Getting out of the Rat Race: Sugar Addiction
I can now classify myself as an addict! Yesterday I had this massive headache that I couldn’t seem to get rid of. I drank lots of
water, which is now my first action if I get a headache. Normally it works but this time for some reason, the ache persisted. I took a Tylenol. Still, the ache persisted. After mentioning it to my husband, he said that he also had a headache earlier that day. Common denominator? Lack of sugar! So, on the fourth day of my sweet enough month, I got the first sign of physical withdrawal.
I’d had cravings, wicked cravings on the second and third day, but the fourth day was the first physical symptom to crop up. I also had a nagging but small headache today. I’ve been eating and snacking to keep my blood sugars stable, but I really think that a lack of refined sugars and sweeteners has got my body’s knickers in a twist. Not me though, my knickers are dandy. My cravings are getting less strong for now, I hope the pendulum doesn’t swing too hard in the other direction. Yikes!
From what I’ve read, I need to find something that swings my serotonin up without consuming the sweet little additives. Like all addictive substances, sugar raises your serotonin levels. When they drop, the body looks for the item that raises it, sending out ‘feed me’ signals it hopes you will take care of. My cravings weren’t enough for me to cave in to sugar, but there were some close moments.Then you have dopamine playing mind games with you as well. I have my dopamine talking sweetly to me about how good that sugar will taste and if I don’t reward myself I feel sad. That’s the way dopamine operates. For now though, will power is dominating!
A study was done at Princeton University using rats to demonstrate the addictive nature of sugar. Rats were given a choice of ‘healthy’ foods and sugary foods. The rats always chose the sugary ones, even pushing away the healthy ones to get to them. When they were given a choice of water or sugar water, they always chose the sugar water. When the sugar water was removed from their diet, the rats had withdrawal symptoms including chattering teeth and shakes. Upon reintroducing the sugar water, the rats once again reverted to consuming that over the regular water. A similar study was done in France where scientists compared sugar (saccharin) and cocaine. They used saccharin instead of plain sugar so that the calorie intake would not be a factor in their study. 94% of the rats chose the saccharin and in rats previously addicted to cocaine, they changed their addiction over to the saccharin. They concluded that the saccharin could replace the reward the addicted rats sought from cocaine. I find that absolutely incredible! No wonder there are so many North Americans, wandering around obese and unhappy. Ditching sugar is a tough gig!
On top of its addictive nature, sugar is in almost everything, in one form or another. The U.S. government started collecting data in 1966 to see what the sugar consumption of American was. In 1966, the average person was consuming 116 pounds of sugar a year. If you think that seems like a lot, it peaked in 1999 with 151 lbs. of sugar per person. Currently, as people become more health conscious, the average is about 142 lbs of sugar, per person a year. That’s about 1/2 cup of sugar every day. Crickey! No wonder I had a headache! Sugar is such a slippery little sucker, it’s hard to know exactly how much you are consuming. Guess I will have to keep checking those labels.
Any ideas on some things that will bring my serotonin levels up without the help of Mr. Christie, Aunt Jemima or Betty Crocker?