The Unknown Addiction
Earlier this morning, I had something in particular I wanted to focus on … and then, one of my ‘good morning pop-ups’ offered ‘Cotton Candy Grapes: The Science Behind the Sweet, Carnival Taste’. You guessed it; I clicked. I couldn’t help myself! I’ve never been a cotton candy fan and the first time I saw these grapes in the store a few years ago, I refused to buy them. I already have a hard time eating super sweet foods and fruits, including the regular red grapes; so, the idea of eating something that tasted like cotton candy was not an option. At the same time, I was a bit curious about the existence of these grapes?! Why haven’t ‘we’ heard of them before now? Are they from another part of the world? Why do they taste like cotton candy? And so on ……. Well, fast forward to today and all of those questions were answered. The bottom line is they are hybrids, created in test tubes (because seedless grapes require human intervention to propagate) over a 15-year period. What’s more, they contain 12% more sugar than the regular store bought grapes.
At this point, you may be thinking …. ‘duh, sugar … addiction …. How is that an unknown?’ Or, you might be thinking, grapes are fruit; what’s wrong with that? Well, indulge me (no pun intended) for a moment…….if you will.
Both of these questions are legitimate. More people than I care to count have uttered the words: ‘I’m addicted to sugar’ and without question, just as many probably think fruit is a healthy option. However, I basically disagree with both, and here’s why:
However, let’s get it straight: the word carbohydrate is just another word for sugar. Why is this important to distinguish? Because whether we’re talking carbohydrates or sugars, we’re talking about substances a.k.a. chemicals that trigger interactions in the body. Furthermore, these chemicals come in many forms which are digested, metabolized and used in the production of energy, fatty acids and cholesterol as well as excreted. While we understand refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup are not on the recommended foods list, it’s important to note that sugars in general, have a strong influence on the release of dopamine; just like many other chemicals, from drugs and medications to sugar substitutes. I say it this way because it’s a fact we deserve to know.
All too often, we harshly judge ourselves and others for behaviors that appear to be out of control and while this is a valid concern, the more we understand the science to what’s really going on, the easier it becomes for us to make empowered choices. With that said, once a carbohydrate / sugar is consumed and broken down, the well-known sugar balancing hormone, insulin is released to assist with the transport of glucose into the cells; however, it also activates the secretion of dopamine which is used in the regulation of pancreatic beta cells. In other words, dopamine is used to keep insulin levels in check.
Of course, all of this is designed to happen in an ideal situation; however, our world is far from ideal and so much different than it was just 100 years ago which is why we’re seeing an increase in degenerative diseases as well as mental and emotional instability. In other words, our external world is becoming increasingly stressed and stressful which does absolutely nothing but put our bodies on high alert. This probably comes as no surprise; however, it seems as if we don’t fully understand to what extent we are being affected.
Stress, at the cell level is the ultimate price. Now I say this and realize that stress itself is a Divine protection mechanism that’s constantly being stimulated. You might wonder how this could be given everything we try to do for stress relief?! Well, essentially, as the stress mechanism is activated, body functions are altered. Take a moment to consider this: if you’re running for your life or running a marathon, the last thing you’re thinking about is sitting down to enjoy a nice meal, in the moment. Or for that matter, if someone’s struggling with a serious illness, they may be looking forward to their favorite meal; however, the body is in survival mode which redirects the chemistry for the sake of protection and repair through rest and minimal input. Once the situation is resolved, the system is designed to shift back into a natural state that flourishes. I don’t blame you for scoffing …. it is hard to believe given the amount of people facing some kind of health issue; yet, it’s a fact. Nature is awesome and the body is one amazing organism …. we just need to SEE it for what it is.
Our genes are activated and inactivated with every breath, thought, and / or chemical consumed; simply because, we are meant to adapt. The challenge is the changes are consistently happening and not being relieved. In other words, the body is not experiencing an ‘ebb and flow’ of energy. Therefore, the efficient break down / digestion, metabolism and assimilation of macronutrients is being adjusted. How this plays out is: larger nutrient particles floating throughout the system, activates the immune system due to the fact that the body does not recognize the proteins, sugars or lipids as beneficial plus the production of neurotransmitters and hormones is altered. In other words, the body is on alert (consider when you switch a few letters around alter becomes alert and vice versa) and ready for action …. a.k.a. in protection mode. This type of cellular activity on a daily basis is what’s leading to the decline of mental, emotional and physical health. In theory, we should be eating less (which is why restrictive diets work for a while) …the body doesn’t require as much food; yet, we’re hungry. Why? Because ongoing stress is unnecessary and the cells are starving … we are leaking energy faster than we can gain it
What’s the body to do? Produce cortisol, the stress hormone, which has a number of functions in the body, one of which is as an anti-inflammatory under the right conditions. However, it also has an effect on the brain, not unlike sugar, alcohol or any substance labelled addictive. Yes, you’re reading that correctly, cortisol activates the pathway in the brain known for its role in the reward-motivated behavior. By now you may be wondering why we even have such a structure if it’s so problematic or why cortisol would have such an effect. Well, if we can look beyond the idea of addiction, we are innately wired for pleasure and as the term says, motivation. And if you think about it, how many of us like to get off our ass and doing something when we're exhausted; yet, we do and we have cortisol to thank for that! Not to mention, we wouldn’t have survived thousands of years without it. It’s the reason we ran for our lives, survived epidemics and produced children. It's how we form relationships and find the courage to pursue our dreams. Plus, the dopaminergic pathways are also essential for neuroendocrine modulation; in other words, our chemistry is interdependent.
So I ask, are you really addicted to sugar or are you addicted to surviving? At the same time, I invite you to consider that there’s not much of a difference between naturally occurring sugars and baked goods or candy when it comes to the effects on the neuroendocrine system. I absolutely agree it’s crucial to help the body recover from the effects of this world. At the same time, I think it’s time we get real about what’s really going on in the body and stop eliminating necessary nutrients with sugar / carbohydrates being one important group. Besides the obvious, energy, sugar is used in the production of cholesterol which is used to produce hormones. Now, I know, there is a lot of concern over cholesterol and without going into too much more, I say it’s time we stop cutting ourselves off from thriving. In no uncertain terms, we are unknowingly stressing our bodies even further by eliminating foods without rectifying the actual issue …..the physiological effects of stress …. And, the only way to do that is to begin asking: ‘Why does my body struggle with grains, gluten, casein and so on?’ if you look at that list right there, you see sugar and protein (gluten and casein are proteins that we are genetically capable of metabolizing when the angiotensin (blood pressure hormone) isn’t rushing through the body). Therefore, I ask again, what are we addicted too? My guess is it’s living and from what I can tell, the only way we’re going to achieve that is to understand what the body is actually going through and begin helping it rather than stressing it even further. Hmmmm….. stress = cortisol=reward/motivation!! Maybe it’s time we get the message.
btw ... it's not hopeless .... the road to wellness is really quite simple ... it may take time, but it's worth it!
PS: here's the link to read about the grapes 'Cotton Candy Grapes: the Science Behind the Sweet, Carnival Taste'