Does Reducing Sugar Intake Increases Rebound Cravings?

a woman eating candies from a jar

Sugar Cravings 

People may want to decrease their sugar intake to boost their overall health. However, doing so can cause some temporary sugar detox symptoms.

Less than 10 per cent of a person’s daily caloric intake should come from added sugars, according to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines.

The American Heart Association suggests that women consume no more than 6 tsp, or 24 g of added sugar daily, and men consume no more than 9 tsp, or 36 g daily. This does not include naturally occurring sugars, such as those in fruits and milk.

Regularly consuming or drinking too much added sugar can have adverse effects, such as:

  • weight gain
  • increased risk of diabetes and heart disease
  • fatigue
  • cavities
  • acne

Symptoms of Rebound Cravings

People may get unpleasant symptoms when they initially cut sugar from their diets which can be:

  • sweet or high-calorie foods cravings
  • headaches
  • lack of energy
  • muscle aches
  • nausea
  • bloating
  • stomach cramps
  • irritability or anxiety
  • feeling down or depressed

These symptoms are usually temporary. They should subside without any treatment after the body adjusts to low sugar intake.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Several scientific studies have found that sugar produces physiological and behavioural impacts, very similar to those caused by addictive drugs.

In a 2016 animal study, researchers found that long term exposure to high quantities of sugar causes certain brain changes, similar to those linked to nicotine addiction.

Several animal studies have found that when deprived of sugar, rats showed opiate withdrawal symptoms, such as anxious behaviour and a decline in dopamine release which is the neurotransmitter that controls pleasure and reward-motivated behaviour.

When people drastically decrease their sugar intake, they may experience some withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches, cravings, and mood changes. These should go away within a few days or weeks with a little care.

Treatments for Rebound Sugar Cravings

Many of the symptoms linked to sugar detoxes occur as a result of fluctuating blood sugar levels. When a person consumes sugar, their body breaks it down into glucose, which is used by the cells for energy.

In most cases, having sugar causes an initial boost of energy followed by a rapid decline, or blood sugar “crash.” People can reduce the adverse effects of sugar detoxing by regulating their blood sugar levels. Eating regularly and incorporating more fibre in the diet can help avoid sudden spikes and drops in blood sugar and reduce cravings.


Magnesium is a vital mineral that enhances several bodily functions, such as protein synthesis and blood sugar regulation.

According to the findings, people with diabetes risk show improved blood sugar levels just 2 hours after taking magnesium supplements.

Magnesium supplements may also lessen symptoms of headaches and migraines, as per the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Recommended dietary intakes for magnesium range between 310-420 mg per day for adults over the age of 19.

Magnesium sources include:

  • spinach
  • peanuts
  • black beans
  • nuts and seeds
  • whole grains
  • milk
  • poultry
  • beef

People can minimise symptoms of sugar withdrawal with the following changes in their lifestyle tips:

  • eating protein to aid control increased appetite and reduce cravings
  • drinking sufficient water to prevent dehydration
  • regular exercise to release endorphins and regulate the levels of blood sugar

Tips for cutting out sugar safely

Glucose is the main preferred source of fuel both for the brain and body.

However, many people can benefit from minimising their added sugar intake by choosing fruits and vegetables instead, which provide vitamins, minerals, fibre, and natural sugar needed for energy. Including fibrous, complex carbs can help reduce cravings and minimise sugar withdrawal.

People can reduce cravings, and minimise sugar withdrawal symptoms by using a few tips:

Avoid the following foods and drinks:

Sugar-sweetened beverages: Sodas, fruit juices, and energy drinks are the primary sources of added sugars, have water and unsweetened coffee or tea instead.

Candies and sweets: These food items contain high amounts of added sugar. Replace them with lots of fresh fruit.

Baked goods: Cakes, cookies, and even certain types of bread consist of added sugars. Avoid them as much as possible.

Low-fat foods: Food advertised as low fat or fat-free often consists of sugars to offset the missing fat.

Combat sugar cravings by

Eating more protein: Sources of plant-based and animal protein can help regulate the appetite

Snacking on fresh fruits: People who intensely crave sugar can satisfy their sweet tooth with a piece of fresh fruit as they contain naturally-occurring sugars and fibre.

Getting enough sleep: A lack of sleep may lead to unhealthy food cravings.

Relaxing and avoiding stress: Some findings suggest that chronic stress may also lead to food cravings.

When to see a doctor?

People may need to see the doctor if their symptoms interfere with their ability to perform daily regular activities.

People should also look for medical attention if they have symptoms of severe low blood sugar or hypoglycemia. These are:

  • dizziness or lightheadedness
  • difficulty in concentrating
  • loss of balance
  • irritability
  • irregular heartbeat
  • inability to eat or drink
  • loss of consciousness
  • seizures

Take Away

People who want to completely eradicate sugar from their diets can expect some uncomfortable side effects, which should resolve within a few days or weeks.

With some planning, people can successfully cut out sugar while minimizing the symptoms of a sugar detox.

Eating protein and fibre, good sleep, and staying hydrated can help people be on track while their bodies adjust as per a low sugar diet.