Did you know that the average American consumes 3 times more sugar than the daily allowance for added sugar set by the World Health Organization? That is about 17 teaspoons of added sugar per day! 
Surprising or not- the main sources of these added sugars are processed foods: confectionery, soft drinks, biscuits, cakes, alcoholic drinks, flavored dairy products (like fruit yogurt), and packaged savory foods (chips, sauces, precooked meals). 
Important thing to note is that WHO considers the 25g of free sugars per day as a “conditional recommendation,” their “strong recommendation” is a sugar intake of less than 50g/day or less than 10% of total energy intake (in reference to a calorie intake of 2000 kcal/day) 
It may sound unbelievable, but regular excess sugar consumption has become a real problem nowadays. The health professionals look at this issue as an addiction due to the withdrawal and relapse symptoms that are observed after limiting sugar consumption- similar to drug and abuse symptoms. 
In fact, evidence suggests that sugar consumption is associated with increased dopamine secretion in the brain, which is a type of hormone responsible for triggering feelings of pleasure and satisfaction. This way, just like other addictive substances, sugar may interfere with the individuals’ decision-making process and establish addicting behavior. 
But sugar withdrawal can be a real challenge for people who are used to eating large amounts of sweets and processed foods high in added sugars.
Current research suggests that animals can develop addiction-like behaviours with sugar consumption. In humans, it is harder to determine the difference between people with an addiction to sugar and a higher preference for a sweet taste. Oftentimes, people who crave for sugary foods do not choose to eat spoons of sugar, rather it is palatable foods like cookies, cakes, chocolate, and ice cream that is eaten.
Overall, it is still a good idea to watch our intake of added sugars especially from ultra-processed foods with little or no other nutritional value. The next time you’re looking for something sweet to eat, consider going for a handful of naturally sweet dried fruits such as raisins, dried apricots, or dates.
For more control, consider looking for recipes of your favourite baked goods like breads and cookies to make at home. Experiment with reducing the amount of sugar (usually up to ⅓ of the amount of sugar can be removed) and try using extracts like vanilla, almond, orange, or lemon to boost the flavour and add a natural sweet taste. The best approach is still to have a balanced diet with variety, which may include having sugar in moderation.
This article looks at the symptoms of sugar withdrawal, easing the process, and effectively cutting down on added sugars. It will also guide you through other important factors to consider if you aim to lower your added sugar intake!
Let’s get started!
What are the symptoms of sugar withdrawal?
The Global Diabetes Community suggests that there are 6 stages of sugar withdrawal  :
- Feeling motivated and liberated for going sugar-free
- Missing sugary foods and finding sugar substitutes not as attractive as before
- Sugar cravings get intense
- “Sugar hangover“: You may experience flu-like symptoms, as well as headache and muscle aches
- Although rare, other sugar withdrawal symptoms following the muscle aches may include shivers and trembles
- Feeling freedom and liberation again, without physiologically or psychologically missing sugary foods
Besides, according to the website of Addiction Centre, the symptoms of sugar withdrawal could be not only physical but also psychological, and may include :
- Low energy
- Intense sugar cravings
How to deal with sugar withdrawal?
The most natural way to deal with sugar withdrawal is NOT to give up. If you quit the process, you may risk going through the whole journey again.
Furthermore, the Centre for Holistic Medicine in Illinois suggests that the following tips may help you ease the symptoms of sugar withdrawal  :
- Drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated
- Keep your blood sugar steady: choose healthy snacks like nuts, focus on eating whole foods, and don’t forget to add enough protein to your meals
- Drink tea: peppermint, licorice, or other herbal teas may suppress sugar cravings
- Get enough sleep and a warm bath/shower
- Family and friends support matters! Sharing your thoughts, cravings, and symptoms with your loved ones can make the sugar withdrawal process smoother and easier
Often limiting one’s sugar intake doesn’t mean eliminating all sugars. However, “keeping yourself on the right track” and effectively limiting your added sugar intake is important in order to make your withdrawal symptoms short-lasting. The MayoClinic gives a few tips to make sure you eat minimal added sugar  :
- Read the food labels (ingredient lists) and avoid foods that are high in added sugars.
- Choose foods with up to 5 grams of added sugar (according to the Nutrition Facts label on the product). Of course, you may avoid and limit the intake of all added sugars if you feel ready to do so.
- Limit natural sweeteners like honey, agave, molasses, and maple syrup
- Make suitable diet changes: e.g., sparkling/still water instead of soda, sugarless tea and coffee instead of sweetened options, regular yogurt instead of a flavored one
- Avoid artificial sweeteners
- Focus on eating whole fruits and veggies: both fresh and frozen are good options
Even though some natural foods like fruits, veggies, and milk have naturally occurring sugars, they are suitable for consumption during your sugar withdrawal period. The process focuses on limiting added sugars to a minimum because the excess consumption of specifically these sugars likely leads to addiction and increased health risks.
What else to consider?
Evidence suggests that sugar addiction (and long term consumption of high amounts of added sugars) may result in the development of various health conditions, including excess insulin production, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, pancreas issues, kidney damage, increased risk of cancer, reduced sex drive, impotence, metabolic syndrome, obesity, autoimmune disorders, nutritional deficiencies, and caries, among many others. 
However, added sugar does not only impact physical health.
But how to recognize sugar addiction? According to AddictionCentre website, the clearest sign of sugar addiction is the daily consumption of foods and drinks with high added sugar content. Other signs may include constant snacking, emotional binge eating, hyperactivity, irritability, and intense sugar cravings.