Research shows that sugar acts on your brain's reward center, which explains why it can feel like such an addictive compound. Many Americans (specifically added sugars found in desserts, snack foods, and sweetened beverages) than is recommended.
When you're used to eating sugar regularly and suddenly stop, you may feel sugar withdrawal symptoms. These may include fatigue and cravings, but some people may experience other symptoms, such as changes in mood and sleep. If you're looking to reduce how much sugar you eat, it's helpful to be aware of potential withdrawal symptoms.
This article discusses some common physical and mental signs and symptoms of sugar withdrawal.
Sugar withdrawal symptoms may last anywhere from a few days to several weeks and can vary significantly among people. Withdrawal symptoms may depend on how quickly you reduce your intake and how quickly your body's tolerance adapts to eating less sugar.
Common symptoms of reducing or eliminating sugar can include:
While the symptoms above are common among people avoiding sugar, other, rarer side effects can cause an impact in people giving up sugar who are also on a—or a very low carbohydrate—diet.
Giving up too many carbs can put you in a metabolic state called ketosis. It occurs when your body begins to burn fat for energy due to a limited supply of sugar in your blood (glucose). Glucose is your body's primary source of energy. Without it, your body begins to use fat instead of carbohydrates for fuel Some people describe ketosis as feeling like they have the flu.
Ketosis can cause several unpleasant symptoms, such as:
However, the rare possibility of ketosis doesn't necessarily mean that following a version of a keto or low-sugar diet isn't for you. It may just mean that your body needs a different approach to reducing glucose and carbohydrate intake that is more sustainable and doesn't have severe side effects . It can be helpful to speak to a registered dietitian knowledgeable about adapting to a keto and low-sugar diet.
None of the potential side effects of sugar withdrawal are pleasant to experience. For some people, trying to cut out sugar too quickly can have the opposite effect than intended, causing them to binge or overeat more of it.
For instance, if you have intense cravings for sweet or sugary foods and are restricting them, it's not uncommon for these to lead to overconsumption of other foods. This can trigger a bingeing cycle and feelings of guilt, anxiety, and shame. These cycles can be challenging to break on your own.
Over time, the overconsumption of sugary foods can promote unwanted weight gain or
Symptoms of sugar withdrawal that result from reducing your sugar intake are generally not serious and don't last for long. They usually pass quickly and are easily treatable.
However, it's always best to speak with your healthcare provider if you're not feeling well and your side effects continue. Additionally, it's a good idea to seek support if your sugar withdrawal symptoms lead to overeating or a in response to cravings.
Most of us are guilty of eating too much sugar, but cutting out sugar all at once can lead to unpleasant sugar withdrawal symptoms. Common symptoms include fatigue, mood changes, irritability, and intense cravings that may lead to overeating. A very low-carb diet can lead to symptoms of ketosis (very low blood sugar levels that cause your body to use fat for energy).
While it's not realistic for everyone to completely cut added sugar out of their diets, it's best to find a healthy balance between the natural sugars (found in fruit) and added sugars you eat to avoid uncomfortable sugar withdrawal symptoms.
Lowering your sugar intake is a positive goal. Remember, though, that your eating pattern doesn't have to match anyone else's. It's important to find what works best for you. Making small changes toward a nutritious diet that's low in added sugar will serve you well over time.