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Is it Normal to Crave Sugar After I Stop Drinking?

It is common for people to stop drinking and realize later they have started eating a lot of sugar. Part of the problem is addiction transference. This is sometimes described as addiction whack-a-mole–you get a handle on one addiction and another one pops up. Sometimes it’s gambling, sometimes it’s porn, sometimes it’s exercise, and sometimes it’s sugar. You know alcohol is killing you and you put all your energy into quitting that, but your brain still craves the dopamine so you look for another way to get it. As it happens, sugar is one of those foods with a high dopamine response, so it’s a common replacement for alcohol and other addictions.

There does appear to be a specific link between alcohol addiction and sugar consumption. One study of 300 children found that participants with more of a sweet tooth were more likely to have a family history of alcoholism and depression, which is a risk factor for alcoholism. Alcohol also impairs your body’s ability to maintain balanced blood sugar levels. Prolonged heavy drinking may cause the problem to persist after you stop drinking. Craving sugar may be your body’s way of trying to restore balance. Alcohol is also associated with weight gain, which may reduce insulin sensitivity and contribute to blood sugar problems.

The good news is that a sugar addiction is an improvement over alcohol addiction–unless you are diabetic, of course. The bad news is that eventually, you will have to deal with the sugar addiction. In the short term, wild swings in blood sugar can cause mood swings, headaches, and feelings of lethargy and depression, none of which are helpful for recovery. If left untreated, sugar addiction can lead to obesity, type II diabetes, and heart disease.

If you have recently quit drinking and you suddenly find yourself eating a lot more sugar, discuss it with your addiction counselor. You may want to have your doctor check if your blood sugar levels are normal, and possibly consult a nutritionist about establishing a healthy diet.

In the meantime, a few easy changes might reduce your sugar cravings. Make sure to eat every few hours to avoid blood sugar crashes. Include foods that are high in protein and fiber, with a particular emphasis on whole grains and vegetables. If possible, reduce your caffeine intake, as it can cause blood sugar fluctuations. When a sugar craving does strike, try replacing refined sugar with fruit, especially berries, which are lower in sugar. If you have recently started exercising, be sure you aren’t ramping up the intensity too quickly, as that can cause your blood sugar to crash.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, Gardens Wellness Center can help you  detox in a comfortable environment and take advantage of a variety of complementary therapeutic approaches. Call us today at 844-325-9168 or email us at to learn more.