This Is What Happens To Your Body On A Sugar Detox

I swear the good outweighs the bad.


Chandré Davids |

I’m doing a sugar detox. I know… why on earth would someone subject themselves to such torture?! As a self-confessed chocoholic and lover of all things sweet, it felt like the right time to pull my so-called ‘sweet tooth’.

But no one told me it would put up such a fight.

The Sugar Trap

According to numerous studies, sugar affects the brain in the same way that other addictive substances, like nicotine and cocaine, do. So, when you go ‘cold turkey’ on sugar, your body goes through some hectic withdrawals. The tricky thing about addictive substances is that as time goes on, you need more in order to satisfy the cravings. This creates a vicious cycle that just needs to be fed.

So, when you quit sugar, the nucleus accumbens — the pleasure centre of your brain — stops producing high levels of dopamine and serotonin… plunging your body into a downward spiral of withdrawal.

A Rough Start

I’m about two weeks into my month-long detox and let me tell you, it’s been hella rough. I’m used to having a sugary fix every day, so, letting go of something that’s been part of my life for so long, is a little heartbreaking.

My first week on the detox made me miserable, I had a headache for about three days. I couldn’t get out of bed and I wasn’t the best person to be around. According to dietician and ADSA spokesperson, Alex Royal, this is completely normal and she says at first “detox symptoms can be quite severe.” However, she does recommend that when you go on a sugar detox, that you do so with strict guidelines in place. “It is very important to do it in a controlled environment preferably under the supervision of a practitioner. If you do experience any symptoms you must tell your practitioner,” she explains. I didn’t realise that the symptoms would as bad as they were, so in hindsight, I would definitely agree with Alex about speaking to your doctor before undergoing a detox.

 Detox symptoms include:

  • Aches and pains
  • Dizziness
  • Lethargy
  • Headaches
  • Mood swings
  • Poor sleep quality
  • Flu-like symptoms

But It Gets Better

Now, I know that you’re probably thinking “If things are this bad, why even cut out sugar?”. In all honesty, once you get past the first week, things do improve. This second week has been pretty good. I suffer from the afternoon slump and usually by 2 p.m. my energy levels are zapped. This week that was not the case — I’ve had more than enough energy to get through my day. On a more impressive note, my period started this week and my PMS was almost non-existent. I usually have intense cravings (which I always gave in to), but this week my cravings haven’t gone beyond chocolate (I opted for sugar-free chocolate).

The fact that I’ve barely suffered with PMS this time around, might be because there is a direct link between sugar and our periods. Sugar affects our hormone levels through insulin, which is used by our bodies to process glucose. Having too much glucose affects the hormones that control your insulin, which in turn can lead to higher levels of estrogen and testosterone… making your period symptoms more severe. Besides reducing PMS, Alex says that cutting sugar from your diet can have many positive effects:

  • Gut flora takes on a healthier profile which can translate into an improved immune system and less pathogenic bacteria in the gut. This is associated with less bloating and improved bowel movement.
  • Blood sugar levels are more controlled, which leads to improved insulin balance and reduces the risk for diabetes and arterial disease.
  • Weight is controlled by cutting out sugar which reduces the risk for chronic disease and inflammation.
  • Avoiding sugar can also help prevent fatigue and curb anxiety.

READ MORE ON: Detox Health Health Advice