We live in a culture plagued by stress-related symptoms. My observations on sugar*s impact on stress levels, mood, physical pain, irritability and self-esteem are based upon both personal experience, and my work with thousands of people who come to me seeking help in preventing, reducing and releasing the physical, emotional symptoms typically associated with stress. (e.g. anxiety, depression, sleeplessness or excessive sleep, muscle tension and pain, control issues, fears, unsatisfying relationships, among many others.) While I am neither a physician nor a scientist, in my experience as a stress-relief facilitator, there are only a few stress-related risk factors about which I feel more strongly than sugar. Even at sub-clinical diagnostic levels, I believe that for some people, subtle sugar-sensitivity is an often misdiagnosed, or completely overlooked problem that can in some cases wreak havoc on physical and emotional well-being, self-esteem, mood shifts, relationships and perhaps even immune function. For many, sugary foods can unquestionably be mood-altering substances, can sap energy, create cognitive fog and forgetfulness, exacerbate inflammatory pain, weight gain and water-retention, then to add insult to injury. . .create cravings for more. As if those were not stressful enough, once the cycle is in motion, self-esteem plummets as one repeatedly swears off sweets but then "falls off the wagon," wondering why. In a culture with so many at risk for diabetes and/or heart disease, we read nutritional labels and find the seemingly ubiquitous High Fructose Corn Syrup--even in non-sweet foods. Due you suffer from recurring yeast infections? Sinus trouble? Digestive difficulties? All of these can be exacerbated by sugar in some cases. If you struggle with any of the symptoms mentioned in this paragraph, try this:

1. For two weeks, eliminate all foods and beverages that contain sugar in any form. (Also including honey, molasses, brown sugar, etc.)

2. If any sugar-y ingredient appears above the 6th, skip it.

3. Words ending in: "ose" are some form of sugar. (e.g. glucose, sucrose, dextrose, fructose, etc.) Reminder: "Natural" does not mean "Healthy." Ask anyone who suffers from Hay Fever!

4. Take a look at the Glycemic Index and "The Glycemic Load" of specific foods. See which fruits are highest in sugar? Are you a big fan of bananas? Grapes? You might also want to eliminate flour and white carbs during this time to get a more accurate sense of how sugars do, or do not, impact your stress levels and overall sense of well-being.

5.Regarding alcohol: If you can take it or leave it--leave it during these 2 weeks. If you can't--that's a different problem, and you may want to look at the role alcohol plays in your life.

6. I see many people with binge eating disorders. Many find that two culprits that tend to trigger their binge eating are sugar...and flour. (Often combined of course, but not always.) If you experience episodes of binge eating, try 2 weeks off all baked goods, grains and flour in all forms. In just two weeks, many people see a pronounced decrease in cravings of any kind, an increase in energy and improved mood in just days. What have you got to lose?

Your long-term goal may not be 100% elimination by any means. But this simple two week experiment will show you the role and impact, if any, of sugar in it's many forms, on your personal stress levels and well-being. This could be one of the greatest gifts you'll ever give yourself!

[Copyright 2007 Susie Mantell. All rights reserved. Federal law prohibits use of this content in whole or part without written consent of Relax. . .Intuit (tm)L.L.C. Kindly email reprint requests to info at relaxintuit.com ]

Enjoy more of Susie Mantell's stress-relief tips, and order her award-winning stress-relief audiobook, "Your Present: A Half-Hour of Peace" at:www.relaxintuit.com Susie Mantell's work intended as an adjunct to, not a substitute for, professional health care.

Author's Bio: 

Award-winning stress-relief expert Susie Mantell's exquisitely soothing relaxation CD, “Your Present: A Half-Hour of Peace,” is clinically approved to soothe layer-after-layer of Stress and Sleeplessness, Depression, Anxiety, Grief, Fibromyalgia, Fatigue, Caregiver Stress, Cancer, Pain, P.T.S.D., Divorce, and Addictive Disease. Featured by The Los Angeles Times, ABC, NBC, CBS TV, Town & Country, The American Pain Society Hazelden and Susan G. Komen Cancer Foundation, listeners include The Mayo Clinic, The Betty Ford Center and everyday folks who could just really use a nap. Mantell has facilitated thousands in relieving health-related, work-related, chronic or traumatic stress, customizing stress-reduction for Fortune 500 companies, The Arthritis Foundation, The Coca-Cola Company, Canyon Ranch Medical, Health & Healing Dept. and The National Conference on Loss. Her multi-sensory, mind-body techniques appear in syndicated media, corporate newsletters, and publications for medical professionals. Susie Mantell's website: www.relaxintuit.com/susiemantell.asp