Tips on Quitting Sugar

28 May 2018

Tips on Quitting Sugar

Sugar addiction is becoming an epidemic across the globe. It is one of the most widespread addictions on earth, affecting children, teenagers, and adults alike. It has become such a huge issue due to the easily accessible and readily available nature of the substance. Sugar is in almost everything you can consume nowadays, including soft drinks, chocolates, lollies, and cakes, as well as hidden in sauces, cereals, muesli bars, breads, milk, and pasta to name a few. Often food items that one would believe to be healthy actually contain high amounts of processed sugar.

Excess sugar consumption can have extremely detrimental health effects some of which include: tooth decay, liver damage, adrenal gland and pancreas damage, insulin resistance, diabetes, cancer, obesity, anxiety, hypoglycaemia, loss of concentration, fatigue, mood swings, depression, high blood pressure, kidney stones, gallstones, headaches and migraines, gastrointestinal tract issues such as IBS, cataracts and other eye issues, autoimmune diseases, food allergies, degenerative neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s and dementia, yeast infections, lower immune function, increased cell death, osteoporosis, skin conditions such as eczema and acne, increased risk of toxaemia during pregnancy, worsened ADHD symptoms, loss of tissue elasticity and function and therefore premature aging, increased fluid retention, hormonal imbalance, and infertility.

Quitting sugar can be extremely hard due to its addictive nature. Sugar activates the brain’s reward system, causing a release of “mood-boosting” chemicals serotonin and dopamine. Large amounts of sugar cause a massive amount of dopamine to be released, causing a “sugar high” along with general feelings of happiness. When the glucose levels normalize to lower levels, it causes a craving for more sugar to recreate that feeling. Studies have found that sugar is as addictive as some drugs as it stimulates the same receptors in the brain as heroin and cocaine.

Some experts suggest that gradually decreasing a person’s sugar intake is the best way, others suggest cutting it out completely more effective, but it really depends on the individual.

Quitting sugar often leads to withdrawal symptoms. These may include: cravings, headaches and migraines, aches, pains, and flu-like symptoms, hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar), mood swings, shakes, weakness, dizziness, lack of energy or lethargy, bloating, nausea, hunger, anxiety, depression, chills, sleep changes, and weight changes.

Some tips on quitting sugar include:

Substitute whole fruits for sweet treats: Fruit contains fructose which is metabolized differently to refined sugars, and also contains fibre, vitamins, and minerals. However, when consumed in excess, fruit can still have negative side effects, so it is best to limit consumption to a few servings a day.

fruit servings

Cut out artificial sweeteners: Experts suggest cutting out sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose, saccharine, and stevia as it can actually make you desire sweet foods when consumed in large amounts. It changes your taste palate, causing you to require more to feel fully satisfied. Some studies have also linked artificial sweeteners to weight gain. Alternatively, studies suggest sweeteners may be an effective alternative to sugar. The healthier types of sweeteners include stevia, honey, dates, maple syrup, and coconut sugar.


Clear out the house and workspace of any temptations: This includes removing any sweet treats from accessible places and keeping them out of sight, if they cannot be removed altogether. This reduces the risk of temptation and any cravings brought on by the thought or sight of the sweet food: “Out of sight, out of mind”. It is also helpful to keep healthy snacks around and readily available to substitute for sweets when the cravings kick in.

Make a meal plan: By planning out all of your meals and snacks, it makes it easier to stick to the schedule and stay on track. Many people have reported finding it helpful to do a big cook on the weekend so that they have healthy sugar free foods throughout the week without having to stress about it.

Avoid processed foods when possible as approximately 80% of them contain added sugar.

Try some cinnamon: Studies suggest cinnamon is effective at reducing cravings while also helping to lower blood sugar.

cinnamon oil

Essential oil with cinnamon and anise seed

Educate yourself on the negative health impacts caused by sugar.

Make a list of reasons why you decided to quit sugar to keep you motivated. These may include: health reasons, increased energy, less side effects such as headaches, better skin etc.

Eat enough protein: Protein is excellent for preventing hunger and sugar cravings as it reduces levels of the hunger hormone, ghrelin, and also helps to maintain blood sugar levels. Some high protein food sources include: meats, lentils, fish, eggs, dairy, and soy.

Stay hydrated: Thirst is often mistaken for hunger. When some people are thirsty, they may start craving sugar. When detoxing from sugar, a common side effect is a moderate to severe headache. It is essential to stay hydrated to reduce this effect and push through the symptoms. It is also important to remember to drink enough water, particularly if soft drinks and fruit juices were your main source of hydration beforehand.

Have an Epsom salt bath: this may help with some side effects of sugar withdrawal such as all over aches and pains, and studies suggest that it is effective at flushing out environmental toxins.

Increase fibre intake: Fibre acts to move through the body undigested, which helps to keep the feeling of fullness, reducing the likelihood of snacking. Dietary fibre also aids to keep blood sugar levels steady and balanced. Some high fibre foods include: nuts, vegetables, seeds, legumes, wholegrain breakfast cereals, fruits such as berries and melons, and potatoes. It is important to stay hydrated when increasing fibre intake to reduce the chances of side effects such as constipation.

high-fibre foods

Create a backup plan: When the sugar cravings get out of hand, it’s beneficial to have a back up plan or distraction in place. This can include: eating some fruit, going for a walk, exercising, reading a book, listening to music, calling a friend, or writing in a journal.

Ensure your magnesium levels are high enough: Certain cravings often mean that we are deficient in certain vitamins. Chocolate cravings in particular are a sign of magnesium deficiency. You can prevent these cravings by eating magnesium-rich foods such as dark leafy greens, tofu, nuts, and legumes, or by taking a magnesium supplement.

Incorporate probiotics into your diet: Probiotics have a long list of positive health benefits, but the reason it is particularly helpful with quitting sugar is that it aids to regulate blood sugar levels and reduce appetite.

Let go of habits that feed your sugar addiction: You may find that there are certain habits, routines, or tendencies you have that contribute to your sugar addiction. For example, you might crave sugar when you are angry or upset, after you’ve skipped a meal, after dinner, when you are tired, or with your coffee. Breaking these habits is essential in helping to reduce cravings. It may also prove beneficial to replace these bad habits with another habit or distraction. For example, people who get cravings when watching television may find that knitting reduces their cravings as it keeps their hands busy.

Try herbal teas when you have cravings: Cold drinks are quite beneficial for nixing cravings and some herbal teas are naturally sweet while being good for you.

Eat regular meals/healthy snacks to keep your blood sugar levels up. It is recommended that 5 or 6 smaller meals every 3 – 4 hours is more effective at keeping blood sugar levels steady than having 3 large meals a day.

Increase your intake of healthy fats: Fat is digested quite slowly, so it works to keep you feeling fuller for longer. Healthy fats can be found in foods like avocados, fish, nuts, seeds, and coconut oil.healthy fats

Indulging in what you are craving, in a healthy way: If you’re craving chocolate, it may be beneficial to indulge in a few squares of dark, low sugar chocolate (which is actually good for you).

Read ingredient lists and make sure your food doesn’t contain hidden sugars-anything ending in “-ose” = sugar. “Low-fat” labels are also a cause for suspicion as low-fat foods are usually flavoured with additives such as high-fructose corn syrup to make it taste better.

Spice up your savoury foods: Adding extra herbs and spices to your foods helps you to detox without feeling like all food is bland or that you’re missing out.

Keep active and exercise: Not only is exercise a good distraction, working out is an effective way to reduce stress and alleviate symptoms such as headaches and nausea. Exercising releases endorphins which can also help with managing the mood swings, depression, and anxiety associated with sugar withdrawal.

Get enough sleep: When you are not well enough rested, the craving for carbohydrates skyrockets. It is important to aim for at least 7 – 8 hours of sleep per night.

Write your progress in a diary or blog about it: Doing this will help to keep you motivated and you will be able to see how far you’ve progressed.

Keep it up: Quitting sugar is difficult and the side effects and cravings can be severe. Before you think about giving up, just remember these cravings only generally last for 4 – 5 days.


Posted in News | Tags: ,