BLOGS Ask the Pharmacist Ask the Pharmacist: December 2016

How Can I Avoid All That Sugar This Holiday Season?

Let’s take this from a phone call I received. “I can’t believe I ate the whole cake!” It was a lament from a participant in a class I had held around a book by Dr. Sara Gottfried. The person had success in changing her eating habits and in discovering what foods may have been causing her painful inflammation. She was sure it was excess sugar. After the four week program, she had overcome the pain of withdrawing from sugar consumption (it can be as addictive as cocaine-see “Ending the Food Fight” by Dr. David Ludwig), she had loved the way she felt and was determined to live that changed lifestyle.

What happened? Life got in the way. It’s messy. When she experienced the joy of less pain, clear thinking, better mood, weight loss and the feeling of connection with her body, she knew she was on the right track. There was a healing process that was started in that month and it was just the beginning. By allowing sugar and other high glycemic foods to creep back into her diet, she became biologically addicted to sugar.

The pleasure center of the brain called the nucleus accumbens gets stimulated by that combination of sugar, fat and flour and you feel good and happy, at least for the moment. When you see that type of sugary food again and a vicious hunger and ravenous craving start to overcome your senses, it’s time to take over and use tools to break the cycle of addiction. Sadly, willpower is not enough. Gut microbes which depend on what you eat for survival can get out of balance and they can send out signals that increase cravings. If you then consume more sweets, the roller coaster of hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia adds to that mix and you physiologically may not be able to resist.

Start by sending the right message to your brain. Eat real food, avoid that first taste of foods that are devoid of nutrition but suck you in to craving and be prepared for when the temptation arises. Haul out your hunger meter before that first bite. On a scale of 0-10 (starving to overstuffed), how hungry are you? If zero, grab a snack from your emergency bag packed with foods that are healthy and nutritious. This bag, with you at all times, can contain protein bars, jerky, apple with nut butter, hard boiled eggs, almonds, gluten free crackers with hummus, sardines, cut vegetables and 80% cacao dark chocolate. If you feel full yet are tempted, make it a rule to drink a full glass of still or sparkling water before you reach for that plate of cookies. Stop to remember that the delicious looking treat is what it really is; toxic empty calories that will make you feel nauseous, bloated and tired while it converts to stored fat. Other tips include simply moving out of the vision of the offending junk, packing away (or better yet throwing away) leftover desserts, and asking your well intentioned friends to bring you a good book instead of gifts that contain sugar.

Supplements that can help to quell the fire of food cravings can be helpful while you work on the psychological and physical components of sugar addiction. Glucomannan is a water soluble dietary fiber that gives you a sense of fullness and is friendly to the bacteria that are supposed to reside in your intestines. Products such as CraveArrest™ contain amino acids that are designed to promote satiety and curb binge eating by balancing neurotransmitters. Rhodiola is an adaptogenic herb that helps dampen the stress response and thereby enhance your control over temptation. Vitamin D, adequate B vitamins and Omega 3 fatty acids help by eliminating nutrient deficiencies and resets leptin. Chromium and Berberine help to balance blood sugar. MCT oil (medium chain triglycerides) provides fuel for your brain. L-glutamine maintains the health of the cells of the intestinal lining. Probiotics balance gut microbes.

We use food in our society in cultural gatherings. Self-management of your health in those community sharing events is your gift to you. Be mindful and pay attention to your body. Choose to avoid the dessert table and dance instead.

Deidre (Dee) Kohley, Rph, works at Watkins Pharmacy, is a graduate of Ferris University and has lived all her life in Muskegon. She continues to find ways to reach women who genuinely want to get well or live an optimal life. Dee loves digging into research to find new ways to help people. She is married and has seven children and nine grandchildren who keep her busy. She loves the beach and spending time outside enjoying the seasons. You can contact her by going to her website or

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