Decided to ditch the sugar? Congratulations!
You’ve taken a great first step towards also getting rid of cravings, extra weight, and sluggishness.
It might sound simple enough, but detoxing from sugar isn’t quite as easy as it sounds. Once you get in the vicious cycle of sugar addiction, you can really feel the effects when you finally cut it off.
Because it’s not about willpower or having a “sweet tooth.” It’s because sugar can wreak havoc on your body chemistry.
No worries – I have you covered in beating it. But first, it helps to know what’s going on in your body so you understand what to do to battle the sugar monster.
Sugar vs. Your Body
When we eat refined sugar, our body rapidly breaks it down into glucose in the bloodstream. This causes insulin, the hormone responsible for carrying the glucose, to spike.
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The rapid rush of insulin leads to a plummet in glucose levels, which leaves you feeling fatigued, tired, and craving more sugar to bring it back up.
It’s a hard cycle to get out of, especially since the average American is eating about 152 pounds of sugar every year.
I know what you’re thinking: if you’re not eating donuts and cake every day, that doesn’t apply to you, right?
Unfortunately, refined sugars are found in many sources and sugar intake stacks up pretty fast if you’re eating bread, cereal, or any type of processed food.
1 Bagel = 1.5 sugar cubes
Hidden sugar is practically everywhere. A bagel packs in the equivalent of 1.5 sugar cubes while a 500 ml bottle of orange juice can contain up to 10!
It’s no wonder our sugar intake is so high.
So what are the symptoms of detoxing from sugar? And how long does sugar withdrawal last? Let’s explore.
Sugar Detox Symptoms
When you first start cutting sugar from your diet, you can more than likely expect to experience a few symptoms.
The extent and length of your symptoms are likely to be influenced by how long you’ve been consuming sugar, how much you were consuming before, if you’re cutting it out completely or slowly tapering your intake, and how sensitive you are to the effects.
The amount of time it takes to overcome sugar withdrawal is also highly variable. While some people may feel great in a matter of days, it may take others several weeks to fully recover.
A few of the most common symptoms of sugar detox:
- Changes in appetite
- Flu-like symptoms
- Mood changes
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Weight loss
Headaches are a common symptom of sugar withdrawal
How to Overcome Your Sugar Detox Symptoms
I know that list of sugar detox symptoms is daunting, but stick with it and the health benefits you’ll experience after will definitely be worth it.
Here are a few ways to make your sugar detox much more tolerable:
1. Taper intake instead of going cold turkey
If you’re highly sensitive to sugar or currently consuming a high-sugar diet, this may be the best strategy for you. Instead of cutting sugar out completely, start slowly decreasing your intake over a few weeks or days.
As an example, you might first stop consuming all sugar-sweetened beverages and then eliminate all processed foods the next week.
Another approach would be to slowly cut back your overall intake. Dilute any sugar-sweetened drinks and start slowly replacing sugary snacks with healthier varieties.
By slowly reducing your intake, you are much less likely to experience the negative side effects that accompany sugar detoxing.
2. Satisfy your sweet cravings without refined sugar
One of the most intense side effects of sugar withdrawal is the sugar cravings. While the refined sugars found in desserts and candies offer very little in terms of nutrition, there are healthier sources of sugar that should absolutely be included as part of a healthy diet.
Fruit, while it does contain natural sugars, also contains vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. This prevents the rapid spike of blood sugar while providing a multitude of health benefits.
If you’re craving sugar and find yourself wanting to reach for something sweet, consider keeping fruit on hand to satisfy your sweet tooth. Apples, strawberries, oranges, and grapes all make excellent snacks that are great for on-the-go and keep your cravings under control.
3. Stay active
If you find yourself lingering around the kitchen, gazing longingly at that chocolate bar on your kitchen counter, one of the best things to do is exercise (and get that chocolate bar out of there!).
Working out is an effective way to feel great, reduce stress, and alleviate symptoms like headaches or nausea.
Because of the endorphins released with exercise, it can also be an excellent method for keeping mood swings, depression, and anxiety induced by sugar withdrawal at bay.
4. Keep blood sugar regular
Some people report feeling shaky or experiencing tremors after cutting out sugar. This is often linked to low blood sugar and it can be easily alleviated by following a few dietary guidelines.
Make sure you are eating regularly and if you do start getting the shakes, it might be a good idea to start eating more frequently or incorporating more small snacks into your diet.
Pick foods that are high in protein, which is digested more slowly than carbohydrates and keeps you feeling full and satisfied for longer. It also helps stabilize blood sugars, effectively preventing the drop that sets off the tremors.
5. Relax with an Epsom salt bath
Feeling aches, pains, and flu-like symptoms? Yes, believe it or not, this could be associated to a symptom of sugar detox.
One of the best ways to relieve muscle pains is by using an Epsom salt bath. This can also help treat cramps, soreness, irritation, and inflammation in muscles and joints caused by sugar detoxing.
Add a cup or two of Epsom salt to your bath and soak for at least 10-15 minutes to get the best results. Alternatively, an Epsom salt compress can work to relieve more localized aches and pains.
6. Stock up on healthy choices
If there’s a big tub of ice cream in your freezer, it’s hard to overcome temptation.
Before starting your sugar detox, I recommend removing all the undesirable food choices from reach to make it easier on yourself when you’re experiencing cravings later on.
Just as important as removing the sugary stuff is stocking up on the good stuff.
Keep lots of fruits and veggies on hand for easy snacking. Consider preparing a snack box supplied with nuts, hard-boiled eggs, celery sticks, carrots, apple slices, and other healthy favorites.
7. Make sure you’re staying hydrated
Let’s be honest: most of us don’t drink enough water. Sometimes when we are feeling thirsty, we start craving sweets and it sends us straight to the fridge.
Next time you start craving a sugary snack, try drinking a glass of water and waiting 5 to 10 minutes to see how you feel. As a simple guideline, aim for eight 8 oz. glasses of water daily to stay hydrated.
If you are participating in physical activity, increase that amount to replenish the fluid lost through sweat.
Sugar withdrawal can cause symptoms like depression, anxiety, and mood swings. Minimizing your stress levels can play a big role in reducing these side effects and can make the process of quitting sugar easier overall.
Practicing yoga and meditating are both great ways to relax and decrease stress. Stepping away from the computer screen and taking a break from technology for part of the day can also be a helpful method.
If you’re looking for more ideas to de-stress, check out my natural tips to reduce anxiety.
9. Get enough sleep
Sleep can play an huge role in many aspects of health, from fat loss to recovering from stress. Getting enough sleep of it can determine how smoothly your sugar detox goes.
When we don’t get enough sleep, our craving for carbohydrates skyrockets. So if you’re trying to avoid carb-loaded foods, this can be a big problem.
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But sometimes when we cut sugar our sleep is disrupted and we also can feel tired because we’re not getting that sugar “rush.” Establishing a regular sleep cycle and making sure you’re getting enough sleep can help significantly cut down on those symptoms.
Aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night so your body can fully recover and rest.
It can also be helpful to stick to a schedule and try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Practicing a bedtime ritual, like reading or listening to music, can help get your sleep cycle lined up.
Mindset for Beating the Symptoms of Sugar Detox
You’ve already taken the biggest step in becoming healthier by recognizing the adverse effects of sugar and deciding to do something about it.
Making a big lifestyle change can be challenging at the start, but it’s worth it in the long run. And once you get your mindset in place, you’ll have an easier time of it.
While you might have a few negative effects of withdrawal for a few days, keep in mind these big benefits to help stay on track:
- more energy
- clearer skin
- fewer cravings
- a happier waistline.
Keep focused on the bigger picture and push through – remembering why you decided to make this healthy change.
Need some ideas on how to get started?
Check out my Sugar Detox Plan. It’s a simple and easy-to-use 10-step blueprint that will help you quit sugar for good.
Stop Even the Worst Cravings
Whether you’re looking to lose weight, have more energy, or get a better handle on your diet, getting rid of those crippling cravings (especially sugar) is a must.
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Yuri Elkaim is one of the world’s most trusted health and fitness experts. A former pro soccer player turned NYT bestselling author of The All-Day Energy Diet and The All-Day Fat Burning Diet, his clear, science-backed advice has transformed the lives of more than 500,000 men and women and he’s on a mission to help 100 million people by 2040. Read his inspiring story, “From Soccer to Bed to No Hair on My Head” that started it all.