7 Ways To Stop Sugar Cravings

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Sugar Cravings

7 Ways To Stop Sugar Cravings

Anyone who has ever tried to change their diet knows it can be hard to give up foods they love. As a doctor that strongly advocates for a low-carb style eating plan, I’ve realized just the stranglehold that sugary-sweet foods can have on a person’s willpower. In this article you will learn my top strategies to stop sugar cravings for good.

Sugar has become the bane of our society and the sad part is, so many people have no idea what kind of damage it does inside our bodies. At almost 130 grams of sugar per person (PER DAY!), America is by far the highest consumer of dietary sugar in the world.

Think about this.. 130 grams of sugar is the equivalent of about TEN TABLESPOONFULS and the average American eats that every day! It’s no wonder conditions like obesity, cancer, and diabetes are some of the most prevalent chronic diseases in the US. That being said the strategies outlined in this article could change the trajectory of millions of lives.

Blood Sugar Issues

In this video, I go over 3 simple tricks to help balance your blood sugar, insulin levels and reduce cravings. These tricks are very simple and can make a huge impact on your mental clarity, energy levels and fat burning ability.

If you are having issues with cravings and blood sugar instability, be sure to watch this video!

Causes of Sugar Cravings 

There are a number of different mechanisms why one would have sugar cravings throughout the day.  The most common underlying triggers for this include blood sugar imbalances and insulin resistance due to a poor diet or large feeding gaps throughout the day, HPA axis dysfunction and emotional eating.

HPA axis dysfunction is what happens when we are under a tremendous amount of stress.  For many this stress leads to a desire for sugar.  Most of us have experienced emotional eating crisis as well when we looked for sugar to help us cope with certain emotions such as loneliness, sadness or depression.


Blood Sugar Imbalance 

Consumption of sugar-rich foods by our ancestors was much different from the present. Sweets were consumed only on occasion and in much lower quantities. Today it seems like if we don’t get a constant flow of it we can’t function properly. The average American consumes upwards of 150 LBS of sugar per year and about 50% of Americans consume ½ a pound of sugar every day.

High doses of sugars throughout the day sends blood sugar levels on a rollercoaster that should optimally remain relatively stable. Consistently spiking blood sugar levels also results in chronically elevated insulin which contributes to inflammation, hormone imbalance, weight gain, and yes, more sugar cravings.

Additionally, it’s possible to develop something called reactive hypoglycemia. This occurs because of a rapid drop in blood sugar that occurs only a few hours after consuming a sugar-rich meal. Symptoms of this include irritability (feeling hangry), weak muscles and fatigue (1).

Following this crash we go into emergency food-seeking mode. Unfortunately, if we’re not conscious of what is going on, the food sought out tends to be another sugar bomb that restarts the cycle.


HPA Axis Dysfunction 

The body contains an extensive amount of regulatory systems to keep itself healthy. One that has received a lot of attention in recent years is the HPA axis. The HPA axis consists of the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and the adrenal glands (which are responsible for regulating stress).

When we are under chronic stress, eating a poor diet, or constantly in a poor emotional state for extended amounts of time, it can lead to a disruption in the HPA axis (also known as adrenal fatigue). This can be problematic for many reasons.

The HPA axis is responsible for cortisol regulation and cortisol plays a key role in blood sugar balance. If HPA axis dysfunction leads to chronically high or low cortisol levels then blood sugar imbalance may result which will then result in cravings.

There is also some evidence that chronically elevated cortisol levels can interfere with the reward center in our brains and reinforce negative habits (2). Strengthening the HPA axis may be a critical factor to stop sugar cravings.

Emotional Eating 

If you feel like your eating habits are driven by your emotions, or become poor during times of high stress, this is not uncommon. What I often find in this scenario is that by addressing dopamine levels, people find it much easier to regulate their behaviors.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for the reward system in our brain that has a lot to do with our motivation to accomplish goals, make good decisions, and control emotions. It has been shown that sugar consumption not only spikes blood sugar, but also causes a temporary spike in dopamine.

This dopamine-spiking effect of sugar can actually become addictive and when trying to cut sugar from the diet we often encounter a dopamine deficit that makes regulating our behaviors more difficult. Additionally, blood sugar imbalance can increase dopamine enzyme activity. This means dopamine is broken down faster and a higher amount is needed to stimulate the same amount of pleasure (3).

sugar cravings1. Lemons, Limes, and Apple Cider Vinegar 

Sprinkling the juice of lemons and limes over your foods will change the way your body processes them during digestion. The citric acid within those juices will change the way your digestive system processes your foods in a way that slows blood sugar response (4).

Apple cider vinegar has a very similar effect and has been shown to lower the glycemic index (blood sugar response) to higher carbohydrate meals significantly (5).

All three of these liquids also have a range of other nutrients that can aid in digestion and help promote better insulin signaling. Simply adding these to your foods can be a great strategy. As an alternative, you can also add 1-2 Tbsp. to a glass of water and drink about 30 minutes before eating for a similar benefit.

2. Low Carb, Ketogenic-Style Diet 

As has been alluded to already, many of our blood sugar problems simply result from the overconsumption of sugar. One of the most powerful dietary strategies I have found to stabilize blood sugar, improve hormone balance, and kick sugar cravings is a ketogenic-style or low-carb/high-fat diet.

By replacing high amounts of refined sugars with predominantly healthy fats and only consuming slow-digesting, low glycemic carbohydrates (when necessary), you are taking a massive step towards better health and blood sugar regulation.

Another benefit of eating predominantly fats is their effect on satiety (feeling full after a meal). Dietary fats help promote proper secretion of leptin which is a hormone responsible for satiety as well as healthy blood sugar balance.

3. Air Squats

Another MAJOR reason for blood sugar imbalance is inactivity. If we don’t use our muscles regularly, then stored sugar remains in the cells while blood sugar gets diverted into fat stores.  By using your muscles through movement, you can burn up those stored sugars and improve blood sugar response for 2 hours following.

My recommendation is to perform 20-50 air squats whenever you start to feel the craving for sugar coming on. For an added benefit, try this Super Brain Yoga move that combines the squatting motion with a specific pressure application using your fingers to improve brain function!

If you have knee problems or for some reason cannot perform a squat, you can also perform an overhead press with light weight.

4. Water & Good Salts 

Sugar cravings can often be a result of dehydration and improper mineral balance. At first it can seem like these variables don’t tie together but it actually makes a lot of sense why you would crave sugar when dehydrated.

Our liver utilizes water in the process of converting glycogen into glucose for energy. If we are dehydrated then our ability to maintain steady blood sugar decreases and the body tries to compensate by signaling you to consume more sugar.

Consuming adequate amounts of a high-quality salt such as Himalayan pink will help maintain proper hydration by providing trace minerals and electrolytes like magnesium, sodium and potassium. They will also promote proper balance of stress hormones which profoundly influence blood sugar.

Use pink salts generously on foods or add a pinch to your water before drinking. I personally use this pink salt. 

electrolyte imbalance, Electrolyte Imbalance: Symptoms and How to Correct

5. Use Natural Sweeteners

Eliminating processed sugars and fast-digesting high-carb foods is one of the primary strategies to stabilizing blood sugar and eliminating sugar cravings. To safely consume sweet, delicious foods, make them homemade with natural sweeteners like stevia and monk fruit.

Both stevia and monk fruit have been proven safe for diabetic populations because they have no significant impact on blood sugar levels. What I find amazing is that some evidence shows that incorporating these sweeteners into your diet can actually improve your ability to maintain steady blood sugar levels (6, 7)!

The fact that they contain no sugar also makes them awesome for use in a ketogenic diet.

sugar cravings

6. Reduce Stress & Adapt Stronger 

Stress can be one of the most destructive forces to the human body. If we learn to tame it however, it can also be one of our greatest means for growth. The first step is make sure we separate bouts of stress with enough rest to fully recover. Our body is adapted for short bursts of high stress, but chronic stress can lead to problems.

I fully understand the fast-paced nature of our society today so for times of prolonged stress it is important to ground ourselves through exercises like deep breathing, meditation, gratitude, prayer, and getting out in nature. These kinds of activities pull the body back into a parasympathetic state where recovery can occur.

For additional support, it’s important to obtain adequate amounts of B vitamins and magnesium to help support stress responses in the body. I have also found adaptogens like cordyceps and ginseng to be incredibly powerful for this.  I will often use Adapt Strong to help my clients adapt to stress more effectively.

sugar cravings

7. Support Dopamine Production

Dopamine is most commonly associated with the reward and pleasure centers in the brain. When we finish a task or accomplish a goal, our brain releases dopamine that gives us a feeling of euphoria. In this way, dopamine also highly regulates our motivation and ability to exhibit will power. Consequently, I have found that sugar cravings and compulsive eating habits are often a sign of low dopamine levels.

Supporting proper dopamine production will allow you have greater willpower over your dietary choices and overcome sugar cravings. Proper strategies for optimizing your dopamine levels are outlined in this article.

In my clinic, I always recommend Dopamine Plus for my patients who are struggling to overcome sugar cravings. It contains clinical doses of L-Tyrosine and DL-Phenylalanine which both help to promote healthy dopamine production. I have found that it works very well in conjunction with Adapt Strong for supporting healthy dopamine levels.

sugar cravings

Inflammation Crushing Ebundle

The Inflammation Crushing Ebundle is designed to help you improve your brain, liver, immune system and discover the healing strategies, foods and recipes to burn fat, reduce inflammation and thrive in life!

As a doctor of natural medicine, I have spent the past 20 years studying the best healing strategies and worked with hundreds of coaching clients, helping them overcome chronic health conditions and optimize their overall health.

In our Inflammation Crushing Ebundle, I have put together my very best strategies to reduce inflammation and optimize your healing potential.  Take a look at what you will get inside these valuable guides below!

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Sources For This Article Include

1. UW Health
2. Stephens, M. A. C., & Wand, G. (2012). Stress and the HPA axis: role of glucocorticoids in alcohol dependence. Alcohol Research : Current Reviews, 34(4), 468–83. PMID: 23584113
3. Kleinridders, A., Cai, W., Cappellucci, L., Ghazarian, A., Collins, W. R., Vienberg, S. G., … Kahn, C. R. (2015). Insulin resistance in brain alters dopamine turnover and causes behavioral disorders. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 112(11), 3463–8. PMID: 25733901
4. Radulian, G., Rusu, E., Dragomir, A., & Posea, M. (2009). Metabolic effects of low glycaemic index diets. Nutrition Journal, 8, 5–12. PMID: 19178721
5. Johnston, C. S., & Gaas, C. A. (2006). Vinegar: medicinal uses and antiglycemic effect. , 8(2), 61. PMID: 16926800
6. Assaei, R., Mokarram, P., Dastghaib, S., Darbandi, S., Darbandi, M., Zal, F., … Ranjbar Omrani, G. H. (2016). Hypoglycemic effect of aquatic extract of Stevia in pancreas of diabetic rats: PPARγ -dependent regulation or antioxidant potential. Avicenna Journal of Medical Biotechnology, 8(2), 65–74. PMID: 27141265
7. Zhou, Y., Zheng, Y., Ebersole, J., Huang, CF. (2009). Insulin secretion stimulating effects of mogroside V and fruit extract of luo han kuo (Siraitia grosvenori Swingle) fruit extract. PMID: 21351724

Chicken Caprese, Chicken Caprese Balsamic Glaze Recipe

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  1. You David Jockers, Dr. Joseph Mercola and Joshua Fields Millburn (from The Minimalist”) are basically my main influences/ role models/ a representasation of who I “Elijah Rowe want to become! Thank you sincerely and emensly for everything you have and do to improve our speices, so we can continue to improve in all aspects of life! You are loved!

  2. Just purchased a Ketogenic book and Keto recipe book to start the program. I have been reading a lot about Ketogenics and wish I had seen your site before hand. It was a good overview and very informative. I’ll let you know how I do. I am anxious to get this weight off and feel like I used to.

  3. Dr Jockers you are simply AMAZING! I can’t wait to try your Super Brain Squat! I hope it can help me heal my HPA Axis Dysfunction for good. Fingers crossed

  4. I feel a bit tortured, having looked at all the donuts, cupcakes and ice cream graphics in this article, but it’s a great article. Personally, I discovered that my cravings all went away after my first extended water fast and
    they never came back because I made such a radical shift in my diet following the fast. I quit sodas, all processed foods, bread, fluoride toothpaste and pharmaceuticals. I became an avid researcher and label
    reader! I hunted sources for pure products without sugar like my Specialty pomegranate juice which is
    100% pure juice with no sugar. I only eat whole foods now and drink water from my countertop purifier
    which leaves the minerals in the water, and I supplement with fulvic/humic acid to keep my minerals up.
    It seemed like once my palate was cleansed of the constant sweet taste of adulterated foods I no longer
    wanted them. Sugar is a hard habit to kick for many people, thank you for this important, helpful article.

    1. It is important to mention that although sweeteners like Stevia are good solutions for those sweet treats when it comes to regulating blood sugars, they raise insulin levels.

  5. Do we need sugar in our hot drinks? When I was a young lad I weaned myself off 2 teaspoons of sugar in my coffee, by reducing it by 1/4 of a tea spoon each week, using Monday to reduce the sugar amount over 2 months, it tasted a little noticeable but tolerable at the start of each week, after a few days the taste was back to normal. I just thought 7 days was a good cycle.
    Later on in life I stopped tea or coffee drinking, sometimes then I used to wake up in the morning feeling more tired than the night before, now I always feel refreshed each morning.

  6. It is not the sugar! It’s the pastries, donuts, cakes etc. that’s causing the health issues here. Cane sugar is 50/50 fructose and glucose, guess what so are fruits. Gluten, white rice, potatoes have a much higher glycemic index than sugar. There have been many studies that say sugar will increase metabolism and very important for brain function. Just stay away from processed sugary stuff again like ice cream, pies, sodas and enjoy an orange or some coconut sugar in your coffee. Some exercise won’t hurt either.

  7. Dr. Jockers, thank you for all your wonderful and informative articles. You make the science so easy to understand! My question pertains to the lemon water. I live in Ecuador where limes are abundant on every street corner, but not lemons. Will lime water be just as efficient as lemon water?

    Thank you

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