Sugar and Tiredness – Breaking the Cycle

Jamie Oliver has spoken out about the dangers of sugar saying ‘it should be taxed, just like tobacco and anything else that can, frankly, destroy lives.’ So is it the cause of your tiredness?


I hear more about fatigue and tiredness than virtually any other symptom at Menopause. And in the last year, I have seen a dramatic increase in the number of women who are experiencing this.

For some, it may be long Covid, stress and anxiety – all of which are important factors – but there is one element in your diet that could be the biggest danger

Leading nutrition expert Patrick Holford shares his views on the damaging effects our ‘sweet tooth’ can have and offers help to deal with it.

What’s the problem?

Sugar ‘is as addictive as cocaine or heroin’ according to a respected Research Professor in the US.

But be aware that cutting it out immediately with no nutritional support may lead to withdrawal symptoms similar to a drug addict going cold turkey.

Cutting out sugar may lead to depression and even behavioural disorders and experts are increasingly worried about consumption of sugar in Britain.

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.

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.

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 dinks 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

Of course, with too much sugar comes other problems such as weight gain, depression, craving for alcohol and drugs, diabetes, heart disease, kidney problems or just because you recognize that you have become addicted.

If you just quit all sugar and sweet foods completely, with none of the nutritional support we recommend, you will simply crave it. You may feel more tired and low, lacking in motivation.

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

How supplements will help

On the other hand, if you also take supplements that we recommend, the results are very different. This is because a lot of people crave sugar due to an underlying serotonin deficiency.

By supplementing the right amino acids to correct this (mainly tryptophan and/or 5-HTP) sugar cravings often reduce substantially and, with that, excessive weight gain.

This also applies to progesterone as this helps both elevate mood and reduce weight as it acts as a diuretic.

Richard Wurtman, a professor of brain and cognitive science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, believes that some people will crave carbohydrates not because they lack willpower but because of an imbalance in serotonin levels than do affect people generally but specifically those who prefer protein-rich snacks.

Their extra-low serotonin levels leave them feeling anxious, irritable and craving a serotonin ‘fix’. The reason why sugar works is that sugar 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.

Chromium, which helps insulin to work, also substantially reduces craving, as well as improving mood. 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 fruit, which provide fructose and nutrients. The best are apples, pears, berries, cherries, plums and peaches. Oranges aren’t bad, but watch out for guzzling loads of juice.

As a rule of thumb, don’t have more than the juice of one orange per day or an equivalent amount of apple juice.

Dilute this with one-third water then, after the first week, start diluting half and half with water.

Have a maximum of two such juices 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.

Nowadays, you can buy it easily in supermarkets, health-food shops and by mail order. It tastes like sugar and the only thing it won’t do is caramelize so you won’t be able to make crème brulee with it.

Extracted from  “How To Quit Without Feeling Sh**t” by Patrick Holford which offers a fast highly effective way to end addiction to caffeine, sugar and cigarettes.

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.

Also, don’t think that switching to artificial sweeteners will help as they are connected to a number of health risks, including diabetes.

Even not having enough fluid from your diet can be a factor. Hormone balance is essential to keep your body functioning optimally, and boosting energy and mood will help too.

If you think you might be low in progesterone, which is a helpful factor when trying to lose weight, then this article can help you decide which hormone you might need to supplement.