Health & Happiness: Sugarplum Blues

By Jennifer Means

Every year as the holidays approach, my mind drifts to thoughts of cookies, warm sweet drinks, yummy stews and thick chewy breads. I start seeing all those pretty treats on the covers of magazines in the grocery store check-out lines. And then Halloween sets the stage—one little candy bar—and it’s all downhill from there. Once I open the lid, it is almost impossible to close until after Christmas.

Did you know that a diet high in sugar not only increases the risk for diabetes but can contribute to aging and wrinkles, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, weight gain (of course) and depression?

According to research, eating large amounts of sugar can increase dopamine in your brain. Dopamine is a chemical that increases motivation and a sense of well-being. But if the behavior is frequently repeated, in time it will deplete your dopamine. Sugar can become addictive. Researchers also find that rats addicted to sugar go through withdrawal symptoms when sugar is withheld.

When your blood sugar goes up, so does inflammation. And when inflammation is up, you deplete your neurotransmitters, your b-vitamins and magnesium. Cellular damage starts to occur. In time, this can lead to decreased energy production (fatigue), decreased motivation, weight gain, and finally, disease.

So how do we make it through the holidays without overdoing it?

Limit, or better yet, avoid those foods that are high in simple sugars like premade cookies, candies, cakes and sauces. Bake them yourself. Use dates, applesauce and bananas as sweeteners. Nut flours and pumpkin or butternut squash reduce the carbohydrate content in your food. Balance your treats with good meals rich in protein, healthy fats and vegetables.

Head to the library and internet for recipes. “Paleo” treats are usually good low sugar options. Nom-nom Paleo has a great recipe for chocolate that even my fifteen-year-old will eat. You can find her recipe on line.

There are lots of ways to enjoy the holidays without having to sing the sugarplum blues when January rolls around. And if you do it right, you’ll feel great when you eat Aunt Maggie’s chocolate pie.

Dr. Jennifer Means & Dr. Elizabeth Elliott welcome you for Primary Care for the whole family: Nutrition, IV Therapy, Naturopathy, and Acupuncture. For more information, contact us at 503-641-6400.