Written by Michael Mantz, M.D.
Let’s define the word addiction since it is not a technical word in neuroscientific research.
Addiction = disorder characterized by
Sugar addiction appears to stem from the dependence to both the release of natural endogenous opioids and dopamine reuptake inhibition effects upon consumption. In both animals and humans, the evidence in the literature shows substantial parallels and overlap between drugs of abuse and sugar, both from the standpoint of brain neurochemistry (including mu-opioid and dopamine receptor changes) as well as alterations in behavior.
Sugar’s ability to release your body’s internally produced opiates and block dopamine reuptake (results in more dopamine available to stimulate your brain’s reward centers) are the two main neurochemical effects that increases its addictive potential.
Highly processed foods, like sugar, share pharmacokinetic properties* such as high potency effects and rapid absorption rate, similar to drugs of abuse.
Evidence from rodent models supports that the strongest addictive potential come from the combination of fast absorbed, hypercaloric foods that combine both high sugar and high fats (i.e. ice cream ☹)
The faster the link between taking a substance and receiving its reward, the higher the probability that substance can create an addictive pattern. For example Substance A and Substance B are equally potent. If Substance A is more quickly absorbed and reaches peak effects faster than substance B -> it will likely be more addictive than B.
Fun Study Facts:
1) Multiple studies on rats show that rats would pick sweet/sugar over COCAINE even if they were first ‘addicted’ to COCAINE. Sugar increases dopamine reward and boosts internal opioid production.
2) Consumption of sucrose in rats showed that it evoked an almost immediate dopaminergic effect: 1 SECOND for 50% peak effect and 2 SECONDS for 100% peak effect.
Deprivation-effect paradigms: whereby abstinence from a substance results in enhanced intake, often used to measure cravings for drugs of abuse, such as alcohol.
2005 Sugar Deprivation Effect Study
Group 1 Rats – glucose given on a schedule for 30min then they were given additional glucose access for 11.5 h daily.
Group 2 Rats – glucose given only 30min/day access.
Both groups did this for 28 days. Next both groups were deprived for glucose for 2 weeks. Lastly, both groups were given access to glucose again. Group 1 consumed significantly more glucose than ever before and much higher than Group 2.
There are very good reasons why sugar is almost ubiquitous in processed foods.
I don’t advise stopping sugar cold turkey without a full support plan.
Tell your friends what your doing and set up times to meet up with them. Internal opiates rise during positive social interactions and engaging in social activities offsets the drop in opiates when you come off of sugar.
I generally suggest frequent small bouts of exercise (5-15min) 2-3X a day rather than one large workout. Working out too long and or too hard can sometimes backfire and can transiently reduce your will power increasing your likelihood to lapse back into sugar
This varies for people. Some people will need to avoid sweet foods altogether, for a period of time, as any consumption of sweets may trigger a binge. Other people do better with simply switching to using unrefined natural sweet foods.
3 Delicious Naturally Sweet Recipes to Keep YOU Satisfied
Cheap Date Quick Recipe:
Dates with almond or peanut butter (max 3 dates and load them with nut butter)
Chocolate Banana Sweet Fruit Frosty
Frozen banana chunks with almond milk, 1/4 avocado, unsweetened cocoa powder, pinch of salt, tsp vanilla extract and (grapes/cherries/strawberries) blended into a delicious frosty smoothie is a great alternative to you ice cream lovers out there.
Peanut Butter Frosting
Pour boiling water on top of 6-8 dates inside a container and put a lid on the container for 10min. In a food processor or bullet blender put almond milk 2 Tbsn of unsweetened Coconut milk, 2 pinches of salt, 1 tsp of vanilla extract, a couple big scoops of organic peanut butter (other nut butters can be used). Blend the food processor until the mixture is creamy. Add the soften dates along with some of the date infused water into the processor. Process until smooth. Use the date liquid to achieve the desire level of thickness. Great as a dip for celery, strawberries, a lover’s body part (making sure you’re still awake 🙂 )
Healthier non-calorie sweeteners include: stevia, xylitol, monk fruit. I use Enzo stevia and Morning Pep birch xylitol. My secret ratio: 1/8th stevia to 1/2 tsp of xylitol. Best when used with natural sugars found in fruit rather than by itself. I generally use these to enhance sweetness rather than using them as stand alones (exceptions: My Cold-Brew Maca, ICED and HOT teas)
Examples of VALUES include: FREEDOM/CARING (for your body-mind-kids) LOVE/HEALTH/INDEPENDENCE…Then write down your WHYS for doing this: more energy, clearer thinking, better mood, healthier looking body, etc… Put this in clear view in your home somewhere.
Put this in your phone notepad or on an index card you keep on you.
List common triggers:
EMOTIONS: Loneliness, sadness, anger,…and how to work with them AND support people you can call on.
THOUGHTS: Common things your addicted programs say to you to convince you to eat sugar. List how you can best respond back to these common mind tricks.
SENSATIONS: Get to know your CRAVING SENSATIONAL SIGNATURE. Generally when we crave a particular substance there is a typical sensational pattern in the body that is evoked. Common craving sensations include: turning/ pulling/fluttering/pressure sensation in the mid-belly region, increased salivation, muscle achiness, tiredness.
Once you know your craving sensational signature learn to keep your attention there and simply notice and track the sensations as they will change. Practice catching your attention when it jumps into your thoughts and gently bring it back into the sensations. When done consistently over time, this attentional practice can completely erode the power the craving sensations have on you.
Tip: Make sure you are properly hydrated when coming off of sugar as dehydration can signal sensations that are similar to craving sensations.
It is highly likely that you will lapse from time to time. This is normal.
A) Identify common triggers
B) Accept this is normal and not a sign of personal weakness – everybody lapses every now and then. Those who are successful learn not to get caught up in their inner critic’s judgments. They learn to give their attention instead to…
C). Investigating and examining the overall thought/emotion/action patterns that led to the lapse.
It is ESSENTIAL to write down the maladaptive patterns you uncover (your mind will likely try to convince you to skip writing it down-> don’t let it seduce you). Writing your maladaptive patterns down creates psychological and physical space between you and the patterns you are trying to overcome. This is a strong step that powerfully weakens the grip of these patterns.
Brainstorm ways to stop the skid and what you can do differently in the future when these maladaptive patterns happen again (it is highly likely they will).
D.) Not identifying your sense of self with the lapse.
You are not weak, a slob, a pig, or any other negative label your inner critic may criticize you with. Who you are is much broader and complex than a label. In other words when you lapse (most of us will, I have never met a person who didn’t lapse when overcoming a powerful addiction) LEARN FROM YOUR LAPSES.
LAPSES are the best potential teachers. If used wisely LAPSES are excellent at showing you exactly where your psyche gets confused and conflicted. They are powerful opportunities to see your triggers and maladaptive patterns.
Create a benefit list and put it in plain sight in your home or car or both. Here is a partial list of benefits:
Breaking the sugar coated chains is no easy task. The 7 ways listed above can give you the edge to help you break this unhealthy habit. Your entire body and mind will thank you with interest once you do.
* (the analysis of absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion of a substance)