Overcoming alcohol addiction requires strength, determination, and commitment. It is no easy feat. Once you give up drinking, do you notice that you are more drawn to sugar? Instead of a beer, do you fantasize about a freshly baked pie or warm brownie? While it is natural for many of us to crave sweets, the treats communicate to the same part of our brains that alcohol and drugs do, thus prompting addictive behavior.
Sugar Cravings After Quitting Alcohol Starts in the Brain
Dr. Nichole Avena’s recent study illustrates the effect sugar has on the brain. Sugars come in many forms. A few examples include glucose, maltose, sucrose, lactose, dextrose, and high fructose corn syrup. The various forms of sugar are not limited to sweet treats. Ketchup, yogurts, flavored waters, and granola bars all have it. So, how does it affect your brain?
When you bite into something sweet, the taste receptors send a message to the cerebral cortex, an area of the brain that deciphers tastes. The cerebral cortex also alerts the reward system in the brain, associating the food with the positive. The sugar fires up the dopamine receptors, releasing the pleasure-inducing neurotransmitters.
Drugs, socializing, and sexual activity also release dopamine into the system. Because sugar is so prevalent in American diets, our dopamine receptors are overstimulated, causing individuals to go to greater lengths to seek that sugar high. Alcohol functions in a similar vein. Using a functional MRI scanner, researchers found that the same part of the brain lights up every time an individual drinks alcohol or eats sugar. Moderation or abstinence is key.
While eating a cupcake now and then is not harmful, it is important to approach sweets with caution. Someone recovering from alcoholism may use sugar as a coping mechanism. But too much sugar may lead to more damage. If you or a loved one suffers from alcohol addiction, allow our detox team at Turning Point to help. We will find healthy solutions and teach you how to enjoy a fulfilling life of sobriety. Contact our New Jersey alcohol rehab center today for more information!