It’s not uncommon for people who once struggled with an alcohol addiction to turn to sugary substances, while in recovery. There are psychological and physiological reasons as to why patients are ditching their old habits and satiating their desires with sugary foods and beverages. Excessive eating and poor nutrition in recovery can cause individuals to experience a medley of physical health issues, which can make one more vulnerable to relapse. Because of this, it’s important for our team of addiction treatment specialists in Northern New Jersey to educate our patients on the connection of alcohol and sugar so that they can maintain their recovery and overall well-being. Today, we will detail the dangers of replacing alcohol addiction with sugar.
The Connection Between Alcohol And Sugar
A ton of alcoholic beverages contain excessive amounts of sugar, especially for those who are consuming mixed drinks composed of soda, juices, liqueurs, or other mixers that are dense with sweetness. While the myth that alcohol turns into sugar has been widely dispelled, it still has an impact on our blood sugar levels, causing a yo-yo effect. It will initially raise the blood sugar levels, but once the body processes the alcohol, the levels will begin to drop. Alcohol increases insulin secretion and prevents the liver from releasing glucose, causing heavy drinkers to be prone to hypoglycemia.
Due to the regular consumption of alcohol, drinkers tend to develop a tolerance to sugar because of their prodigious patterns of consumption. It’s not common for those who are newly or far along in their recovery from alcohol, to face sugar cravings. The brain and body are desperately craving a fix. Giving into these cravings has become much more commonplace. Rehab centers, multi-health groups, and members of AA, will encourage those in sobriety to keep candy and other sweets on hand in order to mitigate the desire for alcohol.
Instead of fanning the flames for their addictive tendencies, one of the biggest problems that come from consuming sugar in place of alcohol is the feelings of pleasure it induces. Sugar impacts the same region of the brain as alcohol and drugs, since it works to stimulate the pleasure center of the brain. Research has gone on to show that sugar has a similar influence on the brain’s reward center, just like alcohol and drugs do.
What Challenges Arise From A Nutritional Standpoint?
Our group of addiction treatment specialists in Northern New Jersey have found that individuals who have had an extensive history of substance abuse, tend to neglect their physical health. Alcohol and drugs can bring much turmoil to your internal organs. As many of us are acutely aware, heavy alcohol use can have grave impacts on the liver, heart, brain, and pancreas in ways that are detrimental to your overall health. As a result, the immune system will take a hit, and could even contribute to the development of various types of cancer. Poor nutrition in recovery will only continue to exacerbate many of these health issues and concerns. When high-sugar foods and beverages are used as a substitute, it can have dramatic effects on your weight, cause headaches, bouts of lethargy, muscle pain, nausea, bloating, and even insomnia in some cases. In order to overcome these nutritional deficiencies, your diet needs to be supplemented with the proper nutrients, which should be a fundamental component of an alcohol recovery treatment plan.
The Importance Of Focusing On Nutritional Health While In Recovery
High-calorie, high sugar, low-nutrient foods are a go to for a variety of patients in the early recovery stages. Like we stated earlier, rehab centers and AA meetings will have a wide array of sugary concoctions on deck. This supplementation of sweets causes many to harbor the mindset of “as long as I am not drinking”– in other words, if it takes something else to ensure that you don’t succumb to the grips of your old ways, then you should do whatever it takes to stay grounded. While it’s admirable that you have beat your previous addiction, replacing it with something like sweets will only further the decline of your physical and mental state. The facts don’t lie.
Weight gain is a common issue for those that are new to recovery from alcohol addiction, and this can lead to low mood, which can very easily trigger a relapse. The way of thinking can be altered if this does happen. People may start to think- “This was not a problem when I was still drinking.” They viewed the alcohol as a catharsis that numbed their depression, but also quieted the negative feelings they harbored about their own self-image.
Studies conducted have shown that people who are obese experience more severe depression, compared to their non-obese counterparts. The same study also noted that obesity is associated with hopelessness, which is also a shared feeling amongst substance abusers. Overweight individuals may have a higher chance of relapsing on alcohol. However, these risks can be drastically reduced if they can maintain their physical health through regular exercise and optimal nutrition.
Managing Sugar Cravings While In Recovery
Sugar takes a toll on the brain’s neural pathways, while weight gain affects the person’s self-esteem and poses a great risk for relapse. Patients in recovery should prioritize their addiction and pay attention to their sugar intake. Our addiction treatment specialists in Northern New Jersey are placing more focus on the nutritional component of recovery. A good amount of professionals has created a holistic treatment approach that is centered on the mind-body connection, zeroing in on food and its correlation to the treatment process.
You will be surprised at the difference that comes from eating foods high in nutrients. For many, eating a whole foods, plant-based diet can help normalize blood sugar levels, reducing your cravings for both alcohol and sugar. It’s simple–when you eat well, you will feel well. Living a lifestyle that is centered around optimal nutrition consumption is a form of self-care and it shows that you care about your well-being, meaning you will also be more inclined to care about your sobriety.
Here are some tips you can implement to help handle your sugar cravings:
- Hydrating with plenty of water
- Scheduling your meals and planning ahead
- Consuming a good amount of protein
- Eating a balanced diet that includes complex carbs, fibers, and healthy fats
- Maintaining a regular sleep and wake up routine, since stress can augment cortisol levels and increase cravings for sugar
- Do not keep high sugar foods in your home
- Read food labels and keep an eye on hidden sugars
- Limit simple carbohydrates
- Drink hot tea or chew on a tooth pick
- Eat natural sweets like fruit or dark chocolate
- Engage in mindful eating and stay away from emotional eating
- Sit with the sugar craving and allow it to pass naturally
Some patients might even benefit from working with a nutritionist, dietician, health coach, or other professionals that can help you to improve your relationship with food.
Controlling Urges With Professional Addiction Treatment Specialists In Northern New Jersey
North Jersey Recovery Center is cognizant of the addictive tendencies patients will have, even after beating a previous addiction. Through education and proper guidance and support, our patients can expect to get a grip on their urges, which definitely includes sugar. To learn more about finalizing your involvement with our addiction treatment specialists in Northern New Jersey, contact us today!