Could it be Sugar Withdrawals?
In the U.S. we consume an average of 152 pounds of sugar per person a year! That equates to 22 teaspoons a day for adults and 34 teaspoons a day for kids! Now that you’re thoroughly shocked at the amount of sugar we consume, it’s easy to see how you might experience withdrawal symptoms when eliminating it from your life. “Withdrawal” is usually reserved for drug addicts, but if we can understand that sugar affects the same “feel good” neurotransmitter (dopamine) as drugs do, it’s clear to see that once you remove it from your diet and that “feel good” feeling is gone, in comes a variety of withdrawal symptoms.
We all know how bad excess sugar can be for our health, so naturally it’s one of the first things we remove from our lives when we start dieting. The problem is, after many years of consuming it at a high rate, the drastic reduction or elimination of sugar can produce withdrawal symptoms such as intense headaches, nausea, cramping, irritation, and can drastically increase your cravings for sweets. We sometimes associate these conditions with supplements we’re taking, new diet foods we’re eating or other external factors such as stress at home or work. The fact is though, removing sugar is a shock to your system and your body will take time to get used to it.
The severity of the symptoms will vary from person to person but can include low moods, stomach problems, fatigue, anxiety and lack of interest. So when changing your eating habits or starting a diet, reduce your sugar consumption gradually to help stave off these symptoms.
The body has an incredible ability to adapt, it just takes time to get used to absorbing and getting energy from healthier sources other than sugar. The body is like a hybrid automobile, it can run on more than one kind of fuel, but we know of course that some fuels work better and are vastly more efficient than others.
Consider this before you quit your diet because of the uncomfortable feeling you’re getting and remember it’s all a part of the process of undoing years of sugar consumption. The symptoms won’t be around for long, but here are a few tips to ease the transition.
- Don’t skip any meals-This causes a sharp drop in blood sugar and can result in intense cravings for sugar.
- Reduce your intake gradually-Start with no desserts, cut the sugar in your coffee in half, try sweet fruits instead of sugary snacks.
- Don’t be fooled by the name-Dextrose, sucrose, maltose, fructose, glucose, cane syrup, molasses, and honey all mean added sugar, and will thwart your efforts.
- Avoid liquid sugar-Sodas, sweetened teas, fruit juices, sports drinks etc.
These tips will keep you from experiencing severe withdrawals while removing sugar from your diet. Remember, sugar addiction can’t be undone overnight, we have to wean ourselves off of sugar. Short term headaches and nausea are a small price to pay for changing to a healthier lifestyle. Take it in stride and look forward to a time when you can say you’re sugar free!