Sugar is everywhere in almost all of the food we eat in one form or the other. It’s in all the expected foods but you might not realize it’s also in a lot of other food where you would not expect it. Our daily intake of sugar averages 95 grams which might not sound like a lot but that adds up to about 77 pounds per year. The American heart association recommends a daily intake of 36 grams for an adult male, 20 grams for an adult female and 12 grams for kids. But with the level of sugar intake currently, a lot of people are already way over the limit. As a result, obesity has become a major issue with 1 in 3 adults and 2 in 5 kids showing various degrees of it.
Is Sugar Addictive?
Yes, sugar can be as addictive as drugs and alcohol and is very difficult to avoid due to its presence and addition to many food items. Consuming, or even just thinking about, sugar can stimulate the brain and release dopamine into your system.
Sugar not only tastes good but is also potentially addictive. Consuming or even thinking about sugar can trigger a dopamine release, a neurotransmitter that controls pleasure and reward-motivated behavior, into your system. Studies have shown that sugar can be as addictive as drugs and alcohol. It is, however, more difficult to avoid sugar as there are thousands of packaged food items in grocery stores today with about 80 percent of them containing added sugars. The main problem, however, comes from what we drink and not what we eat. Drinking a single one of any of today’s popular beverages you’re already gone over the daily recommendation. The average can of soda contains about 40 grams of added sugar, while bottles have around 42 grams and one Starbucks coffee contains about 47 grams of added sugars.
Sugar Withdrawal And Detox Symptoms
When we quit sugar, physiological changes occur. Within hours the hormonal levels change. The levels of insulin will start to decrease allowing your body to access stored fats to burn for energy. After a few days, your lipid levels start to drop, especially your triglycerides. Over a prolonged period of time, your palate changes and things that used to taste normal to you now taste unpleasantly sweet and your palate adjusts to require a lot less sugar to feel satisfied. These are some of the benefits you will experience after quitting sugar but not before you go through a withdrawal phase.
What are the symptoms of sugar withdrawal?
The following withdrawal symptoms of sugar addiction may manifest as early as 24 hours after quitting sugar intake:
- Lethargy or lack of energy
- Muscle pain
- Gas and bloating
Overcoming sugar addiction comes with its own withdrawal and detox symptoms which you need to be aware of, as well as knowing when to expect them and how to manage them. When you remove sugar from your diet, the detox is not necessarily the biggest issue, but the idea that sugar has a drug-like effect on your body. It is a stimulant and when you take it away, your body has to adjust and adapt accordingly.
These are some of the withdrawal symptoms you can almost definitely expect when detoxing from sugar;
This happens immediately after you go cold turkey. You will definitely crave sugar as it has silently become your drug of choice. You will crave it and think about it all the time. This is the first sign that your body is dependent on it because as soon as you removed it from your diet, your body is asking for it back immediately. This is an indication of a major imbalance in your system which should spur you to stay on course.
A complete lack of energy follows shortly after as a result of the absence of your primary energy source. As early as 24 hours after ceasing sugar intake, you start to feel this lethargy. You feel like you are about to get sick but you don’t, your body feels heavy, your mind feels dull and you feel a bit listless and emotionless. You might even feel a little depressed depending on how dependent your body was to sugar. There will be some disturbance in your mood and probably some issues with thinking clearly and communicating. You need to stay strong and ride this wave out in the course of your detox.
Sugar gives us a temporary boost of energy and it is similar to a high that makes us happy in the short term. Taking away this source makes our brains react in ways that can manifest as anxiety. According to a 2002 study at Princeton University, this anxiety was observed in rats that were subjects of sugar dependence and withdrawal. Anxiety was manifested in behaviors such as teeth chattering, paw tremors, and head shaking.
Perhaps the most common side effect of quitting sugar is the sugar withdrawal headache. It is often recommended to consume small amounts of sugar to relieve the headaches, preferably from fruits. If your headaches are severe then perhaps quitting cold turkey is not for you and you should try a more gradual approach.
Other general symptoms that may arise from quitting sugar are:
- Muscle pain and aches
- Gas and bloating
What Happens After You Stop Eating Sugars?
Within hours after stopping sugar consumption, your body’s hormone levels will change. Your insulin levels will start to decrease and allow your body to burn stored fats for energy. After a few days, your lipid and triglyceride levels will drop and your taste buds will crave less sugar to feel satisfied. However, you may suffer from many of the side effects listed above.
Don’t Go Cold Turkey
The human body relies on many elements of food and drinks to run efficiently, sugar is one of those elements. This is the reason many health professionals do not recommend that you cut sugar completely out of your diet when attempting to detox. Instead, they recommend that you reduce sugars to a more refined amount, possibly just eating a little fruit after a meal for example.
Cutting sugar completely out of your diet would not only enhance your withdrawal symptoms, but it would also be incredibly unhealthy in the long run. Furthermore, the idea of not having sugar at all can be detrimental to your mentality while attempting to detox. Despite everything, consuming sugar is a pleasurable experience, one that you would be telling yourself to completely remove from your life.
Most people find the best, and most effective way to detox is gradually cutting back. This way, withdrawal symptoms are far less noticeable and you are more likely to keep that positive feeling of doing something that is good for your health. This makes it less likely that you will give up the detox completely.
When it comes to methods of cutting back, there are a few ways of approaching the detox. One method is only withdrawing for one day a week, and gradually increasing that by a measure of time every week until you reach an ideal level of sugar consumption. An alternative method is to add water to drinks. This way there is a reduction in the amount of sugar you intake with every drink. You can gradually reduce it more and more, eventually replacing sugary drinks altogether with a healthier option.
Dealing With Sugar Withdrawal
Like any kind of withdrawal from an addiction, sugar withdrawal can be a challenge.
You will go through cravings, irritability, fatigue and mood swings, to name just a few things. But what is the best way to deal with sugar withdrawal and its symptoms?
One suggestion is a dietary supplement known as glutamine. Glutamine helps to combat sugar withdrawal by providing your body with a replacement for sugar, getting energy from an alternative base. Another suggestion commonly made is to drink lots of water. This will help to stay hydrated and combat some of the cravings.
Generally the best way to combat sugar withdrawal seems to be keeping your blood sugar levels stable. Replacements for sugar such as almond butter or coconut oil will ensure that you do not suffer a sudden crash in blood sugar levels, if you take a dosage of them every few hours. Alongside the almond butter you should maintain a good sleeping and eating pattern. It is also recommended that you do not totally abstain from fruit. Despite its content of natural sugars, fruit is a vital dietary requirement and therefore it should still be eaten in moderation. This will help your body to re-adjust to a usual diet and meaning the detox is done as soon as possible in the best possible quality. Furthermore, if you can eat fruit in moderation, you will prove to yourself you have the willpower to abstain from overindulging in sugar again!
Sugar Withdrawal and Diabetes
Sugar addiction and sugar binging can lead to a range of health conditions, including diabetes. It is also possible that your diabetes is what caused your addiction to sugar and for that reason you need to restore balance. Regardless of your situation, as with any addiction, it is safer to gradually reduce your dosage. This is the same with sugar. A drastic reduction can enhance withdrawal symptoms and sometimes even be the trigger for diabetes.
If you do have an addiction to sugar and you’re looking to get help, you should tell your doctor about any health conditions you have or any family history of diabetes. This will help your doctor to recommend the best method of cutting down or quitting sugar for you.
Sugar can be just as addictive and as problematic to withdraw from as any drug. In a world surrounded by advertising for sugar-based products, it can be difficult to recognize what is the right amount of sugar for our bodies and what is too much. Sugar is not only addictive but pleasurable to eat so quitting even temporarily will not be easy.
When attempting withdrawal, you should always ensure that you do not have to manage the entire process alone, as you will suffer withdrawal symptoms just like those of more infamous drugs. Support from family, friends and your doctor will all be important for a successful withdrawal and a life with a more balanced level of sugar intake.
There will be headaches, pains, mood swings, maybe even shakes but in the end, you will feel the benefits of a better diet.