How is it possible to become dependant on sugar?
After repeated sugar intake, people often need more sugar to get the same effect. In fact what happens is they become tolerant to the effects of the sugar. Chronic sugar eaters often report not feeling the same “high” as they used to, however they still need to eat sugar just to feel normal. What is happening is that the body has begun to compensate for the presence of the sugar. The body has gotten used to the sugar and the body tries to compensate for the abnormal amounts of sugar by adapting in specific ways, essentially it is the bodies attempt to return to “normal functioning” despite the over load of sugar.
The body can do this in many ways, and there is actually changes that occur within the brain itself. The brain starts down-regulating the number of receptors that the sugar is binding to because the body is expecting large quantities of sugar, and in order to reduce the effect of that sugar the brain starts reducing the number of receptors that respond to it. The reason the body does this is because it is trying to maintain a stable feel of receptor activity in the brain, so that if there are fewer receptors to the sugar intake, then the same amount of sugar will produce a smaller effect, this is how tolerance develops.
When the receptors in the brain down-regulate, people can actually experience the symptoms of withdrawal. These symptoms are actually the opposite of those produced by the sugar. Withdrawal symptoms are the mirror image of the effects that the sugar produces, the body has to slowly increase the quantity of sugar in order to get the same effect, the body gets used to the large quantity of sugar in the system, and compensates to this ever increasing amount of sugar by down-regulating the receptors in the brain that receive the sugar. When the sugar is removed the few remaining receptors do not get activated as much as they previously were, so therefore you get the opposite effects that the sugar provided.
So, what effect does the sugar provide for you?
When you think of eating a candy bar for example, it stimulates the brains reward circuit. You can start to feel warm and soothed, giving you the feeling of pleasure, increased energy, enhancing performance and improving concentration, answering the trigger of wanting or craving, signalling the need for more learning, increasing alertness, happy, excited. It also is the answer to avoiding negative withdrawal symptoms of fatigue, irritability or the pain of emptiness, boredom, isolation, and/or hunger pangs. This is more of a negative reinforcement situation which stimulates the need for increased sugar intake as a motivation by a desire to avoid unpleasant affects.
So when we talk about dependance on sugar, one of the things we mean is that tolerance has developed, there has actually been some physical changes in the body that has led to tolerance to the presence of the sugar. In order to quit sugar just like any other drug, caffeine even, this will result in withdrawal symptoms and these can be both physical symptoms or psychological symptoms.
On the quest to lose 50 pounds in a year. Can she do it? Only time will tell....with the help of this blog.