No sugar tonight: There’s no “turn-off” switch in our brains when it comes to swee

Conflicting advice regarding what we should and should not eat bombards us every day. Nicole Choptain, a certified holistic nutritionist (CHN) in Winnipeg, gives us the inside scoop.

“Sugar is the main thing [to avoid],” Choptain said.

The problem with sweeteners such as high fructose corn syrup is that there’s no “turn-off” switch in the brain. We keep eating more because our brains don’t get the signal to put down the sugar-infused snack.

Caffeine is also very hard on the body because of the tendency of habituation. If we drink a few cups of caffeinated beverages every day for an extended period of time, our bodies get used to it. Once we have adapted to it, we don’t get that same burst of energy from the caffeine that we once did. We require more caffeine to achieve that same energy burst. Our bodies become dependent on caffeine, resulting in an unhealthy caffeine overload.

Too much caffeine causes difficulties with being able to sleep, as well. This in turn can make us more susceptible to infectious disease.

“Sleep is number one for the immune system,” Choptain said.

In addition to adopting a healthier diet, deep breathing can be beneficial to achieving a good night’s sleep.

“When you breathe deeply, you get more oxygen and it can reduce headaches.”

Calcium is another way to set up the body for a restful evening. Calcium/magnesium powder can be bought at Shoppers Drug Mart for a reasonable price.

One scoop equals 300 mg of calcium, or the amount in a glass of milk. You can add a scoop or two of calcium powder to a glass of water before you go to bed at night. The chemical reaction of extra amounts of calcium in the bloodstream act as a natural “sleeping pill.”

Two more powerful nutrients for total body wellness are DHA and B vitamins. DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid that improves concentration, memory, learning and brain development. B vitamins are great for stress and for when we feel overscheduled.
Choptain encourages everyone to find time in the day, even just 10 minutes, to breathe deeply and relax. Shutting our minds off and not planning or worrying helps the body to calm down. We are better able to tackle the day if we take a few minutes for ourselves.

Ex-smokers in particular often have high levels of stress. The reason for this is that they once they quit smoking, they no longer take breaks throughout the day to have a smoke.

Those short breaks were enough to rejuvenate the body during a midday slump. The solution, Choptain said, is to keep taking the break.

“But do something different [than smoking],” she added wryly.

Nicole Choptain works at Inner Wisdom Nutrition in Osborne Village. Contact Nicole for a personal nutrition assessment ($55-$150) at [email protected] or 999-4946.

University of Winnipeg student Sagan Morrow writes a health and wellness blog.

Published in Volume 64, Number 6 of The Uniter (October 8, 2009)

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