(Note From Carolyn:  How are your 2020 New Year health goals coming along? For most of us, a good detox after the holidays is a VERY good thing to refresh our bodies after seasonal indulging.  Our popular herbal detox is on sale now with 10% off and free product on all purchases. If you haven’t tried it yet, now’s the perfect time to see what everybody’s been talking about for help with stomach issues, digestion, weight management, cravings and more.) We’re now nearly two weeks out from the holidays. I hope yours were wonderful with many memories worth remembering. I always say that I “love to see it come and I love to see it go” because a fresh start with a brand new calendar and an unmarked year are excellent gifts that I cherish as much as the holiday itself.  What I do NOT cherish, however, is how hard it is to kick the sugar when Christmas is over!  Arghghgh!  Perhaps one year I’ll have a Christmas holiday much like a friend’s in California. She shared that she had gone through the entire Christmas holiday with “no sugar” at home.  She was recuperating from knee replacement surgery and it was just not possible to stand in the kitchen to bake cinnamon rolls or cookies. “I don’t think we missed it a bit – we were so focused on other things.  There were plenty of treats elsewhere, so we just didn’t need or want them at home.”  I was mightily impressed! Visiting with two other friends, however, I found much more familiar personal territory. Both have some health challenges and follow a fairly strict eating plan to function.  With the holidays, however they relaxed on their eating.  Even though we’re well into January, they’re having a very difficult time letting the sugar go.  I don’t have the health challenges they do, but for me, the sugar is definitely a lot harder to put away than the Christmas decorations. We agreed there doesn’t seem to be any kind of rational reason for not getting started in the first place or why it should be so difficult to stop when we’re experiencing the consequences.  We get it out of our systems and we’re just fine for months, then return to it for a holiday or special occasion, and find that it’s lethal tentacles are stronger than ever! Could we be addicted? Fact: Did you know that sugar lights up the same part of the brain as cocaine?  Is it possible to be addicted to sugar? “Addiction is a strong word,” says Alan Greene, a children’s health and wellness expert and the author of books like “Raising Baby Green” and “Feeding Baby Green.” “In medicine we use ‘addiction’ to describe a tragic situation where someone’s brain chemistry has been altered to compel them to repeat a substance or activity despite harmful consequences. This is very different than the casual use of ‘addiction’ (i.e., ‘I’m addicted to watching “Downton Abbey!”’).”

“So, I’m serious when I say that evidence is mounting that too much added sugar could lead to true addiction,” says Greene.

What is an addiction?

The link between sugar and addictive behavior is tied to the fact that, when we eat sugar, dopamine is released.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is a key part of the “reward circuit” associated with addictive behavior. When a certain behavior causes an excess release of dopamine, you feel a pleasurable “high” that you are inclined to re-experience, and so repeat the behavior. As you repeat that behavior more and more, your brain adjusts to release less dopamine. The only way to feel the same “high” as before is to repeat the behavior in increasing amounts and frequency. This is known as substance abuse.

Research shows that sugar can be even more addicting than cocaine,” says Cassie Bjork, R.D., L.D., founder of Healthy Simple Life. “Sugar activates the opiate receptors in our brain and affects the reward center, which leads to compulsive behavior, despite the negative consequences like weight gain, headaches, hormone imbalances, and more.”

“Studies suggest that every time we eat sweets we are reinforcing those neuropathways, causing the brain to become increasingly hardwired to crave sugar, building up a tolerance like any other drug,” she adds.

Indeed, research on rats (link is below to read this report) has shown that Oreo cookies activate more neurons in the brain’s pleasure center than cocaine does (and just like humans, the rats would eat the filling first!). Another test found that, under certain circumstances, not only could rats become dependent on sugar, but this dependency correlated with several aspects of addiction, including craving, binging, and withdrawal. My next point: Over the holidays we listened to a very interesting business podcast featuring the story of “Sodalicious” the incredibly popular drink and cookie drive-through snack shacks that started in Utah.  Of course, their business is founded on the assumption that sugar is not harmful or addictive and their business has done very well. In one segment of the podcast, however, they related  figuring out the “why” of their business.  A woman drove up to the window who was sobbing her little heart out at the steering wheel of her car.  It was in the very beginning of their business when they themselves worked the windows. “So,” I said to her, ‘Do you want to talk about it?’  and she replied ‘My life is falling apart – my marriage, my kids, everything. No, I don’t want to talk. I just want my soda and my cookie.’”  She drove off without another word. “That told me what our business was really about. We’re not selling cookies and sodas. We’re selling comfort, pleasure and distraction.” Now, if you’re reading this article, you don’t need to be told that sugar offers all three in a very quick fashion. And we don’t need to be told how it harms health. What we need to be told is how to get it out of our systems and onto more important things with this tremendous new year and all its potential! First of all, a DETOX is a great thing!  Our lovely detox has been helping people for over thirty years.  It clears out sugar, pharmaceutical drugs, nicotine, second-hand smoke and more. Yes, you CAN quickly get sugar out of your system and this is a great way. Once it’s gone, the trick is to keep it gone! Period. Jane Barlow at Barlow Herbal Specialties in Utah has just posted several “can-do” tricks for giving sugar the boot so we can move on with our lives. I’ve adapted them a bit for our purposes here. They’re fast and easy so we can implement them immediately! 1) ASK: Before you reach for that cookie/cake/donut/brownie/candy bar ask yourself these two questions: Am I hungry?  Am I thirsty? Then eat something healthy before you give in to that sugar temptation and/or drink a large glass of water. You’d be surprised how your desire for sweets will melt away. Most of us are chronically dehydrated.  At least 6-8 8-oz. glasses of water is essential for all health Cravings tell us something is missing that our bodies need and it could be as simple as more water! (As a side note, following a whole-food, plant-based program at even a moderate level of commitment will help decrease sugar cravings!) 2) PIVOT: Instead of eating that cookie.. run up and down the stairs in your house or office 10 times.  Or put on your coat and walk around the block.  Don’t hesitate!  Do it right away! 3) DRINK: A cup of our herbal detox regularly and then if sugar cravings hit: Sip on a cup of peppermint tea with a teaspoon of coconut oil in it. And voila!  Sugar cravings are gone! Peppermint tea with coconut oil is especially helpful at social gatherings where you can take your cup with you.  Make it known among your friends that this is what you do and they’ll respect and appreciate what you’re doing. 4) EAT: Nutritious meals and snacks including lots of plant-based protein, veggies, nuts, seeds and healthy fats.  All of these will nourish your body and brain and keep any cravings for sweets at bay. 5) PROTECT: Make your environment at home and work a “sugar free zone.”  If you have to continually flex your willpower muscle it will eventually give out. You’ll feel you deserve to indulge in your favorite sugary treats if they are available so make them unavailable.  Ask your family for support.

If you don’t get the kind of support you need then remember No. 2 and PIVOT!  Getting yourself out of your environment for even a few minutes can change your desire to give in. Most importantly, know that you are worth it.  Your body and all its beautiful systems gets the message of self-love with every bite of food you eat and every sip you drink.  Love and nourish yourself and your body will respond with amazing and vibrantly good health. Don’t you just love that? I know that this info is good to kick start my new year and I hope it will do the same for you too! ORDER Meridian’s Herbal Detox

LINKS: Rats and Oreo Study https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131015123341.htm Experts Agree: Sugar Might Be As Addictive As Cocaine: LINK: https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/experts-is-sugar-addictive-drug#1

Carolyn Allen is the Author of 60 Seconds to Weight Loss Success, One Minute Inspirations to Change Your Thinking, Your Weight and Your Life. She has been a columnist for Meridian Magazine for 11 years,  providing mental and spiritual approaches for weight loss success and happy living both online and in the Washington, DC community since 1999.  She has presented for Weight Watchers, First Class, Fairfax County Adult Education and other community groups. She and her husband, Bob, are the parents of five children and grandparents of a growing number of darling little ones. They are now happy empty nesters in Jackson, Tennessee, close to Memphis, where they center their online business for an amazing herbal detox. CLICK HERE