Have you heard of the link between alcoholism and sugar addiction? Researchers think there may be some overlap in family genetics that show a preference for sweets and addictive substances such as alcohol. They suggest that the reason for this connection may be biological — substance addiction and sugar addiction share common neural pathways. This knowledge should raise alarm bells for recovering individuals to guard against sugar addiction.
The Neurological Pathways of Substance and Sugar Addiction
Believe it or not, sugar addiction shares common neurological pathways with addiction, especially alcoholism. Both substances impact similar neural receptors, neurotransmitters, and hedonic regions in the brain. A precondition for activating dependence and addiction related to these pathways can be passed down genetically. Research indicates that children of alcoholic parents are at a greater risk of developing strong sweet preferences.
Because consuming sugar can activate dopamine and serotonin in the brain, many people experience sugar cravings after they quit alcohol use. While some don’t recognize sugar consumption as addictive, sugar can act as a replacement for substance addiction. Without allowing the brain to heal from addictive pathways, this option can be detrimental to recovering individuals’ long-term well-being.
Alcoholism Prepares the Body for Sugar Addiction
People who have consumed alcohol for a long time tend to suffer from irregular blood sugar levels due to alcohol’s effects on the pancreas. Meanwhile, the common tendency to neglect healthy diet and nutrition contributes to irregular blood sugar levels. In this way, consuming alcohol is like a pre-condition for craving sugar.
When people with a history of alcohol dependence are in recovery, their preference for sugar does not go away. Although alcohol gets detoxed from their body, their brains still function on habitual pathways. If these individuals use sugar as a replacement to satisfy their cravings for alcohol, their brain doesn’t properly heal. They are not eliminating their addictive tendencies, just altering them.
The Long-Term Health Hazards of Sugar Addiction
Too much sugar during recovery can easily trigger a relapse. This can be especially risky for people in early sobriety. When the brain is deprived of the rush it gets from substances, it will create intense cravings. Even if people beat their cravings for alcohol, they may give in to something they think is less harmful and over-consume sweets. Sugar intake can also become a poor habit for dental health and other areas of wellness.
Beyond the higher risk of relapse, sugar consumption can also lead to cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. It may cause weight gain, eating disorders, and skin problems. Research has even identified a link between sugar and artificial sweetener over-consumption and higher cancer risk. Diets high in sugar content tend to increase inflammation in the body, leading to an increased cancer rate.
Keeping Sugar Consumption Under Control
Because sugar is becoming more and more hidden in Americans’ daily diets, including through fast foods and processed food items, it is challenging to control sugar consumption. To combat this problem, people in recovery need to limit their intake of fast foods and processed foods.
Additionally, people in recovery should be aware of different names for sugar. They should limit the intake of high fructose syrup, sucrose, glucose, syrup, cane sugar, and other forms of sugar ingredients. Reading the list of ingredients on the back of food packages can help individuals understand what they are consuming. Do not underestimate the small doses of these ingredients in each food item. If individuals are not careful, they can add up to a harmful dosage daily.
Lastly, people in recovery must stick with healthy meals and snacks. Research shows that good food improves the mood of people in addiction recovery. Contrarily, consuming sugar may compromise one’s sleep quality, which negatively impacts one’s mood.
Working With Nutritional Therapists During Recovery
People who suffer from sugar addiction during recovery should take non-substance addictions seriously. Concerning sugar addiction, one effective management strategy is to work with nutritional therapists who are experienced in helping people overcome sugar addiction.
Many people who are recovering from alcoholism may be overweight or underweight. Years of poor nutrition have harmed their bodies in visible ways. These physical conditions affect their emotional and mental health. A nutritional therapist can help them focus on restoring the fundamentals of a healthy diet for sustainable recovery and a healthier diet.
We all know that good nutrition is a foundation for good health. For recovering individuals, the importance of a healthy and balanced diet cannot be overstated. Long-term use of substances such as drugs and alcohol almost always leads to poor physical health due to malnutrition. Reversing unhealthy dietary habits prepares the body for other treatment methods to work effectively. With other building blocks of recovery, such as regular exercise and quality sleep, monitoring sugar intake can help the body and the brain heal faster.
If you have recently completed a detox of alcohol use, have you noticed any cravings for sugar? Many people share this experience. After detox, the sudden cessation of alcohol consumption may cause blood sugar levels to drop. Because sugar increases dopamine release in the brain, a very temporary high can resemble an alcohol high. However, sugar addiction can be harmful to your recovery progress. If you need help overcoming sugar addiction or other non-substance addictions, work with a team of recovery experts. At Laguna Shores, we have experienced mental health professionals who apply evidence-based treatments. Our various programs also connect you with a strong recovery community. Call (866) 774-1532 today.