Sugar Craving

Particularly during the early months of recovery, many of us crave and almost become obsessed with sugar. Why? Is it simply a hunger that hits when we get tired. Can we actually get addicted to sugar, or is there another answer?

Researchers believe that early man was genetically selected for sugar consumption. Most sugar eaten came from ripened, often fermented fruit which gave more immediate energy than consuming only protein. As a result, sugar eaters were more likely to outwit, outrun, and outlast their sluggish counterparts. This helped in pursuing a bison or other form of protein for the family dinner table. Now though, the problem seems to be there is too much sugar available in the modern diet and not enough bison hunting. So, as we overindulge, we end up storing this energy in the form of fat that is waiting for the hunt that never takes place.

A taste for sugar is the only instinctual taste modern man is born with. The other tastes of sour, bitter, and pungent are learned. You don't have to be a person in recovery to have a taste for sugar - all of us do. But why does the recovering person's taste for sugar verge on the obsessive?

A recent study at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, revealed a craving for sweets and the urge to drink likely stem from the same gene. Despite their different life experience, separated twin brothers tended to share a preference for both sweets and alcohol. Those who reported drinking more alcohol on occasion and having more alcohol related problems also reported cravings for sweets, particularly when depressed or nervous. Because environmental factors also play roles in the development of addictions, some of the sugar cravers chose to satiate themselves with food. In particular, carbohydrates and sugar. Others found, after repeated positive exposure to drugs and alcohol, that chemical substances provided a preferable, more powerful remedy for feeling good.

We know that being addicted to drugs screws with our brain chemistry. Our neurochemicals, called neurotransmitters, change in both number and intensity. This is called neuroadaptation. Maybe sweet cravings step up in their intensity to compensate for the lack of alcohol or other drugs when we sober up and get clean.

We probably worsen the situation by consuming too much caffeine and refined carbohydrates, which metabolize quickly in the body, and we end up on a roller coaster of highs and lows, looking for a resolution in the next doughnut or cafè latte. Quick fixes are followed by fatigue, frustration, and a need for more. Sound familiar?

Adapted from Renew Magazine



Dr. Candace McDaniel
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