Recently I caught up with a client that I hadn’t seen since last year and he said to me in absolute amazement and beaming pride “my sugar cravings are completely gone – I never thought that would happen.”

 

As a Functional Nutritionist I would love to just say to everyone – “when you take added sugar out of your diet – eat more good fat, more protein and seeds and Nuts and you will sail through easily. While that is true for some – I understand that for others it is much harder because of the types of problems people encounter on their journey.

 

The following article looks at the 9 most prevalent side effects (that don’t last) of giving up added sugar with some helpful tips on how to navigate through them.

 

  1. Cravings

Going off sugar can awaken the hangry monster which can be pretty fierce. The dopamine response in the brain and the insulin spike throughout the body can elicit strong, insatiable cravings.

What to do:

Eating healthy fats is the best way to curb cravings. Avocado, olives or a hard cheddar cheese if you are not dairy sensitive. Nuts are also great – Walnuts, macadamia, pecans, Brazil, are the best – next are almonds – last Cashews (they are carbohydrate/sugar loaded)

 

  1. Digestive issues

When you stop eating foods that contain sugar or break down into sugar, this will shift your gut microbiome. The trillions of bacteria and yeast in your gastrointestinal system eat what you eat. Certain opportunistic yeast and bacteria particularly love consuming sugars from our food, so when they aren’t getting their regular meals, this can create some “die-off” symptoms. This can manifest as bloating, constipation, or diarrhoea as the microbiome adjusts to new foods.

What to do:

Lemon squeezed into a glass of warm water in the morning is a simple morning ritual. Add bone broth or miso to your meals to soothe your digestive system. Be careful of fermented foods – which in the end contain a lot of sugar as carbohydrates. Some people are very sensitive to fermented foods (in spite of the hype) and it isn’t the answer for everyone.

 

  1. Fatigue

Most people today are fuelling their energy levels with different sources of sugar. If you decide to cut down on the sweet and ‘carby’ things in life, this can leave you feeling exhausted throughout the day.

What to do:

Instead of sugar, healthy fats are another source of fuel for your body. Avocados, olives, coconut, and wild-caught fish are some sources of fats to fuel your brain and metabolism.

 

  1. Flu-like symptoms

Similar to other chemical addictions, coming off sugar can elicit flu-like symptoms for some people. This isn’t a sign that your body needs the sugary stuff! On the contrary, this is your body’s attempt to recalibrate from its dependency.

What to do:

Supporting your body’s natural detoxification pathways when you are coming off of sugar will benefit you. Supplementing NAC (n-acetyl cysteine) and dandelion root and adding cilantro to meals are some ways to detox.

 

  1. Headaches

All these dopamine and microbiome fluctuations that come with detoxing from sugar can trigger headaches in some people.

What to do:

Two favourite natural medicines to calm headaches and migraines are Magnesium and Turmeric or Curcumin. Drink plenty of water or bone broth or miso.

 

  1. Hunger

When people try avoiding sugar they may remove the sugar-containing foods they eat without replacing them with foods to fill in the caloric deficit left behind without the sugar! This will leave you feeling hungry, miserable, and doubting your well-intentioned decision to eat clean.

What to do:

As your body adjusts to your new way of healthy eating, make sure you are nourishing your body with delicious, filling foods. You don’t have to eat like a rabbit, munching on kale all day, to be healthy. Eat healthy, real foods until you are satiated.

 

  1. Mood changes

When someone is used to having sugar included in some way with every meal and then stops, it affects the brain triggering withdrawal type symptoms: irritability, moodiness, anxiety, or depression. But just like any other drug like substance, sugar also aggravates these health issues. Sugar can dramatically trigger and perpetuate anxiety and depression. The good news – it doesn’t last.

What to do:

Exercise – go for a walk in the fresh air in the bush, at the beach or just pounding the street if that is all is available to you when you are at work. Keep focused on your overall goal.  Some herbs that can really help you through this period are things like Ashwaganda, Liquorice Root (which makes a beautiful tea), Peony or Philodendron.  There are plenty of commercial formulas that contain these – just ask.

 

  1. Muscle aches

One of the benefits that occurs when you cut out sugar from your life is that you lose inflammation and oedema (or swelling) in your body. This causes water-weight loss as well, which can cause some loss of electrolytes (magnesium, potassium, sodium, and calcium), which can contribute to flu-like symptoms and muscle aches and cramping.

What to do:

Focus on foods that are naturally rich in electrolytes like avocados, leafy greens like spinach, nuts and seeds, and sea salt.

 

  1. Shakiness

When your body is used to being sustained by the next sugary fix, getting off the blood sugar roller coaster can leave you feeling shaky and even dizzy.

What to do:

If you are prone to getting low blood sugar, start with getting 15 to 25 grams of clean protein (and the accompanying healthy fat content) such as wild-caught fish, grass-fed beef, and/or organic nuts and seeds with every meal. If you get “hangry” before the next meal, you didn’t eat enough protein for your body’s needs.

 

 

Linda Funnell-Milner

Nutritionist & Clinical Hypnotherapist

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