Had a few too many slabs of Dairy Milk? The entire bar even? Our guess is that you might be feeling that post-sugar low that we experience all too frequently after overindulging on our favourite dessert or sweets. You may or may not know this, but suffering from a post-sugar binge is actually a thing... and it's called a 'sugar hangover', friends.
It’s not often as severe as an alcohol-induced hangover, but it can have similar effects (alcohol is sugar, after all!). Side effects vary, from the usual fatigue, fuzzy thinking, headaches and mood swings, to the more serious like developing allergies, skin problems like acne, and even joint pain. All in all, not good! Let's break down how you can stop sugar cravings to avoid the dreaded hangover:
What Is A Sugar Hangover?
First up, let’s get to grips with what is actually going on inside your body when you experience a sugar hangover. Just as your body responds to alcohol, your body also reacts to sugar, and the more you eat, the worse the after effects. Whereas a normal hangover usually takes effect the day after, the effects of a sugar hangover are felt immediately!
The sugar enters your bloodstream as glucose, causing your pancreas to produce excess insulin to cope with the glucose surplus. The sugar in candy is usually in the form of sucrose and fructose which convert into glucose, and so binging on candy causes your blood sugar to soar dramatically. However the body quickly uses up all of the extra glucose and is followed by a steep drop in blood sugar. This sudden plunge is what causes a sugar crash.
Dr Michelle Braude of The Food Effect says, "Simple carbohydrates are made up of one to two sugar molecules and are broken down and digested very quickly due to their simple structure. This tends to elevate blood sugar levels just as quickly. Examples of such foods are sweets, cakes, cookies, biscuits, sugary drinks and sodas, white bread and white rice.
When consumed, these foods are rapidly converted to sugars, which are directly absorbed in the blood in the form of glucose, leading to rapidly elevated blood sugar levels. The glucose provides instant energy but if not burned or used up (which it rarely is, unless these foods are consumed right before a workout), they are converted to, and stored as fat – leading to weight gain, as well as leaving us feeling groggy and awful."
Furthermore, the surplus insulin often makes you think you are hungry and craving more sweet foods. The important thing is to not give in to these sugar cravings, however difficult, as this is essential to putting an end to a sugar hangover. If you feel the urge to eat more, try eating protein-rich foods like nuts, as the body takes longer to break these down so you will feel fuller for longer and help stop sugar cravings in their tracks!
What To Do If You Overindulge
Once you’ve eaten the sugar, nothing's going to take it back! However, here are a few little tips and tricks to minimize the after effects of a sugar binge:
Don’t give in to temptation to eat more sugar!
Most importantly, don’t be dragged into the vicious circle of sugary foods. As we’ve already mentioned, your body will likely crave more sugary foods as a result of the chemical reactions occurring in the body. Whatever you do, resist these temptations! Otherwise you will only be aggravating and prolonging your sugar hangover!
Drink loads of water
Drink up! Flushing your body with lots of water will speed up your recovery from a sugar hangover. Your body will try to get rid of excess glucose by filtering it through the kidneys and removing it as urine. Just as with excess alcohol, overindulging on sugar can dehydrate the body dramatically.
After indulging in your sugar cravings, the yeast levels in your gut become imbalanced. Yeast thrives from feeding off simple sugars, and so prosper when the body digests excess sugar. Yeast imbalances can be tackled by taking probiotic supplements or eating healthy, fermented foods such as yoghurt.
Cleanse your liver
The liver works overtime trying to process all those sweet foods. You can help flush out the toxins it absorbs by taking liver detox nutrients such as milk thistle, dandelion, beetroot, ginseng and a supplement called L-glutamine.
A brisk walk, a little yoga or a few lengths of the pool will help get your lymphatic system working and pumping blood to flush out toxins and restore cells. However try to avoid vigorous exercise as this may aggravate inflammation and slow down the recovery process.
However, of course, the best sugar hangover cure is simply to avoid getting one in the first place. But hey, we’re not naïve! We all occasionally indulge in a bag of gummy bears or chocolate brownies – the key is to do so in moderation, both in terms of the amount we eat and in the frequency we do so. But with more and more people taking the leap to quit sugar once and for all why don't you give it a go?
Read next: The Psychology Of Food Cravings