I appreciate all your comments on my previous post about sugar addiction. This topic has really got me thinking! I’d like to explore it further.
If truth be told, I never considered sugar a drug, but much of my reading suggests that sugar is capable of acting like a potent drug in certain individuals. Sugar seems to act on the same receptors in the brain that alcohol and drugs like morphine or heroin do. That gets my attention!
The Society of Neuroscience claims drugs, such as morphine, and sugar act on the same pleasure receptors in the brain which makes certain individuals want more of the substance.
Another study reported the association between sugar withdrawal and opioid dependence. In the study, rats were fed lots of sugar. Then they were given an opioid blocking medication, and, wouldn’t you know, the rats started demonstrating withdrawal symptoms, suggesting similarities between the affects opiates and sugar have on the brain.
This study described a greater consumption of sugar after completely avoiding it temporarily, thus pointing to possible sugar dependence.
The book I’m reading now, Potatoes, Not Prozac, explains that two brain chemicals, serotonin and beta-endorphin, tend to be lower in sugar sensitive individuals. These two chemicals can influence your mood and energy levels. They make us feel mellow, content, and even help block pain (Think of a “runner’s high). Having low levels of these chemicals results in feeling scattered, emotional, depressed, acting impulsively, and cravings sweets or refined carbs.
Eating sugar increases the release of these brain chemicals, but the effect this has in a sugar sensitive person can be dramatic. Sugar can make the sugar sensitive person feel giddy, confident, lively, talkative, and other symptoms similar to having too many alcoholic drinks!
When the brain becomes dependent on sugar, it wants (and needs) more in order to get those great feelings. The more sugar we eat, the more we want! It becomes a vicious cycle.
Eating sugar also spikes an insulin response; blood sugar levels sore and then eventually crash. Unstable blood sugar levels leave us irritable, moody, lethargic, and craving more sweets. And eating more sweets just exacerbates the unstable blood sugar levels– another vicious cycle.
The solution for sugar addiction, according to Potatoes, Not Prozac, is to raise serotonin and beta-endorphin in a healthier manner and steady blood sugar levels, all the while slowly weaning yourself off sugar.
The goal is steadiness – in mind, body, and emotions. This may be a slow process, but by doing it slowly, you give your body a chance to heal gently instead of shocking your system and dealing with terrible withdraw symptoms.
I can’t look at sugar or artificial sweeteners as innocent additions to foods anymore. For some individuals, sugar truly is a drug that affects their health and prevents them from living life to the fullest.
Do you think you might be a sugar sensitive person, even addicted to sugar? Or can you have a take-it-or-leave attitude with regards to it?