Person craving sugar after quitting alcohol

If you’re currently sober and abstaining from alcohol, you may have noticed you’re craving sugar more than usual. But why does this happen?

From the psychological factors to the impact it can have on alcohol withdrawal, in this article, we will explore the link between alcohol and sugar cravings after quitting.

Why Do So Many People Crave Sugar After Quitting Alcohol?

The craving for sugar after quitting alcohol is actually quite a common phenomenon, and it can often take those in recovery by surprise.

Sugar cravings after quitting alcohol can be attributed to a number of physiological and biochemical changes that occur in the body. When an individual stops consuming alcohol, a substance known for its high caloric content, primarily from sugars and carbs, the body begins to seek alternative sources of these lost calories and energy.

Craving sugar after quitting alcohol can also be related to hormonal changes. When a person consumes alcohol regularly, their body adjusts to the high sugar content found in many alcoholic beverages.

Once alcohol consumption stops, the body may still crave that sugar boost. See below for a few ways hormones may be involved in this process.

  • Dopamine release. Alcohol consumption can increase dopamine levels, a hormone associated with pleasure and reward. When you stop drinking, your body might crave sugar as an alternative source of dopamine.
  • Blood sugar levels. When you stop drinking, your body might crave sugar to stabilise these levels of low blood sugar, especially if you are used to consuming sweet alcoholic beverages.
  • Stress response. Quitting alcohol can be stressful, and stress can trigger cravings for sweet, comforting foods due to the release of cortisol, a stress hormone.
  • Serotonin levels: Alcohol can impact serotonin, a hormone that affects mood. A decrease in serotonin may lead to sugar cravings as the body seeks to replenish it since consuming sugar can temporarily boost serotonin levels.
    It’s important to understand that these hormonal changes are just one part of why people might crave sugar after quitting alcohol. Psychological factors, habits, and even individual factors, such as metabolism, can also play a part in why people get sugar cravings after quitting drinking.

    The Psychological Factors of Cravings

    Psychological factors significantly contribute to sugar cravings after quitting alcohol. Habit replacement is a key factor. It’s common for individuals to substitute one habit with another as a coping mechanism, which is why alcoholism and sugar addiction are often linked.

    Emotional eating also becomes a relevant factor for some, which is when individuals turn to food, especially comfort foods high in sugar, to cope with emotional stress or changes associated with recovery.

    Additionally, the psychological impact of addiction and the recovery process cannot be understated. The stress and anxiety felt, especially during the early stages of recovery from alcohol dependency, often lead individuals to seek ways that they can temporarily soothe these feelings.

    The Impact of Alcohol Withdrawal on Cravings

    Alcohol withdrawal has a profound effect on both the body and the mind, which can manifest in increased sugar cravings.

    Withdrawal symptoms from alcohol addiction can be an uncomfortable experience, often involving mood swings, anxiety, and depression, all of which can lead to an increased desire for sugary foods as a form of self-medication. The physical symptoms of withdrawal, such as fatigue and headaches, can also prompt individuals to consume more sugar for quick energy and relief.

    Nutritional Factors to Consider in Alcohol Recovery

    Nutritional imbalances due to alcohol consumption can also play a significant role when it comes to sugar cravings after quitting alcohol.

    This is because alcohol interferes with our ability to absorb and utilise essential nutrients, which is why it’s common to see various nutrition deficiencies in those who are in alcohol addiction recovery.

    When one stops drinking, the body starts to rectify these imbalances, often leading to increased cravings for specific types of food, including sugar-rich items replacing alcohol. Moreover, alcohol itself is high in empty calories, and once its consumption is stopped, the body seeks other sources of these quick calories.

    How to Manage Sugar Cravings When Quitting Alcohol

    Managing sugar cravings during alcohol recovery and ensuring that overall health and well-being are a priority is incredibly important. See below for some useful tips on how to manage sugar cravings after quitting alcohol.

  • Remember that there’s nothing wrong with enjoying sweet things. A balanced diet that includes complex carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats ensures the body receives all necessary nutrients and maintains stable blood sugar levels, so all that’s needed is moderation.
  • Following on from the above, foods that are high in fibre can also help keep you full for longer and reduce the likelihood of sugar cravings.
  • Exercise is a great way to take your mind off sugar cravings after quitting alcohol.
  • Try to be mindful of your eating practices, as this can help in recognising emotional triggers for sugar cravings and developing healthier coping mechanisms.
  • Seek support from nutritionists or therapists who specialise in addiction recovery. This will help you to develop personalised strategies for managing these cravings effectively.
  • Sometimes, what feels like a sugar craving can actually be a sign of dehydration. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day can help reduce these cravings.
  • Lack of sleep can also increase cravings for sugary foods. Try to maintain a regular sleep schedule and ensure you’re getting enough quality rest.
  • Sometimes, cravings can be a sign of a deficiency in certain nutrients (e.g. magnesium or zinc). It’s best to rule out any nutritional deficiencies by visiting your GP or a nutritionist.
  • If our stress levels are high, it can lead to increased cravings for sugar. Try engaging in stress-reduction activities like meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises.
  • Artificial sugar might sound like a great alternative, but it can actually perpetuate a sweet tooth. Try to reduce or eliminate these from your diet.

    Find Support Today

    We hope you’ve found our article on why some individuals experience sugar cravings during alcohol withdrawal. If you’re finding it difficult to remain sober and believe you might be struggling with alcohol addiction, reach out to our team today.