Sugar refers to short-chain carbohydrates that are sweet and used in food. Most people know sugar as a whitish crystal-like powder with a sweet taste that is often added to food stuff. Every year, hundreds of millions tons of table sugar are produced across the world. The sugar that you eat is scientifically referred as “sucrose” which breaks down further into both glucose and fructose in the body.
It is essential to know what sugar is, those commonly found in food and cold beverages are:
- Glucose (often referred as blood sugar when talking about blood glucose)
- Fructose (one of the main sugars found in fruit – the others are sucrose and glucose)
- Galactose (commonly found in milk )
The most used of all is Sucrose (Table Sugar) which is Glucose + Fructose which is available from sugar industry, added in food for sweetening and is used mostly in all processed food industry.
A slow sugar death due to diabetes and allied ailments creeping in most of the world especially in the developed world where food processes industry has revolutionized and developing world where these industry have started showing its mark of revolution.
According to a “Sugar Nation” a book by Jeff O’ Connel who has emphasized how dangerous the dietary sugar will be and pointed out the statistics which says
- Every five seconds, one more person develops diabetes.
- Worldwide, 285 million people are affected by type 2 diabetes.
- Many of them have no idea.
“Sugar gave rise to the slave trade; now sugar has enslaved us.”
-Jeff O’Connell, Sugar Nation: The Hidden Truth Behind America’s Deadliest Habit and the Simple
Way to Beat It
The most dangerous food carving is perhaps the sweet sugar, which is ingredient of almost all the dreadful sweet things that are served up in modern times. The carving for eating more sugar added food things gives similar effect as that of the natural opioids in the brain, which is similar to drugs like morphine which reduce the intensity of pain signals reaching the brain and affect those brain areas controlling emotion, which diminishes the effects of a painful stimulus.
An article in The Atlantic, Prof. Robert H. Lustig a professor at the University of California mention’s biological reasoning for the addictions
“The brain’s pleasure center, called the nucleus accumbens, is essential for our survival as a species. When you consume any substance of abuse, including sugar, the nucleus accumbens receives a dopamine signal, from which you experience pleasure. And, so you consume more. The problem is that with prolonged exposure, the signal attenuates, gets weaker. So, you have to consume more to get the same effect — tolerance. And if you pull back on the substance, you go into withdrawal. Tolerance and withdrawal constitute addiction. And make no mistake, sugar is addictive.”
Repeated, excessive intake of sugar created a state in which an opioid antagonist caused behavioral and neurochemical signs of opioid withdrawal. There are four major components of addiction that are analyzed. “Bingeing,” “withdrawal,” “craving” and “cross-sensitization”. 
Once the cell in the brain are fueled by sugar, every time you eat sugar it is like reward for the cells and your carving for sugar enters into vicious cycle and it will become harder to break the habit resulting in sugar addiction.
Sugar Withdrawal Symptoms
Signs of any withdrawal become apparent when the abused substance is no longer available or chemically blocked. Not everyone will experience the same type of symptoms but will vary according to how strongly one is addicted to the sweetening.
There are number of symptoms of withdrawal when one tries to eliminate sugar from the daily diet, few of the symptoms are enlisted below not that everyone would experience the same symptoms but withdrawal varies in severity and intensity based on the person.
- Cravings: One of the evident withdrawal effect after stopping sugar is craving, which is difficult to overcome but with the self control and keeping away from sugar you can reduce the craving gradually to the point that craving is reduced completely. It is advisable to keep the sweet things out of sight, especially chocolates stored in the fridge.
- Appetite changes: Sugar eating in some people can potentially increasing the craving of carbohydrates. When one stop consumption of sugar one may experience change in daily appetite with fluctuation of daily increase or decrease in intake of food.
- Weight changes: Most people notice that they lose weight when they drop sugar consumption. Weight loss is generally due to the fact that people stop eating unhealthy foods and drinking beverages that are sugar-filled.
- Irritability: In the critical phase of lowering sugar from diet, one may become irritable. During the acute phase of cutting sugar from your diet, you may become impatient for the lack of sugar. Sugar may fluctuate the dopamine level that in turn fluctuate the neurotransmitter responsible for pleasure in the brain. Due to the lack of sugar which is responsible stimuli, one may become irritable.
- Mood swings and Anger: Cutting of sugar in the initial phase may result in swinging mood to some extend but will start stabilizing over the period of time, slowly the brain gets adjusted to it. Anger is also the brother of mood swings and irritation, sometimes you may become more angry than usual, and it may some time become very difficult to control, but with self control you may overcome it after few weeks.
- Fatigue: Sugar can some time acts like boosting agent in our body producing more energy, but when someone starts cutting the sugar, one may experience fatigue and lethargy which may last for some time may be some weeks. Try to replace the sugar with some natural energy drinks like fruit juice which is having fructose.
- Anxiety: Anxiety levels in some people may fluctuate due to cutting of sugar from their daily diet. It is advisable to cut the sugar gradually in steps.
- Dizziness: The dizziness in some individuals are seen when they stop the sugar. It is advisable for sometime to have energy drinks which is having citric content in it.
- Depression: This is the result of stopping the sugar completely, and seen in those who are highly addicted to sugar with more sugar intake. It is slightly difficult phase but over the period of time one may elevate themselves. It will be good if one catches up some activity of sports or indulgence in games.
- Headaches: The elimination of sugar from the body will change the metabolism in the body due to which one may experience slight headaches, but gradually it will subside.
How to Overcome Sugar Withdrawals
It is very difficult to get rid of sugar cravings and physical withdrawal symptoms. By removing sweet from your daily life, makes it very difficult to fill the emotional void but once it is done on the other side there is life waiting which is lot more cleaner, stronger, healthier and happier life than ever before.
“The processed food industry hijacked our palates by using three highly addictive weapons — sugar, salt and wheat.” – Nancy S. Mure
Yes, the processed food industry causes most of the sugar addiction, they know perfectly right blend of the ingredient to make it lot more tasty for the consumption. It is highly recommended in the process of giving up sugar addiction to get rid of the most of processed food containing sugar.
Here are some of the best tips to reduce the sugar craving:
- Reduce the processed food which is having sugar content in it with utmost priority, avoid biscuit, donuts, cakes, chocolates, etc. Get shifted from processed food to unprocessed food, this will automatically cut you from the refined sugar, processed fructose, preservatives, dyes and harmful addictive ingredients. Replace it with home made food which is more nutritional. This will allow your body to depend less on sugar and more on fat as its primary fuel. Allow yourself healthy carbohydrate-rich foods such as fruit, brown rice, whole-grain pasta and bread, oatmeal, honey, dried fruit, and sweet potatoes.
- Stop adding sugar to your food or beverages, replace the sugar with other substitutes, it is better to opt for Stevia and Xylitol rather than artificial sugar substitutes. Fruits has natural sugars, but it’s also loaded with vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Eat fresh fruits whenever you feel craving for it.
- Drinking plenty of water will actually curb the craving of sugar. Whenever you feel craving for sugar, drink full glass of water. Sometimes, it is difficult for some people having sugar addiction to identify the difference between the thirst and sugar craving, so simply drinking water will suffice the cravings.
- Exercise daily doesn’t mean one has to do strenuous exercise with tough regime set in, just a simple brisk walking around your place with some running in between will suffice the need of burning fat and regulates the hormones such as insulin, the endorphin which is released when you exercise will give you the same effect of cookies without a sugar and makes you feel lighter.
- Enjoy fermented foods and drinks, which drastically reduces the craving of sugar and controls the craving to great extends. Drink probiotics like young coconut Kefir (a cultured drink that is similar to yogurt) which can be consumed plain along with food or drink combined with sour drink concentrates like cranberry, pomegranate etc. There are many overall benefits of probiotic liquids, although each one can be used for specific health, taste or convenience goals. The researchers discovered that probiotics had significant effects on reduction of glucose, HbA1c, insulin levels and insulin resistance in individuals with diabetes.
- Drinking green vegetables juice not only helps in reducing the carving of sugar but also the processed food.
Sugar free life will definitely result in quality life which is less prone to disease. There will be significant cognitive change one may experience along with physiological changes, it will be like ripple effect which will help to control other food addictions bringing better control and success in the life.