by Steven Horne, RH(AHG)
It’s that Halloween season, when children run around saying “trick-or-treat!” But as far as the body is concerned, those sugary “treats” are really “tricks.” In many children—and adults—these treats trigger sudden mood changes. Here’s why:
As the sugar in candies and chocolates rushes into the blood stream it produces a sugar “high.” Then, as the body attempts to compensate for this unnatural “upper”, the person experiences a corresponding “downer” that often leaves them tired, irritable and/or depressed.
It doesn’t take a battery of double-blind studies to prove that sugary treats cause these problems. Ask any grade school teacher to tell you what children are like during the few days following Halloween. It takes a great deal of effort to pull those hyper students off the walls.
So, these treats really play a trick on our brain and one that is perfectly in keeping with the Halloween spirit. They can transform emotionally stable and mentally healthy adults and children into little “monsters.”
What’s the Trick in the Treats?
Why does refined sugar cause these problems? After all, sugar is the most important substance the body needs (outside of water and oxygen). Sugar is the fuel that the body uses to produce heat and energy. However, sugar is not used in isolation in the body. When sugar comes from whole foods, in its natural forms, it is combined with other nutrients that the body needs to properly digest, absorb and utilize it. These other nutrients include fiber, calcium, magnesium, chromium, zinc, vanadium and the B-complex vitamins.
In refined sugars, these and other important nutrients have been removed. So, the body has to borrow from its own reserves to supply these “helper” compounds. Thus, with long term use, sugar depletes the body’s nutrient reserves.
There are many forms of sugar. Glucose, sometimes called blood sugar, is one of the simplest forms. Because glucose is a large molecule, the amount getting into the blood must be carefully controlled. If too much sugar piles up in the tiny capillaries it can block the flow of blood. This can causes circulatory problems in areas like the extremities, eyes and ears.
Insulin is a hormone manufactured by the pancreas to act as a gatekeeper. If the blood sugar level gets too high, the pancreas secretes insulin to lower it. If these high doses of sugar continue for a prolonged period, they can produce conditions like hypoglycemia, a precursor to diabetes.
Antisocial Behavior and Sugar
I met a psychiatrist several years ago who had lost his license for (in his own words), “teaching the heresy that nutrition had something to do with mental health.” He told me of a study he did when he was the psychiatrist for a prison.
There were about a dozen prisoners who were regularly kept in solitary confinement because they were always picking fights. He tested these prisoners for hypoglycemia along with an equal number of the prison staff as a control group. He found that the degree to which these men were “out of control” correlated with the degree to which they suffered from hypoglycemia.
He made three simple changes in these prisoners diets—no sugar, no caffeine and a peanut butter sandwich at bedtime. Within a couple of weeks their entire personalities had shifted and they were all well-behaved. This didn’t surprise me as I have over and over again observed that refined sugar agitates both children and adults and contributes to ADHD, hyperactivity, aggression, schizophrenia and other “mental” health problems.
The most interesting part of the story was what happened when he reported his findings to his supervisor in the state psychiatric system. He was told, that’s interesting, but if you ever tell anyone about your study, you’re fired. He made the mistake of telling another psychiatrist about his findings and was fired as promised.
It’s sad that the obvious link between learning and behavioral problems in both children and adults with the consumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates is so suppressed in our society. Barbara Reed, author of one of my favorite books, Food, Teens and Behavior, was a parole officer for juvenile delinquents. She discovered that most of these delinquents were hypoglycemic, living on very poor diets. When she was able to get them off of refined sugar, white flour, alcohol and caffeine they never got in trouble with the law again.
If parents understood how much easier it is to raise children who are not fed refined carbohydrates, I think they would gladly get the sugar out of their children’s diets. My children were raised without these foods (except as occasional treats) and every babysitter we hired commented that they were the “best behaved children they had ever tended.”
Of course, the reason most parents can’t keep sugar away from their kids is because they’re too addicted to it themselves. You have to break an addiction yourself before you understand how to help others break the same addiction.
This link between sugar and mental health forms a perfect bridge between our September theme—boosting your brain power—and our October theme—diabetes and hypoglycemia. To get you started in understanding how you can help these problems we’ve posted a few articles on our website about products that help with hypoglycemia.
For starters, stevia is a naturally sweet herb that helps stabilize blood sugar levels. So, it can not only be used as a natural sweetener, it can also be used to reduce sugar cravings. Licorice root is another naturally-sweet plant that reduces sugar cravings and stabilizes blood sugar levels.
Licorice is the chief ingredient in HY-A, a formula that is used to improve digestion and stabilize blood sugar. It was formulated by the nutritionist Paavo Airola.
Don’t let sugar trick you and your loved ones. Learn to use sweets only as occasional treats, and keep the monsters confined to the fun of Halloween.
Sugar Free Living