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Why Do People Complain About Side Effects When Quitting Sugar?

Headaches, fatigue, or bad moods?

Humans need sugar to survive. Our bodies rely on the sugars from carbohydrates to provide energy to our cells and supply glucose to our brains. Sugar from carbohydrates also provides fiber and other essential nutrients to our bodies.

Just like anything else in this world, however, consuming excessive amounts of sugar also has health risks. According to a study published by the Harvard Medical School, a high-sugar diet can put us at greater risk of developing and dying from heart disease. The study also claims that too much sugar can increase chronic inflammation and raise our blood pressure. With that said, many find it extremely difficult to quit sugar.

Photo by Tijana Drndarski

Why Do We Experience Side Effects When We Quit Sugar?

To keep our hearts healthy and maintain our overall health, it’s best to gradually quit sugar. However, the process can result in several side effects, such as headaches, fatigue, and bad moods. This happens because sugar is addictive and removing it from our systems completely requires our bodies to adjust, resulting in several side effects.

Sugar triggers the release of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens. This is the area of our brains that is implicated in the response of addictive drugs. Sugar also triggers the reward system of the brain that causes feelings of pleasure. This means that whenever we consume sugar, we immediately feel good.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

By eating sugar regularly, our brain becomes dependent on it and causes us to consume more in order to experience the same pleasure or response. In fact, research shows that the average American consumes about 88 to 120 grams of sugar every day, an amount that is considerably higher than the recommended maximum, which is only about 24 to 36 grams.

Because our brain has become tolerant to sugar and its effects, reducing our sugar intake will result in unpleasant symptoms, such as headaches and fatigue. As mentioned, sugar is addictive, and when our body becomes dependent on it, we will likely experience “withdrawal symptoms” similar to how someone would feel when they eliminate drugs or alcohol from their system.

How To Manage the Side Effects of Quitting Sugar

Cutting sugar out of our diets isn’t easy for our bodies. Fortunately, there are several tactics that can help manage the side effects as we eliminate sugar from our diets:

Be realistic

While we’ll be healthier when we cut out sugar from our diets, this doesn’t mean that we should do everything instantly. Aside from the adverse effects on our health, eliminating foods and drinks that contain high amounts of sugar in one day is impossible to do.

To manage the side effects associated when we quit sugar, we should remain realistic and focus on reducing one source of added sugar at a time. For example, if we love to snack on cakes several times a day, we should gradually minimize consuming cakes and opt for healthier alternatives. Once we’ve successfully removed cakes from our diets, we can move onto eliminating other sources of added sugar.

Eat foods high in protein.

Research shows that eating protein-rich foods can help us avoid hunger and promote feelings of fullness. This can help us avoid the temptation of reaching for another candy bar or eating a slice of cake during the day.

Some of the best sources of protein include lean meats, poultry, seafood, and eggs.

Prioritize proper hydration.

Drinking at least eight glasses of water every day is essential to our overall health and helps us manage our cravings. Instead of drinking sugary drinks such as soda and sweetened powdered drinks, we should consume more water. Aside from reducing our sugary beverage intake, drinking more water can also reduce our overall calorie intake.

Seek Professional Help

Cutting back on sugar has many health benefits, but the process isn’t easy. Aside from the physical symptoms, we might also experience mental symptoms, like anxiety and cravings, when we quit consuming foods and drinks that are high in sugar.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

To successfully cut back on sugar and minimize any side effects, it’s always best to consult a health professional before starting the process. They have the experience to help us eliminate excessive sugar from our diets and ensure that we stay healthy throughout the entire process!