If you’re like most people, you’ve probably been eating sugar your entire life. But if you have tracked your sugar consumption, you may notice that you’re eating more of it than you should. That could be because you have a sugar addiction.
According to an article in Marie Claire’s October 2017 print issue by writer Katherine Laidlaw, you’re not the only one taking notice about your increased sugar consumption. Laidlaw notes, “Researchers are beginning to notice that sugar is more like a drug than we ever realized. Eating a handful of Skittles, for example, triggers a release of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s pleasure center.”
Many studies using MRIs have shown that the same regions of the brain light up after sugar consumption as after the use of cocaine. Not only that, sugar also lowers levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, making it a literal comfort food. Like other addictive substances, the more sugar you eat, the more sugar you need to eat to get pleasure from it. This means that sugar addicts must constantly increase the amount of sugar they consume to get the “sugar high” they crave.
What makes sugar addiction different from other food addictions is that while people who consume a lot of calories will rapidly put on weight, sugar addicts tend to gain weight slowly. This is because they tend to forgo eating other foods in favor of sweet treats. Despite the rise in the number of people developing sugar addictions, the treatments are few and far between. Many experts don’t separate sugar addiction from eating disorders, so they focus on things like developing mindful eating habits. Sugar addiction specialists say the key to fighting sugar addiction is to treat it like a drug addiction. That means going cold turkey.
In the few, existing, sugar-addiction, treatment centers, patients are deprived of sugar on day one. They then go through symptoms of withdrawal, including shakes and headaches, which dissipate after a week. Then the healing process can begin. Rather than learning to eat mindfully and healthfully, sugar addicts learn about biological dependency.
Over time, sugar consumption rewires brains to increase the demand for sugar. With drugs, addicts have to go out of their way to get a fix. But sugar is easily available, so abstaining from sweets is much harder once a person is out of treatment. It means that addicts must constantly be rethinking relationships with food to avoid consumption. Sugar addicts have different triggers, so they must learn how to avoid breads, cookies, and other carbs that can cause a relapse.
If you suspect that you have a sugar addiction or feel that your sugar consumption is wreaking havoc on your health, find a therapist who specializes in eating and food issues.