Guest blog by Dr. Kathryn Woodall, DC
There were times in my past when I would walk down the sidewalk and think, “Ooooh la la! Hello sah-weet thang!” My hormones would rev, and I’d experience an overwhelming urge to make that yummy goodness mine right then and there. I mean, seriously! Who doesn’t feel that way about a perfectly baked white chocolate and macadamia nut cookie?
Sugar does this to us. We dedicate ourselves to a healthy lifestyle—we get the junk out of our homes, plan healthy food for work and trips, and yet someone somewhere still manages to bring those morsels of decadent temptation within sight and smell.
[…I still remember the first time I met Adam… and the glazed look that came over his face when someone mentioned Cinnabon!…]
But don’t worry. There’s hope for those of us whose Achilles heel is our sweet tooth!
During my years in private practice, I ran across an herb called gymnema sylvestre. Blind studies have demonstrated that adding gymnema sylvestre to a diet lowers cholesterol and triglycerides. Even more impressive is that it positively impacts insulin production while lowering blood sugar averages, which suggests that this herb causes pancreatic beta cells to regenerate. (There are a lot more studies than the one I listed. If you’re geeky like me you’ll want to do a search.)
Better cholesterol and insulin values are great. But the real reason we love this herb is that gymnema cuts carb cravings. In other words, it makes us crave and eat less sugar.
My patients who were able to take gymnema experienced significantly greater success at beating their cravings and making healthy food choices. I tend to eat mostly meat, veggies, and nuts. But like most people, every now and then I overindulge. And when that happens, I’ve found gymnema helps get me back on track more quickly than using willpower alone.
Gymnema sylvestre does contain acidic saponins — those are the molecules responsible for the positive side effects of the herb. Although most people don’t have a problem with them, saponins can irritate the stomach and small intestine in some people.
Here’s what I’ve found:
- If you have ulcers, Crohn’s, or other intestinal diseases, don’t take gymnema. And don’t take it while pregnant without your doctor’s approval. (You should always consult your doctor before taking this or any other supplement.)
- If you can tolerate the herb in liquid form or even in tablet form, holding it in your mouth for 30-60 seconds and then swallowing it before you eat can massively decrease your desire for sugary foods.
- If you try #2 and feel like someone released a crazy ninja in your gut, there may still be hope. Immediately stop taking gymnema, let things settle back to normal, and then try swishing the herb in your mouth for 30-60 seconds and spitting it out before you eat. That will often cut the cravings without gut irritation. But you won’t get the other benefits of the herb.
- If #3 applies to you and you want the full benefit of gymnema, try taking it in the middle of your meal. The effect on cravings will initially be less, but it may accumulate over time. You can also try using the “swish and spit before you eat” method to address the cravings, and then swallow some during your meal to get the other beneficial effects.
Want to give gymnema a try? When searching for supplements, look for a good quality product. I like Mediherb brand when it comes to anything herbal. I used them in my practice—and many of my colleagues still do!—because of the high quality and care they put into manufacturing their herbs. [In the interests of full disclosure, I don’t earn any income from Mediherb and I am not affiliated with them in any way.]
If carbs are your problem, Gymnema could be just what you need to shake your bon bon habit!