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The human body emits a lot of signals, and sometimes we can pick up on these signals to improve our health. However, sometimes the body gives off subtle, yet challenging signals that we tend to ignore or push aside.

In the world of health and wellness, sugar cravings are one of the most subtle and challenging. Generally speaking, people get sugar cravings, act on it, and feel some guilt afterwards, only to repeat the whole cycle all over again. Sugar cravings have a way of getting to people at just the right time of the day, and while some people can make quick changes and overcome them, others need a bit more help.

Why do I crave sugar?

The human body craves sugar for various reasons, and generally each craving is different for each person. Your brain may experience an intense craving because it needs sugar for energy and to function properly. But beyond meeting a need, sugar cravings for adults tend to be habitual, rewarding, or even just physiologic. Let's take a look at this with some of the reasons on why you crave sugar when you do.

Habitual

Your daily habits are formed deep within your brain, and while some sources may say that it takes 21 days to form a habit, the truth is any habit can form as long as the brain is satisfied with the end result. Certain neurochemicals in the brain can cause addiction to sugar, similar to that of illicit drugs, opioids, and alcohol. In addition, changes in dopamine receptors in the brain appear to have an impact on addiction to sugar, as described by a recent study on food addiction. Dopamine gets released by when you experience some sort of happiness and results in a feeling of euphoria. As a result of this hormone response, your brain will habitually desire sugar the way it does other harmful compounds like drugs and alcohol.

Reward systems

Too often, adults looking to stay fit, get fit, or maintain any fitness at all use a reward system for motivation. Actually, a reward system is a great way to motivate a workout and push you to the next level. However, in the case of using sugar as a reward, this may not be the best idea. There is a lot of talk about how sugar addiction is similar to that of illicit drug addiction, and the following research findings may shock you. A 2007 study comparing a cocaine reward system and a sugar reward system showed that sugar can be a stronger draw than cocaine, even for cocaine addicts. The implication of this is that using sugary treats in a reward system is a bad idea. While a sugary reward system at the gym may seem harmless, the results are anything but.

Pathologic

The brain needs glucose to properly function, so it makes sense that the brain will crave sugar in order to get it. Though the body breaks down all carbohydrates into simple sugars, so you don't literally need to eat sugar to feed your brain glucose, physiologically speaking, the brain could be craving this nutrient as a way to get what it wants, even if it doesn't need it. Perhaps your blood sugar is low and your brain is asking for sugar? Your mind could be tricking you into thinking you need sugar when you really don't.

What causes sugar cravings?

It seems that sugar cravings are becoming more and more common in today's world. Sometimes people call these episodes as being "hangry." Rather than accepting that you are hangry, there is a chance that you could be having a sugar craving instead. What are some of the factors that are causing a sugar craving? Listed here are some potential reasons you could be craving sugar.

You finished a hard workout

Working out does quite a bit to your mind and body, and for the most part you gain valuable rewards for your hard efforts. Many people are likely to experience a sugar craving following a workout, and often this may be after you had a personal best in a run, lifted heavy weights, or tried a new high intensity interval training workout. Whatever your reason, as long as you depleted the glycogen stores in your body, you are likely to be craving sugar to replenish this. This would be considered a pathologic or physiologic reason as to why you are having a craving, and it serves a valuable need for the brain and cells.

Your diet is not right

There is no right or wrong when it comes to your diet, but if you are having sugar cravings then it could be due to a diet that is not optimal. If your diet already includes donuts, bagels, candy bars, and soda then chances are your sugar cravings are because of how you have been eating. The more you eat these simple sugars, the more your brain will want them, which can continue the vicious cycle of sugar cravings.

You use artificial sweeteners

The artificial sweetener debate is starting to become clearer in recent years. The use of these alternatives to sugar may save on calories, but they trick the mind into thinking you ate something that is extremely sweet—far sweeter than sugar. For this reason, your brain will crave foods or beverages that are as sweet as what you just had.

It has become a habit

Again with the habitual part. Consider the scenario where you grab a sugary coffee every morning before work at your favorite coffee shop at the same time of day. Now, your body adjusts to these cues. Every weekday morning, your mind will automatically write this into your daily routine. This is the quickest way to start a habitual sugar craving, and chances are if you were to stop going to get coffee, your brain would crave the sugar that you would normally have at that time of the day.

Common reasons for craving sweets

Now that you have some information on what causes your cravings and why you are having them, now is the time to jump into some common reasons for craving sweets.

Poor sleep quality

A common reason for a sugar craving is when you have poor sleep quality at night. Typically, the body needs a certain amount of REM and deep sleep as a way to replenish the mind and body, but when you have inadequate amounts, your body is susceptible to craving sweets the following day.

High stress

Another reason for craving sweets could include high levels of stress throughout the day. Typically, a little bit of stress in your day is considered healthy and necessary; however, chronic levels of high stress could lead to your sugar cravings increasing in intensity following your stressful event or day.

Meal skipping

The last common reason on this list involves a common practice among people trying to lose weight. As a way to conserve calories for a future meal or to make up for being "bad" on a prior meal, some adults skip meals. While this seems logical as a way to prevent weight gain, skipping meals can cause you to have sugar cravings as a result. Generally, this is caused by reduced blood sugar levels.

What your body could be telling you

Now that you have some information on what could be causing your cravings and why you may be having them, you should take the time to understand what your body could be trying to tell you. Here are a few examples of what your body could be trying to tell you about your sugar cravings.

Lack of nourishment

Your body could be telling you that you need to get more nourishment for your brain and the cells in your body. If you take notice of this sign, there is a chance that your blood sugar levels could be low to the point that it is harming your health.

Sugar addiction

Another signal your body could be sending is that it is in full-blown sugar addiction mode, and the cravings you are having are a result of sugar addiction. If this is a signal you pick up on, it could indicate that perhaps you do not need sugar, but rather your brain is demanding you to satisfy its yearning for euphoria.

Boredom

There is a chance that you could be having a sugar craving simply because you are bored. Are the kids out of the house today and you have no idea what to do with yourself? Well, if your sugar cravings are setting in when this happens then it could mean you are bored and having a craving.

How to stop sugar cravings

Fighting and putting a stop to sugar cravings can be a challenge at start. Initially, you may notice that your cravings are in a vicious cycle that only causes you to crave sugar more often. However, there are some things you can do to set your body up for success. Generally speaking, making a modification to your diet is necessary to succeed. Consider reading our article on what to eat when you are craving sugar for even more suggestions. Here are some tips to help you to succeed in putting a stop to sugar cravings.

1. Eat more fiber

Fiber is an underestimated ally that serves a valuable role in your health and wellness. High fiber intake tends to be associated with better colon and cardiovascular health, as well as a reduced risk of cancer and obesity. Unfortunately, the typical American diet is lacking in fiber. The average fiber intake for all Americans over the age of two is 16 grams a day, with women consuming about 18 grams daily and men 15 grams on average. Current guidelines recommend that adults consume between 25 and 30 grams of fiber every day. Fiber is a starchy substance that passes through the digestive system untouched, meaning that fiber is not processed at all in the stomach or intestine. Fiber helps to slow the absorption of the foods you eat and it can also help to curb cravings you have by keeping you full for longer. Consider eating foods that are naturally high in fiber—like vegetables, beans, legumes, and whole grains —to help curb cravings.

2. Consume lean protein

Lean protein options are beneficial for health for a variety of reasons. Eating lean proteins such as salmon, halibut, and chicken can help to fill you up at a meal and keep you feeling full for longer. This means that your blood sugar levels are better managed, which means a possible reduced risk for a sugar craving before the next meal. Include lean protein options as much as you can to help fight off your sugar cravings.

3. Drink enough water

Your body is mostly made up of water; it is the most abundant substance in your body by far, which means you need to replenish your water stores as much as possible each day. Many of the body's processes are associated with your overall hydration status. In addition, the more dehydrated you are, the greater the chances that you will have some hormonal imbalance. Your sugar cravings may occur as a result of being thirsty, so replenishing the water in your body is often a quick fix. Consider drinking about six to eight glasses each day to stay hydrated and avoid sweetened drinks as much as possible with.

4. Make healthy substitutions

Another way to stop sugar cravings from affecting you throughout the day is to swap healthy foods for unhealthy ones. This is perhaps the most challenging of all these options, but it is one of the most effective ways to cut out cravings. By switching out your chocolate or candies for some fresh fruit or vegetables, you are telling your brain that you no longer want to load up on sugar and you'll avoid setting off sugar cravings as well. Consider cut up fruit or vegetables as a snack, nuts to curb appetite, or even hot tea (unsweetened of course) to turn your midday treats healthier.

5. Cut out artificial sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners are becoming quite common in today's world, and now it seems more people are consuming more of the artificial product rather than sugar. Many of these users are attempting to cut sugar out of the diet to lose weight (by saving calories) and improve wellness. However, studies have shown that the use of artificial sweeteners in foods and beverages can lead to weight gain, as well as strengthen and encourage sugar dependence and cravings. With this in mind, it seems that one of the best ways to cut out sugar cravings from your life once and for all is to stop eating both sugar and artificial sweeteners. While this lifestyle change may take some time to completely master, the rewards will be worth it when successful.

Originally posted on Sweetdefeat.

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We spend a lot of time prepping for the arrival of a baby. But when it comes to the arrival of our breast milk (and all the massive adjustments that come with it), it's easy to be caught off guard. Stocking up on a few breastfeeding essentials can make the transition to breastfeeding a lot less stressful, which means more time and energy focusing on what's most important: Your recovery and your brand new baby.

Here are the essential breastfeeding tools you'll need, mama:

1. For covering up: A cute nursing cover

First and foremost, please know that all 50 states in the United States have laws that allow women to breastfeed in public. You do not have to cover yourself if you don't want to—and many mamas choose not to—and we are all for it.

That said, if you do anticipate wanting to take a more modest approach to breastfeeding, a nursing cover is a must. You will find an array of styles to choose from, but we love an infinity scarf, like the LK Baby Infinity Nursing Scarf Nursing Cover. You'll be able to wear the nursing cover instead of stuffing it in your already brimming diaper bag—and it's nice to have it right there when the baby is ready to eat.

Also, in the inevitable event that your baby spits-up on you or you leak some milk through your shirt, having a quick and stylish way to cover up is a total #momwin.

2. For getting comfortable: A cozy glider

Having a comfy spot to nurse can make a huge difference. Bonus points if that comfy place totally brings a room together, like the Delta Children Paris Upholstered Glider!

Get your cozy space ready to go, and when your baby is here, you can retreat from the world and just nurse, bond, and love.

3. For unmatched support: A wire-free nursing bra

It may take trying on several brands to find the perfect match, but finding a nursing bra that you love is 100% worth the effort. Your breasts will be changing and working in ways that are hard to imagine. An excellent supportive bra will make this so much more comfortable.

It is crucial to choose a wireless bra for the first weeks of nursing since underwire can increase the risk of clogged ducts (ouch).The Playtex Maternity Shaping Foam Wirefree Nursing Bra is an awesome pick for this reason, and because it is designed to flex and fit your breasts as they go through all those changes.

4. For maximum hydration: A large reusable water bottle

Nothing can prepare you for the intense thirst that hits when breastfeeding. Quench that thirst (and help keep your milk supply up in the process) by always having a water bottle with a straw nearby, like this Exquis Large Outdoor Water Bottle.

5. For feeding convenience: A supportive nursing tank

Experts recommend that during the first weeks of your baby's life, you breastfeed on-demand, meaning that any time your tiny boss demands milk, you feed them. This will help establish your milk supply and get everything off to a good start.

What does this mean for your life? You will be breastfeeding A LOT. Nursing tanks, like the Loving Moments by Leading Lady, make this so much easier. They have built-in support to keep you comfy, and you can totally wear them around the house, or even out and about. When your baby wants to eat, you'll be able to quickly "pop out" a breast and feed them.

6. For pain prevention: A quality nipple ointment

Breastfeeding shouldn't hurt, but the truth is those first days can be uncomfortable. Your nipples will likely feel raw as they adjust to their new job. This will get better! But until it does, nipple ointment is amazing.

My favorite is the Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter. We love that it's organic, and it is oh-so-soothing on your hard-at-work nipples.

Psst: If it actually hurts when your baby latches on, something may be up, so call your provider or a lactation consultant for help.

7. For uncomfortable moments: A dual breast therapy pack

As your breasts adjust to their new role, you may experience a few discomforts—applying warmth or cold can help make them feel so much better. The Lansinoh TheraPearl 3-in-1 Breast Therapy Pack is awesome because you can microwave the pads or put them in the freezer, giving you a lot of options when your breasts need some TLC.

Again, if you have any concerns about something being wrong (pain, a bump that may be red or hot, fever, or anything else), call a professional right away.

8. For inevitable leaks: An absorbing breast pad

In today's episode of, "Oh come on, really?" you are going to leak breastmilk. Now, this is entirely natural and you are certainly not required to do anything about this. Still, many moms choose to wear breast pads in their bras to avoid leaking through to their shirts.

You can go the convenient and disposable route with Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads, or for a more environmentally friendly option, you can choose washable pads, like these Organic Bamboo Nursing Breast Pads.

9. For flexibility: A breast pump

Many women find that a breast pump becomes one of their most essential mom-tools. The ability to provide breast milk when you are away from your baby (and relieve uncomfortable engorged breasts) will add so much flexibility into your new-mom life.

For quick trips out and super-easy in-your-bag transport, opt for a manual pump like the Lansinoh Manual Breast Pump .

If you will be away from your baby for longer periods of time (traveling or working outside the home, for example) an electric pump is your most efficient bet. The Medela Pump In Style Advanced Double Electric Breast Pump is a classic go-to that will absolutely get the job done, and then some.

10. For quality storage: Breast milk bags

Once you pump your liquid gold, aka breast milk, you'll need a place to store it. The Kiinde Twist Pouches allow you to pump directly into the bags which means one less step (and way less to clean).

11. For keeping cool: A freezer bag

Transport your pumped milk back home to your baby safely in a cooler like the Mommy Knows Best Breast Milk Baby Bottle Cooler Bag. Remember to put the milk in a fridge or freezer as soon as you can to optimize how long it stays usable for.

12. For continued nourishment: Bottles

Nothing beats the peace of mind you get when you know that your baby is being well-taken of care—and well fed—until you can be together again. The Philips Avent Natural Baby Bottle Newborn Starter Gift Set is a fan favorite (mama and baby fans alike).

This article is sponsored by Walmart. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.

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A viral video about car seat safety has parents everywhere cracking up and humming Sir-Mix-A-Lot.

"I like safe kids and I cannot lie," raps Norman Regional Health System pediatric hospitalist Dr. Kate Cook (after prefacing her music video with an apology to her children."I'm a doctor tryin' warn you that recs have changed," she continues.

Dr. Cook's rap video is all about the importance of keeping babies facing backward. It's aptly called "Babies Face Back," and uses humor and parody to drive home car seat recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

"Switching from rear-facing to forward-facing is a milestone many parents can't wait to reach," Dr. Cook said in a news release about her hilarious video. "But this is one area where you want to delay the transition as long as possible because each one actually reduces the protection to the child."

Last summer the AAP updated its official stance on car seat safety to be more in line with what so many parents were already doing and recommended that kids stay rear-facing for as long as possible. But with so many things to keep track of in life, it is understandable that some parents still don't know about the change. Dr. Cook wants to change that with some cringe-worthy rapping.

The AAP recommends:

  • Babies and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat.
  • Once they are facing forward, children should use a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness for as long as possible. Many seats are good up to 65 pounds.
  • When children outgrow their car seat they should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle's lap and shoulder seat belt fits properly, between 8 and 12 years old.

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[Editor's note: Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.]

Suicide rates for girls and women in the United States have increased 50% since 2000, according to the CDC and new research indicates a growing number of pregnant and postpartum women are dying by suicide and overdose. Suicide rates for boys and men are up, too.

It's clear there is a mental health crisis in America and it is robbing children of their mothers and mothers of their children.

Medical professionals urge people to get help early, but sometimes getting help is not so simple. For many Americans, the life preserver that is mental health care is out of reach when they are drowning.

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg just released a plan he hopes could change that and says the neglect of mental health in the United States must end. "Our plan breaks down the barriers around mental health and builds up a sense of belonging that will help millions of suffering Americans heal," says Buttigieg.

He thinks he can "prevent 1 million deaths of despair by 2028" by giving Americans more access to mental health and addictions services.

In a country where giving birth can put a mother in debt, it's not surprising that while as many as 1 in 5 new moms suffers from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, more than half of new moms who need mental health treatment don't get it. Stigma, childcare and of course costs are factors in why women aren't seeking help when they are struggling.

Buttigieg's plan is interesting because it could remove some of these barriers. He wants to make mental health care more affordable by ensuring everyone has comprehensive coverage for mental health care and by ensuring that everyone can access a free yearly mental health check-up.

That could make getting help more affordable for some moms, and by increasing reimbursement rates for mental health care delivered through telehealth, this plan could help moms get face time with a medical professional without having to deal with finding childcare first.

Estimates from new research suggest that in some parts of America as many as 14% or 30% of maternal deaths are caused by addiction or suicide. Buttigieg's plan aims to reduce those estimates by fighting the addiction and opioid crisis and increasing access to mental health services in underserved communities and for people of color. He also wants to reduce the stigma and increase support for the next generation by requiring "every school across the country to teach Mental Health First Aid courses."

These are lofty goals with a lofty price tag. It would cost about $300 billion to do what Buttigieg sets out in his plan and the specifics of how the plan would be funded aren't yet known. Neither is how voters will react to this 18-page plan and whether it will help Buttigieg stand out in a crowded field of Democratic candidates.

What we do know is that right now, America is talking about mental health and whether or not that benefits Buttigieg's campaign it will certainly benefit America.

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[Editor's Note: Welcome to It's Science, a Motherly column focusing on evidence-based explanations for the important moments, milestones, and phenomena of motherhood. Because it's not just you—#itsscience.]

If you breastfeed, you know just how magical (and trying) it is, but it has numerous benefits for mama and baby. It is known to reduce the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis, and cuts the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by half.

If this wasn't powerful enough, scientists have discovered that babies who are fed breast milk have a stomach pH that promotes the formation of HAMLET (Human Alpha-lactalbumin Made Lethal to Tumor cells). HAMLET was discovered by chance when researchers were studying the antibacterial properties of breast milk. This is a combination of proteins and lipids found in breast milk that can work together to kill cancer cells, causing them to pull away from healthy cells, shrink and die, leaving the healthy cells unaffected.

According to researchers at Lund University in Sweden, this mechanism may contribute to the protective effect breast milk has against pediatric tumors and leukemia, which accounts for about 30% of all childhood cancer. Other researchers analyzed 18 different studies, finding that "14% to 19% of all childhood leukemia cases may be prevented by breastfeeding for six months or more."

And recently, doctors in Sweden collaborated with scientists in Prague to find yet another amazing benefit to breast milk. Their research demonstrated that a certain milk sugar called Alpha1H, found only in breast milk, helps in the production of lactose and can transform into a different form that helps break up tumors into microscopic fragments in the body.

Patients who were given a drug based on this milk sugar, rather than a placebo, passed whole tumor fragments in their urine. And there is more laboratory evidence to support that the drug can kill more than 40 different types of cancer cells in animal trials, including brain tumors and colon cancer. These results are inspiring scientists to continue to explore HAMLET as a novel approach to tumor therapy and make Alpha1H available to cancer patients.

Bottom line: If you choose to breastfeed, the breast milk your baby gets from your hard work can be worth every drop of effort.

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