How Sugar Affects The Body And Brain
Experts have long known that high sugar intake can lead to obesity, a risk factor for many health conditions, but newer research suggests that added sugar may also increase your disease risk in other ways when consumed in excess.
“Your blood sugar rises rapidly, which creates inflammation over time,” says David Ludwig, a professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and physician at Boston Children’s Hospital. If the inflammation becomes chronic, it can trigger a cascade of changes in the body that may eventually lead to chronic disease.
Naturally occurring sugarsthose found in small amounts in fruits, vegetables, and milkare not the culprits in this process. These foods contain important nutrients and are often high in fiber, which slows the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. The kind that causes health problems is added sugarany type, from agave to sucrose, that’s added to food during preparation or processing.
Exactly how sugar harms the brain is unclear, though inflammation likely plays a role. “It may also be that a diet high in sugar crowds out nutrients that are essential for brain health,” Katz says. “This may disrupt neurotransmitter levels, which impairs the brain’s ability to communicate with itself and could also contribute to mood disorders such as depression.”
Added sugar tends to hang out in these unsuspecting foods:
Keep Your Meals Diverse
Make sure you incorporate all food groups when you prepare a meal. According to Nutrition Stripped founder, McKel Hill, MS, RDN, LDN, people don’t realize they’re what they’re missing in their meals and it could be detrimental. “I’ve found in my practice that often people crave sugar because of generally imbalanced diet as a whole,” she says. “At mealtimes, they might be missing out on enough fiber to keep them physically full or can be lacking enough protein to keep them satiated, or enough healthy fats. All the macronutrients work together to keep our blood sugars stabilized and keep us satiated so we need them all.”
How To Deal With And Overcome Sugar Withdrawal
When symptoms strike, it can be challenging to persevere and continue on your journey toward better health by cutting out added sugar. Here are a few fast tips to help you take on sugar withdrawal:
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When To See A Doctor
If you find yoruself feeling dizzy without sugar, or having regular cravings, it’s time to call a professional, as it could indicate a deeper problem. If you are craving sweets chronically, Goodman says this may indicate that you have hypoglycemia, for instance.
Even if it’s a sign of a nutritional deficiency, a professional can help determine what you’re lacking, how much you need, and ensure the lack of the vitamin or nutrient doesn’t lead to further problems. Magnesium deficiency, for example, has been linked to everything from osteoporosis to type 2 diabetes to heart disease. . When our body doesnt have enough magnesium, it will have trouble bringing energy into the cells and thus, feel deprived and crave sugar, Fahad explains.
Stabilize Blood Sugar Levels:
Keeping your blood sugar levels stable by eating healthy proteins and fats throughout the day is key. Choosing meals that are properly balanced will help your body extract energy at a slow and steady pace you wont need that lift in the middle of the afternoon! Often, sugar cravings indicate a need for minerals and protein in the body. So skip the pastry and coffee and be willing to hear your bodys messages. What should you eat? Here are some ideas choose salads, vegetables, yogurt, hummus, high quality fish, meat, or beans for lunch, eggs or nut butter for breakfast. These are all good ways of including nutrient dense and protein rich meals throughout the day and will work towards reducing sugar cravings and stabilize moods.
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Side Effects Of Eating Too Much Sugar
While sugar is satisfying to the taste buds and the soul, the constant spikes in blood sugar and crashes that follow a binge can set off a host of effects, including fatigue, irritability, and anxious thoughts, among others, according to Sanford Health.
Blood sugar highs and lows can also perpetuate sugar cravings. When you’re consuming sugar, then you end up getting onto this whole roller-coaster ride of blood sugar dysregulation and that in and of itself can perpetuate physical stress, which then causes you to have more sugar cravings, says Dana Elia, RDN, an integrative and functional nutrition doctor in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and author of The Sugar Detox Diet for 50+.
Added sugar, which Americans tend to eat too much of, can be particularly insidious for health. According to a November 2016 study in the journal Nutrients, consuming too much can increase the risk for obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, cognitive decline, and certain types of cancer.
The 20152020 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting added sugar intake to a maximum of 10 percent of your daily calories. This is the equivalent of 200 calories, or 12 teaspoons , if youre eating 2,000 calories per day. One can of Coke contains about 9 tsp of sugar, for example.
Stock Up On Healthy Snacks
Life is unpredictable, and quite often when things get in the way, you need a solid plan B.
Making sure you keep lots of healthy snacks around the house, and in your handbag, is crucial to sticking to a low-sugar diet.
Some quick and easy snacks you can try are:
- Canned fish
- Apple and peanut butter
- Dark chocolate
Then, when motivation is low and youre stuck in the trenches, you can reach for one of these to tie you over until dinner.
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Anxiety And Addiction To Sugar
This is no different for sugar and anxiety. However, this link is becoming more widely known for quite some time. A major cause for an increase in anxiety and panic disorders is weight gain, and part of what is driving this weight gain is excessive sugar intake. Beyond this, eating too much sugar will result in an individual becoming overstimulated, which can result in heightened anxiety.
For those individuals with a history of anxiety disorders, too much sugar can result in more panic or anxiety attacks. It also results in a vicious cycle of depression and anxiety, fluctuating with the amount of sugar that they eat.
Many physicians and psychiatrists suggest that you limit or avoid foods that are high in sugar if you want to get your depression and anxiety under control . Yet limiting your sugar intake can be difficult. It takes research and help in order to figure out just how much sugar you are currently eating and how you can best wean yourself off of this pervasive and tasty substance.
What Is Sugar Addiction
For starters, we should distinguish between sugar addiction and caffeine addiction. Most people are well aware of their caffeine addiction. After all, they know that if they dont have their coffee in the morning, they experience tremendous, debilitating migraines. These migraines are the bodys way of telling you that something is missing and are the direct result of withdrawal symptoms from not having caffeine. However, when it comes to sugar addiction, most individuals are not truly aware that they are addicted.
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Sugar Addiction Or Dependency
There is no doubt that for the majority of people, sugar can cause addiction-like symptoms. Obsessing over sugar, being unable to moderate your intake, and experiencing withdrawal symptoms without it are all good markers that you have an addictive pattern with sugar consumption.
Sugar consumption, like that of all hyperpalatable foods, triggers our brains reward system. A release of dopamine and a rise in serotonin associates these foods with pleasure, and rewires our brain to crave more of them to continue releasing dopamine.
Quitting sugar is sometimes more than breaking a habit or a matter of willpower it is breaking an addiction.
Sugar addiction is more comparable to that of nicotine or caffeine addiction that that of a drug addiction. Others think that sugar addiction is a psychological addiction rather than a physical addition. However, that doesnt decrease the significance of the addiction or dependency.
Please note, that with any sort of addiction or dependency, its important that you work with a professional healthcare or mental health provider. The information in this article gives an overview of how to break a sugar addiction, but its always best to consult with your provider to develop a plan for your individual situation.
Keep Your Blood Sugar Stable
Eat breakfast, eat protein with every meal or snack, eat low GI foods, and eat at regular intervals. Why? All of these things will stabilize your blood sugar, so that your moods and energy are at an even keel. Much of the time, I craved sugar because I was hungry . Eat enough so that you feel satisfied, and regularly enough so that you feel stable, and you wont crave as much junk. As this is not my area of expertise, you can learn more about what and how to eat from the sugar addiction reading list. Try the work of Mark Hyman, I Quit Sugars Sarah Wilson, and Diane Sanfilippo for different approaches to low sugar eating. For help with traditional foods cooking, try the Traditional Cooking School.
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Did You Know That Sugar Meets All The Criteria For An Addictive Substance
People eat it compulsively despite a desire to stop eating it, and intense sugar consumers have a hard time functioning in its absence. It stimulates the release of neurotransmitters in the brain, , similar to alcohol, cocaine, and other drugs. And, also like other drugs, due to continued use, you can develop a tolerance to its effects, and when you cut it out of your eating behavior, you can experience withdrawals.
Another study proved that mice became more addicted to sugar than cocaine, and chose it over cocaine as their drug of choice a very interesting outcome!
Sugar stimulates the brain in the same way that cocaine does by lighting up the centers of the brain that trigger pleasure. However, when we become hooked on sugar to the point that it feels like an addiction we suffer the consequences of an overload of sugar in the body . And, just like other drugs, being addicted to sugar comes with the painful behavior cycle of looking for our next hit, and then feeling guilty that once again, we succumbed to our craving .
So Why Do I Crave Sweets
So why do we crave sugar if its bad for us? When we eat sugar, dopamine levels surge. Dopamine is associated with the pleasure and reward center in our brains. These dopamine bursts helped us survive over the course of history they drive us toward things like food, water, and sex, all of which keep the human race going.
The problem is, this dopamine response occurs whether you eat a banana or a candy bar. Our primate brains cant tell the difference.
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Address Past Or Current Stressors That Might Be Causing Dependency
At least one study showed that sugar dependency and cravings are not necessarily about the sugar itself, but may be caused by environmental stressors and situations.
One way to manage sugar cravings is to make it a point to be present with yourself and tune into your patterns. Do you always reach for sugar after a stressful day? Do you experience a craving after you encounter a trigger for a past trauma? Awareness of when and why cravings occur is the first step in freeing yourself from them.
How Long Should You Detox From Sugar
This will depend on your personal goals. Just need a reset after too much indulgence? 5 days is fine.
However, if like mine, your relationship with sugar has become a habit or physical addiction, 30 days is a good start. Many people find that it takes about a month to break a habit, however, other research suggests it may take much longer. Furthermore, to break a habit, one must replace it with another behavior.
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Cut Out Sugar In Foods That Aren’t Sweet
If you can’t give up your ice cream and chocolate, try to eliminate ketchup and salsa. “Sugar is in many condiments and sauces, and one must be careful not to assume that because it’s not a dessert or a sweet food it must not have sugar,” says Ilene Ruhoy, MD, PhD, a doctor trained in both pediatric and adult neurology and a gut council member for Jetson. “Sugar is found in many kinds of ketchup, mustards, salsas, marinaras, and other sauces. It can also be found in some meals such as sushi rice and polenta.”
In fact, according to Dr. Drucker, manufacturers add sugar to 74 percent of packaged foods! “Sugar is the most popular ingredient added to packaged foods a breakfast bar made with ‘real fruit and whole grains’ may contain 15 grams or more of added sugarsugar is literally hidden everywhere in our food supply. Adults, children, toddlers and even babies are unknowingly conditioned to desire sugar.” Making a habit of checking ingredient labels will open your eyes to just how much sugar is added to some of the most unexpected foods.
/7manage Your Sleep Schedule
It is not only your diet habit that triggers the urge to have sugar, your sleep schedule also has a crucial role to play in it. If you stay awake till late at night or cut down on your sleeping habit, you will crave carbs and sugar. That’s because sleep deprivation increases the production of hunger hormones called ghrelin. To lose weight and avoid sugar, sleep on time and take a rest for 7-8 hours.
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Overcoming A Sweet Tooth Might Be Easier Than You Think
Are you a lifelong sweet tooth ? Cant finish a meal without something sweet to top it off? Does your stomach have a reserve tank purely for sweets? Me too. I could be completely full after a meal yet have plenty of room for an 800 calorie dessert. My palate isnt discriminating either, it loves real sugar and fake sugar, you name it, anything sweet will do. The gravity of my addiction came last year when I ordered my coffee at Dunkin Donuts with five Splenda. The lady behind me yelled loud enough for the entire line to hear, Five? Who needs that much? The sad part is if I was using real sugar, it would have been more like eight or nine.
Just as our palates have been conditioned to crave sugar, they can be conditioned to crave it less. The process is pretty straightforward. If you repeatedly eat a food, your affinity toward it will increase even if you didnt like that food in the first place. This is how we have gotten into trouble with sugarwe have created too much of an appetite for it. To like a food less, we have to work this process in reverse. The key is to train your palette to prefer less sweet. Notice that I write sweet and not sugar. Noncaloric sweeteners are sweet too, sometimes even sweeter than sugar. Using noncaloric sweeteners instead of sugar will not reduce your sugar addiction, it will only feed it.
Here are a few ways you can begin to condition your palette to prefer less sweet.
Embrace A Gratitude Mindset
Its very difficult to replace a bad habit with a healthier lifestyle choice if we dont enjoy it. You can retrain your palate to enjoy healthier foods you may not have liked in the past. Get excited about feeling better and taking better care of yourself!
I find meditation to be a useful tool in changing subconscious thought patterns and breaking unwanted habits.
At the height of my unhealthy relationship with food, I thought of food in a negative way. I was so obsessed with it, that I would not even eat a banana, because it had too many carbs and too much sugar.
When I changed my perspective to understanding that food is good, beautiful, nourishing, strengthening, things changed for the better. While I no longer crave or even really enjoy sugary foods, I feel no guilt about eating a few bites of cake on a birthday, or even a double scoop of gelato on vacation. I dont believe in having any foods off-limits as we often want the things we cant have. Its the forbidden fruit syndrome.
I started to think like an athlete. Rather than dieting and exercising, I started training and eating. Can you feel the difference? The former is restrictive, while the latter empowering.
Think, know, and feel this: I feel best when I nourish my body and mind with whole foods. Sugar and processed foods make me feel sick, and Im tired of feeling sick.
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