After a holiday season filled with cookies, chocolates, sweet bread and other sugary treats, many Americans are finding themselves battling an addiction to the sweet stuff.
"Sugar affects our brain centers much the same way that heroin and cocaine and alcohol and other addicting drugs do," said Dr. Tanya Edwards, with the Cleveland Clinic.
That may be because our hormones and other bodily chemicals call for the sugar. The brain needs sugar to stay awake, but if it’s consumed too often, sugar can ignite an addiction.
Signs of sugar addiction include:
- Headaches after going without sugar
- A need for sugar early in the morning
- Daytime tiredness
A good diet history taken by a doctor can usually uncover a sugar addiction and help kick the habit.
"If they're really eating a significant amount of sugar, I have them abstain from sugar. Just as I would have an alcoholic abstain from alcohol," Edwards said.
Of course, that may be easier said than done.
To ease off of sugar after the holiday binge, cut your sugar consumption in half for two weeks. Then cut it in half again for another two weeks, and then further cut the consumption over time.
If your doctor does not say sugar is back for you, kicking the addiction and still having an occasional treat can give you a boost without the downsides.