When you or a loved one are on a journey of recovery, its can be helpful to arm yourself with as much information as possible. We often talk about some common experiences shared by people in recovery: the pressures that can come from trying to maintain sobriety, or the joy you can find in discovering a community of other sober people, or the hope that springs from attempting to redefine your story.
Sugar cravings during recovery isn’t discussed quite as often, despite the fact that it affects almost half the people who stop drinking. A few sweets here and there might help you manage the transition to drinking less alcohol, but a sugar addiction comes with serious risks of its own. So why excatly do you crave sugar so often and how can you get a handle on these cravings as you recover? Research on addiction in the brain can offer us some answers.
Your Brain on Sugar
All addictive substances have an impact on your brain. They all activate reward pathways and release dopamine. This makes feelings of craving and desire even stronger. Your brain alters its connections and eventually you become desensitized to the substance. You need larger and larger amounts to get feel its effects, so you consume more and more of the substance.
Sugar is not much different. It affects similar pathways in the brain and addiction can arise over time.
Why do I crave sugar so often?
Many people with substance use disorders, as well as people in recovery from these disorders, have low blood sugar. Alcohol abuse makes it so that your body is unable to regulate your blood sugar levels; drinking can impact your eating patterns and affect your appetite, as well as the way your body absorbs nutrients. Going several hours without eating, or drinking on an empty stomach can seriously reduce your blood sugar levels.
If your dependence on alcohol meant that you weren’t eating regular meals, then your body’s sugar stores were dangerously low. Once you decide to put drinking behind you, this hypoglycemic state doesn’t go away; your blood sugar levels are still low and so the cravings kick in.
How can I deal with these cravings?
Some extra sugar in the early stages of recovery isn’t such a bad thing. You can allow yourself to indulge in some sugary treats when the cravings arise, and this can actually help you avoid relapsing on alcohol. However, an addiction to sugar is not a harmless one. Too much sugar can harm your liver and lead to fatty liver disease.
Its important to get a handle of these cravings as soon as you can. Here are some ways to handle sugar cravings as you recover from addiction:
Build healthy eating habits
Now that you’re in recovery, this is a great time to build a healthy relationship with your food. Try to eat regular, balanced meals so that you’re not going long periods without eating. Also, its important to start your day with a filling breakfast. Both habits will allow you to begin restoring your blood sugar levels. At Searidge, we are committed to proper nutrition; our dietician works to create meals which help to keep cravings at bay.
Eat your protein (and your fiber and healthy fats)
Foods that are rich in protein, fiber and healthy fats will release energy slowly and steadily. This gradual release means that you can avoid the sharp spikes and plunges that come from eating simple carbs and sugars. Because of this, your blood sugar levels will be more stable, and you may be able to control sugar cravings better.
Keep it complex
Complex carbs, like the type found in whole grain, root vegetables, and legumes, can help to balance the levels of serotonin in your brain. This may stabilize your mood and help you stave off cravings.
Especially in the first few months after you stop using alcohol, your nutrition needs will be higher than normal. It is crucial to feed your body nutritious food on a daily basis. Our program at Searidge emphasizes nutritional therapy; all our meals are nutritious and sourced locally and our team of cooks will accommodate your nutritional needs as you focus on your recovery.
If you are ready to start your journey of recovery, please call us today. We are here to help you on your path to recovery.