Sugar Addiction – Symptoms, Causes, and How to Break Free

This article first appeared on Sweetdefeat.

The latest health and fitness trends all seem to relate to some kind of a cleanse in order to change something about your diet. Typically, a cleanse is used to assist in purging sugar or other so-called toxins from the body, but how effective are these cleanses? When it comes to sugar addiction, the body is under constant pressure to consume something sweet or sweet-tasting, which can cause a myriad of symptoms and cravings.

While many tend to ignore the symptoms of a sugar addiction, a sugar addiction can have similar effects on the brain that illicit drugs do, thus suggesting that adults ought to take this addiction seriously. Listed below is a complete list of what you need to know about sugar addiction, its causes, and how to fight the addiction.

What is Sugar Addiction?

The big question in the debate of sugar addiction is to first define what sugar addiction is. When thinking about what effects sugar has on your body, it should be noted that your brain depends on glucose (sugar) for immediate energy. Without glucose, the brain would struggle to work properly. In particular, it appears that the hypothalamus plays a role in sugar cravings and addiction. For some people, the cravings may cause them to eat or crave certain foods more than they should, and it could encourage them to make poor dietary choices.

In contrast to simply craving sugar throughout the day, there are instances when your sugar addiction shows itself in certain meals in which you overeat. Overeating in any meal or snack can be a quick sign that you may have some addiction. Usually, overeating sweet foods, beverages, or treats is the route people take. For some, this is not a big deal, but it could be an issue that masks a sugar addiction. Here are some of the most significant symptoms of sugar addiction that you should be aware of.

Sugar Addiction Symptoms

Sugar addiction shows itself in subtle and obvious ways and this can vary for each individual. Paying close attention to the symptoms of sugar addiction is important if you want a better understanding of your energy levels as well as your health. Let’s take a closer look at the symptoms of sugar addiction.

You Crave Comfort Foods at Dinner

One of the first signs that you have a sugar addiction is when you crave comfort foods at dinner time. For some people, the idea of heading home or out to dinner with friends and enjoying a big bowl of pasta, bread, or other simple-carbohydrate-rich foods can be enticing, especially if you have a sugar addiction.

For starters here, carbohydrates are not necessarily to blame for your sugar addiction, but your brain may be craving the glucose that is processed from the carbs you eat. Similarly, addiction may be apparent when you crave salty and fatty foods as well. Keeping a close eye on these subtle signs may help you to recognize what form your sugar addiction takes.

You Crave Soda and Other Sweet Beverages

Soda has long been under fire for causing ill health, and usually sodas and sugar-laden beverages contain high amounts of sugar (in the form of high-fructose corn syrup). Are you drinking diet soda instead? Well, the sweetened sodas you consume throughout the day contain high amounts of artificial sweeteners that are estimated to be about 600 times sweeter than regular table sugar (sometimes even sweeter).

At this point, consuming a beverage that is much stronger than sugar can trick your mind into thinking you’re eating sugar, but actually it is causing you to crave more of the sweet stuff. Sodas are not the only kinds of beverages to look out for: most coffee shops add sweeteners and sugar to drinks as a way to enhance the flavor. Also, many flavored teas and calorie-free products contain sweeteners, so you need to pay attention to all of these possible sources.

Making Excuses for Your Sugar Habit

You may notice that you come up with reasons why it’s ok to eat or a drink a specific food to justify consuming it. For some people, this may be as simple as saying “it’s calorie-free” or “it’s organic.” The excuses you make for consuming sugar could be your way of trying to ignore how much your brain wants the white stuff, not to mention, it helps to cover up that perhaps there might be an addictive part of your personality. Regardless of what kind of excuses you make about sugar, chances are you may have a sugar addiction if you notice that you are making excuses at all for eating or drinking sugary foods.

Rewarding With Sugary Foods

Your brain is a smart organ. One sign that you may have a sugar addiction is if you make a bargain with yourself to reward yourself with sugar for completing something. The best example of this is going to the gym. Deciding that if you complete a challenging workout, you can have a sugary treat, is perhaps the single most common pattern. While it is good to reward yourself with something as a way to motivate you throughout a workout or something you have been meaning to do, using sugar as the reward is only reinforcing a good habit with a bad habit.

You Have Tried to Kick Sugar and Failed

This is a common sign that you could have a sugar addiction. Similar to how drug users and alcoholics struggle with kicking the habit, cutting out sugar from your diet only to fail and increase your intake again is a symptom that you have an addiction to the sweet stuff. Considering the amount of sugar that is around in daily life, fighting the urge to eat sugar is certainly a difficult challenge.

You Eat or Binge on Sugar When Alone

The last symptom in this list is comparable to other addictions. A sugar addiction can present itself for many when others are not around. If you live alone, have a night alone away from a spouse, or simply have some time to yourself, you may find yourself craving sweet foods and drinks. Ice cream, cakes, and cookies are commonly the sugary food of choice when adults are alone for a given time and have a sugar addiction.

What Causes Our Sugar Addiction to Sugar?

So what exactly causes us to get addicted to sugar? After all, sugar is not an illicit drug, but the brain acts in a similar manner to other substance abuse and addictions. One of the first and most noticeable causes of sugar addiction is that the brain wants sugar. The brain needs sugar (glucose) as a fuel source and your brain will continuously attempt to get glucose as a way to prevent a potential shortage of this nutrient. If you notice that you have a sugar addiction, the primary culprit is your brain controlling your movements and thoughts.

Sugar Rush

Another reason you could be craving sugar regularly is due to how it makes you feel after consuming it. Generally, a sugary treat causes a rush of both glucose and endorphins in your blood, which initially causes a short burst of energy. However, the euphoria you get from eating sugar does not usually last for too long. It can cause a fast crash in your energy levels, which can cause you to feel lethargic, weak, and potentially even depressed, all due to a sharp decrease in your blood sugar levels. This leads to a vicious cycle that may have you craving sugary foods. Consider taking a look at our guide discussing in greater depth the causes of sugar cravings.

The Taste

Let’s face it, sugar tastes great, and this is part of the reason why you may be hooked on it as well. Your taste buds are small receptors located on your tongue and inside your mouth, and they respond to various substances that you consume. Interestingly, if your taste buds are not working properly, you could have a stronger affinity towards sugar and sugar addiction.

Smoking

It seems that smoking pops up in virtually every health issue. Smoking has been linked strongly to lung cancer, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), among  others, and now it appears that smoking may have an effect on your taste buds as well. A recent study of more than 60 smokers found that taste buds are greatly diminished as a result of regular smoking. It appears that the diminished taste buds may be due to a reduced blood circulation to the taste buds or tongue.

So if you have been fighting sugar addiction or have noticed that you may be addicted to sugar, it is important to find ways to quit smoking. Smoking can affect your health in various ways, and regardless of how long you have smoked, quitting is the best thing for your health. Consider seeking professional help when you decide to quit as a way to make the process more successful.

The Price of Convenience

One of the downsides to a sugar addiction is that you may have never had a choice in the first place. The truth is that sugar is added in high amounts to virtually every food you can find in the grocery store, including bread, pasta sauce, and foods that have no reason to have sugar. As a result, purchasing foods that contain sugar is a far too easy thing to do. If you take a look at the price of certain foods in the store, you may notice that healthier foods, organic, or sugar-free foods have a higher cost.

Why is this? A big reason is that corn is subsidized in the U.S., which means manufacturers include high-fructose corn syrup in foods because of their lower cost. Also, adding sugar to foods increases the chances that you, the consumer, will continue to purchase that food because it tastes great and it is cheaper for your budget. The price of this convenience probably has had a major impact in your life, and sugar addiction is likely not something you could have controlled in the first place.

How Sugar Addiction Negatively Affects Your Body

Now that you have a bit of information of what causes sugar addiction, now is the time to take a look at its consequences. As described above, sugar addiction is similar to drug or alcohol addiction in the sense that your desire to consume sugar is aggressive. In addition, breaking the habit is a lifestyle change that certainly takes time and effort (there will be further explanation below).

There are many consequences to sugar addiction that may not be obvious to the layperson, and these consequences may have serious implications for your health. Before getting started on how sugar can harm your body and health, consider checking out our article on how eating too much sugar affects your body.

1. Potential Heart Problems

A recent study outlined the negative effects of sugar on your health and its relation to premature death. This study, which looked at subjects over the course of 15 years, found that individuals who consumed 25% or more  of their calories each day from suga