sugar withdrawal

Sugar withdrawal: What is it and how to reduce it

Not sure what it would feel like if you decided to sugar detox? Wondering if you would get sugar withdrawal? At the end of the day, it’s hard to tell exactly how your unique body is going to respond when you deprive it of the sweet stuff. Everyone is different.

I can help a little and give you an idea what it is, what to expect and a few of the big tips that will help you reduce your own personal version of the no sugar blues.

What is sugar withdrawal?

When your body is accustomed to something, removing it often means it will respond in some way. Your body needs to learn to cope without the substance and it might just decide to kick up a bit of a fuss to start with. Sugar, like coffee or any drug, can elicit a number of responses. You can experience any of the following when you suddenly cut your intake:

  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of energy
  • Lack of concentration
  • Weakness
  • Light-headedness
  • Dizziness
  • Irritability

What to expect with sugar withdrawal?

If you eat a lot of sugar, withdrawal will potentially be more extreme than for someone who is already conscious of their intake and keeps it minimal. By the time I came to do a full sugar detox, I had steadily been trying to reduce my sugar intake quite significantly for a fair few months in smaller baby steps, but I was still eating fruit and dark chocolate on a daily basis, with the odd stuff-face-with-cake blow outs and regular cravings.

sugar withdrawal

Cutting everything and embarking on a detox, I did get a few mild headaches and felt slightly ‘groggy’ for a day or two. There was one afternoon where I just couldn’t concentrate and really felt that my body was missing sugar. I once banged my fist on the table (which I don’t ever do!).

As another example, my all round healthy best friend ate a tiny bit of chocolate religiously after lunch and dinner. She felt a little tired and reported being additionally grumpy when she stopped. Experienced now with coaching & mentoring others, I find many are often are lower in energy on some days and feel a little weak, even though the sugar detox in fact increases energy levels in the long run. Your immune system can also take a hit and you may pick up a cold or feel a bit under the weather.

Top tips for reducing your sugar withdrawal

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

Some of the sugary and wheat based foods you may have previously been eating may have likely caused some water retention. A sugar detox may prompt your body to get rid of this water, resulting in mild hydration. Get lots of fluids down you to keep any headaches away or to a minimum.

sugar withdrawal

Avoid polar extremes

Having a full on sugar binge day the day before you detox appears tempting behaviour, but is probably one of the worst things to do. Taper off your intake in the run up to a detox and you’ll reduce symptoms. It’ll also just make it easier to stay on track because it won’t be such a dramatic jump.

Get support and rant your heart out

There is a lot to be said for being able to vent, especially if Mr Grumps comes a calling. Don’t try and detox off sugar in isolation. Tell understanding or sympathetic friends and family so there’s an ear to hand. Just make sure they’re supportive and won’t tempt you off track.

Take it easy

Running a marathon is probably not a good idea. You need to be nice to yourself and not go crazy exercising like mad while you’re detoxing. Moderate exercise a few times a week is fine, just let yourself off if you really don’t feel up to it.

So in a nutshell, sugar withdrawal is a reality but there are things you can do to ease it. If you’re feeling it strong, take it as a good sign that your body was depending on sugar more than you realised and you’re on your way to being sugar clean.

Have you experienced withdrawal from any types of food or with sugar? How did you feel? Leave a comment as this could be the start of an interesting discussion and I would love to hear your thoughts…


2 replies
  1. 1ManBandAccts
    1ManBandAccts says:

    Since a child, I haven’t been one for eating a lot of sugar. I can barely bring myself to put it in someone else’s tea. I decided though that going almost fructose free was right for me, and since then strange things have been happening. I haven’t quit by any means. In fact, I started doing strange things. I was actually wanting to eat foods I normally wouldn’t eat, and wouldn’t want to eat. Somewhere in my head the bit of me that has the sugar got the message that deprivation was pending and it’s having a full out tantrum. If I bake with no sugar I find myself seeking it out. So, now I bake w very very little sugar. Just enough to not set off the seeking behaviour. It has shocked me somewhat, my body clearly knows I was serious about going almost fructose free.
    I do baking for my accounting clients (brownies) and so I bake for other people’s tastes (which means normal recipes, with half to a quarter of the normal sugar in, which is what I have always done). I do have some cracking ones with no fructose, or little of it, at all, and I’m moving a lot of it high protein which helps a lot.

    • lauraj_thomas
      lauraj_thomas says:

      1ManBandAccts Wow really interesting Rosie, thanks for your comments. Really interested in your journey and personal experiences which can probably help others too. Would love to try a brownie and maybe have a chat at some point 🙂


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