The Truth About Sugar Addiction: How to Stop Craving Sugar. Have you or anybody you know hidden in the bathroom, sneaking handfuls of M&M’s? Or climbing on a stool to reach the top of the pantry for a cookie from a hidden stash of goodies. Sound familiar to you. It’s happening all too often in today’s world. I’ll try to explain the truth about sugar addiction and how to combat sugar cravings.
It seems like all the talk nowadays is about opioid addiction, and rightly so but no one is talking about sugar addiction and the toll it takes on our health.
Why Does Sugar Addiction Exist?
It’s a tough question to answer. Everyone’s sugar cravings are unique, but there are more similarities than differences.
I craved sugar because it was my reward. A reward for completing a task, for going to the gym, or any new accomplishment.
I was raised to believe candy, junk food, and even soda were special treats for good behavior or doing a job well done. When growing up, how many times did you hear that you couldn’t have dessert until you were all finished your vegetables? I’ll bet probably too many to count.
Sweets are used to enhance non-reward-seeking behaviors. For instance, eating veggies typically do little to provide short-term pleasure. How many of your kids eat vegetables and thoroughly enjoy them in the process? Not many, I imagine.
Sweet-tasting foods encourage and condition other behaviors that are healthful. For that reason, they’re beneficial. People start using snacks to make up for not getting pleasure out of other things, such as their work, home life, or relationships.
I’ve touched on the psychological component of cravings. But there’s also a physical/physiological component to cravings as well. In fact, some studies suggest malnutrition and nutrient deficiencies lead to cravings. Refined sugars can deplete the body’s supplies of B vitamins, chromium, magnesium, zinc, and manganese. The resulting defects then manifest as cravings for other foods.
Below are deficiencies linked with sugar cravings, as well as what to consume instead of sugar to potentially combat them.
- Do you lack carbon? Eat more fresh fruit.
- Low on chromium? Eat broccoli, grapes, cheese, chicken, or beans/legumes.
- How about phosphorous? Eat chicken, beef, eggs, poultry, liver, fish, dairy, nuts, legumes, and grains.
- What about Sulfur? Eat cranberries, cruciferous vegetables, kale, cabbage, and horseradish.
- And Tryptophan (i.e. amino acid)? Eat cheese, liver, sweet potatoes, raisins, lamb, and spinach.
To free yourself from these addictive substances, to stop overeating, and to reprogram your biology. You’ll need to detox (smoothies are a healthy and great way to detox). Hence, this goes for any addiction, i.e., opioid, alcohol, heroin, cocaine, etc., etc.
You might have heard sugar addiction compared to drug addiction. It’s because when you consume sugar, your dopamine receptors become blocked. What can this mean for you? It means you’ll need more sugar to experience satisfaction each time. In the same way, one might become intolerant to drugs or other substances. Once you develop a tolerance, more is required each time to experience that “high.”
Emotional Eating and Sugar Addiction
In my experiences, I’d say a majority of people experience cravings as a coping mechanism for emotional/psychological reasons. You see, eating is a pleasant experience. We have to be careful with food, especially sweets because they can be used to mask how we’re feeling. They can also be used to increase feelings of well-being when all other means fail to do so.
It’s not uncommon for people to gravitate toward sweet food when they’re feeling depressed. It’s reasonable to some extent, as sweet food is gratifying. Eating sweet food when feeling sad or depressed can help create or solidify an unhealthful habit loop.
There’s something to be said about the combinations of fat, sugar, and sodium in many of our processed foods. These foods, which are known as hyper-palatable foods, stimulate “feel-good” hormones and responses in the brain that help buffer negative emotions. As such, they can even become “drug-like” for those struggling to cope with stress.
The bottom line is emotional eating is psychological, physical, mental, etc., etc. So it’s imperative to understand why you are gravitating toward certain foods (e.g., sugars, junk food). You’ll need to figure out why before you can put an action plan in place to replace these “sugar addiction” emotions with healthy ones.
What Happens When We Eat Sugar?
As we consume sugar, it stimulates dopamine (i.e., our feel-good hormone) and travels into our stomach. The digestive enzymes start to break the sugar down into glucose and send it to our pancreas, or fructose. Eventually, ending up in your liver. Too much glucose in our pancreas is what gives us a “sugar rush,” and inevitably it ends in a “sugar crash.”
The brain reacts to this “sugar crash” by producing serotonin, which makes you sleepy. Your pancreas, on the other hand, responds by producing insulin. To much insulin blocks leptin (i.e., your hunger hormone), thereby making you feel hungry or perhaps craving more sugar, regardless of whether or not you have already eaten. It becomes a vicious cycle hard to break free.
How to Stop Craving Sugar
The key to optimal health and wellness mostly lies in how well our bodies maintain the balance between good and bad bacteria in our gut. Consuming a diet high in sugar has been shown to promote the growth of harmful bacteria in the gut, hindering the growth of healthy bacteria. While probiotics can facilitate the improvement of healthy bacteria in our gut, the first line of defense is a healthy diet.
I wish I could offer a simple solution for how to overcome a sugar addiction, there isn’t one. It requires some self-awareness to discover what’s going on behind the scenes. Generally speaking, you could kick your sugar addiction cold turkey. Will it be easy? Nope. But nothing worth having ever comes easy. Will it be worth it? Absolutely!
As the saying goes, practice makes perfect, but I wouldn’t necessarily strive for perfection. Being consistent is what’s needed. Once you make a conscious effort to remove sugar from your diet and replace it with wholesome ingredients that provide your body with proper nutrition, you will begin to reap the benefits almost immediately.
The out of sight, out of mind approach worked best for me, but there are many ways to accomplish the same goal. Once I beat the sugar addiction, I became able to realize how great my body was designed to feel. And it feels amazing!
I hope you found this article helpful. If you have anything that you’d like to share or any opinions on any of the content on my site, please do speak up. I look forward to your comments, questions and the sharing of ideas.
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