These days, many people are aware that sugar can have a negative effect on your health. It can lead to weight gain, diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, cancer and more.
Unfortunately, cutting sugar out of your diet can be challenging, especially because sugar is highly addictive. In fact, most people experience intense sugar withdrawal symptoms in the first few weeks of getting off of it.
Common Sugar Withdrawal Symptoms
- Mood swings, irritability
- Muscle aches
- Sugar cravings
So if one of your goals this year is to kick your sugar habit for good, what are some tricks you can use to get through the sugar withdraw symptoms and make a healthy change for good?
Katie Bogaard, a naturopathic practitioner at the Center for Holistic Medicine, says you can either try the gradual detox method or the cold turkey method.
Gradual Detox Method
“Some people might want to start naturally decreasing sugars on their own before embarking on a program that is very low sugar to help with some of the sugar detox side effects,” Bogaard says.
If you want to ease into the elimination, Bogaard suggests starting by replacing some of the sugars you’re currently eating with healthier substitutes. Make small goals for yourself, such as cutting out juices and sodas during the day and switching to water. Or instead of eating cereal or a doughnut for breakfast, try having plain oatmeal sweetened with fruit, dates, honey, molasses, coconut sugar or stevia.
Once you’ve conquered one part of your diet, move on to the next until you’ve eliminated sugar completely.
Just remember, however, that even though using honey, molasses, stevia and other sugar substitutes is better than regular sugar, you’ll still have sugar cravings when you cut them out of your diet.
Cold Turkey Method
If you can handle it, Bogaard says the best way to reduce your sugar cravings is to go cold turkey and eliminate all sugars in your diet for a period of time.
“This is usually difficult, but can be very effective. The first few days are usually hard, but it is most effective in dealing with the actual cravings,” Bogaard says.
Bogaard recommends doing a Paleo Whole30 diet for 30 days — which means eating no processed foods, sugar, grains, legumes, dairy or alcohol for a month — to jump start your new lifestyle.
“I generally use this as an elimination diet, but because it is naturally so low in sugar it really helps people realize what sugars do to them and that they can feel good off of sugar as well,” Bogaard says.
The sugar withdrawal process is no joke and is just as powerful as quitting drinking, smoking or other drugs. Some ways you can fight it are:
- Drinking a lot of water
This will help you feel alert and should also help with the headaches.
- Keep your blood sugar steady
Typically, people crave sugar the most when their blood sugar is low, so the best way to deal with cravings is to keep your blood sugar steady throughout the day. Keep lots of healthy snacks on hand, such as nuts and peanut butter (unless you’re doing the Whole30 diet), and eat full meals with plenty of proteins.
- Drink tea
If you’re feeling cravings for something sweet, some say drinking mint or licorice tea can help.
- Get extra sleep
If you’re feeling tired or your headaches are intense, take care of yourself by taking a nap or getting some extra sleep. A warm bath can help as well. Be good to yourself!
- Have a good support system
Tell your friends and family about your goals, so they can be supportive of you (and not offer you a piece of cake or doughnut and derail your plans). By sharing with others when you’re having cravings, you’ll be less likely to act on them.