Stress may drive that choco­late crav­ing

SundayXtra - - NEWS CANADA I WORLD -

EASTER brings with it an as­sort­ment of de­light­ful del­i­ca­cies. Whether mini-eggs, hot cross buns or that big old choco­late bunny, these sweets tend to be rich in su­gar and craved all year long. What many don’t know is these food crav­ings may be sig­nalling more than a com­ing hol­i­day sea­son. Crav­ings can be a sign of stress, sug­gest­ing un­der­ly­ing needs the body is try­ing to ad­dress.

Re­cently, a pa­tient of mine men­tioned how she has been hav­ing trou­ble avoid­ing su­gar. Five-yearold choco­late bun­nies in her freezer were to re­main

frozen no more. Avoid­ance proved fu­tile. And there were a num­ber of rea­sons why.

Stress stim­u­lates our bod­ies to crave su­gar. It in­creases our main stress hor­mone, cor­ti­sol. And height­ened cor­ti­sol has cas­cade ef­fects on the func­tion of in­sulin, hor­mones and the thy­roid. In­creased in­sulin, for ex­am­ple, re­sults in a “su­gar low” af­ter a sweet treat, and fu­els a vi­cious cy­cle re­sult­ing in a need to get an­other en­ergy boost. Caf­feine, carbs, su­gar and choco­late are com­mon go­tos. In­stead of solv­ing the is­sue (al­though the tem­po­rary high is un­mis­tak­able), they make it worse.

It is our nat­u­ral ten­dency to treat our­selves on spe­cial oc­ca­sions. It’s ha­bit­ual. And, many may ar­gue, nat­u­ral, and de­void of con­cern. Af­ter all, if you’re not un­der stress, you shouldn’t have to worry about per­sis­tent sweet crav­ings… or should you?

By ex­plor­ing the com­po­nents of our favourite choco­late rab­bit — whether Mr. Solid or Mr. Hol­low — we’re in store for some fas­ci­nat­ing find­ings. And I don’t mean hid­den candy eggs. Treats re­in­force the re­ward path­ways in our brains. This im­pacts our brain chem­istry and our be­hav­iour.

Choco­late also has opi­oid ef­fects. It ac­ti­vates the same part of the brain as does mor­phine. It also con­tains two stim­u­lat­ing sub­stances called theo­bromine, phenylethy­lamine, which are sim­i­lar to caf­feine and mar­i­juana. This is the rea­son choco­late has plea­sur­able — and highly ad­dic­tive — ef­fects. Stud­ies have shown su­gar can be more ad­dic­tive than co­caine. These good­ies (depend­ing on your per­spec­tive) are shout­ing mes­sages to your body and brain. And I as­sure you, it’s much louder than a (marsh­mal­low) peep.

The first step to over­com­ing crav­ings is to iden­tify that they ex­ist, and then find out why. Your ob­ser­va­tions are fun­da­men­tal to the treat­ment plan your prac­ti­tioner will de­velop.

There may be many rea­sons why a per­son is crav­ing foods such as sweets or carbs, but stress un­doubt­edly tops the list. Sup­port­ing stress-in­duced in­sulin spikes can be help­ful, and is best achieved by com­bin­ing protein and fat with each meal. This slows the peaks and troughs of glu­cose that drive that ham­ster­wheel of su­gar ad­dic­tion. A glycemic in­dex food guide can be a use­ful tool in meal plan­ning.

Above all, the best plan will con­sider your bio­chem­i­cal in­di­vid­u­al­ity, a de­tailed his­tory and your per­sonal health needs, whether phys­i­o­logic, men­tal or spir­i­tual. This way, you will not only over­come your un­ful­filled crav­ings, but rise up to sur­pass stress in the hol­i­days, and be­yond. Tara Malt­man-Just is the ex­ec­u­tive clin­i­cian and li­censed phar­ma­cist at Vi­tal­ity In­te­gra­tive

Medicine in Win­nipeg.­tal­i­ty­in­te­gra­

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