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Sugar addiction usually begins with casual or social use—sweet treats over the holidays, cake served at a birthday party, or soda at the movie theater.
Your introduction to sweets may have happened before you had a choice in the matter. For example, many popular baby formulas contain corn syrup and sugar.
With time, eating sugar becomes a habit.
Are you addicted to sugar? Eating cultured vegetables made from the Veggie Culture Starter can help to balance brain chemicals and reset sugar sensitivity.
You find that you need more of the sweet stuff to satisfy your cravings. A sugary snack makes you feel “normal” and can lift your spirits. But as you eat more sugar, it becomes difficult to go on without it. When you stop eating sugar—you feel cranky, tired, and sick.
This is sugar addiction.
5 Signs of Sugar Addiction
Sugar addiction is very real.
It has to do with a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Dopamine promotes a sense of wellness. When there’s plenty of dopamine floating around, you feel good. And guess what? Whether you abuse drugs like cocaine and heroin or binge on sweets—the brain is flooded with dopamine. (1)
You may be a sugar addict if:
- You make excuses for your sugar. (It’s organic!)
- To satisfy your sweet tooth, you make special trips to the store or coffee shop.
- For motivation, you reward yourself with something sweet.
- You have a secret sugar stash, or you binge on sugar when you’re alone.
- You have tried to stop eating sugar, and you can’t.
Binging is what happens when you find yourself consuming more and more of a substance just to feel satisfied. It’s common in drug abuse, and it’s common in sugar addiction. (2)
Sugar Is More Addictive Than Cocaine
Animal studies tell us that sugar is more rewarding and addictive than cocaine. (3)(4)
Yes, more. It appears that this is because we are hardwired to seek out sugar. (5) After all, our cells have evolved to rely on sugar as their number one fuel source.
But eat too much sugar for too long, and you’ll find that your brain rewires itself to look something like the brain of a heroin or cocaine addict.
This is because drug and food cues use the same circuitry within the brain. (6) Brain chemicals that are similar to the chemicals in heroin and marijuana (known as opioids and cannabinoids) make you “like” the taste of sweet.
A surge of dopamine makes you “want” the taste of sweet. According to researchers at Princeton University, sugar withdrawal isn’t a far cry from heroin withdrawal—with similar changes in behavior and brain chemicals. (7) Withdrawal from sugar includes anxiety and depression followed by cravings. There is also a greater tendency to drink alcohol when you remove sugar from your diet.
How to Kick Your Sugar Habit
As innocent as it seems, scientists are savvy to the persuasive powers of sugar, calling it a “modern hazard to public health.” (8)
Because unlike street drugs, sweetened foods are widely available. They are inexpensive. They seem harmless enough. Candy, soda pop, baked goods, blended coffee drinks, fruit drinks, and sports drinks all contain added sugar.
Read your labels, and you will find added sugar in:
- Salad dressings
- Deli meats
- Canned or boxed soups
- Baby formula
The first step to getting off sugar is awareness.
Reading food labels and making a conscious choice to stay away from added sugars can empower you to kick your sugar habit. While sugar doesn’t have the same reputation as street drugs, know that you’re up against a substance as formidable as cocaine or heroin.
Your brain and your hormones will tell you that you need the added sugar. To help balance brain chemicals and reset your sensitivity to added sugars, we recommend making cultured foods a top priority.
What To Remember Most About This Article:
Sugar addiction seems casual, but don't be fooled. Starting from infancy, sugar can quickly become a habit that is hard to break. Once you have that sweet taste, you need more. If you quit sugar cold turkey, you'll experience withdrawal symptoms of sugar addiction, including feeling tired, cranky, and sick.
Know the feeling? Studies show that sugar is more rewarding and addictive than cocaine.
Here are five signs you may be a sugar addict:
- You make excuses for your sugar use.
- You make special trips to the store or coffee shop to satisfy your sweet tooth.
- You reward yourself with sweet treats.
- You have a secret sugar stash or binge on sugar when you're alone.
- You've tried to cut back but can't seem to stop.
All hope isn't lost. If you want to reclaim your health and beat the sugar binge, awareness is key. Eating cultured foods daily can support your body with beneficial bacteria and help to reset your sugar sensitivity.
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- Hajnal, A., & Norgren, R. (2002). Repeated access to sucrose augments dopamine turnover in the nucleus accumbens. Neuroreport, 13(17), 2213-2216.
- Koob, G. F., & Le Moal, M. (2005). Plasticity of reward neurocircuitry and the'dark side'of drug addiction. Nature neuroscience, 8(11), 1442-1444.
- Lenoir, M., Serre, F., Cantin, L., & Ahmed, S. H. (2007). Intense sweetness surpasses cocaine reward. PloS one, 2(8), e698.
- Ahmed, S. H., Avena, N. M., Berridge, K. C., Gearhardt, A. N., & Guillem, K. (2013). Food addiction. In Neuroscience in the 21st Century (pp. 2833-2857). Springer New York.
- DiLeone, R. J., Taylor, J. R., & Picciotto, M. R. (2012). The drive to eat: comparisons and distinctions between mechanisms of food reward and drug addiction. Nature neuroscience, 15(10), 1330-1335.
- Tang, D. W., Fellows, L. K., Small, D. M., & Dagher, A. (2012). Food and drug cues activate similar brain regions: a meta-analysis of functional MRI studies. Physiology & behavior, 106(3), 317-324.
- Avena, N. M., Rada, P., & Hoebel, B. G. (2008). Evidence for sugar addiction: behavioral and neurochemical effects of intermittent, excessive sugar intake. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 32(1), 20-39.
- Ahmed, S. H., Guillem, K., & Vandaele, Y. (2013). Sugar addiction: pushing the drug-sugar analogy to the limit. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care, 16(4), 434-439.
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