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  • Carol Aranos

Why Does Sugar Make You Blue?

Why sugar addiction makes you feel so bad

My sugar addiction was not only causing a muffin top but, quite frankly, making me blue. In case you missed it my blog last month, I offered tips to reduce your muffin top with five ways to reduce sugar and lose unwanted pounds. I am back with you for a two-part series diving deeper into the topic of sugar and how to break your sugar blues.

Why do we need sugar?

Let’s be real, not all sugar is bad. We actually need sugar to survive. Quick science lesson – we eat food comprised of carbohydrates (sugars and starches), fats, and protein. Our stomach breaks down the carbohydrates into glucose (blood sugar), which is absorbed into the bloodstream and becomes the fuel we need for energy. The hormone, insulin, is released to help our body either use the glucose immediately or store it as fat. (click here for a deeper dive)

Glucose gives our body the power to make our bodies move but it also is the primary fuel for our nervous system and brain.

Sugar and Happiness

Get ready for some more science on why sugar make us feel so good when we eat it. The effect of sugar on the brain is the release of dopamine and serotonin, two of the four chemicals that, among other things, helps us regulate mood and happiness.

Dopamine, one of our brain’s natural opioids, is released as our tastebuds sense sugary food. It sends a message to the brain, triggers this powerful neurotransmitter and creates a natural happiness effect because it is tied directly to our reward system.

A second chemical that helps to regulate our happiness is serotonin. Serotonin, unlike dopamine, is generally created in the digestive tract. In fact, about 90 percent can be attributed to our gut. As we consume sugar, a quick burst of serotonin is released.

So, if sugar makes us happy – why do I feel so bad?

Sugar and Addiction

Too much of a good thing can become a bad thing. Scientists have focused on the link between excessive sugar consumption and addictive behavior. As with other addictions, the increase in dopamine produces feeling of pleasure and perhaps, euphoria. Our natural inclination is to do more of the behavior that made us feel good, so we repeat the behavior. Our brain, however, adjusts to the stimulus and reduces the amount of dopamine released over time. Therefore, you must increase the amount and frequency of the stimulus to get the same high as you did in the past.

Our brain triggers the need for more sugar leading to compulsive behavior even though we experience the negative consequences like weight gain, headaches, hormone imbalances, and more.

Sugar and Anxiety

Have you ever indulged on cupcakes, ice cream, donuts (my personal favorite) or some other sugary goodness and within 60 minutes, you feel like you are going to die? Your body is signaling that it needs fuel and your brain becomes desperate to provide it. Arenaline and Cortisol, the hormones responsible for the flight or fight response, flood our body telling the liver to convert the stored carbohydrates into glucose. The physical response is to become shaky, sweaty, irritable, hungry, and feel like your heart is going to burst. Sugar compulsion leads to a roller coaster of highs and lows as your body and brain are balancing your blood sugars.

Sugar and Depression

The cycle of glucose conversion (science lesson above) works perfectly when we consume appropriate amounts of sugar. However, if we get into a regular habit of high sugar consumption, the glucose cycle gets off kilter and creates a phenomenon called insulin resistance. In the basic sense, our cells stop responding to the sugar, the pancreas continues producing insulin and the blood sugars continue to rise. You can read more here. Many body systems are impacted by insulin resistance, including the production of serotonin. The suppression of serotonin leads to depression, poor sleep, irritability, anxiety, etc.

Is it possible to permanently change your relationship with sugar?

I am happy to say the answer is a resounding YES! Look for some solutions in my next blog or join me for an upcoming class on Breaking the Sugar Blues on August 26.

In this interactive lecture, we will define sugar and discuss the effects of this all-pervasive, seductive white stuff, from cravings, energy imbalances, weight imbalances, fatigue, and mood swings to PMS, diabetes and heart disease. If you are constantly craving sugar, this class is for you. Participants will learn how to gain control and walk away with suggestions on how to reduce the sugar habit.

Learn more