Craving sugar is an irresistible urge. If you love
sugar, you already know it’s a highly addictive substance — it affects your brain
the way drugs do, with plenty of unpleasant aftereffects.
Eating too much sugar can lead to weight gain along with serious health consequences,
like hormonal imbalance, Alzheimer’s, skin and dental issues, osteoporosis, diabetes,
heart disease, and even some forms of cancer. You can stop your urgent sugar cravings
but you have to know what’s causing them first.
If you’re ready to stop riding the sugar rollercoaster, we can help.
What’s causing your sugar cravings?
Sugar is certainly tantalizing on its own, but there are real, physical causes behind
your sugar cravings. Top causes for sugar cravings include:
- Fluctuations and disruptions in major hormones like insulin, estrogen and progesterone
- Intestinal yeast, which thrives on sugar
- Chronic stress that drives excess cortisol production
Understanding sugar’s effects can help you stop your cravings, lose weight and transform
Sugar, hormones and weight
When you eat your regular 3 o’clock cookie, the sugar rush activates feel-good chemicals
and reward centers in your brain, like serotonin, dopamine, and beta endorphins.
It spikes your blood sugar and eventually leads to insulin surges that drive
The sugar roller coaster causes physiologic changes in your body:
- weight gain, especially around the belly
- brain fog
- hormonal imbalance
- more cravings
- depression and anxiety
Sugar’s effects can seep into your whole system. Sugar and carbohydrates are mostly
stored in the liver as glycogen until it gets full. Then your body has to
make fat from the excess sugar and carbohydrates. That fat gets added to
existing fat deposits around your body and you gain weight.
Sugar can also fuel hormonal imbalance by turning off a key gene that controls your
sex hormones. Without this gene (sex hormone-binding globulin or SHBG), both testosterone
and estrogen can become unregulated. This imbalance causes fatigue, anxiety, irritability
and other symptoms.
Sugar causes a world of trouble in your body but you can free yourself from your
sugar habit. Try any one of the following to get started.
7 sweet steps to stop sugar cravings
Step 1: Mix pleasure with protein.
When you have a little protein with your sugary treats, it helps
balance your blood sugar. Add a handful of nuts when you eat sweets or mix
powder into a sweet smoothie. Having protein at the same time counteracts
the “spiky” sugar surge to the brain that makes you crash afterwards.
Step 2: Rebalance your hormones.
Just before your period when estrogen is low and progesterone is on its way down,
levels of feel-good beta-endorphins in your brain bottom out. This hormonal imbalance
can cause intense sugar cravings for women in perimenopause or with PMS as your
body attempts to boost serotonin and endorphins. Hormone balancing options like
Equilibrium can help kill cravings and other symptoms by restoring natural
balance to reproductive hormones.
Step 3: Go no-sugar for 3-5 days in a row.
Toughing it out and avoiding sugar
for just three days can make a huge difference in reducing your cravings.
(But you don’t need to cut out fruit — nature’s sweetest treat!) Though it may take
longer for cravings to completely go away, eliminating sugar’s cyclical bursts of
serotonin and beta-endorphin can normalize your sugar receptors and neurotransmitters.
Then your brain isn’t constantly sending the message that it needs more sugar.
Step 4: Plug in targeted nutrients to calm cravings.
Specific micronutrients like zinc, vitamin C and B vitamins quiet sugar cravings
by influencing serotonin production. Omega-3s are crucial for regulating mood and
inflammation, which are associated with cravings. Eat foods with these ingredients
or try a
good woman’s multivitamin and a
pure omega-3 supplement.
Step 5: Balance your belly bugs.
If intestinal and vaginal bacteria are out of balance, yeasts like Candida can flourish.
An overgrowth of yeast in the intestine (or system-wide) can cause strong sugar
cravings, fatigue, fuzzy thinking and digestive issues. Taking a
probiotic and/or eating yeast-free temporarily helps reclaim healthy bacterial
balance and eliminates the sugar-hungry bacteria that need sugar/refined carbohydrates
Step 6: Watch out for acid-forming foods.
Highly processed carbohydrates increase acidity and inflammation, which causes cravings
for sweet foods. Choose anti-inflammatory foods with lots of omega-3 fatty acids,
along with plenty of alkalizing fruits and vegetables.
Step 7: Investigate food sensitivities.
Common food sensitivities can make you so foggy-headed and fatigued that you use
sugar for a pick-me-up. When you remove a food you’re sensitive to, your sugar cravings
may go away. The most common food sensitivities are to gluten, dairy, corn, eggs,
soy, peanuts and citrus. You can try an elimination diet and see if it helps.
Can you make your life sweeter?
If sugar feels like a reward to you, try replacing it with a different treat that
makes you happy. A walk with someone you love, a trip to the movies, an excellent
new book, or a bouquet of flowers for your bedside — can lift your spirits and make
And don’t rule out the bump in serotonin and beta-endorphins you get from exercise,
meal, work that makes a difference, even a sunny day. When you experience
joy and fun, they spell happiness to your body so you don’t need to fill yourself
up with sugar.
Letting go of sugar is stressful but the benefits you feel will keep you moving
forward. Go for progress not perfection!
1 Rouch, C., et al. 2003. Extracellular hypothalamic serotonin and plasma
amino acids in response to sequential carbohydrate and protein meals. Nutr. Neurosci.,
6 (2), 117-124. URL (abstract): http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12722987
Wurtman, R., & Wurtman, J. 1995. Brain serotonin, carbohydrate-craving,
obesity and depression. Obes. Res., 3 (Suppl. 4), 477S-480S. URL (abstract):
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8697046 (accessed 10.03.2008).
2 DesMaisons, K. 2008.Potatoes Not Prozac: Solutions for Sugar Sensitivity
[Revised edition.] NY: Simon & Schuster.
3 DesMaisons, K. 2008. p. 145.
4 DesMaisons, K. 2008. p. 75.
5 DesMaisons, K. 2008. p. 145.
6 DesMaisons, K. 2008. p. 185.
Amazines. 2007. Sugar withdrawal symptoms: don’t let them stop you from
kicking your sugar habits. URL: http://www.amazines.com/article_detail.cfm?articleid=207328
7 DesMaisons, K. 2008. p 84.
8 Lipski, Elizabeth. 2004. Digestive Wellness, 3rd ed., p 92.
NY: McGraw Hill.
9 Lamb, R., & Goldstein, B. 2008. Modulating an oxidative-inflammatory
cascade: Potential new treatment strategy for improving glucose metabolism, insulin
resistance, and vascular function. Int. J. Clin. Pract., 62 (7), 1087–1095.
URL (abstract): http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=2440526
10 DesMaisons, K. 2008. pp. 145-147.