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What happens when you stop eating sugar in 10 Bullet Points

What happens when you stop eating sugar in 10 Bullet Points 960 611 Janie

Recently the World Health Organisation reduced their recommended sugar intake from 10% to 5% of total calories in the diet. For an average person eating 2000 calories per day that equates to 100 calories of sugar, or 25g, or about 6 teaspoons per day.

World-sugar-consumptionThat’s a far cry from the Australian average consumption of over 20 teaspoons (80g) of sugar a day. This sounds like a lot of sugar to eat but when you consider that a 250ml glass of orange juice or a small tub of yoghurt contains 25g of sugar, it is actually very easy to hit that average eating just “healthy” foods. Let alone what happens when you have a 600ml bottle of Coke which contains 64g (16 teaspoons) of sugar, or a large Boost Juice Mango Magic Smoothie which contains a whopping 77g (19 teaspoons) of sugar.

The problem is there is added sugar in pretty much everything on our supermarket shelves – sauces, breads, muesli bars, breakfast cereals – and it is impossible to escape added sugar unless you read labels diligently. It really is no surprise that we are all consuming more sugar than we think we are and therefore it is no wonder that two thirds of Australians are now overweight or obese and that the rates of diabetes, cancer and heart disease are sky-rocketing.

So what happens if you follow the new WHO sugar guidelines and stop eating so much sugar?

onesmYou will experience withdrawals! Well firstly you may experience a little discomfort. We now know that sugar is more addictive than cocaine so you can expect to experience some withdrawal symptoms. People can experience fatigue, headaches, mood swings, depression, flu-like symptoms and poor sleep and these can last from anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Most people find that they need about 8 weeks to completely stop feeling the addictive pull of sugar.

You see humans weren’t exposed to a lot of sugar until quite quite recently in our evolutionary history – we had some seasonal much less sweeter fruit and maybe some honey and that was about it.  And because sugar is such a high source of energy – and we didn’t come across it very often – our bodies evolved to make us WANT to eat it so we could store it as energy (fat!) because we didn’t know how long it would be until we found food again. The problem is now we don’t have any problems locating food anymore, but we are still hard-wired to want to eat as much sugar as we can to keep our fat stores topped up.


twosmYou will have more energy. The good news is that during this withdrawal period your body is adjusting to use its fat stores instead of the constant supply of instant energy from sugar. Consuming sugar actually blocks our body’s ability to use our fat stores and worst still, sugar is toxic in our blood stream so any excess gets easily converted to fat. On a high sugar diet there is no need to use your fat stores because there is a regular influx of sugar as easy energy in every meal and snack. When you stop that flow of easy energy your body needs to remember how to use its fat stores instead. And when it works out how to do that one of the first things you will experience is higher, more stable energy that lasts for much longer periods and is not accompanied by the crashes that you get after a sugar high.

You can say goodbye to the afternoon energy slump for good.

threesmYour cravings will disappear and your appetite will stabilise. Eating sugar makes you want to eat more sugar because our bodies are hard wired to do this as we saw in bullet point 1, but the other issue is that our culture has given us a very unhealthy relationship with sugar. As children we are rewarded with sugary food when we behave, sweet treats are taken back if we are naughty, or we are given sugar as comfort food when we hurt ourselves or feel bad.  Is it any surprise we take this childhood conditioning with us into adulthood and find ourselves turning to sugar when we feel bad, or rewarding ourselves with sugar when we have done a good job? Taking sugar out of your diet can be difficult if it is linked to your emotions, but is well worth the effort. Imagine the freedom of not having cravings for sugar or needing it for comfort. Imagine not having to look for the next sugar hit?

Also once your body learns to burn fat instead of sugar your appetite will become more stable and you will be less hungry. Many people find they spontaneously end up eating less when they give up sugar.

foursmgirl measures the waist measuring tapeYou will probably lose weight. One of the main reasons that going off sugar will help you lose weight is because sugar stimulates secretion of the hormone insulin which is the hormone that promotes the calories that we eat be stored as fat, and stops stored fat being used. When we eat sugar in every meal and snack we never give our body the chance to secrete less insulin and thus be able to utilise our fat stores as energy. When we reduce our insulin levels we provide the environment and conditions our body needs to lose weight. Even if you are not overweight, you may have dangerous visceral fat around your organs which will likely reduce once you stop eating sugar.

fivesmYou will be able to think more clearly. Having trouble staying focused at work or school? Did you know that excess glucose affects both the brain function and structure and actually slows blood flow to the brain? These changes to your brain affect your cognition and memory – this is why Alzheimer’s disease is now being called Diabetes Type 3.  And this can also explain why so many children (and adults) have ADHD.

When you stop eating sugar your brain starts to function better – you will feel sharper, you will be able to remember more and think clearer.

sixsmYour digestive system will improve. Sugar feeds yeast (Candida) and yeast overgrowth can result in bloating, gas and other unpleasant digestive symptoms.  Sugar also inhibits the production of stomach acid which can lead to heartburn, reflux and ulcers, and which also leads to the inability to properly digest and absorb food. It is not too much stomach acid that causes heartburn – it is too little stomach acid – so heartburn medications may temporarily relieve symptoms, but overall they may make the problem worse as they reduce stomach acid even further.

Many people just simply cannot properly digest sugars and some find that Irritable Bowel Syndrome and even Inflammatory Bowel Disease can find relief from a sugar-reduced diet.

sevensmYou will have a better immune system. We have just seen that sugar affects our digestive system, and did you know that out gut is actually the seat of our immune system? Like our skin, our gut is our window with the outside world so it is important it is working properly to keep the nasties out while letting the good stuff in. Excess sugar also supresses immunity – it can actually cause a 75% reduction in the ability of white blood cells to engulf unwanted bacteria or viruses – an effect which can last up to 6 hours after ingesting sugar. The same process also stops other cells removing dead tissue and healing from injury.

In other words on a sugary diet you are more likely to get sick and you will heal slower.

eightsmWoman Enjoying Barbecue OutdoorsYou will be able to taste food! When you eat a lot of sugar your taste buds become so used to the sweet taste that everything else tastes bland. This puts us in the unfortunate position where we then end up sweetening everything we eat so that it tastes “good”. Did you know that food manufacturers design their food to reach a certain “Bliss Point” where there is the right amount of sweetness that makes you crave more?

When you give your palate a break from sugar it actually starts to become sensitive to and appreciate the real flavours in food. After a few weeks the levels of sweetness you used to look for will seem far too sweet and have a chemical taste. Many clients take the sugar out of their coffee and tea for a while and if they reintroduce it again they find it sickeningly sweet. Yes, when you first cut out sugar you may think that real healthy food doesn’t taste good – because your tongue is so used to sweetness – but it doesn’t take long to detox your tongue and really taste food!

ninesmYou will have a reduced risk of chronic disease. One of the affects of eating less sugar is an improvement in insulin resistance and therefore you will be less likely to become diabetic. Insulin resistance occurs because sugar is toxic to cells – when there is too much sugar in the blood for your cells to tolerate they actually stop letting sugar inside the cells (they become ‘resistant’ to the affects of insulin). So the body has to keep producing more and more insulin to try to get the sugar out of the blood as it is toxic in the bloodstream too. Less sugar means less insulin. But insulin resistance is not just linked to Type 2 Diabetes – we also now know that Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), Alzheimer’s Disease and Metabolic Syndrome are all also linked to insulin resistance.

Sugar consumption has also been linked to cancer. Glucose provides the perfect energy source for cancer cells to thrive in and there is a lot of evidence to suggest that taking sugar out of the diet can cause cancers to shrink or not recur after treatment.

Other chronic diseases linked to sugar are autoimmune conditions which are becoming much more prevalent  – like rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s and sclerosis. We saw earlier that sugar inhibits the production of stomach acid which causes food to not be completely digested. This compromises the lining of the intestines, leading to “leaky gut” which allows the intestinal contents to enter the bloodstream – a place where they should never be. Once there are foreign objects in the bloodstream the body has a heightened immune response and the body can actually start attacking itself in an attempt to rid itself of the dangerous intruders.

Need to see some evidence that sugar is not good for you? ‘SugarScience’ from the University of California have now reviewed 8000 papers linking sugar and disease.

tensmYou might feel alone. Isn’t it strange that you can smoke, binge drink and/or sit in front of a TV all day and nobody seems to care about it, but when you say you are giving up sugar people tell you are crazy? It is not unusual to feel alienated and unsupported when giving up sugar addiction. It is not uncommon to have family members and friends, or restaurant staff role their eyes at you. Perhaps its because most people know they should really be doing the same thing, but because they aren’t, they want to make you feel bad for what they themselves aren’t willing to do.

Giving up sugar is not something encouraged by society at all so you generally have to do it on your own. Unless you can find someone to buddy up with to support each other through the process. Or your whole family could do it together – like this family did.


Thrive Health offer flexible customised programs to help you eat less sugar. We provide coaching and ongoing support, recipes and meal plans and where to buy guides to make it as easy as possible. Or book in for a FREE Discovery Session to find out how we can help you achieve your health goals