Cookies, candy and cakes, oh my! Don't forget about the pies, hot cocoa, and all the various other sweet, sugar-filled treats that surround us during the holiday season. While indulging a bit may go hand in hand with holiday cheer and the New Year, eating too much sugar can leave you feeling sluggish, bloated, hormonally imbalanced and, worse yet, in a constant cycle of craving even more.
This cycle can be even more intense for children who have immature nervous systems often leading to violent mood swings as their bodies try to cope with the sugar-induced high followed by the crash in blood sugar levels.
So what is the best way to cope and transition out of the sugar-filled season? It depends on a variety of individual factors including personal lifestyle choices and physical and emotional temperament. There are a couple common approaches to a sugar detox, each with their own positive and negative side effects, each valid and helpful in their own right.
For some people, cutting out sugar completely, all at once, is the most simple and direct approach. The physical symptoms of withdrawal can be intense. Headaches, anger or mood swings, depression, food cravings, insomnia or changes in sleep patterns, and fatigue are often noted. Of course, the amount of sugar you had been consuming and the duration of time you’ve been consuming it at that rate will affect the intensity of symptoms.
Keep in mind that in that past hundred years, Americans have gone from an average individual consumption of two pounds of sugar per year to 152 pounds annually. Our bodies are constantly inundated with sugar at a rate that is unprecedented in human history. Because of this, our bodies are addicted to sugar and have become reliant on the physical high it brings. This makes going “cold turkey” one of the hardest but most direct ways to detox from sugar.
Removing sugar at a gradual rate, tapering the amount and type of sugar over a period of time, is easier on your body and mind. This is also the method that tends to work best with kids.
The first step is beginning to remove refined sugar from your diet. This will initially cause cravings for sweets and carbohydrates as the body seeks to feed its addiction. Work on making the following dietary changes:
- Satiate cravings with whole grains and fruit
- Increase water intake to help flush your system
- Juice fruits and vegetables at home (this provides a source of natural sugar, but try not to let craving overtake your sensibilities)
- Focus on meeting hunger and cravings with whole foods and healthy amounts of proteins and fats
You’ll soon be able to decrease the amount of natural sugar as the body becomes accustomed to lower amounts of sugar. You'll notice taste buds become more sensitive to sweets as cravings decrease, and less and less becomes necessary to satisfy the urge to eat sugar.
Eventually, cravings will adjust to more specific and healthy sources of sugar in very minimal amounts.
While this method takes longer, weeks or months instead of days, it is a more gentle approach that is undoubtedly easier to implement with small changes to your children’s diets.