The “Fizzy-O-logy” of Sugar Addiction
Hello, my friends! I hope you are treating life well. In some of my previous blogs, I have discussed sugar addiction and have given a few simple tips on how to escape its brutal grips. In this post, I want to give you a very basic understanding of the physiology of sugar addiction. Currently in America, the number one source for sugar addiction is soda pop. Amazingly, the average American consumes over 150 lbs. of sugar per year!
If you have ever tried to eat more healthily, but instead had one hand in the veggie crisper and the other in the cookie jar, there is physiological reason for it. Of course, there are other factors such as psychological reasons, but today we are only focusing on what happens directly in your brain! So hang tight, and enjoy the ride that occurs in your head each and every time you consume excess sugar!
Ah, pleasure! It comes in many forms, ranging from a Friday night, to getting a raise at work, and, yes, from sweets. If you are addicted to sugar, it is because sugar produces a sensation of pleasure in your body. In your brain, you will find what known as your nucleus accumbens: AKA your PLEASURE CENTER! This little guy is largely responsible for your “pleasure/reward” cycle. In normal everyday life, this is a good thing. For example, when you get a paycheck and you buy a new pair of jeans, you are “rewarded” with a certain level of pleasure. This serves as reinforcement to your brain, which records this activity as “good.”
Sugar represents one of the most potent “rewards” that your brain senses. Suppose you take in a relatively large amount of sugar over the course of a month. When you initially take in the sugar, your nucleus accumbens triggers a cascade of hormones that ultimately releases dopamine, glutamate, serotonin, and other hormones that help you feel good and serves as your reward. This is not necessarily a bad thing, until your body is exposed to chronic sugar intake.
Although it is nice to feel good as a result of sugar releasing these pleasure inducing hormones, your body is not concerned with you “feeling good” at a physical level 24/7. Rather, your brain is more concerned with keeping your hormone levels normal or “homeostatic.” Homeostasis is your body’s attempt to avoid extremes in either direction, good or bad. It is a brilliantly designed mechanism to make sure that your body does not burn out or suffer the consequences of imbalance.
If your brain senses an overload of dopamine or serotonin production, it gradually counter-punches by either decreasing the amount of the hormone OR by decreasing the receptors for the hormone. In other words, to use a lock and key analogy, your body’s receptors would represent the lock and the hormone (such as dopamine) would represent the key. Your pleasure inducing hormones essentially unlock your body’s receptors and, thereby, create the pleasure. In the case of sugar addiction, when you continually pour out keys, your brain sounds the alert and makes the locks resistant to the keys OR it mitigates the production of the keys entirely.
In either case, this will lead you to feel empty, ravenous, and full of cravings because your body is used to feeling good, yet your body is NOT getting the hormones that it was used to getting before your brain began to protect you by using the methods described above. When you feel, empty, ravenous or you feel like crap, you naturally want to solve the problem. Essentially, this is a problem because it fuels a destructive cycle of sugar over consumption. Why? Because the only way to get those feel good hormones to work for you again is to blitz your nucleus accumbens with a glut of sugar sufficient to fuel three NFL defensive linemen!
In subsequent posts, I will describe some of the steps that you can take to reverse this process of sugar addiction so that you can get back to living the healthy and vibrant lifestyle that you deserve! Life is good my friends!