Do you crave something sweet–like a small bite of chocolate–after every meal? Do you think about dessert all day? Do you add sugar to your breakfast coffee, or choose highly sweetened cereals to start your day? If they answer to any of these questions is yes, you might just be addicted to sugar. And you are not alone. With the American adult obesity rates climbing as high as 56%, lots of us are sugar addicts. Sugar can be more addictive than drugs like heroin or cocaine because sugar is a slow, silent addiction versus, louder, quicker drug addictions. A sugar addict doesn’t get hooked right away. It could take 10 years, but once established, the addiction is just as strong, and just as dangerous. The result is obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and more.
When you are addicted to sugar you feel moody when you don’t eat sugar. The smell, sight, or touch of sugary foods can give you an instant high or rush, and spark a craving. And when you are not eating sugar, you’re thinking about it. You can literally not go one day without it. What’s more, when you do eat sugar, you tend to indulge, or eat too much.
Sugar dependency is a sign of a brain imbalance with dopamine, the chemical that is attached to the search for reward. Like any other addiction, it can be passed down for 2-3 generations, so if you can break the habit when you are younger you are also protecting the lives of your children, and possibly your grandchildren. With rising childhood obesity rates, each generation seems to be getting worse–or more addicted.
A sugar addiction is difficult to avoid, but easy to break. The first thing you need to do is switch to sugar substitutes. While they won’t end the cravings for something sweet, it will drastically lower your caloric intake, which is the first part of the problem. Use sugar substitutes like Stevia and Splenda for cooking, baking, as well as sweetening your coffee, other beverages, and foods.
Next, slowly decrease the amount of sugar you are using, and replace the taste with something else, like fruit or spices, which are high in nutrients. Instead of sprinkling sugar on your oatmeal or coffee, try a sprinkle of cinnamon. Instead of sweetening your tea, try adding lemon. Slowly, your tastes will change and you’ll be satisfied with a host of different tastes, running from savory to spicy.
Last, you can balance your brain’s chemistry to beat the sugar withdrawal. Drink lots of green tea to flush out the sugar stored in your body. You’ll also be helping your body get rid of other harmful toxins, and gain nutrients.
By following this regimen, you can notice a positive change in as little as 1 week, but it could take as much as 1 year to break the addiction entirely.
Eric R. Braverman, M.D.
Dr. Braverman is a Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Brandeis University and NYU Medical School, did brain research at Harvard Medical School, and trained at an affiliate of Yale Medical School. He is acknowledged worldwide as an expert in brain-based diagnosis and treatment, and he lectures to and trains doctors in anti-aging medicine.