In the 1800s, most Americans consumed roughly 45 grams of sugar every five days. Today, that number has soared to 765 grams every five days, nearly 17 times the amount of our forefathers. If you eat a lot of processed foods, it’s likely that you’re consuming more sugar than you realize. In addition to obvious sources like desserts and candy, sugar can be found in unlikely sources like yogurt, ketchup, cereal, and even frozen meals.
Although our bodies do require a certain amount of natural sugars to function optimally, an excess of sugar can contribute to a number of negative health effects. In fact, JAMA Internal Medicine recently published findings that sugar, more than fat, may play a negative role in cardiovascular health. Due to the new research on the role of sugar and health, many people are choosing to do a sugar detox in order to maintain their health.
However, sugar detoxes can be difficult, especially if you’re accustomed to eating a significant amount of sugar every day. That’s why we’ve compiled this post to let you know exactly what happens to you body when you do a sugar detox.
What is a Detox?
Detoxing can refer to a number of practices, but primarily refers to the process of ridding your body of heavy metal and/or toxic substances that may be detrimental to your health. While for some people this can be as extreme as drinking only juice for three days straight, for others it involves making positive changes to their diets and lifestyles in order to support optimal health.
Although the effects of extreme cleanses like “teatoxes” are still being studied (we recently wrote more about that kind of cleanse on our blog), cutting sugar from your diet could potentially support healthy energy levels, promote cardiovascular health, and more. This is also applicable to your children: a 2016 study also found that children who limited their sugar intake had better metabolic rate and showed signs of healthier cardiovascular function.
While you may think quitting sugar is easy, it can be anything but. Our bodies often become so accustomed to high levels of sugar that a sugar detox can be fairly uncomfortable. However, if you make the choice to limit the amount in your diet, here are some of the effects you may experience on a sugar detox. Many people recommend a 40 day or 5-week sugar detox to promote optimal health.
What Happens When You Eat Sugar
When we eat sugar, our brains go through a chemical process that releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in feedback for predicted rewards. For example, when you bite into a cupcake, your brain records the experience as pleasurable, so it will start to trigger the same response every time you eat a cupcake (or sometimes when you just see a cupcake). This is also the effect that causes you to reach for another cookie or take another bite of cake, since your brain is already expecting the “reward.”
However, over time our bodies become used to the dopamine rush provided by the sugar, and it begins to require more sugar to achieve the same reaction. Although we may jokingly refer to someone as a “sugar addict,” our bodies can easily become accustomed to high amounts of sugar and become dependent of its effects.
Short Term Effects of a Sugar Detox
When you decide to do a sugar detox, you may experience a withdrawal phase, which can result in altered moods and behaviors. A number of studies on sugar withdrawal have been conducted, with researchers noting that the rodents they studied experienced tremors, teeth chattering, anxiety, and exhaustion. While many of these studies haven’t advanced to human trials, it’s likely that humans also experience these symptoms.
You may also experience lower energy levels, but remember that these feelings are temporary. Make sure to supplement your diet with protein, healthy fats, and fiber to help you feel fuller longer. You should also pay attention to your nutrient intake, to make sure all nutritional gaps are being filled. You can see a great selection of multivitamins to support your health here.
Long Term Effects of a Sugar Detox
With these symptoms, you may wonder why people would choose a sugar detox. However, after the initial symptoms fade, you may experience potential benefits like weight loss, healthy energy levels, a healthy heart, and more. While you may still experience sugar cravings, they are likely to be less intense.
If you’re looking for support for a healthy detox, check out our seven day detox guide here. We walk you through a week of cleansing support for a healthy diet, healthy mood, and more.
Have you tried a sugar detox? We’d love to hear about your experience!