Sugar cravings seem to be worse while on the HCG diet. That is because the HCG protocol itself does not correct the problem. It only makes things worse because sugar is taboo. The key is to treat the underlying yeast overgrowth that leads to sugar cravings. The easiest natural strategy for controlling yeast overgrowth is supplementation with probiotics.
Going crazy for sugar, or any other refined carbohydrate, comes from [tag-tec]yeast overgrowth[/tag-tec], otherwise known as Candida overgrowth. Blooms of Candida yeast occur when your friendly intestinal bacteria are no longer able to keep the Candida under control like they are supposed to.
As gross as it may seem, your health depends on an active population of friendly bacteria in your GI tract. At its optimum, this population includes more than 400 different kinds of bacteria, totaling at least 5 lbs. of bacterial cells.
One of the benefits of a healthy population of intestinal bacteria is controlling the growth of Candida, especially one called Candida albicans. Several things can damage the normal population of friendly bacteria in your GI tract, thereby providing an opportunity for the yeast to bloom.
The best and most natural solution to candida overgrowth is supplementation with dietary bacteria called probiotics. This is one reason why probiotics are a crucial component of the HCG weight loss diet. Indeed, this is also why probiotics are crucial for long-term weight management, too.
Causes of Yeast Overgrowth
Sugar and other refined carbohydrates feed Candida. However, yeast blooms first get a foothold when GI tract bacteria are damaged by any and all of the following:
It should come as no surprise that we are surrounded by synthetic chemicals and processed foods that people were not exposed to as little as a century ago. Conservative estimates are that more than 80,000 chemicals have been introduced into our environment since then. We are sensitive to them, in part, because our bacteria are harmed by them. A short list of the kinds of chemicals that are harmful to our normal microflora includes the following:
food additives (colorings, “natural flavors”)
chlorinated and fluoridated water
refined carbohydrates, especially sugar
antacids and antibiotics (more on these below)
The health of our normal intestinal bacteria is continually challenged by these and newer chemicals that are constantly added to our foods and appear in new buildings, clothing, cars, and just about everywhere that we live and breathe. It would be nearly impossible to avoid them, so our best strategy is to maintain a healthy population of friendly bacteria by daily supplementation with probiotics.
Stress of All Kinds
We are swamped by the agents of stress. In this case stress means anything that causes our body to react defensively. Even our emotions cause stress when we react by overproducing certain hormones that cause inflammation. Dozens of kinds of internal and external factors can cause stress. A short list of common stressors includes the following:
poor diet (“malnutrition stress”)
radiation therapy and chemotherapy
anesthesia and surgery
poor or insufficient sleep
Prolonged exposure to these and other stressors can damage the normal the balance of friendly bacteria. Fortunately, ongoing research shows that a healthy balance of friendly intestinal bacteria provides a shield against otherwise powerful stressors in our environment. This means that probiotics provide a stress buffer in a world that is complex and often toxic.
Nature provides us with a balanced bacterial population that helps us maintain good health. The need for probiotics, therefore, would not exist if we weren’t constantly destroying our friendly bacteria in the first place. This destruction seems almost unavoidable at times, since so many things cause harm to the microbes that we depend on.
Antibiotics Everywhere – A Modern Crisis
We are drowning in a sea of antibiotics. Once called a miracle of modern medicine, these darlings in the battle against infectious diseases are now at the root of a health crisis.
Antibiotics, meaning “against life,” are chemicals that kill bacteria. Penicillin is the most famous one, since it is the best known of the “miracle drugs” that characterized the beginning of the antibiotic era in the early 1940s. Penicillin and its analogs signaled a new era in therapeutics, which was supposed to spell the end to fatal bacterial diseases. Indeed, over the decades since then, antibiotics have saved millions of lives from what used to be killer infections.
So why would the title of this section allude to a crisis? Simply put, the overuse and widespread misuse of antibiotics has become a case of too much of a good thing. One of the biggest worries in modern medicine is, in fact, the development of pathogens – microbes that cause disease – that are no longer killed by antibiotics.
Antibiotics and the Rise of the Superbugs
Here is a typical story of what has happened over time. Pneumococcal pneumonia is an infection in the lungs caused by bacteria called Streptococcus pneumoniae. Standard treatment entails antibiotics, such as penicillin, even though resistant strains of S. pneumoniae, which are not killed by antibiotics, are already widespread throughout the world. The shocker, according to Dr. Harold C. Neu of Columbia University, is that a patient in 1940 could receive a treatment of 40,000 units of penicillin per day for 4 days and be cured of pneumoccal pneumonia, whereas nowadays a patient could receive 24 million units per day and still die of pneumococcal meningitis! This is an infection caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae.
Are antibiotics the solution? Consider this: the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) estimates that S. pneumoniae causes 40,000 deaths and 500,000 cases of pneumonia annually in the United States. It is also responsible for 3,000 cases of meningitis, 50,000 cases of bacteremia (bacteria in the blood), and 7 million cases of otitis media (inner ear infection). Antibiotics are clearly not the solution. By the way, S. pneumoniae is just one example. All of the common disease-causing bacteria have developed antibiotic-resistant strains. Medical researchers have even discovered what they call “superbugs” – bacteria that are resistant to multiple antibiotics.
Judging by what antibiotics are used for these days, the existence of superbugs is only part of the problem of antibiotic overuse. Another problem is the routine use of antibiotics in animal feed. About half of the antibiotics that are made each year end up being fed to animals. This is because modern agriculture has discovered that antibiotics not only keep cattle from getting infectious diseases, they also promote growth. So now we have meat, milk, cheese, poultry, eggs and other animal products that come with a bonus: antibiotics.
What does a steady diet of antibiotics do to our health? The biggest problem is that this frequent exposure to such drugs causes our intestinal bacteria to be continually out of balance. This means that our little internal army is unable to fight for us the way it is supposed to. Lots of things can go wrong, one of which is candida overgrowth.
Although the biggest enemy of our friendly bacteria is antibiotics, modern medicine also provides several other destructive forces against our our microscopic friends. The most rampant of these is undoubtedly the use of antacids.
One of the most common health problems today is an upset stomach. Stomach upset doesn’t get a lot of notice in the media because it is not a killer, however one of the biggest sources of profits for drug companies is antacids and other treatments for digestive disorders. It is so lucrative that drug companies succeeded in getting dangerous prescription drugs out on the open shelf, so now anyone can buy them without the advice of their doctor.
Even though antacids provide temporary relief, in the long run they aggravate the original problem terribly. They upset the pH balance of the stomach by reducing the acidity that we need for digesting food, which is harmful to our good bacteria and therefore leads to further digestive problems. Such conditions even provide the opportunity for a takeover by the “bad bugs” that are constantly lurking in our stomach. One in particular, named Helicobacter pylori, causes ulcers.
The two best treatments to get yourself back on track after abusing your digestive system with antacids are simple and inexpensive: 1) drink plenty of water; and, 2) take probiotics to replenish the friendly bacteria that you have destroyed.
The Candida Epidemic
Focus on candida (yeasts) in regard to probiotics has become important, because this is the microbe that takes over when our bacterial defense becomes depleted. And when candida is in control in someone’s digestive system, illnesses appear that weren’t there before, and any health problems that were already there get worse. A candida bloom can make life miserable.
Just like bacteria, yeasts can be friendly or harmful. The well-known yeasts that we use for baking bread, fermenting beer, and making many other food products are obviously beneficial. However, the yeasts that live in our bodies are a different kind of microbe. They lurk around in our digestive system, waiting for an opportunity to take over, often with devastating affects on our health. Fortunately for us, a vigorous population of friendly bacteria can keep this takeover from happening.
Local Yeast Infections
In the “good old days” yeast infections were considered to be an occasional problem for women, causing vaginal itching and irritation. In addition, yeast infections were found to cause considerable pain in the breasts of lactating women. Young children also suffered from yeast overgrowth, which shows up as white patches on the tongue in a condition called thrush. Men came into the picture when yeast was named as the culprit for an itchy rash appearing in the inner thigh areas.
Yeast infections like these are termed “local” because they are isolated in one area of the body. They are well-known and easily treated with probiotics and dietary changes. Probiotics can restore the microbial balance that is important for controlling yeast overgrowth. Many studies have repeatedly shown this to be true. One example of such a study was conducted at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center in 1992. In this study, women who previously suffered frequent vaginal yeast infections ate probiotic-containing yogurt every day for 6 months. At the end of the 6-month period, the yogurt group showed a three-fold average decrease in infections in comparison with a non-yogurt group. Moreover, the study was supposed to go for another 6-month period, with each group of women switching roles. However, the probiotic treatment was so good that more than a third of the women in the yogurt group refused to quit eating yogurt when it came their turn to be in the non-yogurt group.
Local yeast infections seem to be a relatively minor nuisance in a health landscape that is plagued with the abundance of diseases that we are faced with these days. What is a little itchiness here and there in comparison with cancer or cardiovascular disease? These and other serious diseases have now been linked to whole-body infections of candida – that is, yeast that has escaped the GI tract and gone beyond local infections to be spread throughout the body.
We lose the internal battle to keep candida under control when antibiotics or other toxins deplete our normal microflora. This offers an opportunity for candida to bloom because, as a fungus, it is not directly affected by antibiotics. A chronic candida bloom will eventually damage the intestinal lining, which then loses its effectiveness as a defensive barrier against toxins and infectious microbes. The medical term for this condition is “leaky gut syndrome” – which just means that harmful chemicals and microbes can get through our gut wall and into our bloodstream where they do harm. Candida is quick to spread when this happens, leading to a condition called candidiasis, which can then lead to a multitude of symptoms.
From these seemingly minor beginnings, candidiasis has now become recognized to be so prevalent that millions of people suffer from a dizzying array of symptoms that are associated with it. Some of the symptoms that are linked to candidiasis include:
type 1 diabetes
Although this seems to be a long list of health problems, it is still incomplete. Indeed, many doctors are finally recognizing that many of the chronic health problems that defy diagnosis and treatment are associated with candidiasis. The pioneer for this change in medical thinking was William Crook, MD, who wrote “The Yeast Connection,” which is still the definitive book on this topic. Dr. Crook was also one of the first physicians to advocate the use of probiotics for treating candidiasis.
HCG Diet and Probiotics
Any slow down or stoppage in weight loss, whether on the HCG diet or some other program, is certainly made worse by yeast overgrowth. Sometimes controlling this microbe is the only missing link to healthy weight management.
By the way, as you might expect, some probiotic supplements are better than others. Indeed, most brands are too weak to really be of much benefit, including the newly popular yogurt products with lactobacillus (one of the strains of probiotic bacteria). My advice is to look for the following criteria when choosing a product that will help you the most: 1) how many strains of bacteria? (several — at least 5); and, 2) how many cells per dose? (at least 5 billion). Do not settle for less.
Since this article is pretty extensive, you may want to refer to the key points below:
Weight management (and good health in general) depends on friendly bacteria
Damage to friendly bacteria leads to yeast overgrowth
Yeast overgrowth leads to sugar cravings and weight gain
Supplementing with probiotics is the easiest natural strategy for combating yeast overgrowth and sugar cravings
The best probiotic supplements should offer a sufficient number of bacterial strains and a sufficient dose to be of optimal benefit.
All the best in natural health,