Did you know the average person consumes 150 lbs of sugar each year?! You are not alone if you crave sweets or are addicted to sugar. From cupcakes, to candy, cookies, or chips we all enjoy a sweet treat. The amount of sugar that each person consumes varies, but even if you try to actively avoid sugar, it is common to find it in a variety of “healthy” foods. When consumed in excess, sugar can wreak havoc on your health. Too much sugar is linked to inflammation, increased gut permeability, excessive weight gain, and a range of diseases. Although most people recognize the deteriorating effects of sugar, it is easier said than done to avoid it - especially if you are addicted.
So, why are so many people addicted to consuming sugar if they know it’s bad for them? The answer lies in sugar’s physical and emotionally addictive properties.
For one, the consumption of sugar triggers a release of dopamine which creates a momentary feeling of pleasure and happiness. As these feelings are short lasting, cravings inevitably creep in. Moreover, low levels of serotonin in the brain can elicit sugar cravings. This is why willpower alone is rarely enough to break up with sugar.
Often a person’s diet, imbalanced hormones, or an unhealthy gut can also elicit sugar cravings. For example, a diet that is deprived of nutrients may cause the body to resort to sugar for a source of energy. There are also certain nutrient deficiencies that can cause a craving for sugar, such as magnesium. Sugar cravings can also be a sign that you're experiencing a fluctuation in blood sugar or your energy levels are crashing. Or, they may be a sign that you are dehydrated. Moreover, an imbalance of gut bacteria can cause an overgrowth of yeast in the digestive tract which feeds off of sugar and may increase cravings. Lastly, a lack of sleep may fuel sugar cravings as it can increase the hunger hormone called ghrelin, and decrease leptin, the hormone that allows you to feel full.
There is also a psychological component to a sweet tooth whereby individuals turn to sugar for various reasons ranging from loneliness, stress, dissatisfaction, or boredom to more serious mental illnesses such as disordered eating, anxiety, and depression. This complex topic is commonly referred to as “emotional eating” and may require the help and expertise of a professional who specializes in this field.
It is possible that the cause of your sugar craving is rooted in a mix of physiological and psychological triggers and identifying these is an important step in overcoming your addiction. Although there is no ‘one size fits all’ treatment for a sugar addiction, I’ve compiled a list of tips that you can pull from below.
Drink water throughout the day to eliminate any sugar cravings fueled by a lack of hydration.
Prioritize sleep to keep your blood sugar levels stable and your hormones balanced.
Nourish your gut microbiome with probiotic rich foods (e.g. Kimchi, sauerkraut, and vegetable brines) and prebiotic rich foods (e.g. Garlic, asparagus, and leeks). Consider taking a probiotic supplement.
Consume a diet rich in foods that boost serotonin (e.g. salmon, walnuts, and bananas).
Consider supplementing with L-glutamine to help curb cravings and heal your gut.* *Consult with a healthcare practitioner prior to.
Incorporate stress relieving exercises into your day such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga.
Replace processed foods containing artificial sweeteners with whole foods that contain natural sugars such as raw honey, fruits, or dates.
Fill your day with serotonin-boosting activities such as exercising, socializing, or creative projects.
Test for nutrient deficiencies with functional lab tests and supplement accordingly.
Consume magnesium-rich foods or consider taking a magnesium supplement.
Consider supplementing with chromium picolinate. This supplement can help to improve the body’s response to insulin and kick sugar cravings.* *Consult with a healthcare practitioner prior to.
Consult with a dietician or psychologist if you feel your sugar addiction is rooted in disordered eating habits.
Breaking a sugar addiction may not be instant or easy, however, by identifying the root issue and taking adequate steps to overcome it, it is more than possible! As your diet shifts away from processed, sugar-filled foods, you will naturally begin to crave foods that genuinely nourish and fuel your body. Live a naturally sweet life with smoother skin, better digestion, improved immunity, a clearer head, and an abundance of energy by kicking sugar to the curb!