How to Overcome Sugar Addiction
The first step you must take to learn how to overcome sugar addiction is to understand that you are dealing with an addictive drug. Sugar is a substance that is just as addictive as alcohol, nicotine, heroin and cocaine. Thus, why the ability to abstain from sugar is so difficult.
By being honest about what you are dealing with, it enables you to understand the seriousness of the matter, which means you are more likely to be motivated to change.
Sugar addiction is not a trivial matter. It is just as harmful to your body, mind, and self than any other addiction. It leads to a weakened immune system, depression, anxiety disorders, hyperactivity, impaired cognitive functioning, Candida overgrowth, adrenal fatigue, hypoglycemia, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, hormone imbalance, insomnia and cancer, to name just a few. Just like other addictions, it truly is about a matter of life and death.
The second step in learning how to overcome sugar addiction is to understand the addiction process. The reason that overcoming sugar addiction is as difficult as alcohol or hard drugs, is because sugar impacts the brain in the same manner.
Addiction, regardless of the substance, develops because of a depletion or imbalance in neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that the brain uses for cell to cell communication. They regulate our mood states, behavior, memory, appetite and more.
The primary neurotransmitters involved in sugar addiction include serotonin, dopamine, endorphins/enkephalins, and norepinephrine. Dopamine and serotonin are our happy hormones, they enable us to feel pleasure, happiness and contentedness, while endorphins are our natural pain relievers and norepinephrine keeps us alert and gives us energy.
Too much or too little of these chemical messengers result in a vast array of symptoms like anxiety, depression, hyperactivity, lack of concentration and cravings for sugar or carbs.
When you eat sugar, it stimulates your brain to release an excessively high level of dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins. This is the high you typically feel when you eat sugar. However, a while later, the neurotransmitters drop to a lower level than they were previously. When this pattern is repeated on a frequent basis, eventually the brain is tricked into believing it doesn't need these neurotransmitters, so it stops producing them.
If you don't have enough of these neurotransmitters, then you feel depressed, anxious, lack fulfillment in your life, listless and flat. Thus, you crave sugar to stimulate the neurotransmitters that are depleted. Sugar addiction has developed.
Additionally, the up and down roller coaster ride that sugar does to your blood sugar levels puts the body into fight or flight and produces high levels of norepinephrine. High levels of norepinephrine result in anxiety, insomnia, hyper alertness, nervousness and restlessness and more cravings for sugar to subdue these symptoms.
However, neurotransmitters can also become depleted, imbalanced or disrupted by a variety of other factors, like the over consumption of starchy carbohydrates (including whole grains, potatoes and legumes), hypoglycemia, caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, food sensitivities, adrenal fatigue, childhood abuse, chronic stress, environmental toxins, hypothyroidism, hormone imbalance and mind altering drugs (both prescription drugs like anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication and street drugs.) Insulin resitance and leptin resistance also play an important role in cravings for sugar.
Therefore, sugar addiction can develop because the sugar itself depletes these neurotransmitters or because an imbalance of neurotransmitters already existed that lead to cravings for sugar. On the other hand, the consumption of sugar leads to many of these other conditions. For example, hypoglycemia will make you crave sugar to bring your blood sugar levels back up, while eating sugar will cause hypoglycemia symptoms to appear. Chronic stress often results in cravings for sugar, yet eating sugar puts the body in a state of chronic stress. It becomes a vicious self-perpetuating cycle.
So, the goal to strive for when learning how to overcome sugar addiction is to restore balance to the neurotransmitters and the endocrine system. This is achieved by avoiding all substances and activities that overstimulate neurotransmitters and the fight/flight system, eating a diet that is low in carbohydrates, rich in animal protein and low-starch vegetables, replenishing nutritional deficiencies with nutritional supplements, and addressing each of the contributing factors mentioned above that perpetuate the cycle of addiction.
Other techniques that are helpful with neurotransmitter balancing and reducing cravings include mindfulness meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, time with nature, adequate sunlight and mild exercise.
You can find an in-depth discussion of each of these aspects and everything you need to know for how to overcome sugar addiction in my easy to read guide, Break Your Sugar Addiction Today.
In my own experience in overcoming sugar addiction, I found that the diet I eat is the most important cog in the process, coupled with avoidance of the big triggers (caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, drugs, environmental toxins.) When you eat the diet your body was meant to eat, which should consist primarly of meat and low-carb vegetables, eggs and a small amount of nuts, seeds and fruit three times a day; and avoid the primary triggers, then cravings for sugar and carbs simply disappear.