Sunday, July 8, 2012

Sugar Addiction During Pregnancy

Sugar Addiction During Pregnancy

Like heroin, cocaine and caffeine, sugar is an addictive, destructive drug, yet we consume it daily in everything from cigarettes to bread.  
-William Dufty, author of Sugar Blues.

Ahh, sugar…the guilty pleasure for most. We try to savor it, and save it for only bad days, special occasions, or an after dinner treat. Yet, it is in most things we consume. We don’t think about sugar in terms of how much grams was in the peanut butter and jelly sandwich we had for lunch, or how much was in the juice we had just a few minutes ago. We typically think about sugar in terms of what we see as indulgence such as cookies, biscuits, ice cream, chocolate, or candy. As Americans we consume, on average 100 pounds of refined sugar a year. The USDA recommends no more than 10 teaspoons, which means we are consuming more than three times the recommended value!  
For a normal healthy person, too much sugar had led to weight gain, tooth decay, gum disease, diabetes, elevated risk for cardiovascular disease and premature aging.
The sugar story gets worse for pregnant women. During pregnancy, sugar is rapidly absorbed into your blood and in order to regulate this sugar, your body requires larger amounts of insulin, which is released by your pancreas. If you are eating excessive or even moderate amounts of sugar, your pancreas is going to have a difficult time keeping up. If your pancreas falls short of its job, then your blood sugar levels stay elevated. This is a problem even if you not develop full-blown gestational diabetes a.k.a insulin intolerance.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), once a woman has had it, she is at higher risk for getting it again during a future pregnancy and for becoming diabetic later in life. Other problems that may occur include preeclampsia, which is a serious medical condition affecting all organs of the body. It may require that the baby be delivered early, and severe preeclampsia can lead to seizures, kidney, or liver problems.

Another condition that can happen from too much refined sugar is macrosomia; a condition where a baby grows excessively large due to a constantly high level of maternal blood sugar. This condition can cause an increased risk of birth complications such as shoulder dystocia. After the delivery of the fetal head, the baby’s anterior shoulder gets stuck behind the mother’s pubic bone, making delivery much harder. In addition, large babies of mothers with elevated blood sugar levels also have a higher risk of childhood obesity.

I understand as a pregnant woman, we want to be able to indulge after all we are eating for too now. Women say pregnancy is the time to let their hair down and really enjoy food. Enjoy if you will, but please be cautious about the amount of sugar intake.

Sugar is addictive. It has the same effect of cocaine in our body. Once sugar enters our body, it causes the release of a chemical called dopamine, which controls our brain’s pleasure center. If you notice, even a little piece makes you want more. Withdrawals from sugar can cause headaches, mood swings, cravings, and fatigue. When sugar enters our body, our body automatically depletes its own storage of minerals and enzymes to absorb the sucrose (no nutritional value whatsoever). Sugar enters swiftly causing a peak in energy, excitability, nervous tension, and hyperactivity. Then, just as swiftly as it came, it exits in the same manner, leaving us fatigued, weary, exhausted, and even in some cases depressed.

Lastly, sugar substitutes such as artificial sweeteners such as saccharin  (Sweet N’ Low), and aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet), sucralose (Splenda) are not the best option. They all seem to be a good option, as it is just as sweet, if not sweeter than sugar, contain no calories, and spike in insulin BUT it is not better than ingesting the pesticide, DDT.

Just a short story on how Splenda is made to give you the big picture. Splenda was a synthetic compound discovered in 1976 by British scientists attempting to create a pesticide. It is made from a patented 5-step process that subsidies three atoms of chlorine for three atoms of hydrogen-oxygen, converting sugar into a fruto-galatose molecule. Which this all means to say it that it is a chlorinated molecule, which is the basis for DDT. Since this is not a natural molecule, our body doesn’t recognize it, and doesn’t have the ability to process it, which is why it is zero calories. For now it is to soon to tell the negative effects, but do you really want to be a test subject while we wait?

So what is the solution? What can you do about cutting your sugar habits? Without harming yourself and your baby? Here is the top 5 Tips.

  1. Read your food labels, sugar can be disguised in canned vegetables, peanut butter, bread, tomato sauce, cereals; and anything that ends in rose, is bad.
  2. Nourishing yourself with milder sweet foods such as corn, carrots, onions, sweet potatoes in place of your craving of sugary processed foods.
  3. If you must use sugar, use a natural sweetener such as agave nectar, brown rice syrup, honey, stevia, secant, molasses, vegetable glycerin, date sugar, or maple sugar.
  4. Eating a well-balanced diet and not eating to the point of uncomfortably full, as this typically leads to wanting something “sweet” after.
  5. Brushing your teeth religiously! Oral health is extremely important during pregnancy and can prevent periodontal disease known to cause premature delivery and birth defects.

If you are interested in delving deeper, the first 5 people to contact me will get a complimentary health consultation, contact me at


Rosenthal, Joshua, Integrative Nutrition.


  1. I have two kids already and I always watch what I eat when I was pregnant. Sweets are hard to avoid during this time because my taste buds were having their mood swings. Am just thankful that I didn't experience any sugar addiction during my two pregnancies.

    1. Happy to hear you had healthy pregnancies. Since you were cautious with what you ate, having sweets when the mood strikes is fine. Its only if you are only consuming sweets to excess that can be harmful.