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Is Your Sugar Addiction Affecting Your Brain Chemistry?

In the UK, the average adult consumes around 96.5 grams of sugar a day, equivalent to around 23 teaspoons. However, the NHS recommends that adults should have no more than 30g of sugar a day.

It is easy to see how many people consume high amounts of sugar. A can of soda will often contain over 30g of sugar, while a large glass of white wine will have 15g of sugar, three chocolate digestives contain a further 15g. Then, there is unsuspecting sugar such as 13g of sugar in a single yoghurt and around 23g in a glass of orange juice, while a skinny latte in a coffee shop may have up to 15g of sugar too!

Unfortunately, high sugar diets can have significant impacts on our health, from weight gain to cognitive decline. So, what can we do to give up the sweet stuff and is it possible to break a sugar addiction?

Why Sugar Is Addictive?

Research claims that sugar can be just as addictive as heroin. Sugary, salty and fatty foods can all tap into the reward centre of the brain, giving that dopamine hit that makes us feel good. Furthermore, it instils a reward-motivated behaviour or habit, making reaching for the sugar an endless cycle.

If you want to find out more about how sugar addiction becomes a habit, see my post on the addictive limbic system in the brain, known as the ‘lizard brain’.

Am I A Sugar Addict?

Health professionals use set criteria to cover addiction, many of which apply to sugar. Some of the key signs of sugar addiction include;

  • Use of larger amounts and for longer than intended – For example, reaching for the sweet treats every day, rather than just every now and then.
  • Cravings – Feeling the need to have sugar, and nothing else will satisfy you.
  • Hazardous use – Consuming unhealthy amounts of sugar, significantly higher than recommended allowances.
  • Increasing tolerance – Needing to have more sugar to achieve the ‘sugar high’.
  • Withdrawal – Suffering from headaches and low mood when you don’t have sugar.

How Sugar Addiction Affects Your Brain Chemistry

Increases Anxiety

Your microbiome is the ecosystem in your body which looks after your health and immune system. High sugar consumption can lead to an imbalance in the microbiome and an overgrowth of harmful bacteria.  This can not only affect gut health but can cause sleep problems and anxiety too.

Further research by Diabetes Care found that people with elevated blood sugar are more likely to experience sadness and anxiety too. Unfortunately, anxious feelings often lead to comfort eating and eating more sugar to get that ‘sugar high’ which only temporarily lifts your mood.

If you want to learn more about how your microbiome plays a role in anxiety and how you can help promote a healthier microbiome, read my post on the subject here.

Slower Cognitive Function

While the brain requires sugar to function, too much sugar can actually have a negative impact on the brain. High levels of glucose (sugar) can slow the brain’s cognitive function. Sugar can cause the deterioration of brain tissue while also disrupting the communication pathways in the brain too.

Consequently, high sugar consumption can not only slow your cognition but can also hinder your memory and reduce your attention span too.

Alzheimer’s And Dementia

High blood sugar can lead to inflammation markers in the brain. Research has found that the inflammation caused by high sugar consumption can contribute to neurodegenerative conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Depression

Another critical study has found that those with high sugar consumption and addiction are 23% more likely to receive a diagnosis of a mental disorder compared to those with low sugar intake.

The sugar-reward cycle can also make this more challenging. The spikes and drops of blood sugar can cause feelings of irritability, anxiety and depression, fuelling the need to consume sugar to prevent these feelings. Unfortunately, they are actually just fuelling the negative cycle.

Giving Up Sugar

As well as the negative impact sugar can have on your brain chemistry and wellbeing, there are lots of other reasons why people want to break their sugar habit and conquer their addiction. However, like any addiction, giving up sugar is not easy.

Just 24 hours after giving up sugar, there are many withdrawal symptoms that you could experience that include;

  • Lack of energy and lethargy
  • Sugar cravings
  • Headaches and muscle pains
  • Insomnia and anxiety.

It is no surprise that a sugar detox causes these symptoms. After all, your brain associates sugar with a reward. When you take the reward away, your body will react negatively and have to adjust its reward system accordingly.

How Hypnotherapy Can Help With Sugar Addiction

I see many people who are struggling with their sugar consumption and are looking to reduce their reliance on sugar. I use a bespoke plan for every patient with blended therapy techniques, including hypnosis, NLP and mindfulness. These can all help to reprogram the brain for a healthier you, where you are not ruled by your sugar addiction.

To start the programme, I ask clients to avoid sugar for at least two to three days before their appointment. When sugar is out of the body, we can work together to remove sugar from the brain too!

To find out more about how I can help you to break free from sugar addiction, email info@hypnosis-in-london.com to book your free consultation.

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