Diseases

Sugar addiction: causes, symptoms and treatment

Sugar addiction: causes, symptoms and treatment


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As with other addictions, sugar addiction means that those affected cannot do without their addictive substances, even though they consciously try to do so. Sugar creates a feeling of wellbeing, but tolerance arises, as with other addictions, so that those affected have to consume more and more sugar to achieve this feeling.

The most important facts

  • A regular and high dose of sugar can lead to addiction because the sugar stimulates dopamine release in the brain.
  • A sugar addiction leads to a vicious circle, because in the case of depressed people in particular, the initial feeling of wellbeing when the blood sugar level is too high quickly turns into depression.
  • Regarding the amount of sugar consumed, it does not matter whether we consume honey or fruit or drink sugary soft drinks. For the body, sugar is sugar.
  • The physical symptoms of addiction are over after a few days of withdrawal. Alternative habits are necessary to remove the excessive sugar from life.
  • An excess of sugar has serious long-term consequences. These range from an increased risk of cancer to caries to memory loss.

Who is at risk

Sugar boosts the production of serotonin - our happiness hormone - in the brain. For this reason, people who suffer from negative stress and people who generally have low serotonin levels are considered at risk. Women are more vulnerable than men with lower serotonin levels on average. Due to the increased release of serotonin, sugar has an antidepressant effect. People suffering from depression are also among the risk groups who can develop sugar addiction.

Symptoms of sugar addiction

Symptoms of sugar addiction can include: snacking secretly, which is embarrassing to yourself and your social environment. Cravings for sugary foods, combined with eating attacks, in which you stuff chocolate bars or gummy bears into yourself. Feelings of guilt after eating.

A typical consequence of increased sugar consumption is weight gain. You are aware that you are consuming too many calories from the sugar, but you still cannot reduce the sugar intake.

As with any addiction, an important feature is that you are ashamed of your sugar behavior. For example, punish yourself for your sugar consumption by promising yourself to "repent" by doing sports, for example. Another indication is that you are hiding sugary food in the apartment so that your partner, friends and acquaintances do not notice it. Sugar addiction can also lead to sleep disorders and chronic fatigue.

How does sugar addiction come about?

Sugar stimulates exactly the hormones - serotonin and dopamine - which our body's reward system also releases (this also applies to alcohol with dopamine). As a result, we feel like we have been through a difficult task or have had close physical contact with a person we like, etc. If our reward center is regularly activated by sugar, this can lead to a loss of self-control, which is a substance addiction Sugar.

Physical effects of sugar addiction

A permanent overconsumption of sugar leads to creeping illnesses. Too much sugar is often responsible for tooth decay and, of course, for “diabetes”. In addition, overdoses of sugar lead to a lack of B vitamins and trigger acidity in the stomach and intestines for years - the consequences are heartburn and problems with digestion.

Eating disorder

Sugar addiction is often associated with eating disorders such as an eating addiction, binge eating disorder and bulimia. Young people in particular are particularly at risk here, for example, because they compensate for psychological conflicts with sugary food. Bulimia and eating and vomiting often go hand in hand with sugar addiction in that sugar addicts are ashamed of the amount of unhealthy sugar calories they eat and want to get rid of what they eat by secretly going to the toilet and vomiting.
Binge eating, i.e. irregular eating attacks, are often associated with the devouring of extremely high-calorie and sugar-rich foods such as cream cakes, chocolate biscuits or sugar-containing puddings.

What helps against sugar addiction?

First of all, most people in western countries consume too much sugar, especially in the form of hidden sugar, which is contained in ready-made pizza as well as to a large extent in ketchup, children's milk cuts or additionally sweetened fruit juices and soft drinks. Sugar addicts should systematically check the food products they consume: the carbohydrate content and the sugar content are given in the nutrient table.

By the way: If the food ingredients on a package contain fructose, dextrose, maltose, glucose, caramel, honey, molasses, corn sugar or corn syrup, it is always a form of sugar.

Also interesting: The consumption of fruit instead of industrial sugar recommended by some "natural foodists" is of little help to sugar addicts, since a large apple already contains as much or more sugar than a 0.3 glass of Coca-Cola. The sugar content of the fruit is not reduced by the fact that fruits also contain valuable minerals and vitamins. Bananas in particular contain a lot of sugar.

If you have problems with excessive consumption of sugar, we recommend that you do not have any high-sugar products, such as sweets or sweeteners, in your home.

Consequences of sugar addiction

Excess sugar over a long period of time has many negative consequences. The most obvious consequence is being overweight. The body converts refined sugar into fat five times faster than complex carbohydrates - sugar makes you fat. The constant energy kick of sugar addicts also damages concentration. In children, this manifests itself in the form of hyperactivity, in adults over increased nervousness, coupled with inner restlessness. This is particularly fatal to those among the sugar addicts who initially consumed sugar to compensate for stress and are now under constant stress.

Flatulence is an unpleasant consequence of increased sugar consumption, since the amount of sugar affects the intestines. In addition to the flatulence, diarrhea and constipation are the result. The intestinal flora suffers damage and pathogens, such as bacteria, are easy to play. Sugar is also considered a good source of nutritional value for the yeast Candida, which can sometimes cause serious illnesses.

When a sugar addict stops consuming sugar, the body starts producing dopamine. In addition to the strong urge for sweets, headaches and an irritated reaction to our environment are the main consequences. Another reason that makes sugar addiction a vicious cycle is that high blood sugar levels lead to uncontrolled feelings. Those affected are nervous and suffer from irrational fears. There can also be a permanent feeling of depression. Sugar consumption is a vicious cycle, especially for people suffering from depression, because they try to suppress their depression by adding sugar. If the addictive sugar does not alleviate the depression, but exacerbates it, the risk increases that those affected will resort to other addictive substances such as alcohol and become addicted to alcoholism. In the long run, a so-called "sugar stupidity" can be the result, since a high blood sugar level has negative effects on the brain. For example, people with increased sugar consumption performed comparatively negatively on memory tests.

A high consumption of sugar also promotes cancer, because the more sugar a person consumes, the better tumor cells can multiply and spread. In addition, an excess of sugar weakens the body's defense system. Another unpleasant side effect is that high doses of sugar destroy vitamin C, which favors the spread of viruses and bacteria in your own body.

Keep a sugar diary

In order to find a way out of sugar addiction, it is helpful to keep a sugar diary, as do alcoholics with their alcohol consumption. Consumers enter in this diary every day which sugary products they consume in order to ask themselves afterwards about the respective reasons, such as "Not known, not thought about, well-being, boredom etc.".

Then list the pros and cons of what sugar means to them, both positive and negative. It is essential that they are absolutely honest with themselves. Because if you admit that you are (possibly) addicted, you don't have to demonize the sugar, but openly find the reasons why you consume it. For example, on the pro side, "gives me a good feeling", "tastes delicious", on the contra side, on the other hand, entries such as "get too fat", "can't remember well", "got caries “Etc. are listed.

As with other addictions, consumers can work with the help of such a diary to find alternatives and recognize them in the first place. For example, if the sugar is used to numb boredom, a walk in the park or a visit to friends is a better alternative. If you devour sugar because you feel lonely, it is recommended that you contact other people, which can be achieved, for example, through interest groups with like-minded people. The Internet offers them many options.

As with any addiction, you are or have conditioned yourself to certain behavior patterns, which you can change yourself. For example, do you drink two bottles of cola a day? Wouldn't it be worth considering replacing cola with cola zero? As you can see, it doesn't have to be the healthy organic herbal tea as a substitute that leads you from sugar addiction. Or are you one of those people who eat a piece of cream cake every day during lunch at the bakery? How about replacing this habit with a walk for lunch? The most important point in such habit changes is to act and do, because our brain is a "creature of habit" and remembers what we are doing and at some point triggers the urge for these behavior patterns because it wants to be satisfied.

A diary also tells you how badly you are addicted. If it is just a matter of habits that have crept into your everyday life and you feel no withdrawal symptoms when you take them off, then controlled consumption has proven to be very helpful. However, if the waiver results in a roar in your head or you become obnoxious, these are signs of physical addiction.

Note that sugar is not heroin and the physical withdrawal symptoms go away after a few days.

Acute or impending sugar addiction - practical tips

If you suspect or are about to have sugar addiction, you can quickly take steps to stop the consequences:

In any case, avoid open sugar and pay more attention to the hidden sugar. You can find this in almost all finished products as a "feel-good" and flavor carrier. Even in dry wine, nine grams of residual sugar is allowed - that's a lot.

Sugar in any form of fast food is much less conspicuous and therefore much more dangerous, since it has a negative impact on our sugar level. You can find the sugar in ketchup, mayonnaise, in the rolls, the minced meat of the "burger", in "chicken sticks" and in a lot of spices. Hidden sugar can be found in almost all processed foods, because together with glutamate it triggers a “kick” in our brain. The customers of the burger chains are literally driven into dependency. With the exception of Cola Zero or Light, there is practically nothing sugar-free in a fast food restaurant, so it is best to avoid visits there in advance. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Swell:

  • Suchtmittel e.V .: Sugar addiction (accessed: June 24, 2019), suchtmittel.de
  • Shariff M, Quik M, Holgate J, Morgan M, Patkar OL, Tam V, et al. (2016) Neuronal Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor Modulators Reduce Sugar Intake. PLoS ONE 11 (3): e0150270. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0150270, Plos One
  • National Health Service (NHS): How does sugar in our diet affect our health? (Access: June 24, 2019), nhs.uk
  • DiNicolantonio, James J / O’Keefe, James H / Wilson, William L .: Sugar addiction: is it real? A narrative review, British Journal of Sports Medcine, 2017, BMJ Joornals
  • Avena, Nicole M. / Rada, Pedro / Hoebel, Bartley G .: Evidence for sugar addiction: Behavioral and neurochemical effects of intermittent, excessive sugar intake, Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews Volume 32, Issue 1, 2008, Pages 20-39, Evidence for sugar addiction
  • World Healh Organization (WHO): Obesity and overweight (accessed June 24, 2019), who.int


Video: Sugar: The Bitter Truth (May 2022).


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