What is Sugar Addiction?

Most people are a sugar addict and don’t realize it. And if they do see it, they don’t realize how harmful it can be. Let’s break this down and see how serious of an addiction and harmful to your health sugar can be.

Sugar addiction is something that acts like a drug addiction. The body craves more and more sugar until it gets to a euphoria type state, resulting in high amounts of sugar consumption. True, your brain, nervous system, and all other cells in your body require glucose (one of the most simple forms of sugar) to function. It is your cell’s number one energy source. It’s actually what plants make during photosynthesis for energy. Your body runs off of this simple sugar, but too much of anything can be bad. I read an article from Sugar Defeat about sugar addiction that I found very informative and interesting. I wanted to first share some of the highlights I enjoyed. Also if you or someone you know is addicted to sugar and is looking for a way to reverse the addiction, I wanted to share a few tips to think about.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash
Highlights from the Article
  1. Sugar Releases Dopamine
    • Sugar consumption causes a hormone reaction and releases dopamine into your blood system. Dopamine gives you a happy, satisfied and euphoric feeling, which is why sugar can be addictive.
  2. Sugar is Addictive
    • One of the reasons why sugar is addictive is because of the release of dopamine, your brain wants more. Your body gets used to day-to-day consumption of certain things. The more you eat sugar, the more your body will crave sugar and the more it will need to reach the higher level of dopamine, and thus the euphoric reaction, much like illicit drugs.
  3. Sugar Consumption – Hormone Release – Euphoria
    • This euphoria cycle can play a major role in how the brain reacts, and therefore can have an effect on behavior in major ways.

The post also goes on to talk about sugar withdrawal symptoms and the different stages of symptoms. Symptoms like headaches, cravings, low sleep quality, depression, and more, are normal with sugar addiction. Like the above mentioned, sugar affects hormones that the brain uses, and thus can effect mood and many of the other symptoms related to sugar withdrawal. This is useful to know if you or someone you are close to is going to be going through a withdrawal.

Educate Yourself

Part of the “defeat” is educating yourself about what contains sugar, and what contains added sugar. Sugar Defeat also has a list of items and how much sugar they contain to get you started. I had mentioned that every cell in our body runs off of glucose (sugar), but there are many healthy foods that contain sugar like whole fruits, vegetables, and grains. Remember, plants naturally use glucose for energy too. When you eat more processed foods (basically any foods with a label), and drinking your sugar, it can get addictive and wreck havoc on your digestive system. Foods naturally with sugar that your body uses comes with a good amount of fiber which allows the sugar to slowly enter the blood stream and allows your body time to absorb and use it. When you eat processed foods, and especially sugary drinks (even sports drinks), your body gets overloaded with sugar and it can cause adverse affects, and start the “Consumption-Hormone Release-Euphoria” cycle.

New Food Label

I will be having a more in-depth post on the new food label soon. I have already seen the new label on some items already, but it will officially be printed on all major manufactured products by 2020, and those who manufacture lesser amounts, by 2021. Here is a picture of the new food label and the differences. One of the major differences is it showing “Added Sugars“.

From FDA Website: https://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm385663.htm

The recommended “Added Sugar” amount is 5% of your total caloric intake. For a 2,000 calorie diet that would be 25 grams for the whole day. The new label will make it easier for us to be more informative about how much added sugar is in the foods we eat.

Are You Defeating Sugar?

My husband went through many of the symptoms mentioned earlier when he decided to cut out added sugar. He would have soda multiple times a day. When he was stressed in particular, he would have a soda and candy for lunch. Then have another soda (or 4) with dinner. His system was constantly dosed in sugar. He had headaches immediately if he missed a meal without added sugar. He had trouble sleeping. Had bouts of depression that worsened with the withdrawal, and cravings were sometimes unbearable, especially when he knew a small amount of sugar would take away his headaches.

What are some things that can help and to consider if you are trying to cut out unnecessary sugar? Think about and plan for these tips before cutting off sugar or changing the amount of sugar you have every day. This will help get you thinking about what’s to come and to be prepared for moments that might happen.

  1. Lapses Happen!
    • If you are trying to change anything in your behavior, food related or not, lapses happen. They are something that we learn from. For instance, there was a time when James had a very stressful day and he reached for the bag of his favorite candy. He then knew and understood that stress affected his cravings, especially emotional stress. If he woke up already feeling low, he already accounted for increased cravings and knew they would be there. Sometimes he would make sure to pack extra fruit like a banana or clementines in his lunch to eat those instead of going down to the vending machine.
    • There are lapses and relapses. Lapses are a one-time, one-day moment, and relapses are when you completely abandon the new behavior and not wanting to go back to changing. Many times when we have a single lapse, we think we’re never going to come back from it, but it’s part of the process. Learn from the lapse, and continue on your healthy change.
  2. Talk To Your Family
    • You need those closest to you, whether at home, at work, etc. to understand the struggle you are going through. It might seem silly that it’s just because of sugar, but if you are truly addicted, support is a big deal. They can prepare for new foods, or not having certain foods when you are around.
    • Talk to them about possible behavior changes. You might be more irritable, be dealing with headaches, muscle pain, etc. The more understanding your support group is, the better they can support you.
  3. Find Alternatives
    • Many people think of turning to sugar alternatives to add to their food or drink, but your body reacts to those very similarly and some can be hazardous to your health. If you are going to find alternatives, make sure they are whole food alternatives. 
    • Keep fresh fruit around. If you are used to having something sweet with every meal, find your favorite fruit (banana, apple, pear, berries, etc.) and have that as part of your breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The more you are away from added sugar, the more you will enjoy fruit and the sweeter it will become.
      • Banana, Peanut Butter Toast for Breakfast
      • Clementines are easy to throw in your lunch bag and carry with you
      • Apple slices, pear slices, etc. are a great snack after dinner if you are craving something sweet.
    • Unsweetened flavored teas. There are many out there, and it is hard to find unsweetened versions already made. If you make tea at home, buy the fruit flavored tea bags like peach, raspberry, orange, etc. You can even have them cooled so that it’s flavored iced tea. They have a slightly sweet taste without sugar.
    • Flavored coffee. If you are a choco-holic, try making chocolate coffee. You can add some cream. You’ll get a rich chocolate flavor, but without the sugar.
Photo by Julia D’Alkmin on Unsplash
Bottom Line

Sugar can be addictive. Acknowledge that what you are going through is not easy and will be a challenge. This is something you can get past, something you can conquer and have control of. Any lifestyle change comes with challenges, but changing an addiction is that much harder. Stay positive, keep your support team close, and if you have a lapse – remember it’s not the end and you have not failed. Continue with your goal of being a healthier you!


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