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I’ve been pondering addictions in general since the weekend, visiting with my eldest grandson who was in Toronto for a few weeks at a drug rehab centre. We spent the day together doing some “regular” things, like going to Kensington Market to buy fruit and vegetables for the week ahead, and walking in the nearby ravine after lunch.
Since my brother was also an addict (he died from the very real complications presented by his various addictions last year), I have a little – but not a great deal - personal knowledge of this epidemic that is affecting a great many families in one way or another. My brother told me at one point, several years back, that there was a scientific connection to addictions, that if one was addicted to one item, it was very easy to become addicted to others. He was an alcoholic who struggled with drug addictions, drank a lot of coffee and smoked cigarettes. Or was it the other way around? His addiction was so strong that when he could not smoke for several weeks because he had a serious bout of pneumonia, as soon as his lungs cleared, he started smoking again!
I just looked at the web site for the Canadian Association for Mental Health. Their list of addictions covered a plethora of drugs, caffeine, tobacco, marijuana, alcohol, even gambling. No one seems to take food-related addictions seriously. It’s as though we are living in a time when if one is ‘only’ addicted to sugar or caffeine, there’s no real problem. Personally, I have been struggling with a sugar addiction since I became aware of it almost twenty years ago. Before that, I simply thought I had a “sweet tooth”, having been a baker’s daughter, growing up working behind the scenes and eating as many pastries/sweets as my heart desired and building up health issues.
Connections have been made linking caffeine and tobacco, many people having noticed the connection between taking a morning cigarette with a cup of coffee, but the mainstream investigators seem to have missed the important link of addictions that connect to food in general.
My grandson was addicted to sugar at an early age. I moved to Toronto when he was around four years old. Already at that time, my son would warn me, when we were planning to visit, not to provide him with candy or chocolate, because he became quite impossible to control (and enjoy) when under the influence of sugar. Unfortunately, my daughter did not provide specific food guidance, nor did she think eating candy was of any great consequence (after all, she did grow up watching me eat as much candy and pastries as I wanted), so my grandson was provided with a lot of junk food, including the sugar-coated cereals he craved for breakfast. To make matters worse, my grandson refused to eat most vegetables most of the time, so that his diet was sadly lacking in many ways.
I know from my own experience that most of the times that I have craved (and eaten) sugary foods in the past, there has been some sort of mineral/vitamin imbalance in my body. Those cravings have subsided dramatically if I ate some protein, or if I took vitamins after missing them for a while.
A few years ago, we had a family vacation visiting my son, who lives in the U.S. My grandson was a well-mannered young man until the time his past wages became available to him via a bank machine. He then started buying junk food items, spent all of his money very quickly, and his personality changed so that he was someone who was at times difficult to be with. My son, by the way, was providing all of us with a balanced diet, with fruit and vegetables obtained from a store selling organic produce. My grandson was eating most of the things put on the table, which I believe helped him to be stable in the first week or so of the visit. However, the sugar pulled him off balance so much that the good food that he continued to eat did not help him – or us.
Today this young man is smoking cigarettes and has become addicted to drugs as one way to resolve his problems, although he is making a serious attempt to climb out of the black pit created by his addiction to drugs. I am sure he would reject my ideas as ridiculous, as though anyone could link sweets with either smoking or drugs. I don’t know if he has an alcohol problem as well, but I’m sure if he started to use it, the situation would be very similar to that of my brother.
I hope a few mainstream scientists will see the merit in tracking the relationships between a deficient diet, sugar replacement for what is really needed in the diet, and subsequent addiction problems. Perhaps there is a non-secretor connection in there somewhere as well. All I know is that it’s difficult to address the items I have mentioned in this blog to the world at large, and yet I have all these very real concerns swimming around in my heart after spending that short day with my grandson.
For everyone reading this blog, please, please, please talk to your friends, your children, your grandchildren. Point out the importance of following a good diet, using the fact that when we crave sweets without discrimination, there is something wrong with our diet that needs to be adjusted. And never underestimate the power of a sugar addiction, particularly if a personality becomes dramatically different under that influence.