Is it Normal to Have Sugar Cravings in Recovery? - Mandala

Addiction recovery can be a challenging and complex journey. Many people in recovery find new and unexpected consequences of giving up drugs and alcohol. For some, sugar cravings may come as an unwelcome surprise. 

Learning to navigate recovery and manage new physical and emotional symptoms requires support. Contact the Mandala Healing Center staff today for information about starting a treatment program or finding support during recovery. 

Why is it Common to Have Sugar Cravings in Recovery?

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is involved with pleasure and reward. Many addictive substances work within the brain to produce large amounts of dopamine. When a person stops taking drugs that create this flood of dopamine, their brain and body may struggle to adapt to this sudden lack of it.[1] 

Sugary foods can produce a similar–but usually much smaller–dopamine rush. Many people have sugar cravings in recovery as their brain attempts to continue receiving the dopamine hits it’s used to. 

When Am I Most Likely to Have Sugar Cravings in Recovery?

During detoxification, your body will eliminate toxins, including drugs and alcohol. Throughout your recovery, your body and brain will adjust to the absence of these substances–and the dopamine hits they provide.

Sugar cravings may come and go but are most likely to happen early in recovery. As your body faces life without the constant flood of dopamine substance abuse provides, you may have intense cravings for sweets–and lots of them.[2] Your body is craving dopamine, and sugar can provide that. However, many people find they have uncontrollable, constant sugar cravings in recovery. Without a plan to manage cravings, some people may replace drugs and alcohol with candy, cookies, and other sweets. 

Should I Give in to Sugar Cravings in Recovery?

Eating sweets and enjoying sugary foods in moderation can be part of a generally healthy diet for many people. But those in recovery must be careful to avoid overdoing it–and this can be very hard when sugar cravings are intense and happen all the time. 

Sugar cravings in recovery aren’t usually satisfied by a sweet treat or two from time to time. In recovery, people may experience intense, prolonged sugar cravings that can lead them to binge on sweet foods. Adding a lot of sugar to your diet can lead to significant health problems, including:

  • Weight gain
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Depression
  • Dental problems
  • Obesity

Sugary foods can replace nutritious foods in your diet and push your calorie intake well above a healthy level. It’s important to take steps to curb your sugar cravings in recovery so you don’t replace one serious health condition with another. 

How Should I Manage Sugar Cravings in Recovery?

Beginning early in recovery, you must focus on improving your overall health and make plans to manage sugar cravings when they happen. Here are some steps you can take to manage your sugar cravings in recovery.

1. Eat regular meals

Make an effort to have regular meals throughout the day. Eating regularly can keep your blood sugar stable and limit sugar cravings. Schedule time to eat three meals and at least one healthy snack each day. If you are on the go, plan ahead by packing nutritious foods you can take with you.

2. Eat more produce

Fruits and vegetables provide lots of fiber and nutrients that may improve your overall health and keep you full and satisfied. Aim for several servings of produce throughout the day. Fresh or frozen fruits and veggies are best. 

3. Focus on protein

Increasing your protein intake can help curb sugar cravings in recovery by stabilizing your blood sugar and helping you feel full for longer. Aim for several servings of lean meat, seafood, dairy products, nuts, and beans daily. Try to include protein with every meal and snack throughout the day. 

4. Get good sleep

Getting enough sleep can improve your overall health, including reducing your cravings for sugar. When you don’t sleep enough, your body’s hunger cues can get out of sync. This can make you reach for sweet, carbohydrate-heavy foods. Follow good sleep hygiene practices by going to bed and getting up at the same time each day, reducing your screen time an hour before bed, and keeping your sleeping environment dark and cool.

5. Be gentle with yourself

No one is perfect, and it’s likely you may give in to sugar cravings in recovery from time to time. Instead of seeing this as a failure, learn from it and make a better plan to help you avoid it next time. 

Using Nutrition to Curb Sugar Cravings in Recovery

At the Mandala Healing Center, we believe in caring for the whole person during recovery. Our programs include nutritional counseling and consultations with our staff dieticians, who can help you feel your best throughout recovery and beyond. 

We focus on nutrition in early recovery because we know that what you eat affects how you feel. For many reasons, food and diet are sometimes complex subjects. Our dieticians work with our patients to help them develop a healthy relationship with food and find a realistic dietary plan that works for them as they navigate recovery from addiction. During treatment, people discover how to make meal plans that work, use food to curb sugar cravings, and develop a holistic approach to nutrition and health.

Get Help Now

Recovery can be challenging, but you are not alone. Reach out to the caring Mandala Healing Center staff for information about starting substance abuse treatment or to find support during recovery. 

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2235907/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8462793/