Sugar Withdrawal

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Sugar withdrawal is marked by sugar cravings. Sometimes these cravings are the only aspect of withdrawal that we're consciously aware of. At other times, the headaches and distress of sugar withdrawal are about as subtle as a flying mallet.

Refined sugar addiction is a real physiological addiction (more on my experience with sugar addiction ), because an attempt to stop eating sugar causes real physiological withdrawal.

Symptoms can include: nervousness, depression, exhaustion, near-stupor, headaches, and, of course, intense cravings. If you feel some combination of these with the desire for sugar: you are in sugar withdrawal.

"I just feel like I need something now," I might think. "I'd really like a candy bar...I can't stop thinking about it...I'm so tired, I know it would wake me up...I'm just about out of steam...I've got to have that candy bar..."

In these thoughts, you see the tiredness that seems to demand sugar, the jittery nervousness of withdrawal, and the persistence behind the cravings. These are thoughts I'd never have about plain food, or about any substance that I wasn't addicted to!

One way to prevent sugar withdrawal is to continue the addiction—that's what we do subconsciously: by eating small amounts of sugar frequently all day long, by binging, by uncomfortable combinations of the two, or even through elaborate rules that try to keep the addiction within limits.

Any continuation of the addiction is both a constant struggle and bound to fail.

Ending The Addiction

The long term solution is to end the addiction. Healthy foods will help to end the addiction (described in Breaking Sugar Addiction), and ultimately pursuing a sugar free diet helps.


It is usually wise to taper off from refined sugar rather than to go "cold turkey." Unbearable withdrawal and cravings is counterproductive. (There are, however, health resorts that will help change your diet overnight.)

The first things to taper could be the obvious, and perhaps one at a time:

  • Soda pop (both regular and diet)
  • Chocolate
  • Candy
  • Cookies
  • Ice cream
  • Bakery

Don't keep these items around the house. Make each purchase a conscious decision for immediate consumption.

Remind yourself that money spent on these foods is worse than wasted: it is money spent harming yourself. Reward yourself for not buying sugary foods.

Related Addictions

Related addictions provoke sugar addiction and affect your ability to stay out of sugar withdrawal.

People with health challenges may need or want to cut everything at once; most people can try eliminating one addiction at a time and each may require its own tapering.

1. The artificial sweeteners in diet soda and other foods provoke and prolong sugar addiction and have additional side effects of their own.

Aspartame is associated with headaches, vision problems, seizures, and many other serious symptoms, as shown by many thousands of complaints to the FDA. Approximately 80% of all consumer complaints to the FDA concern aspartame! It is addictive with its own potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

It is likely that all of the artificial sweeteners are harmful. They are addictive and have been shown to increase appetite.

2. You rarely see chocolate without sugar accompanying it as an ingredient. I think everyone has the experience of mood altered by chocolate. It is also addictive.

3. Caffeine is similar in effects to sugar, but more so, and is profoundly addictive.

4. Which foods do you know make you ill? Foods that give you headaches, sleepiness, nausea, stomach aches, or diarrhea stress your body to the point that it will demand sugar.

Common problem foods are: dairy foods, wheat gluten, and nightshade vegetables (potatoes, tomatoes, green peppers, and chili peppers). These foods can be addictive. Notoriously: milk, cheese, ice cream, pizza, bread, pasta, Mexican food, jalapenos, and french fries all lend themselves to addictive eating.

5. Alcoholism is a dangerous addiction beyond the scope of this article. However, alcohol is a refined product, even more poisonous than sugar, that like sugar has no nutritional value. It seems to serve in some as interchangeable with sugary foods.

Breaking Sugar Addiction
How to: add foods to your diet that will help end the addiction and that will not provoke the addiction.

Sugar Free Diet
How to: identify sugar and sugar substitutes.

Return from Sugar Withdrawal to Sugar Addiction

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