Sugar, in all its various forms, is pervasive in so many foods that people eat today. Though sometimes called by healthier, exotic-sounding euphemisms like agave nectar, evaporated cane, or turbinado, it is all still sugar. As if the ubiquity of added sugar to our food wasn't enough, we add sugar to foods that turn into sugar, namely grains. So what is this doing to our brain? The nucleus accumbens, our brain's main pleasure center, is constantly being triggered by our intake of sugar.
Our brain's nucleus accumbens receives a signal from dopamine, our pleasure neurotransmitter. All of this same biochemical stuff also happens during sex and when someone does drugs. The problem with all this sugar stimulation is that prolonged dopamine signal creates a tolerance.
Over time, this creates deeper neuronal pathways, and we also need more sugar to give us the same euphoric fix. And when we try to stop? Hello, withdrawal and detox symptoms. I think sometimes that it is easier to change a person's religion than the foods they eat, and sugar is at the heart of this deeply entrenched affinity for all things sweet and carby.
As a functional medicine practitioner, I see this on a regular, almost hourly, basis with patients. Hostility, defensiveness, and tears often ensue at just the suggestion of going off of all things sugary, even just for a few weeks. So if you are considering going on a sugar detox or are in the midst of one now, here is your go-to guide. These are the top symptoms I have seen in patients over the years and, more importantly, an action step to mitigate each of these gnarly signs of sugar withdrawal: