce insulin). In normal sugar amounts, GABA is released to reduce the excitability effects mentioned above. In excess sugar amounts GABA production is decreased (by 40% in one study), allowing an increase in excitability effects. There is a direct correlation between insulin resistance and a decrease in GABA production, but more research needs to be done on this subject.
When GABA is decreased, we see a hyper effects of mental excitability. This can cause the symptoms of depression and fatigue (because the dopamine has by hyper produced and there are big periods of depression while the neurons rebuild their dopamine supplies), but with difficulty sleeping. GABA is responsible for regulating Melatonin activity.
Detoxing from a Sugar Addiction
If you have been on a long term high sugar diet, you are suffering from neurotransmitter imbalances. Symptoms of addiction are:
I am not going to lie. Removing excess sugars from your diet, when you are addicted, is not easy. You will go through withdrawal symptoms. For some of you, your symptoms will be worse for a little before you body begins to adjust to regulating it's own neurotransmitters again.
There is an inverse affect between Acetylcholine and Dopamine in the brain. During drug or sugar withdrawal, there is a hyper production of acetylcholine and a decrease in the production of Dopamine, causing withdrawal symptoms until neurotransmitters are balanced. Symptoms of withdrawal are:
The good news is that these symptoms usually do not last too long. The severity will depend on how much sugar you consume and how often. Once you have cleared your body of the negative neurotransmitter effect of sugar, you are clear to begin healing. But, in order to allow the other dietary guidelines to being healing your chronic inflammation, you must remove this barrier.
Breakfast #5: Baked Eggs with Spinach and Tomatoes
Baked eggs are a nice way to incorporate fat, protein and nutrient dense vegetables first thing in the morning. You can use a variety of different vegetables, fresh or leftover.
Preheat oven to 350.
In a cast iron skillet, heat butter of medium heat. Add spinach and being to wilt, arrange tomatoes on skillet and add cracked eggs. Season with Salt and Pepper to taste. Move to oven and cook until eggs are cooked to medium (or more if desired).
Lunch #5: Tuna Salad Lettuce Wrap
Tuna is a reliable source of Omega 3 fatty acids. On the flip side, it can be high in Mercury, and unsustainably fished..boo! Look for sustainable harvested fish, and keep it to once a week at the most.
1/3 cup Prepared Tuna Salad
4 Lettuce Leaves (Romaine, Red or Green Leaf)
1/2 cup Arugula leaves
4 slices of tomato
Arrange Lettuce leaves to make a bed on butcher paper. Top with Arugula, Tomatoes and Tuna Salad. Roll butcher paper to hold wrap in place. Enjoy
Dinner #5: Cilantro Lime Shrimp and Pineapple Kabobs; Simple Salad
In a bowl add lime juice, avocado oil, salt, garlic and cilantro. Mix thoroughly. Add in shrimp and coat. Let marinate for at least 30 minutes. To assemble skewers, alternate shrimp, pineapple, onion and peppers until all are on skewers. Heat grill to medium-high heat. Cook skewers until shrimp are cooked through and fruits/veggies are slightly charred.
Anti-inflammatory Diet: Basic Dietary Principles to Start Reducing Inflammation + Day 1 Menu Plan
Anti-inflammatory Diet: Cleaning Up Your Diet + Day 2 Menu Plan
Anti-inflammatory Diet: Top 10 Foods to Reduce Inflammation + Day 3 Menu Plan
Anti-inflammatory Diet: Sugar and Chronic Inflammation + Day 4 Menu Plan
Anti-inflammatory Diet: Natural Sugar Options + Day 6 Menu Plan
Anti-Inflammatory Diet: Learning to Love Fats + Day 7 Menu Plan
Anti-inflammatory Diet: Fat Soluble Vitamins + Day 8 Menu Plan
Anti-inflammatory Diet: Food Allergies and Environmental Toxins + Day 9 Menu Plan
Anti-inflammatory Diet: Tips to Implement the Anti-Inflammatory Principles + Day 10 Menu Plan