Sugar Cravings and an Underactive Thyroid


You buy a Kit Kat when all you wanted was a bottle of Advil at the drugstore. You count down until you can clock out so that you can make a batch of cookies. Whether you have been diagnosed or not, sugar cravings can be a sign of an underactive thyroid. Your sugar cravings and indulgences are not entirely your fault. But, if you do have a thyroid problem, you will have to be even more proactive in the battle against sugar. Fortunately, you have resources to help you.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, famed teacher of mindfulness meditation and the founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, defines mindfulness as, “Paying attention in a particular way; On purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” Before you drive through Taco Bell for their new churros that promise an, “addictive taste,” practice mindfulness. Check in with yourself. Do I really need this churro? Is this churro good for me? Am I really hungry? Maybe I’m dehydrated and simply thirsty for water? Am I tired? Do I need a nap? Maybe it’s not about a churro at all. Your sugar cravings may be out of control, but if you are not practicing mindfulness, you will continue to pack on the pounds and your health issues will snowball from eating well, too many sno-balls.

We often eat without thinking about it. Think about THAT. How often do you think about your food choices before you prepare or order food. How often do you think while eating, Am I full? Most of the time we eat when we are full, but we continue to eat because we are not practicing mindfulness.

Weight Watchers is known for their acronym, HALT. Hungry, Anger, Lonely, or Tired. Notice the next time you are craving something sweet. Be mindful. Check in. Instead of devouring a cupcake, take a nap. Even for 15 minutes. Even if you don’t fall asleep. Just closing your eyes and resting helps put your craving for sugar at bay. Snooze in your car on a lunch break, hide under your desk. Put your baby in his crib to play and go lie down. Find a way.

Perhaps you are craving sugar out of anger. Be mindful. Check in. Why am I angry? How can you resolve it or express it in a healthier way rather than eating a bag of peanut M & M’s? Can you write an email to the person and save it as a draft? Call your Mom and vent? Work it out at the gym? Beat up a pillow? Does anyone do this?

It’s so much easier to not eat your third Oreo at 11PM if you do not have Oreos in your pantry. I know it sounds simple, but if you keep a healthy pantry and fridge, the likelihood that you will change out of your pajamas, put on your shoes, grab your keys and drive to the store at 11PM for Oreos is highly unlikely. This might not be foolproof, but it reduces your chances of caving into your sugar cravings greatly if you do not have sugary sweets in your home.

Eating carbohydrates leads to eating sugar leads to eating more carbohydrates. It’s a vicious cycle. A great way to break this cycle is by eating less carbohydrates and upping your protein intake. If you eat more protein and less carbs, you will have less sugar and carbohydrate cravings the following day. Try it. For one day. Cut back on carbs. Go without sugar, or cut back significantly and see what you crave and how you eat the following day. Sugar cravings are your body’s way of telling you that you need to eat more protein. Protein including, but not limited to; meat, poultry, beans or peanut butter (free of high fructose corn syrup, of course). You can still eat bread- just eat Ezekiel bread. This type of bread is low on the glycemic index. Meaning, it’s low in sugar and high in sprouted, natural grains. It is surprisingly good. I particularly enjoy the Ezekiel bread 4:9 original (in the orange bag) or the cinnamon raisin loaf.

You can still eat pasta-just eat whole-wheat pasta. But, protein will keep your energy levels up and will help you resist sugar. It’s like buying wellness insurance against a potential sugar coma disaster.

Next, you will want to cut back or completely cut out caffeine. Caffeine kick-starts a blood-sugar frenzy in your system that leads to sugar cravings. It is best to avoid it as much as you can.

Progesterone cream can be helpful for women and low thyroid patients who get sugar, (especially chocolate) cravings in the second half of their cycle. The cream, “Pro Gest” is excellent and can be found at the below website. It is applied sparingly daily to your wrist or tummy. Ask your doctor or feel free to do more research before you decide to use a progesterone cream.

“Whenever I feel the need to exercise, I lie down until it goes away,” Paul Terry. I know very few people who actually get excited to exercise. You should see how slowly I tie my running shoes simply to put off going to the gym. However, most people do not regret the endorphins they get after spending 30 minutes on a treadmill. Exercise combats sugar cravings. Dr. Robert H. Lustig, expert on sugar addiction, believes exercise is key in improving insulin sensitivity and weight control.

• Toned muscles. Exercise, particularly weight-training, improves skeletal muscle insulin sensitivity–because insulin works better in strong lean muscle.

• Exercise Guidelines for Type 2 Diabetes. The latest guidelines for exercise in type-2 diabetes call for weight/strength training for 2, or ideally 3 times a week! “Exercise and type 2 diabetes: American College of Sports Medicine and the American Diabetes Association: joint position statement” Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010;42:2282-2303.

• Stress reduction. Exercise reduces stress and the release of the stress hormone cortisol–appetite goes down when stress goes down.

• Detoxifies fructose. Exercise makes the body’s “Citric Acid Cycle” run faster, which detoxifies fructose, improving liver insulin sensitivity–and preventing fructose from turning into fat ( )

Stay hydrated. Drink a ton of water and then drink more.

Cheers to less sugar cravings!