7 Tips To Decrease Sugar Cravings

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Food cravings can mean the death of many of your nutrition goals. Even the most dedicated can find themselves slipping and giving into the gnarling voice of their cravings.

Sugar and salt seem to be the most craved, with sugar in particular, being so addictive that willpower and intellect alone have little to do with pushing it away. You can only willpower your way through a sugar craving so many times until you eventually give in and throw all caution to the wind.

There are many reasons of why sugar can feel like it has a stranglehold on you — stress, nutrient deficiencies, imbalanced blood sugar, food memories, poor relationship with food, not enough sleep, and not being mindful of what you are eating. This is only naming a few of the reasons.

There is a belly-mind connection and it is much stronger than your willpower in the long run. 

And because of this belly-mind connection, it is super important to address a layer of reasons of why you may be struggling with your cravings. Some of those layers may feel very challenging to move through, while other may feel a bit easier and more direct. 

When starting a successful habit change, you want to focus on those low hanging fruit layers — those easy to grasp and where you can see quick results. Not only does it help to get the ball rolling, but it is also super motivating to see quick results.

Changing your relationship with food and the memories associated with your cravings can prove to be a little bit more challenging and typically demand deeper mental and emotional work. You can start here, but it might be easier to make some simple nutritional changes. This will help to decrease the physical and nutritional issues that may not be associated directly with your relationship with food.

Here are 7 easy tips that can begin to ward off cravings and balance your blood sugar:

  1. Drink more water. Let’s start with a simple one. The more dehydrated you are, the more difficult it is for the body to metabolize glycogen (stored glucose) for energy, so our bodies crave sugar to provide us with a quick source of energy when we actually just need to drink a little more water. 
  2. Add in cinnamon. This spice helps your body control the amount of sugar in your blood, evening out the highs and lows that lead to cravings. One study found those who took 3g of cinnamon a day maintained lower blood sugar levels after a glucose-tolerance test than those who did not take the cinnamon. And, your sugar cravings can drop immediately after consuming something with cinnamon!
  3. Eat your bitter foods. Research has found that consuming bitter foods shuts down the receptors in your brain that drive you to desire and consume more sugar. Bitter foods and plants can help slow the absorption of sugar and regulate blood sugar levels. You can eat foods such as dandelion, citrus peel, artichoke leaf, licorice root, and even burdock root. Or, you can make it super simple and use a tincture of bitters either before or after your meals (this helps with digestion too!). My favorite bitter tincture is by Urban Moonshine.
  4. Try spinach extract. Spinach extract, also known as Appethyl, is actually a weight loss supplement. It contains thylakoids, which consist mostly of proteins, antioxidants, and chlorophyll. Spinach extract has been shown to delay fat absorption (but not total inhibit it) and increase the activity of the hormones that reduce appetite and hunger. 
  5. Say no to the small bites. Feel a craving coming on? Don’t eat the small bites here and the small bites there. Those first few bites are inevitably the most tasty and your brain is going to be triggered by indulging in just a few bites. Not to mention, this creates a mindset of deprivation and can actually make you crave harder and jeopardize your relationship with food.
  6. Avoid getting too hungry. Make sure to eat regularly and not allow yourself to get too hungry. Fasting is all the rage and everyone seems to be either doing it or wondering if they should do it. Fasting can be super beneficial to help with cleaning out damaged cells, in order to regenerate newer, healthier cells (autophagy) but when you fast for too long, it can create a great imbalance in your blood sugar, causing hunger and cravings. If you are choosing to fast regularly, keep your time frames on the shorter side, aiming between 12-16 hours. If you are a woman, keep those time frames in the 12-14 hour range. 
  7. Make it hard to get. This is technically a behavior change, but it falls right in line with nutritional behavior changes. One of the first line of defenses when making a habit change is to make what you want hard to get. That could be by placing it out of sight and out of mind, placing it in the highest cupboard of the kitchen (needing a step stool every time you want to get it), or even not buying it at all and only being able to get it by going to the grocery store. When you create a challenge or obstacle and it is not so easy, this delays the food to mouth time AND it also gives you more time to think about the choice that you are making. Sometimes simply creating space and time can be enough to allow you to decide that the craving is just not worth it!

Getting rid of cravings can be super complex and has many layers attached to it. Often, you have to dig and uncover those layers to get to the root cause of what is causing your cravings in the first place. This is where a coach and support system can help guide you on your journey. Are you ready to finally uncover your layers? Click here to learn more about my signature “Break Your Plateau” health coaching program!

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5 Diet Tips To Boost Gut Health And Decrease Bloating

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“I feel so full and bloated. It’s embarrassing.”

“I can’t seem to lose this belly no matter what I try.”

“I gain 5 lbs just looking at a cookie.”

“I only go to the bathroom every few days. It gets sooooo painful.”

*This is what you might be saying.*

Bloated, gassy, constipated, body pains, heart burn, low back pain, depressed, anxious, or sore joints. 

*This is what you might be experiencing.*

Frustrated, embarrassed, angry, sad, annoyed, fearful, or isolated.

*This is what you might be feeling.*

It can feel like a never ending cycle of get hungry, eat food, be uncomfortable, get frustrated. Maybe this is only occasional for you.

When it does happen, it feels all consuming. Nothing else matters in that moment except figuring out what to do to take away the pain and discomfort. 

This is preciously why gut health is becoming such a popular topic; It is happening more and more and to more people. And when you look past the frequency of occurrences, you will start to discover that gut imbalances are actually linked to way more than just bloating and gas—IBS, autoimmune disorders, mood imbalances, inflammation, chronic pain, Celiac’s Disease, joint pain, excessive bloating, Candida, SIBO, just to name a few.

One area not often mentioned is the direct relationship that gut health has with how strong your immune system is. About 70% of your immune cells live in your gut. The stronger the gut bacteria that you have built up, the more it can crowd out the unhealthy bacteria and not allow it to hang out on your gut lining and populate. If your gut health is not up to par, your immune system can not operate at it’s best.

It all starts in one place…

The Gut Microbiome

Let’s think of the gut as the setting of a party:

Gut microbiota is a gang of microorganisms that hang out in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract. They are like the fun people at the party and you want them there hanging out and sharing space with you. The gut microbiome refers to this collection of genetic material and functions of the microbiota — the more inviting of a party space (microbiome) means that the fun people (microbiota) are going to want to hang out and invite more fun people to come and join the party. A symbiotic relationship exists between the fun people and its host (you) —they obtain food or other benefits from their host without causing harm. In turn, these fun party people also provide a number of health benefits to the host.

But when the party doesn’t have great food and the ambiance is not inviting, this can cause an imbalance because the fun party people start to leave.

Let’s put the wine down and the turn the lights back on…back to belly talk…The problem with a microbiome imbalance is that it can open you up to a slew of health conditions such as:

  • Atherosclerosis
  • Eczema
  • Celiac disease
  • Hypertension
  • Inflammation
  • IBS
  • Insulin resistance
  • Obesity
  • Type 2 diabetes

To get the microbiome stronger and to help you feel better, eating nutrients to support the gut are super important. Here are 5 tips to get you started.

  1. Eat your fiber. Eat a high-fiber diet rich in vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. This includes prebiotic-rich foods, such as dandelion leaves, Jersulam artichokes, oats, and sources of inulin (e.g., onion, garlic, leeks, bananas)
  2. Limit sugar and artificial sweeteners. Sugar and artificial sweeteners can directly affect your gut microbiota by decreasing them. This includes natural sugars (i.e., date sugar, beet sugar). To help with the transition, you can start by replacing sweets and desserts high in sugar with fresh fruits, which contain natural sugars but also provide polyphenols, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and water. You do not have to get rid of sugar all together, but too much can directly affect the health of your gut.
  3. Eat a variety of proteins. Moderate consumption of protein has been shown to have a positive impact on your gut health. Eat a variety that stems from vegetable proteins (i.e., pea protein, fermented soy such as tempeh and miso, beans and legumes, quinoa, yogurt) and animal proteins (i.e., fatty fish such as salmon, grass-fed beef, chicken, pasture-raised eggs, venison, bison). On average, it is recommended that adult women and men eat 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. For example, for a 150 lb (68kg) individual, this translates to approximately 54 grams of protein daily.
  4. Don’t forget the polyphenols. Polyphenols are a broad class of plant-based compounds that may inhibit the growth of potentially harmful bacteria to build up in your gut, such as E. coli and H. pylori. Include foods such as black and green tea, citrus fruit, red wine, berries, cocoa, and seeds.
  5. Eat your fermented foods. The gut needs to be replenished with probiotics. One way you can obtain them is through fermented foods. This would include cultured dairy products (i.e, kefir, yogurt), fermented vegetables (i.e, sauerkraut, kimchi), and fermented soy products (i.e, miso, tempeh, natto).

Eating a diet designed to heal your gut is not only a good idea, but it is essential if you want to get rid of the painful and/or embarrassing symptoms of digestive distress. How can you start to slowly include the tips above to bring you more relief and more long-term health?

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10 Fall Foods To Decrease Bloating

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Stretchy pants and oversized tops — the fashion staples for any food-centered gathering. 

Nothing can turn that upbeat, light-hearted laugh into a grimace faster than the pressure of a tight waistband. And as that waistband grips tighter and the button proves to be an unforgiving force, with a flick of the fingers, your button becomes undone — allowing a sigh of relief and some room to breath. 

It is embarrassing. Frustrating. Uncomfortable.

Not to mention gassy. 

Or maybe this is just a normal day for you. Maybe finding the perfect pair of jeans that makes you feel confident enough to strut your stuff feels like a dream of the past. 

Regardless if the bloating happens occasionally or regularly, your self-consciousness tends to raise and all you can focus on is your belly in all it’s uncomfortable, expanding glory.

Not All Bloating Is Equal

Belly bloat is normal after we eat. As the stomach works to process the influx of food, a slight bloating and fullness is expected. It can mean that you just enjoyed a delicious, nourishing meal. It is the degree of bloating, the side effects, and the root cause that are actually the issues. 

There are a plethora of reasons that bloating occurs — eating a good meal, medical problems, eating high amounts of salt or carbs, eating too quickly, menstruation, stress, fizzy drinks, lack of exercise, just to name a few.   

The foods that you eat are going to play a direct role in how your body responds. This is definite. But there is another area that is of particular concern, regardless of what you are eating and all of your other bio-individual factors.

Eating too quickly.

Your digestion starts in your brain. When you eat too quickly, your brain can not signal fast enough for the rest of your digestion processes to get the message to begin, therefore not allowing your digestion to run smoothly and efficiently. 

Here are 10 foods to help you decrease the bloat this fall. As you incorporate them, eat them slowly and chew thoroughly for the best results!

1. Fennel

Fennel, especially its seeds, relaxes muscles in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract to help relieve that gassy feeling. When you drink it as a tea, it can help as a diuretic, flushing out fluid. 

2. Ginger

Ginger is anti-inflammatory and can help ease an unsettled digestive system, potentially helping reduce bloating by reducing gas and constipation. When you’re feeling bloated, try sipping on ginger tea or adding dried or fresh grated ginger to your food.

3. Avocado

Avocado is known to be high in Omega-3’s and a powerful healthy fat, but it is also high in fiber — a prebiotic that can help feed the healthy bacteria in your gut. This helps to decrease gas and constipation, often a precursor to bloating. 

4. Lemons

Lemon water is my favorite first thing in the morning! Lemon juice if very similar to your stomach’s acid levels. Lemon helps to stimulate your liver to release bile, which can help you better digest food and keep things moving.

5. Turmeric

Turmeric is a warm, healing, anti-inflammatory spice that may help with bloating. Since chronic inflammation can lead to fluid retention, lowering inflammation systemically in the body can also lower stomach bloating. 

6. Pumpkin

Pumpkin is rich in fiber and moisture. It is also lower in starch and sugar, making it excellent for decreasing bloating. Because of its fiber content, it’s great for easing gas, bloating, and constipation.

7. Celery

Celery is high in fiber and can help to keep you regular, but it goes beyond that. It naturally fights fluid retention and can help diminish intestinal gas.

8. Rosemary

Did you know that rosemary is already used to treat indigestion in Europe? Rosemary is a member of the tummy-friendly mint family and can help the digestion process.

9. Yogurt

Yogurt is filled with probiotic goodness—good bacteria that populates your GI tract to support a healthy digestive process and calm inflammation. In gut health, probiotics are super important, especially when you are looking to combat bloating and gas. If you are lactose intolerant, you can try kefir.

10. Butternut Squash

Butternut squash contains plenty of potassium to support fluid balance. 

There are plenty of foods that can help support less bloating. Try using some of these supportive foods the next time you are whipping up a communal meal or cooking a quick Tuesday night dinner!

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5 Ways To Turn A Bloated, Gassy Belly Into A Flat Belly

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Family gatherings, friend’s celebrations, and company parties can be a blast. But they can also be a recipe for digestive disaster. With the abundance of delicious foods, sugary treats, and more dehydrating beverages consumed than water, your belly might be churning with a feeling of gassy horror.

As your pant’s grip tighter around your stomach, you unbutton the button and untuck your shirt. 

You think to yourself, “Why didn’t I wear that loose dress?”

Praying that no one sees your unbuttoned pants, you get up to try and walk off the bloated, gassy feeling. 

You get engaged in a delightful conversation, but all you can do is smile with discomfort as your stomach churns and a bubble of uncomfortable pressure forms. 

You just want it to go away but you realize that this happens so often. Not just at parties but in everyday life like after your favorite meals or while you are at work. 

Bloating and gas are two of the most common gastrointestinal symptoms. It is not totally understood as to why they occur but there are some factors that play a large role in how much they present themselves. According to a research article in the Journal Of Neurogastroenterology And Motility, it says:

“Bloating is usually associated with functional gastrointestinal disorders or organic diseases, but it may also appear alone. The pathophysiology of bloating remains ambiguous, although some evidences support the potential mechanisms, including gut hypersensitivity, impaired gas handling, altered gut microbiota, and abnormal abdominal-phrenic reflexes.”

Even though there seems to be a multitude of reasons that bloating occurs, a large part is related directly to our digestion and our gut health. Hippocrates, coined as the father of modern medicine, says, “All disease begins in the gut.” And, I would say that that includes bloating and gassiness.

out of order text on persons belly
Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

Let It Rip

The reality is that we just want flat bellies. Let’s be real —the average person is not going around saying “Hey, that is not good for my gut health.” But, the average person is more likely to say that she wants to fit into her skinny jeans without having to button them while laying down. The average person is also more likely to say that unexpected explosions of gas is super embarrassing!

Here are 5 of my favorite tips to not only gain a flatter belly, but to also take care of your gut health and digestion:

Slow Down Your Eating 

In a world of never-ending to-do lists and obligations, it can feel like we are constantly rushing from one thing to the next. 

Often, meals are eaten in a hurry — while driving in your car, in 15 minutes before your next client walks through the door, while running the kids around to after school activities. The problem is that eating quickly usually means swallowing some air along with your food, which can contribute to that uncomfortable feeling in your stomach. It also means that you are mindless in your eating.

True digestion starts in the brain and when you are not connected to your food, all the processes required for proper digestion are not triggered. 

  • Put your fork down between bites.
  • Think about chewing each bite. Tune into what you are eating and taste the foods and the textures. Be involved in your eating.
  • Eat smaller meals if you don’t have time to eat more slowly.
  • Sip, don’t gulp water during your meal.

Eat Fermented Foods

A large part of gut health is the amount of healthy bacteria in your gut microbiome. Not only does a healthy gut microbiome help with digestion of your food, but it also helps with keeping a strong immune system and central nervous system. Research suggests your gut bacteria are tied to your probability of things like diabetes, obesity, depression, and colon cancer. 

Not only are fermented foods an excellent way to increase the healthy gut bacteria, but they increase the bioavailable of nutrients in your foods — meaning, your body can better absorb the nutrients from your foods. Another benefit? According to the NTA (Nutritional Therapy Association), fermented foods have also been shown to reduce phytic acid, an anti-nutrient that can wreck havoc on your gut health.

  • Eat a serving of fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, kombucha, or any fermented veggies most days.
  • Get sneaky by putting them on salads or as a topping for your burger. 

Hydrate, Without The Carbonation

Drinking water is probably the last thing you want to do when you feel like your belly is about to explode. 

But, it is important to stay hydrated throughout the day. With proper hydration, your body can better transport nutrients through your digestive tract. 

Ditch the sodas and other carbonated beverages. Not only can they be full of sugar, but they also will add gas to your system and increase bloating. 

  • If you need to dress up your bottle of water, add a few slices of lime or lemon or cucumbers. You can also add fresh fruit to mix it up.
  • Carry quick electrolyte and/or mineral packs to add to your water for flavor and to help your body better absorb the water. Try Trace Minerals “Power Pak” or Nuun brands.

Go For A Walk

Movement is important to beat the bloat for two main reasons: It reduces stress and it stimulates digestion. Get off the couch because feeling bloated and sluggish is no reason to skip your workout or moving your body. 

You can move gas quickly through your system with a little huffing and puffing.

  • If you suffer from slow digestion, a 15 minute walk after each meal would be a great way to improve digestion.
  • Turn on some loud music and dance the bloat away. 
  • Play tag with the kids.
  • Do some yoga or light activity if walking feels like too much for you.

Be Aware Of What You Eat 

This sounds so simple, but it is often quite overlooked.

You probably are already aware that sugar and a lot of fried foods can cause an upset, gassy stomach, but did you know that it goes beyond that? I like to believe that there are 3 main areas to be aware of:

  1. If you have any known or suspected food intolerances, that could trigger gassiness and bloating. It also can irritate the gut and cause further damage. 
  2. Decrease the amount of sugar you consume because sugar is directly related to inflammatory problems and digestive distress. If you just took down two scoops of rocky road ice cream and thought, “Ugh! Sugar gives me gas,” you may be on to something. Some people have trouble digesting certain sugars, like lactose and fructose, or have underlying digestive imbalances from Candida or SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth). If you’re in one of these groups, sugar can leave you with bloating and painful gas, even hours after eating it.
  3. Processed foods can cause much discomfort. Processed foods not only contain allergens for many, but they also often contain high levels of sodium and refined wheat and grain products. When your intake of excess sodium is too high, your body may start to retain water. This often happens because our bodies are trying to dilute salt to maintain a balance of electrolytes. Refined wheat and grain products are quite irritating for some people, worsening if you have an allergy or if your gut health is already not strong. 
  • Take a serving of digestive bitters right after a meal. One to try is Urban Moonshine.
  • Eat whole, unprocessed foods as often as you can.
  • Consume 1 Tbsp of Apple Cider Vinegar to help normalize your stomach acid pH levels.
  • Decrease the amount of sugar you eat daily. Also, limit the amount of artificial sweeteners you consume.
  • Journal your triggers to see what might be causing you digestive distress.

As you can see, beating the bloat is not always about eliminating, rather incorporating foods and activities that will improve your mental and physical state.

Remember to love yourself first. Being self-critical can contribute to that little thing we call stress, which isn’t doing anyone any favors!

References: 

Seo, A & Kim, Nayoung & Oh, Dong. (2013). Abdominal Bloating: Pathophysiology and Treatment. Journal of neurogastroenterology and motility. 19. 433-453. 10.5056/jnm.2013.19.4.433. 

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