Is Sugar Making You Tired?

Are you always feeling tired? Could it be the sugar in your diet that is responsible?


Chef Jamie Oliver has said that he believes that sugar should be taxed along with alcohol and tobacco or ‘anything else that is addictive.’

Some believe that it is as addictive as cocaine and certainly suddenly stopping may lead to withdrawal symptoms similar to a drug addict going cold turkey. Cutting out sugar abruptly may lead to depression and even behavioural disorders so take it gradually.

Also, don’t think that switching to artificial sweeteners will help as they are connected to a number of health risks, including diabetes. A small Australian study suggests that consuming high amounts of artificial sweeteners might affect how the body responds to sugar according to lead author Richard Young, an associate professor at the University of Adelaide’s medical school.

This view was reinforced by a U.S. diabetes specialist. Dr. Roubert Courgi is an endocrinologist at Southside Hospital in Bay Shore, N.Y. Reading over the Australian research, he noted that:

“It proved glucose [blood sugar] response is hampered” in heavy users of artificial sweeteners. This study reaffirms that artificial sweeteners can still affect your body’s response to glucose.”

Where’s the harm?

The average sugar intake is nearly three times the recommended limit, according to Public Health England, and is driving up obesity, tooth decay and heart disease.

It is not just the sugar in your drinks but that in chocolate, biscuits, sweets and on cereal. Often, if you are eating excess sugar you will also suffer from hyperactivity, impulsive behaviour and poor concentration – behaviour we often see in children, but don’t relate to ourselves.

Too much sugar leads to blood sugar peaks and troughs. The troughs make you tired, so if you have a sugar habit you will probably also go for caffeinated drinks and other stimulants to counter the sugar blues.

Sugar, just like cocaine and heroin, stimulates dopamine and endorphins, leading to reward deficiency and that’s when you reach for the next ‘sweet treat’.

Dr Candace Pert, Research Professor in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington DC, says:

‘I consider sugar to be a drug, a highly purified plant product that can become addictive. Relying on an artificial form of glucose – sugar – to give us a quick pick-me-up is analogous to, if not as dangerous as, shooting heroin.’

What is more, whether you have a serious sugar problem or mild one, just substituting foods or drinks with artificial sweeteners doesn’t reset your sweet tooth. As with any addiction it takes time and good nutrition to get your brain’s chemistry back into balance.

What sugar does

If you just quit all sugar and sweet foods completely, without good nutritional and dietary support you may feel more tired and low, lacking in motivation.

It takes about a week for these symptoms to recede to an extent as it takes about a week for your blood sugar levels to adjust to the lack of a constant, daily fix.

How supplements will help

Many people crave sugar due to an underlying serotonin deficiency so supplementing with tryptophan and/or 5-HTP the sugar cravings often reduce substantially. A bonus is that you will also lose weight.

Having extra-low serotonin levels leaves you feeling anxious, irritable and craving a serotonin ‘fix’. The reason why sugar works is that it causes a release of insulin, and insulin carries tryptophan in the blood into the brain, where it can be converted into serotonin.

This is probably why you crave sugar when you’re feeling low, and feel better for it, and why we give upset children something sweet and they perk up.

Progesterone is also of benefit as it helps both elevate mood and reduce weight as it acts as a diuretic.

Another good supplement is chromium, which helps insulin to work, and also substantially reduces craving, as well as improving mood, in many people.

It halves cravings in eight weeks and improves mood in people prone to depression in two out of three who supplement 600mcg a day.

Do you need to quit completely?

Sugar itself is not bad – it just becomes so when you have too much. It is refined and thus devoid of the nutrients, especially B vitamins, vitamin C and chromium, needed to turn it into energy.  

Having said that, to break the habit, it is best to set yourself a clear line: nothing with added sugar. There are many names for sugar, including:

* Glucose (syrup)  * Dextrose  * Malt  * Honey  * Sucrose  *Fructose

These are best avoided, although fructose has half the effect on your blood sugar as sucrose, which has almost half of the effect of glucose. So fructose is the lesser of the evils.

This also means avoiding chocolate, which is high in sugar. However, the occasional bit of dark chocolate (with 70 per cent cocoa solids and low in sugar) is no big deal – as long as you don’t eat a bar a day.

Instead eat whole fruits, which provide fructose and nutrients. The best fruits are apples, pears, berries, cherries, plums and peaches.

Fruit juice may sound healthy, but always dilute your juices with water to minimise the sugar content. Aim for 50/50 water and juice and no more than two a day.

Sugar-free alternatives

One of the best natural sugars is xylose, also called xylitol. About two-thirds of the natural sugar in berries, cherries and plums is xylose, which tastes sweet but doesn’t raise your blood sugar level. Nine teaspoons of xylitol has the same effect on your blood sugar level as one teaspoon of sugar or honey.

It tastes like sugar and the only thing it won’t do is caramelize so you won’t be able to make crème brûlée with it.

Helpful information:

Tiredness is a common complaint at menopause and there can be a number of causes including low thyroid, adrenal fatigue and poor diet.

Even not having enough fluid from your diet can be a factor. Hormone balance is essential to keep your body functioning optimally, and these articles can help you do that.

Also, reading Patrick Holford’s excellent book ‘How To Quit Without Feeling Sh**t’ offers a fast highly effective way to end addiction to caffeine, sugar and cigarettes.