Benefits of cutting out sugar in 2024 – are you addicted?

Sugar is a type of simple carbohydrate that occurs naturally in some foods and drinks but is also added by food producers, known as refined and artificial sugars. A healthy diet can soon become saturated in sugars and before you know it, your sugar consumption is out of control. So, should you consider cutting out sugar from your diet? Let’s find out…

We’re all aware of the negative effects of sugar and the detrimental effects consuming too much can have on your health. From obesity to diabetes. When you eat a meal that’s high in refined carbs or sugar, it causes a spike in insulin to order to get that sugar out of the bloodstream quickly. 

This is then followed by a sharp drop in glucose, which is why you get symptoms of low blood sugar, tiredness and irritability. These peaks and troughs in sugar levels lead to a slump in energy. You can get “hangry”, crave more carbs and sugar, become shaky, lightheaded, and suffer from migraines. 

Maintaining a steady, even insulin level is the key to preventing your blood sugar from spiking and crashing throughout the day, by ensuring a healthy diet and lifestyle.

What are the signs you may be eating too much sugar?

  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue and difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling jittery or anxious
  • Feeling shaky or dizzy
  • Hunger
  • Bloating

None of these symptoms are very pleasant and, over time, they can start to affect your mental health, energy levels, and productivity. Reducing and cutting back on the amount of sugar you consume will not only alleviate these symptoms but also improve your digestion, regulate hormone levels, and minimise possible food intolerances. 

Benefits of reducing sugar intake

There are many benefits of cutting sugar from your diet, including:

When your bloodstream is unable to absorb excessive amounts of sugars, they make their way through your digestive system, where they shouldn’t really be. The bacteria in your bowels feed on this excess sugar, which can lead to bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhoea and flatulence, as well as an overgrowth of parasites and harmful bacteria.

SIBO or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth is a condition where the bacteria have overgrown backwards into your small intestine. Healthy individuals should have an abundance of certain bacteria in their large intestine, but not in the small intestine and this is where uncomfortable symptoms and health issues arise. SIBO bacteria love sugars, especially lactose, which will increase your symptoms.

How sugar affects the immune system

As the first line of defence, our immune system is responsible for fighting microbes that threaten our health. When harmful microbes manage to evade barriers such as skin, stomach acid, or mucous, our next line of defence is white blood cells. They consume microbes and destroy them. 

6tsp of sugar (1 bar of chocolate) reduces the ability of our white blood cells to destroy unfriendly bacteria by 25%.

Up that to 12tsp (1 can of fizzy drink) and it’s reduced by 60%.

Up it again to 24 tsp (half the daily average intake in the West) it’s reduced by a whopping  92%! 

To put this in perspective, a Chai Latte from a popular coffee brand contains 20 teaspoons of sugar! That’s 79.7 grams. According to studies, consuming 75g of sugar can lower the immune system for 5 hours afterwards!

Hidden sugars and where you might find them

To maintain a healthy diet, it is advised not to consume more than 30 grams (g) of added sugar per day. But hidden sugars are everywhere and can be hard to spot! Here are some examples of other names for added sugar, including some you might not have realised or heard of;

  • Dextrose
  • Sucrose
  • Agave nectar
  • Maltose
  • Molasses
  • Honey
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Corn sweetener
  • Crystalline fructose
  • Evaporated cane juice

Why is sugar so addictive?

The human brain contains what we call a “reward system” This reward system drives our behaviour towards pleasure and away from pain.  This reward system is controlled by a chemical messenger called dopamine.  

The more sugar and carbs we flood our bodies with, the more dopamine we produce.  

As a result, the body reduces the number of dopamine receptors on those cells to keep them from becoming overwhelmed, which means we need more and more of that substance to achieve the same effect.

Benefits of cutting sugar
Benefits of cutting sugar

How to ease your sugar cravings

Cutting sugar isn’t easy!

In fact, a study by Connecticut College found that Oreo cookies were just as addictive as cocaine for lab rats. Further studies show that sugar and carbs create the same responses in the brain as addictive substances like alcohol, nicotine, morphine, and even cocaine and heroin. 

Your cravings are driven by your brain’s need for a “reward” in this case, a sugar high, not your body’s need for food.

Here are a few tips to help you kick this highly addictive habit…

  • Stay hydrated. Sometimes dehydration is a cause of hunger. We should drink on average 4 pints of water every day.
  • Exercise, many of us have very sedentary lifestyles due to our desk-based jobs, even increasing your step count to 6000 steps a day will have a beneficial effect on your energy levels and replace endorphins.
  • Eat a balanced diet.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Ensure you have some good quality protein in each meal.
  • Cut out flours, breads and refined carbs.
  • Watch out for those hidden names for sugar – there are over 100!
  • Coffee can cause sugar cravings because of the effect it has on blood sugar, so why not try switching to a swiss water method decaf, which is a more natural way of removing the caffeine. Brands like Clipper are a good choice.

Need help cutting sugar from your diet?

As you know, quitting or even reducing your sugar intake is NOT easy! And, you don’t have to go it alone. 

I offer FREE 30-minute health and wellbeing reviews. We can chat through your concerns, I’ll give you some quick tips to help you get started, and go through the various options of how we can move forward. To book your FREE appointment, just click this link, and find a slot that works best for you.

(Please keep in mind that I am not a registered doctor, and if you are concerned about your health, you should always consult your GP first.)

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