Our bodies are naturally wired to crave sugar…both for mental reasons and for physical reasons. Physically, our cravings come from a deep ancestral need for micro-nutrients, which are found in fruits. When we crave sugar, we are actually craving the nutrients that are found in fruit. The mental craving comes from the serotonin – a neurotransmitter that gives us a sense of well-being, and helps moderate our moods, sleep cycles and our appetite – which is released after we consume a sweet food.
When we crave sugar beyond normal, healthy levels, it can be due to a variety of factors. The most obvious and well understood reason is that we become used to a certain amount of sugar in our systems and when that amount is low, we naturally crave the sugar we aren’t getting. But, our cravings can also be a result of other factors as well. The following causes have nothing to do with food, but rather, have to do with our lifestyle.
- Stress, Exhaustion and Sleep Deprivation: Some of us crave sugar due to adrenal fatigue or low adrenal function. The adrenal glands secrete chemicals that provide us with energy. However, stress, lack of sleep or insomnia can disrupt the function of these glands and cause exhaustion. When this happens, your body looks to other sources for energy…and most often, sugar provides us with a dose at a very fast pace. Feeding our need for energy with sugar, however, boosts our energy levels for a very short duration and can often lead to a major sugar crash…resulting in our need for another boost…which often leads us back to sugar for more energy. As you can imagine this becomes a never ending cycle.What you can do: Make sure you are managing your stress levels, getting enough sleep and giving yourself some “alone” or “you” time. Build in at least a half-hour a day of relaxation time…even if it means taking a break at lunch to do so. And aim for 7 hours of sleep at a minimum. If you have difficulty sleeping, consider taking an over-the-counter sleep aid for a night or two until you get back on track. If the problem is more serious, discuss options with your doctor.
- Lack of Activity: When we are sedentary and don’t get enough activity, we can feel sluggish. Staying active and getting regular physical activity can help us reduce sugar cravings and even change them to more healthy cravings. For one, it keeps our bodies oxygenated and energized, but we also release hormones that provide us with a feeling of well-being. Additionally, staying active helps you to reduce tension and stress…both of which affect proper adrenal function as we mentioned before. Finally, physical activity helps to stabilize our blood sugar levels. What you can do: If getting to the gym is a challenge, try taking a walk every day for at least 30 minutes. This doesn’t have to be all at once. You can take three 10 minute walks. Also, when you feel a sugar craving come on, try taking a walk before giving into it. The activity might be what your body is really looking for.
- Dehydration: Lack of hydration can cause us to feel hungry and even feed into our sugar cravings. What you can do: If you feel like you are craving something sweet, have a big glass of water and see what happens. If your craving subsides, there is a good chance you were dehydrated. Ideally, your weight, divided by 2 equals the amount of water in ounces you should be consuming in a day. So, if you are 150 pounds, you should be having 75 ounces of water a day. If you are 120 pounds, you should be consuming 60 ounces a day in water.
Have you found that any of these factors cause you to crave sugar?