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Get my fab new e-book

Get my new e-Book: EAT to turn BACK the clockIt's free!There’s a lot to like about getting older. But do you…

Posted by Sharon Strahan – Thrive Nutritional Therapy on Tuesday, January 7, 2020

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There’s a lot to like about getting older. But do you find yourself wishing ‘if only…’ in relation to your health and wellness?

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Gut Feeling

World Digestive Health Day

If you’ve got tummy troubles, you may be interested to know that it’s World Digestive Health Day today. But what if you don’t? It might be hard to believe, but the state of your gut affects EVERY aspect of your health, from weight loss and immunity to mood and skin health. Furthermore, if you’re trying to get pregnant, you need to know this, too, to safeguard your baby’s future.

There are a myriad of symptoms and conditions that are linked to digestive issues. Much of the problems arise from dysbiosis, which is where the levels of bacteria in the gut are out of balance. That might mean there are too many ‘bad’ bacteria in the gut or simply insufficient numbers of the protective, ‘good’ bacteria.

Ten Reasons To Take Care Of Your Gut

Hold that concept in mind while I run you through ten reasons you’ll want to take care of your gut – even if you don’t experience symptoms of digestive distress.

1. Hormone Balance

If you have any conditions linked to too much oestrogen, like endometriosis or fibroids, you should know that if you have dysbiosis, instead of getting rid of it, the body is likely to keep recirculating oestrogen tagged for detoxification. The more oestrogen in your system, the worse your gynae symptoms are likely to be.

In fact, if there is any hormone imbalance of any kind, the gut is a key piece of the jigsaw if you are looking for a solution. It’s worth noting, too, that if your gut is not good, menopause symptoms will be evil!

2. Obesity

An imbalanced gut is bad news if you’re trying to lose weight. Oestrogen is an obesogen, which means it can make you gain weight. If your gut bacteria are out of balance, you could absorb 15% more calories from your food.

3. Cravings

There’s also a growing amount of research that suggests your gut bacteria actually influence food cravings and metabolism, too.

4. Immunity

Listen up if you’re that person who is always ill or gets everything worse than everyone else. About 75% of your immunity is governed by your gut. If your digestive system is healthy, chances are you will be generally healthier, too.

5. Skin

Not happy with your skin? Eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, acne are just a few skin issues linked to poor gut health. Much of this is down to permeability of the gut (sometimes called ‘leaky gut’).  This is when your digestive tract is damaged and things that shouldn’t normally pass through are now able to, like bad bacteria, gluten proteins and other undigested food particles, causing widespread inflammation and a huge array of heath problems.

6. Allergies and Intolerances

Additionally, this is true for hay fever and food intolerance, too, for very similar reasons.

7. Mood

The state of your digestive system is important for regulating your mood and for your mental health. The gut is often referred to as the ‘second brain’. That’s because, embedded in your intestinal wall are 500 million neurons that make up your enteric nervous system (ENS). Your ENS plays an important role in the production of 30 different neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters, like serotonin, are chemicals responsible for regulating mood. At the very extreme end of the spectrum, an imbalance of bacteria in the gut has also been shown to be a factor in autism, ADHD and other brain conditions, such as epilepsy.

8. Autoimmunity

If you have any kind of autoimmune disease you will want to get your gut sorted out because, where you have one of these conditions, the door is open to any of the others. There are over 200 autoimmune conditions, but some of the most common include Hashimoto’s disease (underactive thyroid), rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, coeliac disease, type 1 diabetes, systemic lupus, pernicious anaemia, and so on.  There are a number of potential causes of autoimmune disease,  but “leaky gut” or intestinal permeability is considered a front-runner.

9. Bad Breath

Bad breath is typically linked to dysbiosis or bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine. Candida, a yeast in the gut, is linked to athlete’s foot and thrush. Additionally, candida has a giant list of other possible symptoms. These include mysterious aches and pains, that feeling of being hung over when you’re not, depression, fatigue, anxiety and brain fog as well as a host of tummy issues.

10. Fertility

If baby making is on your mind, you need to know that the little person you grow will get your gut immunity. If you have a healthy and balanced gut environment, then they will too. As the mother, you are the gate keeper to your child’s health. That’s because, in pregnancy, you set your baby’s inflammatory set point. If your gut flora is out of balance, there’s a 15% increased risk of gestational diabetes and also a higher risk for group B strep.

 

What to do next

I wonder how many of those points resonated with you? Help is at hand if any of these are the case. Maybe you already know that I offer 1:1 nutritional therapy sessions where we can work together on sorting out any of the above. And I offer a free 30 minute call to discuss whether nutritional therapy is right for you.  Book your free call here: http://bit.ly/tnt-bookcall

I just want to leave you with one final thought now you know what you know about how gut affects everything about your health… If you’re in the cinema and you see smoke, you don’t wait till you spot the fire…

 

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Food Allergies and Intolerances

Many people are clear that a nut allergy can be a very dangerous thing resulting, on occasion, in death. But, outside of this, food allergy isn’t always taken as seriously as it should be. As it is Food Allergy Awareness Week on the 13th of this month, I want to give you the lowdown on food allergy and intolerance, and what to do if you suspect there are foods that don’t agree with you.

FOOD ALLERGY

To start, let’s get clear what a FOOD ALLERGY is …

A true food allergy is an abnormal reaction of the body’s immune system to a particular food. This can range from a mild reaction to one that is severe and life-threatening (anaphylaxis). The body produces IgE antibodies in response to a food, drink or other substance the body mistakenly thinks is attacking it. The issue can be restricted to one area (your digestive system, skin and so on) or the whole body, where the immune system triggers widespread inflammation and swelling – anaphylaxis – which can be deadly. The reaction is often immediate.

If you have a food allergy, you will need to avoid the food forever. That’s because part of the immune system works on the basis of memory. In exactly the same way your body remembers its response to, say, the polio vaccination you were given as a child (and can prepare its attack should it come into contact with polio again), it remembers its response to nuts, dairy, or whatever.

If you think you have a food allergy, you can often get tested free of charge via your GP. Private tests are also available.

One clinical pearl I’m going to share with you is that, if you’re struggling with the symptoms of a true allergy (itchy eyes, swelling and the like), yet testing reveals no problem foods, the answer might be in the gut. Parasites also cause the body to produce high levels of IgE antibodies; however, these are not often considered by conventional medicine as a potential cause of allergy-like symptoms.

FOOD INTOLERANCE

An intolerance is something very different, producing low grade inflammation through the body and symptoms that are far ranging, but altogether less dramatic.

These can include the following:

  • Weight that won’t shift
  • Bloating
  • Migraines
  • Headaches
  • Coughs (frequent)
  • Runny nose
  • Itchy or overly waxy ears
  • Stomach ache
  • Irritable bowel
  • Hives
  • Fatigue

Although the symptoms might seem less dramatic, it really is worth dealing with food intolerances , especially if you’ve had niggly issues for years. This is because low grade inflammation is created through the body if your system doesn’t like something you are repeatedly feeding it. Consequently, this will almost certainly lead to worse stuff in the future because that’s the way these things work. ALL chronic disease is caused by inflammation of one sort or another.

You can do your own elimination diet.  Cut out foods you suspect you might have a problem with for a period of time, then reintroduce them and see what happens.  This can be time consuming if you are not entirely sure which foods might be problematic. A couple of drops of blood from finger prick blood test is all you need to get a reliable reading of what your body is objecting to. Ask me for details if you experience any of the symptoms I listed above.

 

WHAT NEXT?

In case you’re wondering, if you have a food intolerance, you don’t have to remove the food forever.   It’s important to know that it’s not enough to just take the food out and not do anything about it.

If you find you have a food intolerance, this is your body telling you your gut needs some TLC to restore, rebalance and heal. Without this vital step, you’re likely to end up (over time) with more intolerances and more symptoms.

Please do get in touch if you are wondering whether you have an allergy or intolerance. I can help by offering a variety of testing options to help get to the bottom of the problem, and my gut health programmes can help bring your body back into balance: http://bit.ly/tnt-bookcall

 

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What is Nutritional Therapy?

Why Nutritional Therapy?

Scientific research continually demonstrates that our body’s ability to function is significantly affected by what we eat. So much so, that it is becoming common practice for people to turn to nutritional therapy to help manage a wide array of health problems. Often, they simply use it to enhance the way they look and feel.

 

How can Nutritional Therapy Help?

When people think about the food they eat, they often see it as simply supplying their body with energy. However, food really is so much more than this. When we break it down into its constituents, it interacts with our body on a chemical level.

Nutrients speed reactions up, inhibit others and allow organs to communicate and work synergistically. They give our body the tools it needs to flourish in the way that it is designed to.  As such, it is obvious that what we put in our bodies can alter our concentration, our ability to fight disease, to reproduce, and to sleep soundly. Given that the modern world places many obstacles in between us and the path to health, supporting the body nutritionally is all the more pertinent.

How Does Nutritional Therapy Work?

Nutritional Therapy is not as simple as being told what to eat and when. Or what foods are good for you and what to do if you want to lose weight. The objective is to work to identify what imbalance or dysfunction is at the heart of a specific health condition and manage it in a sustainable way. Even niggling little symptoms we consider to be part of day-to-day life, such as bloating, headaches, blemishes, PMS and energy imbalances, are a sign that our body is not working optimally. Biochemical testing is undertaken where necessary to ensure approaches are targeted to each individual.

What To Expect From A Nutritional Consultation

Nutritional therapy, nutritionist, nutritional coaching, nutritional counselling… It’s all essentially the same thing. You can expect evidence based, targeted nutrition advice tailored just for YOU and no one else. This is combined with some gentle, encouraging support to help you reach your health goals.

I’ll listen to your complete health story right from when you were little because it’s all part of who you are today. I’ll explain things simply, allowing you to ask all the questions you need to in order to understand your programme. I promise never to judge you and will give you a programme that’s easy to follow because I realise that everyone likes to make changes at their own pace. And we will work together and interactively and in confidence. Why not schedule your appointment today, and let’s get started!

 

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Kick cravings into touch

Kick cravings into touch

Everyone gets cravings from time to time. Sometimes you kid yourself that it is your body telling you that you need to have something (and there is some truth in this – more on that later). Most of the time, however, it is habit. There are some simple steps you can take to manage cravings and avoid binges. Using a combination of these steps will be most effective and some techniques will work better than others for you, so it’s best to experiment.

“But I need it…’

Your body needs a steady flow of energy throughout the day. When you eat too many things that turn quickly into sugar (whether it’s sugar or starchy carbohydrates), this creates a blood sugar spike and the body produces insulin to take the excess sugar out of your blood, and it stores it as fat. Sometimes too much of this sugar is packed away, which leads to blood sugar levels becoming too low, resulting in tiredness, low mood, a drop in concentration – and cravings. The cravings are nearly always for sugary foods or starchy carbs; anything the body can quickly convert to sugar to get blood sugar levels up again. Eating continually in this way causes a blood sugar rollercoaster. Switching to a low GL (glycaemic load) diet based on whole foods like meat, fish, nuts, seeds, beans and so on with vegetables and fruit, with smaller amounts of wholegrain starches like brown rice and wholemeal bread will help enormously. However, you also need to deal with your triggers and the emotional aspect of eating …

How to manage your cravings

1 Forget ‘willpower’

Willpower in itself is not enough. Instead, learn to be in control of your actions. The first, most simple step is to make sure you don’t get hungry, so eat regular meals.

2 Identify and write down your triggers

Are they emotional triggers? Food triggers? Habits? Triggers in certain places or situations? Identifying what your triggers are helps you take control of them and change the outcome. What is it that you need? What strategies can you put in place now to support yourself?

3 Get rid of your trigger foods

If you don’t have control of a food then it is controlling you. If it triggered a binge in the past, it will do so again. Get rid of it and don’t buy it – for you or your family. It’s OK to throw away food that is bad for you. A smoker wouldn’t keep packets of cigarettes around the house if they were trying to break the habit – why do that with trigger foods?

4 Plan what you are going to eat in advance

This is so important. Eventually, your healthy eating will become second nature, but you need to support yourself until your new habits are firmly in place.

5 Identify crave / binge thoughts

To take control, you need to be ready to respond to these with a more positive alternative. Here are some examples:

  • “I’m so stressed” – being miserable because I’m fatter won’t help.
  • “I had far too many biscuits, I may as well just keep going” – that’s in the past now, rescue the rest of the day.
  • “I’ve been really good. I deserve a reward” – being slim and in control is my best reward.
  • “I’ve got PMS. I need chocolate” – eating sugar will make me feel worse.
  • “One slice is not too bad” – but I know it’ll end up being 4 slices!

6 Choose to eat or not

“A biscuit would be nice but I choose not to have one right now”.

Don’t take orders from a packet of biscuits! Choosing puts you back in control. Remember, the responsibility is yours. You are the one who puts food in your mouth, even if it sometimes feels as though it is out of your control, it never is.

7 Develop short, key phrases to help you make new choices

The more you use a phrase, the more it becomes a part of what you now do, so develop phrases such as “Don’t start, don’t get the taste” or “I actually don’t want this” or “I am not hungry, so I will not eat for the moment”. Creating a mental picture can also help, e.g. visualising yourself slamming a cupboard door on the unhealthy foods you are now choosing to avoid. Practise this until it becomes second nature.

8 Use displacement activities

If you get a crave/ binge thought, do something else (paint your nails, go for a walk, clean out the fridge, put on some music, write a letter, for example). Simply giving yourself a few moments may relieve the pressure and stop the chain reaction. Find something that works for you, write these down to reinforce them and commit to doing them.

9 Accept your slips

Unless you are superhuman, there will be the odd time that you slip and have more than you should. Slim people over indulge too – but they don’t beat themselves up about it. They just go back to eating normally. Remember, the occasional slice of cake or a portion that is too big is not going to make you put on a few pounds, but a huge binge will. Plus, binges on sugary or salty food will make you retain water – making you look and feel heavier than you really are. It’s just not worth it. If you have a slip you can still rescue the situation and stop it turning into a binge, sabotaging all your good work. Say: “It’s done, it’s in the past and I choose to move on”. Reaffirm your resolve to make a different choice next time.

10 Practise, practise, practise

…until your new found control feels completely normal, which it will! It takes at least 21 times of doing something to create a new habit. It feels weird at first and takes a lot of conscious effort. But eventually, your brain ‘gets it’ and you will do it without thinking!

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We learn nothing about nutrition…

…claim medical students

Nutrition education is woefully lacking at medical schools

This article highlights how little training doctors get about nutrition in medical school.  I was even told this when I was studying my Dietetics degree *ahem* many years ago!

This is especially alarming since so many chronic illnesses that doctors are having to treat these days are directly related to diet and lifestyle factors. And yet when something goes wrong with their health, many people still fall back on the idea that “the doctor should fix me”.

Well, maybe it’s time for a new way of thinking… and a new approach to health care. Doctors certainly need more training in this area – and to collaborate with nutrition professionals and dietitians. And people need to take a bit more personal responsibility for their own health.

My two pence for today.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-43504125

nutritioneducation

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I-B-S

IBS

As April is IBS Awareness month, let’s talk about it.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS, is a problem I see so often in clinic. And it is problematic on many different levels. If you have been diagnosed with this condition, you may well have been suffering with it for years.  While a diagnosis can – at first– offer comfort in finally having a recognised problem, the satisfaction is short-lived because often that’s where all support ends. You’re left no further forward in actually fixing what the problem is. Or worse, they are told “it’s due to stress so learn to manage the stress” and then left to get on with it.

Stress

And yes, stress is an exacerbating factor for many people.  I see it as a “perfect storm” for many – one or more things has gone wrong with their digestive system and they may limp along for a while without many major symptoms – or at least nothing too disruptive to their lives.  And WHAM! A stressful event occurs and suddenly their IBS becomes a very debilitating condition causing some people to miss work; to start restricting foods to the point they are eating a very limited diet; and to avoid going out so they don’t need to be far from a toilet.

(would you believe that April is also Stress Awareness Month?)

What is IBS?

The difficulty begins because IBS is essentially meaningless; it’s a catch-all term used to encompass a huge variety of digestive issues. If you’re serious about getting to the bottom of the problem (no pun intended), get in touch. I’m happy to discuss your symptoms and help find a way forward. You can book a free IBS health check with me by clicking here http://bit.ly/tnt-bookcall.

In my experience, it’s likely to be one of the following five conditions.

 1 SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth)

Around 60% of people with IBS will have SIBO. Though you might have heard about good (and bad) bacteria in the gut, really what experts are talking about is the balance of bacteria in the large intestine: the colon. The small intestine shouldn’t have any bacteria.

Each day the body should perform a flush to sweep bacteria from the small intestine and into the large intestine. This flush is called the ‘migrating motor complex’. For a huge variety of reasons (historic food poisoning being the most common, but also low levels of stomach acid or adhesions play a role, among others) the bacteria are not swept away. The trouble is that these bacteria can ferment the food in your small intestine, causing gas, belching, bloating, pain and a variety of other symptoms, including constipation and/or loose stools, and even anxiety.

A breath test can establish which gases are present, and we can devise an action plan based on your results.

2 Lactose intolerance

This is when your body is not able to tolerate lactose, a type of sugar found naturally in milk and other dairy products. Essentially, bacteria in your intestine feed on these milk sugars, leading to a host of IBS symptoms, like bloating and gas, nausea, constipation or diarrhoea. It can go hand in hand with other digestive complaints, such as coeliac disease or increased intestinal permeability at a microscopic level (‘leaky gut’).  A simple at-home breath test can determine lactose intolerance.

3 Fructose malabsorption

The symptoms are very similar to lactose intolerance. Fructose (which is found in fruit, honey and many processed foods) is a sugar, which, like lactose, is digested in the small intestine. Some people cannot absorb fructose, and what is not absorbed is fermented by intestinal bacteria, causing bloating, cramping, gas and distension of the stomach. You might also experience brain fog and headaches. A breath test will detect this condition.

4 Dysbiosis

This is an imbalance in the levels of beneficial (good) and pathogenic (bad) bacteria in the large intestine or colon. This is now common due to overuse of antibiotics and alcohol, an increase in high sugar diets, and stress. Symptoms can vary from a sluggish bowel or diarrhoea, pain, bloating and flatulence, to chronic bad breath, joint pain, and fatigue and food sensitivities. Dysbiosis is also implicated in a variety of health conditions like diabetes, heart disease and obesity. A stool test can help establish whether your gut bacteria are out of balance.  It can also show a host of other markers that might be useful in getting to the root of your digestive problems.

5 Yeast overgrowth

Where the gut environment becomes out of balance (due to dysbiosis), yeast can thrive. Diets high in sugar feed the yeast. Although if you think you might have a yeast overgrowth, it’s worth noting that long-term yeast problems can mean that the yeast cells are pathogenic or disease causing.  The yeast has switched its metabolism to also be able to digest protein and fat. Symptoms of yeast overgrowth include recurring thrush, gas or bloating, fatigue, bad breath, cravings for sweet foods, joint pain and brain fog. A stool test can establish the presence of candida or other yeast overgrowth.

 

Some people struggle with digestive problems for years. If you are ready to make fixing your gut health a priority, I would love to work with you. Please click the link here http://bit.ly/tnt-bookcall to book your free IBS health check now.

 

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Hellllooooooo Sugar!

Hellllooooooo Sugar!

Sugar Substitutes – Natural or Artificial

People often ask me about sugar substitutes.  The classic question is “Surely honey is healthy?” So here’s the low down on some of those sugar replacements you might think are healthy (and some that definitely aren’t).

Honey
  • Honey has a lot going for it in some regards. It contains amino acids, electrolytes and antioxidants, and antimicrobial compounds that can support your health. To get these extra benefits, you’ll want to choose a raw (unprocessed) local honey. It may also help relieve allergy symptoms, specifically hay fever, because the bees feast on the local pollen, and taking raw local honey can help you develop natural immunity over time. But, whichever way you cut it, honey is sugar. It may be natural, but sugar it is, and it behaves that way in your body, spiking blood sugar exactly as actual sugar would.
Dates
  • Dates are a popular feature of many paleo or natural sugar-free bars, because they are naturally very sweet. They have the highest nutritional benefit of all natural sweeteners, because they also contain minerals like selenium, copper, potassium and magnesium. Dates also provide fibre to slow the speed at which the sugars hit your bloodstream. Medjool dates have featured heavily in many a trendy recipe book. These are sweeter and tend to be softer than regular dates. However dates, too, raise blood sugar levels and trigger insulin release.
Maple syrup
  • This is one of the best sugar substitutes (if indeed you need to use any) because it contains antioxidants (24 in fact), which are helpful in the fight against cell-damaging free radicals. There is absolutely no nutritional value to actual sugar. So maple syrup is one of the better natural sugar substitutes. While studies show it does not spike your blood sugar levels as much, it is still wise to use sparingly. You’ll want grade A (lighter in flavour) or B (nutritionally better and with a more intense flavour). Avoid maple flavoured syrups as these are not the same.
Coconut sugar
  • Coconut sugar has become very trendy of late and brings a lovely caramel flavour to your food. It is perfect for baking with and has a lesser impact on your blood sugar levels than regular sugar, but it is still sugar, so use sparingly.
Palmyra Jaggery
  • This is the crystalized nectar collected from the flower of the Palmyra palm and you may not even have heard of it. You use it exactly as you would sugar, and often you can reduce the amount needed by up to a half. Palmyra jaggery is full of B vitamins and has a much lower GL than table sugar.
Brown rice syrup
  • This has found its way into ‘healthy’ recipes. It’s made from fermented, cooked rice. Brown rice syrup is not a particularly good option as a sweetener as it’s highly processed, contains very little in the way of nutrition benefits and the effect on blood sugar is almost identical to standard sugar.
Agave syrup
  • Agave syrup comes from a cactus, and the syrup is made from the pulp of the leaf. It’s very highly processed and is mainly fructose, which needs to be processed by the liver, causing more stress for an already over-worked organ. Fructose is actually worse for you than glucose. Agave syrup (or nectar) is very similar to the (deservedly) much-demonised high fructose corn syrup that has contributed greatly to the obesity epidemic in the US.  This is arguably the worst of the natural sugar substitutes.  My advice? Do not use it!                                [Table sugar (sucrose) is 50% glucose, 50% fructose.]
Stevia
  • This is another natural sweetener. There a number of different types of stevia. Ideally you want full, green leaf stevia that is unadulterated with other sweeteners. Pure stevia will not unbalance your blood sugar levels, thus avoiding an energy rollercoaster.
Xylitol
  • Often found in the UK under the brand names Total Sweet or Xyla, xylitol is a sugar alcohol. It’s a little sweeter than sugar, has fewer calories and (the important part) 75% less carbohydrate. Therefore, its impact on blood sugar levels is lower than it would be if you were to eat the same amount compared to real sugar. It’s the same stuff used in sugar free chewing gum, thanks to its antibacterial properties. The downside is it is very highly processed. Also some people can be sensitive to large amounts and may find they get bloated or experience diarrhea, if they eat too much. Note as well that it is toxic for dogs.
Artificial sweeteners (like aspartame and saccharin)
  • People usually resort to artificial sweeteners in a bid to cut calories. This is bad news for a number of reasons, but I’ll mention the two biggies here. Research into some of them shows a correlation with cancer (weak, perhaps, and refuted by the food industry, but still a posibility). And secondly, nutrition science conclusively proves that weight gain/ loss has little to do with calories in and out but what happens hormonally inside the body – how much insulin your body makes (insulin being the fat storage hormone that also sabotages fat burning). Recent research shows that these artificial sweeteners can increase blood sugar (and consequently insulin) levels more than normal sugar. So really, what is the point? My advice is to stop now …

BUT…

The very best scenario of all is that you wean yourself off sweeteners of any kind.  This will help you appreciate and embrace natural sweetness from real food. If you continue to eat sweet things, your taste buds will always want sweet things. It’s as simple as that. If you need a sugar fix, find it in real, natural foods.

In addition to phasing out not only sugary foods, but check the labels on convenience foods to see where sugar has been added. If your diet has traditionally been quite high in the white stuff, the first few weeks can be a little tricky as your body (and brain and taste buds) starts to adjust – but bear with it.

* Deliciously Ella’s Cinnamon Pecan Granola https://deliciouslyella.com/nutty-cinnamon-granola

sugar substitutes - a healthier option