Sugar rush, Sugar high, Sugar buzz,
We’ve all heard these phrases that describe what our brains feel like when we’ve had too much of a sweet treat. But here’s the thing about SUGAR and your brain: Your brain needs it because sugar is its main fuel. Our brains run on glucose – it fuels our cells, including brain cells. We have been evolutionarily programmed to like sweets since they’re a great energy source. And when glucose levels are low in the blood (say, if you have hypoglycemia, or if it’s been a while since you’ve had something to eat), brain fog sets in, you fumble for words, you forget where you put down your phone, you look for a place to curl up for a quick nap.
When there’s too much sugar in the system, however, that can set off some really bad stuff in your body and your brain.
What happens in your brain when you eat sugar?
When sugar hits our tongue, it activates certain taste buds that send a signal up to the brain which activates the brain’s reward system; dopamine (a feel-good brain chemical) is released and the behavior is reinforced, which makes us want to repeat it.
Sugar is rare among dopamine-producing foods, because it is like a habit-forming drug that results in dopamine production every time it’s consumed. Eating lots of sugar will continue to feel rewarding because the dopamine level doesn’t balance out, which it does when eating healthier foods. So, sugar does act a bit like a drug in our system – which is why people get hooked on sugary foods.
Your brain on too much sugar:
It wasn’t easy to find sugary foods in the hunter/gatherer society, but our modern world is filled with sugary foods – and not just the obvious cookies and lattes. A host of surprising foods – from ketchup to salad dressings and sauces – have sugar added to them. But our brain still functions like sugar is a rarity.
When you repeatedly activate that reward system, your brain adapts and actually rewires itself, and you crave more and more. Research on rats turned up this finding: When they were fed high-sugar diets, the rats’ brains released less of a certain chemical that helps bodies put on the brakes, so they were less able to stop eating it.
Those sugar-saturated rats also weren’t good at certain memory tasks, which showed that certain brain functions in the prefrontal area and hippocampus were impaired, and thus memory formation and retention. Other rat studies showed that a high sugar diet increased inflammation in the brain area, which also affected short term memory.
Why sugar makes your brain crave more sugar:
You may not be aware that there’s a strong connection between our gut and our brain – and sugar comes into play here as well. When that sugary junk food you’ve eaten hits your gut, it activates sugar receptors there too, which signals the brain to release insulin to deal with the extra sugar you’ve eaten. Excess sugar drives the pancreas to produce extra insulin, a hormone involved in blood sugar regulation. The insulin signals fat cells to store excessive amounts glucose, fatty acids and other calorie-rich substances. As a result, too few calories remain in the blood stream, so the brain thinks it’s now low on fuel, and hunger levels rise quickly. And sugar is appealing because it provides quick energy. Thus, the cycle begins all over again.
Can you retrain your brain to crave less sugar?
Want to get your brain in line with a healthier sugar level? Your brain can readapt when you cut back on sugar, and you won’t crave it as much. However, this can take a while; even months, depending on the severity of dependence on sugar that one has.
It is suggested that one start cutting back on sugar and shake off sugar dependence by trying a 7-day detox plan. When you can successfully cut back, there’s a payoff, besides a much healthier body; a small piece of chocolate will be enough of a sweet treat to satisfy you.
I think this is an oversimplification and suggest that you read “Do You Have Sugar Cravings” that I posted on February 22, 2018.
Please remember that the body can convert fat and protein (even your own muscles) to glucose and therefore satisfy the brain’s need for fuel. This process is called gluconeogenesis. You have to work at it, however. It’s not easy to convert your body from being a machine that uses sugar for fuel, to a machine that uses fat for fuel.
You have to slowly wean yourself from consuming grains, milk and milk products, sugar and artificial sweeteners, corn, soya, simple carbs and all processed foods. Don’t buy anything in a box or bag that has a contents label on it. Those of you who have been reading the blog for a while know what I mean.
Quit being a sugar addict and see how healthy you’ll become.
That’s it for now my friends; see you all the next time.