There’s no denying it: desserts are pleasurable to eat. They taste good on the tongue and start a chemical reaction in your body that gives a short little energy and mood boost. As we all know, the crash that follows isn’t anything sweet.
Sugar addiction is a very real condition and it’s causing us health problems galore, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Sugar is more addictive than cocaine and much easier and cheaper to get.
So if you’re one of the many who are hooked, here are some useful ways to kick the habit.
9 Lifestyle Changes to Beat Sugar Addiction
Use these tricks to quit sugar and other sweeteners for a full week. You’ll also want to limit your intake of simple carbs and fruits. You’ll feel so much better that it’ll be easy to reduce your daily intake.
1. Hero Herb
Gymnema Sylvestre is an herb in the milkweed family that desensitizes taste buds from the sensation of sweetness. When ingested, it reduces intestines’ ability to absorb sugar, with implications for regulation of diabetes. (1, 2) It can be so effective that in one study, five of twenty-two of the participants were able to stop taking diabetes medication and managed their blood sugar with Gymnema Sylvestre alone. (3)
University Health News recommends the following for taking Gymnema Sylvestre as a supplement:
“…look for an extract that is standardized to contain at least 25 percent gymnemic acid. Some supplement manufacturers produce an extract standardized to 75%. Clinical studies have looked at Gymnema Sylvestre dosage of 200 to 400 mg per day. Gymnema Sylvestre can cause stomach pain, so take it with food or take three to four smaller doses throughout the day. Don’t take a Gymnema dosage if you are pregnant, lactating or allergic to milkweed. Talk to a physician before taking it if you are currently taking anti-diabetic medication as a cumulative blood-sugar lowering effect could be dangerous.” (4)
2. Take Your Sweetness from Life
Sweet cravings are psychological—they are different from hunger, which is a physiological response. A craving for sweet food can be stimulated by stress, anxiety, depression, and/or a poor self-image. (5)
Eating sugar causes your brain to release pleasure chemicals dopamine and opioids. (6) You get a temporary high and feeling of elation after eating sugar. Having too much sugar (simple sugars and refined carbohydrates like bread and pasta), however, causes a cascade of body processes that send your body into overdrive, releasing insulin and taxing your liver.
The body becomes addicted to the high that can eventually affect psychological processes as well, forming a vicious circle.
A British psychiatric researcher found a strong correlation between high sugar intake, depression, and schizophrenia:
“…sugar actually suppresses activity of a key growth hormone in the brain called BDNF. This hormone promotes the health and maintenance of neurons in the brain, and it plays a vital role in memory function by triggering the growth of new connections between neurons. BDNF levels are critically low in both depression and schizophrenia, which explains why both syndromes often lead to shrinkage of key brain regions over time (yes, chronic depression actually leads to brain damage). There’s also evidence from animal models that low BDNF can trigger depression.” (7)
If you find yourself regularly craving and succumbing to lots of sweets, focus on your emotional health: do things that you enjoy. Pamper yourself with a hot bubble bath, a few days off, read a book in the park, plant a garden, take a class in something that interests you—engage in anything other than food that makes you feel good. Vigorous exercise does wonders, as dopamine is released and cortisol (a stress hormone) is reduced when you work out.