This blog gives it to you straight. Once you understand what is happening when you crave carbs and what it means to you, your health and society as a whole, you will gain the motivation to fight back.
In a future blog, we'll give you the ultimate list of authoritative tips to actually be successful in fighting carbs.
So what is it about Carbs?
Many of us experience carb craving.
If you have a habitual urge, somewhere between 2:00 PM and the end of your day, to snack on a croissant, muffin chocolate, ice cream or some other chunk of carbs, you know exactly what I'm referring to.
And you're not alone.
The question really is: what is the underlying reason why carbohydrates are universally and immediately adopted?
What makes humans, regardless of gender, ethnicity and nutritional 'tradition', so susceptible to love and crave carbs?
The answer: serotonin.
"Many agree that carb cravings typically indicate low levels of the hormone serotonin."
In the late 80's, serotonin was firmly established as a mood-enhancing hormone which means that low levels of serotonin is associated with low morale and concentration and even with depression while higher levels of the hormone will make you feel calm relaxed, happier.
In that sense, serotonin has the same effect as antidepressants like Prozac which, in fact, work by increasing serotonin levels in the brain.
"Eating carbs is in essence, like taking a doze of Prozac."
Now, we certainly don't advocate replacing carbs with Prozac!
We are advocating that you stay away from both - at the very least avoid systematically resorting to jumping on carbs whenever your mood is not at its highest, or when you're suddenly hungry.
We all want to be happy and feel good.
Translation: we all, unconsciously, want serotonin to flow and tell our brain: "I'm happy, I'm feeling good, I'm relaxed."
Eating carbohydrates is the cheapest, most acceptable way to release serotonin and achieve relief, bliss.
And that's precisely why it's so hard to resist and why it's such a universal attraction.
In and of itself, it's quite ok, but it gets problematic when you consider the following:
- Carbohydrates turn into sugar - raising blood sugar and constantly stimulating the liver and pancreas to release high insulin levels
Sugar and insulin, in turn, make you hungry - which makes you, of course eat more - and preferably more fat or carbohydrates! More about this below.
- Excess sugar with insulin will turn sugars into fat
- Excess fat (from high-fat processed foods for example) turns into acid and, in some cases, into sugar alcohol.
So there you have it - two interconnected vicious circles are at play:
Vicious circle 1: Carbs are sugars that trigger insulin, excess insulin may turn into fat and fat turns into metabolized sugars.
Vicious circle 2: High sugar levels make you more hungry, so you eat more.
Prolonged, excessive carb consumption will eventually deregulate your metabolism and, when combined with other factors can cause the onset of diabetes, obesity - with their own complex metabolic repercussions.
Disclaimer - I am not asserting here that eating carbs is the sole trigger of diabetes. The causes of the onset of diabetes are likely to be far more complex, but it is clear that there is a direct link between the onset of diabetes, obesity and high-carb diets.
Nonetheless, the link between carb consumption, obesity and diabetes is corroborated by U.S and global health data.
Global starch/carbohydrate consumption
Global diabetes map.
Global Obesity map. Source: Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health - Harvard University
As you see, the rise in obesity, diabetes and carb consumption are tightly correlated - and this correlation is such that we can safely assume causation.
To state it plainly: the rise of Diabetes and Obesity is - at least in a certain measure - CAUSED by the increase consumption of carbohydrates (sugars).
Diabetics and non-diabetics: Different craving MOs
The mechanisms behind carb-compulsion differ whether you have diabetes or not.
There is an important difference between "mood-driven" and "hunger-driven" carb craving.
To explain, we need to go one step further.
For a non-diabetic person, the mechanism, simplified, is as follows:
- Eating carbs trigger insulin production which in turns builds muscle (from amino acids) and fat out of glucose (and fatty acids.)
- One of these amino acids, called tryptophan does NOT end up in muscles. It ends up directly in the brain, unencumbered, and builds up there. Tryptophan is a major trigger of serotonin production.
- So eating carbs for non-diabetics is going to trigger higher levels of serotonin, via endogenous insulin, with the mood-enhancing effect we mentioned.
For people with diabetes, however, the underlying mechanism is a bit different as is the cause associated with the onset of cravings.
You probably know that diabetics have malfunctioning or lost beta cells.
Beta cells create another hormone called amylin - it's one of the main 'satiety' hormone in the body that also goes directly to the brain.
- If amylin is no longer produced or rarefied you are going to feel hungry. Hence, people with diabetes crave carbs for another reason - a sheer feeling of hunger!
Once again here, eating carbs would seems to them like the most efficient response - but beware, just the opposite is true!
You'd feel full because you "replace" amylin with serotonin (provided you inject insulin or produce enough endogenous insulin by "forcing" on your remaining beta cells) to feel satiated and happier.
Of course, the issue then becomes: your blood sugar goes up and without the required of endogenous insulin you end up with damaging high blood sugar levels.
This, by the way, also explain why both hypo- and hyper- glycemia are associated with a feeling of hunger and craving.
Hypoglycemia, because your beta-cells will make you hungry (due to the lack of amylin production). As your body and nervous system need the glucose to function, they send a strong signal to the brain to "trigger hunger" so they can receive the much needed glucose. In the case of hypoglycema, eating carb, in moderation, can be a good strategy.
Hyperglycemia, however, also triggers a feeling of hunger but for a different reason: Excessive glucose from the blood cannot enter the cells - due to either a lack of insulin or insulin resistance - so the body can’t convert the food you eat into energy. This lack of energy causes an increase in hunger. Cells are "hungry" for the glucose and send the brain the same alert to "cause" hunger in order to receive the much needed glucose.
Except that, in the case of hyperglycemia, because the blood is already saturated by excessive glucose, eating will not only not resolve your hunger but will make matters worse. You'll feel more hungry, thirsty and have even higher blood sugar levels!
In this case, eating carbs in the wrong strategy and has very adverse effects.
Fighting Carb Addiction is not easy
Before you read the follow-up blog with the ultimate carb-craving tips countdown, let me give you few words of wisdom for you to keep in mind as you pick your tips.
Changing behavior is the hardest thing.
I have worked for years (shamefully) in the pharmaceutical industry and have seen countless reports that advocating changing lifestyle behavior (food health, sleep etc.) is virtually a lost cause. It's great for the pharma and food industries because, once they hook you onto something (a drug, a processed food etc.) it'll take 100 times more effort to take you off it. So pharma companies can afford to tell you feel-good-about-themselves-tips to get you to get better and stop buying their products, but they know full well that in 99% of cases it'll never happen.
They know you'll keep popping that pill!
- Type 1 Diabetes cannot be cured (its effect can be neutralized but, as of today, there is no turning back once it's there, unfortunately) so save yourself trouble and money and do not believe the miracle 'cures' out there. Just like diabetes cannot be cured, you'll never stop needing serotonin (which is fine, serotonin is not a disease!). But what you CAN do is to manage the response to your "need" for the hormone.
It starts with learning about it and what carbs can do to you. We just did that!
- The big pharma and food industries will not help you.
Why not? Just take a look below.
In 2013 diabetes was associated to $176 billion in direct medical costs in the USA according toe the ADA.
A 41% increase in five years!
"In 2016, the global cost of diabetes is now 825 billion dollars per year, according to the largest ever study of diabetes levels across the world."
This data should make clear why no sensible pharma company will ever be serious about curing diabetes.
Manage it, yes, but cure it? No way! - shareholders wouldn't like that very much.
Meanwhile, the global packaged food market will be a 3.03 trillion dollar industry by 2020.
This is how this works: the more mass manufactured food (e.g. sugar & corn by-products, GMO crops, processed food products etc.) you eat, the more serotonin production you will trigger. Triggering serotonin at-will, of course, is a great way for them to keep you on the hook for more foods, more carbs, fat and highly caloric foods.
And it works!
Think about the malicious system at work here. You eat more bad food - you make the food industry more profitable and when you get sick, you make big pharma more profitable.
Think about this as you think about your carb addiction:
"Your carb addiction is largely manufactured by the food industry and you play along against your own best health interest - manipulated by the 'carbohydrate-serotonin inducing complex.'"
Keeping that in mind might motivate you further to REALLY stop craving carbs.
Every carb you eat is making one or both of these industries flourish at your expense!
Resisting carbs is good for you and the world.
Don't you feel more motivated already?
Now let's fight back!
Stay tuned for our upcoming blog: 16 Ultimate Tips To Stop Craving Carbs!