You might be surprised to know that sugar is addictive and your sweet tooth cravings could very well be withdrawal symptoms. According to a study featured in a Connecticut College press release, the theory that sugar is just as addictive as illicit drugs like cocaine could very well be true. Sugar has intense effects on the brain, similar to illicit drugs and cigarettes. However, unlike these drugs, sugar is considered a normal part of the American diet.
Similarly to other “drugs”, sugar addiction withdrawals can come in the form of very intense cravings. You may be VERY familiar with that aspect of sugar withdrawal, but let’s go deeper.
Common Sugar Withdrawal Symptoms
Sugar withdrawals can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks depending on how much sugar you consumed on a daily basis. Some withdrawal symptoms you can expect to encounter may include:
- Feeling tired despite getting enough sleep
- Jitteriness and/or Shakiness
- Feeling of depression or lack of interest
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling stressed and/or irritable
- Anger or bad attitude
- Intense cravings for sweets, even when you aren’t hungry
Symptoms will vary from person to person, just as they would with any addictive substance or food you’re trying to kick. Some people may experience some small cravings when they think or see a favorite sugary food while others may get all of these symptoms listed above.
There are medical issues like diabetes and hypoglycemia that affect sugar withdrawal symptoms profoundly. You could be at risk for a serious health crisis if you drastically cut sugar when you have blood sugar issues, so keep that in mind and speak to your doctor before any sugar detox.
Tips for Getting Through Cravings
Keep these tips in mind to help you get through your sugar withdrawals.
- Stay Away from Artificial Sweeteners
It is tempting to switch to no-sugar items but these foods with artificial sweeteners are considered by many to be worse than regular sugar. The main problem: The body still thinks it’s getting sugar. Avoid turning to artificial sweeteners as a coping mechanism to get through cravings. If you do, limit your use and work to phase them out. Letting go of one bad habit just to replace it with another bad or worse one isn’t going to help in the long run. Be sure to check labels on processed foods and drinks to ensure there aren’t any artificial sweeteners hidden.
- Eat a Piece of Fruit
If you are really craving something sweet, have some fresh fruit. Low sugar fruits like melon, kiwi, oranges and berries are all good choices. Bananas, pineapple, mangos and other high sugar fruits should only be eaten in moderation while you are detoxing from sugar, so keep that in mind. Fruit is healthy and important for your health but it still contains (natural) sugars. Overeating can lead to high blood sugar and tooth decay issues.
- Allow a Cheat Item Once Per Week
For some people, being able to look forward to a cheat item at the end of the week works very well. If you feel like it will benefit you and help you stay focused, by all means implement this tip. The cheat item can be a luxury but don’t overdo it. Just because you ate well all week doesn’t mean that your cheat item should be large portions of ice cream, candy, cake etc. Portion size is key. Make sure you’re aware of how many grams of sugar you’re eating. Tip: Don’t store your cheat items at home. Buy it on the day that you plan to eat so you don’t have sugary food just sitting around.
- Go for a Run
Exercise will give you a boost of energy and get your mind off of sugar cravings. If you aren’t into running, try to go for a walk, take a Zumba class, use an elliptical machine or even lift some weights. Those of you who seem to have a craving pattern (i.e. tend to crave at the same time every day), try to schedule your workouts at this time.
- Purge Your Pantry
This tip is essential if you are struggling with staying away from sugar. Out of sight is out of mind and often times the best way to break your habit is to get rid of all sugars in your house. Whether it’s a pound of white sugar for baking or that pack of cookies in the back of the cabinet, get rid of it all (or remove as much as you can. We know it’s hard for families). Don’t forget about sugary beverages.
Going through sugar withdrawals can be difficult but it will be worth it in the end. It’s important to keep in mind that after you get over your cravings you don’t want to fall back into the habit again. This often occurs when someone eats well for a long time and begins to think they can indulge more often. It’s easy to see where that will lead.
Avoid processed sugars as much as possible, eat plenty of whole foods and get exercise. Keep your treats to a minimum but don’t feel like you are punishing yourself. Keeping sugar to a minimum doesn’t mean you have to completely avoid your favorite sugary foods or always pass on a second piece of cake at a birthday party- use your discretion. If you want to be free of sugar addiction you have to LET IT GO for the most part. Give it 10 days…you won’t miss it.