You’ve decided to change your diet. Part of that involves cutting out all the refined sugar you’ve been eating. In some cases, it involves cutting out all the natural sugar. Now you’re dealing with the pesky withdrawal symptoms.
Did you know that sugar is like a drug? It’s addictive. The more we eat, the more we want. And when we don’t fuel our bodies with it, it goes crazy with symptoms that encourage us to give up the plan of healthy eating and stick to our hold habits.
Instead of giving into the symptoms, it’s time to combat them. Here’s all about sugar withdrawal, the symptoms, and the ways to combat those symptoms.
Sugar’s Not Really That Dangerous Is It?
Surely your body can deal with sugar, can’t it? After all, it has already handled the sugar you’ve fed it, and cavemen ate fruit without an issue, and that’s full of natural sugars!
Well, there’s different between the cavemen’s natural sugar foods and our refined sugar foods. Cavemen had fruit as a small part of the diet. They focused on meats, berries, nuts, seeds, and eggs. They ate the stuff that they could get while hunting and gathering. There was no added sugar. In fact, it wasn’t really until the 15th century that we started to eat more refined sugar in our diets!
The body has had to adapt quickly. Whenever we eat sugar, it needs to release insulin to combat the increase in our blood sugar levels—the blood sugar levels are the reasons we get that instant high after eating refined sugars.
By constantly forcing our bodies to release the insulin, we’re doing damage to it. It may taste great, and you may want to stick to a diet where you can enjoy your treats, but you’re not doing your body and health any good. Here’s just a look at some of the biggest dangers of eating more sugar.
It’s taxing to the pancreas
The pancreas needs to release more insulin into the body. Just think of the damage you’re doing to it by doing that! Just think of the damage you’re doing to your body overall!
If your pancreas has to work harder, it isn’t going to work as long. Just think about how we use up our energy throughout the day. If we do a lot of hard work in a short space of time, we need longer to recover. The problem is your pancreas isn’t going to get that break that it needs. You’re forcing it to work, and work, and work!
Now think back to yourself and if you kept pushing yourself when you need a break. You’re eventually going to run out of energy, and your body will pack in. People collapse from exhaustion and end up making themselves ill. You’re going to force your pancreas to stop working effectively or even at all.
And it’s not just your pancreas that is affected when you do this. Your other organs, especially your live, are forced to work harder. They’ll find it difficult to keep up with the stress you’re putting them under, so will end up damaged sooner.
Your body gets used to the insulin
So, the body has to release insulin on a regular basis because of the sugar you eat. After a while, it gets used to those levels of insulin and isn’t affected by them. The body has to release more to handle the sugar you used to eat, and the body will get used to those levels. This goes into a vicious cycle, and eventually you develop Type 2 diabetes.
Think about how our bodies have become resistant to some medications, especially antibiotics. Bacteria can be multiple despite taking the pills that were supposed to kill them. We don’t get better, and instead, we have to take other types of medication, face surgery or hope our immune systems kick in instead.
Well, this happens with the insulin. The blood sugars don’t reduce with the old amounts of insulin, despite them once being enough. The pancreas is put under pressure to release more insulin. The body then becomes resistant to that.
Eventually, the body can’t get rid of the blood sugar levels that it once could. We cause the health problem known as Type 2 diabetes, which is a rising concern for health professionals.
It can lead to the need to take medication just to get rid of it. Some people have to avoid sugary treats completely because of the damage they’ve done!
Do you want to get to the point where you can’t enjoy sugary treats at all?
You ruin your weight loss efforts
More sugar = a larger weight gain.
This happens for a few reasons. First of all, the treats that are higher in sugar are usually higher in calories. This is especially the case for treats that are full of refined sugar, rather than natural options!
You’re also more likely to eat more treats. They don’t fill you up as well because they lack the important food groups of protein and fibre. Both of these food groups will help to regulate your hunger. They break down slowly in the body, so your stomach doesn’t keep relaying a message to your brain that you need more sustenance.
Second, of all, the insulin increases and your hunger hormone doesn’t work properly. Even if you are full, your body gets the message that you need to eat more. You eat far too many calories than you need to, so your body can’t get rid of them all. Instead, your body stores the calories, and you end up gaining weight.
Finally, your metabolism doesn’t work properly. Even if you didn’t eat too many calories, your metabolism starts to slow down and struggles to burn the energy you’re feeding it. You end up with eating more calories than you need to, in the end, making it harder to create a calorie deficit to help you lose weight!
You may feel like you have more energy, but will you honestly exercise more? There are high chances that you won’t. In fact, you’ll have a sugar crash before you even have a chance to do more exercise.
You’re opening yourself up to more disease
A healthy diet is the best thing for a healthy immune system. Eating too much struggle is affecting its ability to work, and also affects your organs negatively. You’re opening yourself up to far more disease.
Let’s just look at the type of foods you’re eating. That refined sugar is the main ingredient in foods that don’t have many proteins and fibres. They also don’t have many nutrients like vitamins and minerals. Your body isn’t getting the antioxidants it needs to boost the immune system and fight off infection.
We’ve then also got the problem that your organs are working overtime. How do you expect them to get the toxins out of the body when you’re forcing them to do so much other stuff?
They simply can’t, so the toxins stay in your body. You end up at a higher risk of kidney and heart disease, as well as problems linked to obesity. Joints are put under more pressure, and you’ll find that the brain isn’t able to function properly.
In fact, your cells are also more susceptible to abnormalities. This means you’re opening your body up to the risks of cancer, dementia, Alzheimer’s and many other diseases. We’ve already touched on diabetes, too! Do you want to put your body under all this pressure?
More sugar = more cavities
That’s all about your organs, but what about your teeth? You know your dentist would tell you off for eating so much sugar.
Your teeth are more at risk of cavities, gum disease, and so many other problems. You see, your saliva can’t work to get rid of the sugar on a daily basis. Brushing and flossing aren’t going to be enough, and bacteria can grow in the mouth. There’s also more acid in the mouth.
What do these all do? They wear away the enamel on your teeth and affect the pulp in your teeth. Cavities form, and you need more fillings. You can also end up with the nerves being damaged, meaning you need root canals or tooth extractions—and they’re not pretty!
You become highly addicted to it
Sugar is addictive. We’ve mentioned it but not gone into why.
The more you eat sugar, the more you’ll want it. You’re feeding that addiction.
You see, sugar releases dopamine in the brain. This is the hormone that tells you that you both want and need more of something. It’s the hormone released when you take drugs, drink alcohol, and eat fatty foods.
This will affect those who are susceptible to addiction more than others, but everyone will have an element of it. If you keep feeding it, it will just get worse. You’re willingly causing all the health problems we’ve mentioned above.
It’s the dopamine that causes the withdrawal symptoms we experience when it comes to cutting down on sugar. These symptoms are ones that we need to ignore completely.
You get a high and crash cycle
When you eat a lot of sugar, you’ll experience what is known as a sugar high. You’ve heard all about it. Children get it all the time, and it’s a running joke of grandparents sending their grandkids home to the parents after eating lots of cookies and chocolate. The parents are the ones who deal with the hyperactivity and the crash that comes with it.
This is what you’ll experience, and it’s all linked to the dopamine and insulin levels that your body has to deal with.
When you eat more sugar, you’ll get a sudden rush as the sugar is absorbed by your body extremely quickly. Dopamine levels suddenly increase because your body likes what the sugar did to the energy levels. The insulin is quickly released to handle all the blood sugar, and you suddenly feel a crash. You’ll be tired, fed up, and crave more sugar to deal with the crash.
If you’ve eaten the sugar to give you a quick boost, you’ll find that the crash just makes you even more tired than you originally were.
Just What Are the Sugar Withdrawal Symptoms?
Many of the symptoms are the same we experience when we stop drinking as much caffeine or when we cut out alcohol and drugs from our lives. They include:
- Muscle aches
- The sweats/chills
The amount and severity of these symptoms will depend on the severity of your addiction. Those who have eating high levels of sugar for decades will find that the symptoms are worse, the last longer, and harder to get over.
Giving sugar up doesn’t mean giving all sugar up. Great, right? For a healthier diet, you’re aiming to give up refined sugar—or at least heavily cut back on it. Everything in moderation. That means natural sweetness is still up for grabs.
However, you need to combat the symptoms when you cut out the refined sugars. You need to find ways to fight against them, so you feel great about and keep working on only having natural sugar in your life.
I Can Deal With the Sugar Withdrawals?
Here’s all you need to know about combating the withdrawal symptoms so you can give up sugar. It’s time to help yourself focus on a healthier lifestyle.
Goal setting is your friend
You may have heard about goal setting for your life and your weight loss efforts, but what about when it comes to giving up sugar?
It can be one of the most effective methods of getting you through withdrawals. There are going to be cravings now and then. When you decide to give up certain foods, your brain starts to tell you that you want more of it.
Think of it in a toddler’s point of view. When a toddler is told no, that’s all they want to do/eat. They will do anything they can to defy you. Our brains just don’t like the word no.
So to get around this, you need to give yourself a reason to ignore your brain. Setting a goal or two will help with that. You have something to work towards. When you give in, you know you’re taking yourself away from successfully reaching that goal.
Every time you struggle with a craving, it’s time to revisit your goals. What’s so important about them and why do you want to reach them? This is why having specific and realistic goals are important.
You may have heard that you’re on the verge of diabetes and want to reduce the risk of developing it. Your doctor may have told you that the sugar intake has caused your weight to rise, or you may just want to stop putting your organs under so much pressure. Some people are just fed up of the sugar high/crash cycle that comes from eating far too much sugar.
Think of goals and reasons that work for you. There’s no point asking your friends what your goals should be. Sure, get their opinion on the subject if you trust their judgment, but make the goals and reasons your own.
Keep your hunger under control
One of the best ways to fight against the sugar cravings and withdrawal symptoms is not to give your body a reason to need sugar. You can do that by controlling your hunger cravings.
Remember one of the symptoms is the feeling that you’re hungry. You will usually crave the bad stuff: it’s easy, and that’s what will give you a quick boost, right? Well, it’s not going to give you enough energy throughout the day.
You can avoid the hunger cravings by focusing on a healthy and balanced diet. Make sure you get your three large meals or six small meals—whichever way you prefer to eat—throughout the day. Don’t forget snacks if you opt for large meals during the day.
When your hunger is at bay, you won’t feel as lethargic. There’s no need for your brain to start telling you to eat, and make you crave all the sweet, sugary goodness that’s really bad for you.
But what about those snacks? You need to eat something, right? Well, that brings us to the next way to deal with your sugar cravings.
Opt for the natural sweet foods
Switch your chocolate bars for fruit and yoghurt. Sure they won’t taste as great at first, but you will get the natural sugar from them. Your brain takes in that you’ve had something sugary.
The benefit of the natural sugar from fruits is that they are released over time. Your body doesn’t get an instant high, and you don’t have the sudden release of insulin. There’s no need for your body to get used to levels of insulin and you don’t feel a sudden crash afterwards.
Fruits are also full of fibre and vitamins. They keep your body healthy, and you will feel fuller for longer. That one snack will last you until your next meal, rather than you feeling like you need something else to eat during the day.
And this trick doesn’t just have to work for your snacks. You can incorporate naturally sweet foods into your diet on a daily basis.
Start adding more ginger or lemon juice into your meals. Look at some nutmeg, cinnamon and even coriander to your meals. They are all naturally sweet, so you feel like you’ve had the sugar that your body is craving.
When it comes to dessert, enjoy a fruit salad with pineapples, melons, and even mangos. They tend to be the sweeter options available, and you’ll feel like you’ve had a treat. Enjoy every piece, and try with some natural yoghurt flavoured with some lemon juice, ginger or even nutmeg. These additions just trick your brain, so you fuel the craving on a daily basis.
Balance the blood sugar with your diet
Naturally sweet foods will still lead to some blood sugar. There are also carbs that you’ll need to consider that tend to break down quickly and sugar in the blood.
Balancing out the bad with the good is a sure-fire way to balance out your blood sugar levels. You can do this so easily too: just add more protein, fibre, and fat.
Remember that the protein and the fibre will break down in the body slowly. You don’t get the same response to your blood sugar, and you won’t end up eating far too many calories. But how does the fat help?
To start with, the body needs fat for a healthy brain, especially omega 3 fatty acids and other unsaturated options. Fats will also help with the absorption of some vitamins. You’ll have a healthier body overall, and your organs are supported throughout all their processes.
You’ll also feel fuller. You get rid of some of the cravings, especially as you feel you’ve been naughty anyway. Try to eat more cheese or dairy products to give your body the nutrients that it needs and trick your brain into eating something to combat the cravings.
It’s time to rehydrate
Dehydration is a major problem for the body. Not only does it mean your organs won’t work as well, but you’ll also affect your brain and cravings. You’ll suffer more headaches, making those withdrawal symptoms worse. You can also end up feeling much hungrier than you are.
You see, your brain can’t distinguish between hunger and thirst. When you’re dehydrated, your stomach will send the message that you’re hungry. It will tell you that you need to consume far more calories than your metabolism needs for the day.
The next time you feel hungry and get a craving for something sweet, enjoy a glass of water. You can even add some slices of lemon or chopped up strawberries to give your water a little naturally sweet taste. There’s no need to add artificial sweeteners or fruit juices to get rid of the bland taste.
As you drink, you’ll feel fuller and get rid of the hunger pangs. If you find within a few moments that the pangs come back, then you were hungry for a meal! Reach for a substantial meal and not something sweet to tide you over.
Before you eat any meal, have a glass of water. Not only will this help you increase your intake of water, but you’ll take up room in your stomach. You’ll feel fuller quicker, so you won’t get that need to eat more sugar.
Do watch out for drinking too much water, and don’t replace all your meals with it. Check the time. If it is an hour that you would usually eat a meal, don’t replace it with only water. Enjoy a glass and then have something substantial to eat. If you replace all your meals with water, you run the risk of many other health problems.
Try to take your mind off it
The cravings will often come when you aren’t doing anything. Boredom eating is a major problem for people trying to lose weight and cut down on refined sugar.
You’ll also find your other sugar withdrawal symptoms are worse. Your mind is constantly on them, so you end up reaching for the treats.
It’s time to find a way to take your mind off your sugar cravings and the withdrawal symptoms. The more you ignore them, the less they’ll affect you. Start by doing a hobby that you enjoy or finding a new hobby that you have always wanted to do. As you find enjoyment in something else, your happy hormones will rise, and you won’t feel as anxious or depressed over the lack of sugar.
When you’re watching TV or doing something else that can lead to snacking, keep your hands busy. Some women have found that knitting or croqueting help. They can keep their eyes on the screen and enjoy their favourite shows, while their hands are doing something. Their minds are taken off the regular calls for sugary treats.
Find an activity that you love to do
Getting more exercise is an excellent way to combat the cravings and withdrawal symptoms. The trick is to take up an exercise that you enjoy. If you do one just for the sake of it, you’re not going to get all the benefits.
Exercise raises the endorphins and serotonin. It’s a great way to fight against depression and anxiety, and will also help to get rid of muscular aches and pains and headaches.
By finding an exercise that you also really love doing, you’ll find your brain benefits in more ways. You’re not forcing yourself to do something. More good hormones will be released, and you’re more likely to keep it up. When you don’t feel like doing something, it’ll be easier to force yourself, so you do reap all the benefits.
When you exercise, you’re also taking your mind off everything else. You find the withdrawal symptoms easier to handle because you forget they exist!
Fuel your brain with sleep
You’ve fuelled your body with the right fuel, and you’re protecting both brain and body with exercise, now it’s time to find other ways to fuel your brain. You see, protecting your brain will mean that it works in your favour much more.
A well-fuelled brain will fight against cravings, depression, and all those other annoying withdrawal symptoms you’re experiencing.
So, how can you do that? It’s time to sleep more.
This is much easier said than done for many. You’ll remember that insomnia is one of the symptoms of sugar withdrawal. When you do sleep, you may have some crazy dreams that leave you not really wanting to sleep. Just how can you overcome all them?
Well, you can start by setting yourself a routine. Go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time. Train your body into sleeping through. As you get your symptoms under control in other ways, you’ll find that it’s easier to sleep on a night. Your insomnia and weird dreams will become a thing of the past.
It’s also worth helping your body and mind relax. Have relaxing baths with a good book or find soothing music that helps you fall asleep. With more sleep comes a healthier brain. You’ll fight against depression and anxiety naturally, and curb those other unwanted symptoms from giving up the sugar.
Make it easy for yourself
There’s no point going on a sugar-free diet unprepared. The best thing you can do is have everything to allow yourself to stick to the plan.
This means to get everything out of your kitchen cupboards that have sugar in it—and watch out for the hidden stuff! Read the packaging and make sure you remove all those items that will just make it harder to get over the withdrawal symptoms.
Fill your cupboards and fridge with nutritious goodness. Porridge oats may sound bland, but you can add in some fruits and honey for natural sweetness. You can add cinnamon or nutmeg to get another boost.
The easier you make it for yourself, the easier you’ll find it is to get through the withdrawal process.
Now is your chance to focus on a healthier lifestyle. You deserve to put your body first, but that isn’t always going to be easy. When giving up sugar, you’ll likely experience withdrawal symptoms. Make it easy for your body to adapt to your new lifestyle by curbing the symptoms and getting rid of the stuff that’s bad for you.
By following the tips above, you’ll not have to worry about the dangers of eating too many sugars. You’ll focus on getting all the nutrients your body needs and enjoy a long and happy life.
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