I had a reader recently ask if sugar addiction was a real thing.
My answer: Absolutely.
Sugar and carbohydrate addiction—yes, it’s real
Although there are many different definitions of “food addiction” from various sources, Food Addicts Anonymous describes it best:
“Food addiction manifests itself in the uncontrollable craving for excess food that follows the ingestion of refined carbohydrates, primarily sugar and flour substances that are quickly metabolized and turned into sugar in the bloodstream.”
Many people have trouble grasping the idea that a person can be addicted to food, but the idea of food addiction is not new. As long ago as the 1940’s scientists were reporting findings that suggested people could become addicted to certain kinds of foods.
By the early 1960’s studies showed that starchy carbohydrates, in particular, could be addictive.
Then by the time the 1980’s rolled around, research in this area exploded, and began to include studies of the effects of sugars and starches on brain chemicals, including the neurotransmitter serotonin.
And recent studies have shown that sugar is eight times more addictive than cocaine!
What’s going on in there?
Here are three of the major underlying factors behind refined carb addiction:
1- Your brain’s neurotransmitters
When refined carbohydrates like sugars and starches are eaten and your pancreas releases insulin, in addition to regulating blood sugar, insulin also decreases your bloodstream’s concentration of amino acids—except for tryptophan. The resulting higher tryptophan levels eventually reach your brain, which triggers the brain to produce serotonin, creating a soothing, calming sensation.
Refined carbs also trigger increased releases of dopamine and norepinephrine, and as your brain becomes indulged with these neurotransmitters, a feeling of euphoria results and a craving for more refined carbohydrates is stimulated.
2- Your gut
Your gut bacteria play a role too because candida or yeast overgrowth can trigger sugar cravings and addiction. Yeast feeds on sugar, and in turn, can multiply out of control and overcome your friendly intestinal flora.
A vicious cycle can result whereby the yeast, wanting more nourishment, triggers cravings for sugar, which in turn leads to greater yeast overgrowth, which then triggers more intense cravings for sugar.
3- Chronic stress
Stress triggers the release of the hormones adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones raise your heart rate, dilate your blood vessels and mobilize fat and carbohydrates stored in your body for quick energy for a "fight or flight" reaction.
Once the stress ends, adrenaline production subsides, but cortisol stays around to help refuel your body and bring it back to balance—and it does this by making you hungry.
But when stress becomes chronic, this can lead to the familiar “stress eating” of carbs, since your body is repeatedly following the instructions of cortisol and looking to refuel itself.
Break the cycle of craving and addiction!
The good news is you CAN overcome carb cravings and addiction. Here are some measures to help your success:
Avoid them: Purge refined carbs from your cupboards, pantry, and refrigerator. Avoid dining out in restaurants where you will be tempted by a breadbasket, huge plates of pasta or desserts. Choose protein foods and/or vegetables whenever possible for snacks and meals.
Supplement with probiotics: Sugar feeds yeast, so if you’ve been eating a lot of refined carbs, chances are excellent you’ve got an imbalance in your intestines and your friendly flora may be waving the white flag of defeat. Supplement with a top-notch probiotic like Super Shield multi-strain probiotic formula to help restore a healthier balance.
Two of the powerhouse strains in Super Shield, Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus acidophilus, have been shown to be extremely effective in fighting yeast (Candida)!
De-stress: Do whatever you need to do to minimize stress, keeping in mind that regular exercise gives a one-two punch—it not only helps reduce stress, but it also raises your level of feel-good endorphins!
Get tested: That can include getting your thyroid tested to see if low thyroid is an issue, getting a blood sugar test, or requesting a comprehensive stool analysis to look for yeast overgrowth. Also be sure to check out food allergies, as sometimes people crave the very foods they’re allergic to.
Get support: Addiction is difficult to overcome, so be sure to seek out help from family, friends and support groups. Look for professionals who understand food addiction and can help you with your self-care programs such as therapists, personal trainers, and life coaches. Acupuncture has also been shown to be extremely helpful with addiction.
Additional supplement support: The following supplements have been shown to be helpful for refined carbohydrate cravings:Omega-3 essential fatty acids: Omega-3 EFAs like those in VitalMega-3 are involved in normal brain cell function, insulin control, and inflammation.
Glutamine: Glutamine is a dominant amino acid in the blood and brain and can help reduce sugar cravings.
Vitamin D: Low Vitamin D levels are associated with decreased satiety. Our outstanding new product, Optimum D-K Formula can help ensure your body has the vitamin D it needs.
Tyrosine and 5-HTP: are amino acids that help reduce cravings.
Chromium: balances blood sugar and can help take the edge off cravings.