People who are recovering from substance use disorder (SUD) often have a tendency to replace the cravings for drugs and alcohol with the urge to consume other mood-boosting foods, including fast food and sugary products. Many even find themselves using sugar as a replacement addiction.
Similarities Between Substance Addiction and Sugar Addiction
From a scientific point of view, sugar intake has a similar effect on the brain’s neurotransmitters as drugs and alcohol. They tend to release the same flood of dopamine to create a feeling of pleasure. When sugar consumption becomes compulsive, a person’s tolerance to sugar increases the same way the body’s alcohol and drug tolerance can increase. This is why sugar is a common substitute after people quit using substances.
People in recovery may turn to sugary foods when they are stressed or in need of emotional comfort. Simple sugars can be digested quickly, leading to blood glucose spikes. Since sugary foods can give a temporary boost to the body, they can become a “go-to” solution, creating a new unhealthy—albeit less harmful—habit of self-soothing.
The Danger of Widespread Sugar Consumption
Sugar addiction is also common because, in our post-industrial society, sugar hides in many places, including fast foods and drinks. Some food items that are branded as healthy actually have high amounts of sugar. These include nonfat yogurt, instant oatmeal, and cereals. These foods are legal, inexpensive, and readily available.
The widespread consumption of processed foods in society has normalized sugar addiction. Sugar ingredients also have many names. For example, added sugar can be listed as high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), sucrose, fructose, dehydrated cane juice, glucose, dextrose, syrup, cane sugar, raw sugar, and more. This becomes problematic when people don’t know what to look for and think they’re eating healthier than they are, all the while potentially developing a sugar addiction.
Warning Signs of Sugar Addiction
Because of the above-listed reasons, sugar addiction can be challenging to identify. Below are a few signs to help individuals tell whether a larger problem exists:
- Craving sugary foods and making excuses to get them
- Not consuming sugary foods brings anxiety and stress
- Using sugary foods as a means of reward
- Keeping a place for sugary treats
- Trying to limit or stop sugar consumption but failing
Severe sugar addiction may cause cravings and withdrawal symptoms including anxiety, mood swings, muscle aches, and depression. Long-term sugar addiction can affect people’s physical health to the extent that they may develop type II diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease.
Managing Sugar Addiction in Recovery
There are many ways to limit and avoid sugar addiction. First of all, individuals should not skip meals or let themselves get too hungry. This creates the precondition to consuming high-sugar fast foods. Individuals should always have healthy fruits at home or in packed meals that help replenish their energy throughout the day.
For those who have the habit of going for sugary foods, it is never too late to begin reading product labels to monitor the sugar-related ingredients. When it comes to limiting sugar intake, the body can adjust quite easily with few withdrawal effects.
Managing how much sugar recovering individuals consume is important when they transition from residential treatment to living outside of rehab. They should learn from nutritional therapists who coach them on a more careful selection of food items. Because sugar addiction may worsen anxiety and stress, managing sugar intake should also be part of recovering individuals’ relapse-prevention plan.
Self-Care Tips To Overcome Sugar Addiction
Even if someone is determined to overcome sugar addiction, it may take time for sugary snacks to lose their appeal. Individuals can begin by drinking a lot of non-sugary water while quitting drinks that contain sugar. In this case, self-care may involve extra screening for sugar intake in drinks.
Next, they can form a habit of checking labels on food items, avoiding those with large amounts of sugar, and cutting out fast food restaurants. Increasing awareness of how widespread sugar overconsumption is in society is also a good idea. Individuals can stock their homes with healthy snacks and foods, including fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairy products.
Working With a Recovery-Supportive Nutritional Therapist
If necessary, individuals could consider finding a nutritional therapist who helps monitor food intake to mitigate a sugar addiction. To help individuals regain optimal health during recovery, they can make use of holistic treatment options, especially nutrition-related therapies.
Addictions of all sorts lead to nutritional deficiencies. The body needs healing to absorb important nutrients properly. A professional nutritional therapist can assess individuals’ physical conditions to design a treatment plan. They may also recommend supplements that the body has been lacking. Learning how food impacts people’s moods may help them better identify the most healthy dietary options
Sugary foods are a common replacement addiction among recovering individuals. This is because sugary foods can trigger feel-good chemicals in the brain, producing the same pleasurable effects as drugs and alcohol while harming long-term health. The health professionals at Laguna Shores Recovery can help you overcome non-substance-related addictions, as doing so is essential for your well-being. Our experienced mental health professionals and nutritional specialists know the value of healthy living, whether that looks like recovering from an addiction or preventing poor nutritional choices and sugar addiction. Our alumni programs offer stellar aftercare and connect you with a lifelong community of hopeful recovering individuals. Call us today to discover how you can be part of our community, as peer support is key to your recovery. Do not replace substance addiction with another harmful habit. Act now. For more information, call 866-934-5276.