Is Your Sweet Tooth an Addiction?

This yeast, in turn, ramps up the body's craving for more sugar, he says. This yeast growth can be caused by excessive use of antibiotics or steroids, or by long-term high sugar diets and are dispelled, according to Teitelbaum, with strong probiotics and sugar cut-backs.

While probiotics are "great" for the digestive track, Heller says she doubts that sugar could cause an overgrowth of yeast. Because research has only been done on a few of the numerous bacteria present in a healthy gut, it is hard to say what role sugar could play in an overgrowth, she says.

Finally, hormonal fluctuations in women entering menopause can cause anxiety, depression, and insulin resistance that can also lead to sugar addictions, Teitelbaum says. Alongside the general tricks for kicking the addiction, bio-identical hormones and/or natural remedies to regulate hormone levels are recommended, he says.

Sugar Addict Skepticism

Teitelbaum's methods are certainly not widely accepted.

Most physicians wholly support -- for general health -- his prescription for a cut-back in the consumption of excess sugars, eating more whole foods, and regularly getting a good night's sleep.

However, when it comes to his use of supplements and his linking of sugar consumption to yeast overgrowth, depression and chronic fatigue and pain, many physicians say he goes too far.

"These ideas are not supported by the science," says Dr. Ken Fujioka, director of the Nutrition and Metabolic Research Center and the Center for Weight Management at Scripps Clinic of San Diego.

To Teitelbaum's argument that sugar spikes and crashes blood glucose, altering mood and energy levels, Fujioka says that these fluctuations are all within the normal range of blood sugar and wouldn't be responsible for such side effects.

This criticism gets to the heart of the clash between Teitelbaum's methods and those of his critics. While much of the medical community relies on peer-reviewed studies and tangible blood levels of certain chemicals, Teitelbaum often draws from clinical experience.

"The 'normal range' is problematic," he says, because often patients who are technically within that range will experience symptoms. For example, half of those with hypothyroidism symptoms are technically within the normal range, he says.

"A lot of my work is based on what I see in my patients, and what I see works -- and we're talking thousands of patients here," he says.

At the end of the day, the message of Teitelbaum's recent book, to improve health and energy by cutting back on sugar, is one that the American Heart Association, the Department of Health and Human Services and other health organizations all support as well.

And nutritionists note that whether you do it with the help of probiotics or just by skipping the Slurpie, replacing empty sugar calories with healthy, nutritive foods, is something to strive for.

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