Three common signs of sugar withdrawal
Many of us have a soft spot for an afternoon treat, sugar in our tea or some chocolate in the evening. And whilst there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the occasional sweet snack, eating these items regularly can quickly result in a high sugar consumption, especially if you get into the habit of having them as part of our daily routine.
It’s important to regulate our sugar intake. Whilst our bodies do need natural sugar to function, too much added sugar can cause a range of health problems, such as high cholesterol, tooth decay and diabetes. The general recommendation is for no more than 6 teaspoons per day – and an average can of soda contains 8 teaspoons of sugar, meaning that just one drink could put you over the limit.
Clearly, it makes sense to cut down on your sugar intake. But it’s not always that simple – once you’ve got into the habit of having sugar, it can be hard to break. You may experience some negative side effects, especially if you’re used to consuming a lot. In this post, we look at three signs that may suggest you’re experiencing sugar withdrawal.
The first sign that your body might be after a certain type of food are cravings. There are several reasons that you might crave sugar – firstly, you may actually be hungry, and so your body is looking for a quick fix. Sugar enters your bloodstream quickly, raising your internal sugar levels and therefore insulin, giving you energy. If your stomach is rumbling, or you feel a little faint, you may actually need some food.
However, if you’ve eaten recently and are full, you may be experiencing craving for sugar as a result of mouth or heart hunger. This is when you have a trigger for food based on something you can sense, like the sound of a packet being opened, or from an emotion – many people find sugar comforting when they’re sad or stressed. As a result, when you reduce your sugar intake, you may experience cravings when you encounter these triggers in your daily routine. Practising self-care and mindfulness can help you avoid eating when you aren’t truly hungry.
Finally, you may also experience an intense craving for carbohydrates, rather than purely sugary products. This is because starchy carbohydrates like white bread and white pasta contain sugar and break down quickly, allowing you to get the sweet hit that you’re craving. Switching to whole grain carbs and grains can help to regulate your blood sugar levels and reduce cravings.
Your hormones are affected by your blood sugar levels, and when your blood sugar is too low, your blood vessels constrict, causing headaches. This is also true when you eat too much sugar, which is why it’s important to regulate your intake. Headaches generally tend to occur when someone makes a drastic change to their sugar intake. Therefore, a slow decrease in sugar consumption may be a more comfortable way to adjust your diet.
Irritability and anxiety
When we consume sugar, our bodies release dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps us feel good – it’s part of the reward pathway for the brain. However, when we drastically reduce sugar consumption, our dopamine levels drop, which can manifest in symptoms of irritability, anxiety, and even depression. Again, this is typical when someone drastically reduces their sugar intake, and the symptoms should pass in a few weeks. If the feelings remain, it may be beneficial to talk to a health professional.
How can you reduce your sugar intake?
It’s clear that sugar has a significant impact on the functioning of our bodies. As a result, reducing your intake can be a great step towards a balanced lifestyle. While cutting out sugar altogether is difficult, there are plenty of small changes you can make that can add up to make a big difference.
For example, switch from sugary drinks to water or unsweetened tea. If the latter is a struggle, try using a teaspoon of honey, rather than processed sugar. Another helpful tip is to read labels carefully and look for products with lower amounts of added sugar. Additionally, swapping out sugary snacks with fruits or vegetables can help curb your sweet tooth while providing important nutrients for your body. By making small changes like these, you'll be on your way to reducing your sugar intake and improving your overall health.