Healthy Eating Functional Foods

Sugar Cravings: From Your Brain or Gut?

Sugar and soda

The Root of Your Sweet Tooth

Upon sugar intake, your brain releases high amounts of dopamine and other endogenous chemicals that affect your neuro- and biochemistry.  

It’s no secret that excessive sugar intake can have damaging effects on insulin levels, leading to inflammation, low energy levels and muscle fatigue. Excessive sugar intake can also negatively impact your mood due to inconsistent spikes in dopamine and effects on other neurochemicals. Where do your sugar cravings come from? The brain? Some studies suggest that sugar cravings actually come from your gut bacteria; thus, we decided to debunk the myths of sugar cravings below, so you can learn how to supplement your diet to kick your cravings.

Where the Cravings are From

Woman pointing to gut

Although your neurochemistry is heavily affected by your sugar intake, it’s your gut microbes that cause a large portion of your cravings due to the gut-brain axis. Ninety per cent of your serotonin, the neurotransmitter thought to be responsible for your mood, is made in your gut and is impacted by the state of your gut microbiome.

How does this affect your cravings, you ask? First, it’s important to understand how gut bacteria, which require different substrates for different strains, grow and reproduce. Bacteroidetes grow with fats as a substrate while Prevotella grows best on a carbohydrate source. The overgrowth of fungal strains like candida albicans from excessive sugar intake can lead to feels of fatigue, low energy and hormonal imbalance.

Fortify Your Gut Bacteria to Reduce Cravings

Manuka honey

One of the best ways to improve your gut flora and reduce sugar cravings is to substitute added sugar in your diet with a natural sweetener. Alternatives like Manuka honey provide antimicrobial benefits to the gut, helping to promote the growth of bacteria that are good for your gut health while reducing cravings. Other alternatives for natural sweeteners include coconut sugar and xylitol, which is also known to provide dental benefits.

Supplementing with a high-quality vitamin is also beneficial toward reducing your sugar cravings and balancing blood sugar levels through improved insulin sensitivity. A daily vitamin ensures you meet recommended levels of minerals like zinc, chromium and magnesium — all of which are involved in maintaining healthy blood sugar and insulin levels.

As we’ve mentioned in prior blogs, taking a probiotic supplement with 10 million CFU or more of various bacterial strains (Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus, specifically) can improve your mood by improving your gut flora, which in turn helps to reduce your cravings.

Although it may seem obvious, your dietary choices have a massive impact on your gut health and sugar cravings. By minimizing sugar-laden foods, such as candy and pastries, while including more fibre-rich foods in your diet, exercising daily and reducing stress, you can effectively curb your cravings by reducing cortisol and stabilizing your blood sugar levels by reducing insulin spikes.

For more tips on managing your sweet tooth for better health, visit your local health food store for supplements and foods that can help, and remember to speak to your health care practitioner to find what’s best for you.

As part of the senior leadership team, Michelle develops implements and leads communication initiatives that support the strategic priorities of the Association. She is responsible for overseeing the integrated communications strategy including both internal and external communications, the management of all public relations, marketing, advertising and member communications.