7 signs of sugar withdrawal (and exactly what to do about them)

Given the addictive nature of sugar, this isn’t completely surprising. But to help you deal with the seven most common symptoms of sugar withdrawal we spoke to Keri Maas, a cardiac physiologist and 8-Week Program expert, for some scientific advice on how to ease the pain.

  1. Headaches.


While the damaging effects of fructose are enough to give you a headache, when you cut it from your diet, you may experience a few more!

Headaches related to sugar withdrawal can be a result of stress (the fear of going fructose-free forever is enough to make anyone anxious), or the physical changes of your body detoxing from sugar.

“Detox symptoms are partly due to the body adapting to changes in diet,” says Keri. “These may indicate that your liver needs support. One of the best ways to deal with sugar-withdrawal-related headaches is to drink plenty of water and herbal tea.”


  1. Fatigue.

Sugar has a roller-coaster effect on blood-sugar levels, and although you may feel the dip when you quit it, don’t get off the ride just yet.

While fatigue and lethargy are completely normal responses to going sugar-free, Keri suggests prioritising sleep.

“Aim for a minimum of eight hours per night. And listen to your body, if you need to rest, rest. This should allow you to recoup until your energy levels balance out and soar again.”


  1. Irritability and moodiness.

Sugar can influence dopamine, a neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of pleasure.

Stop yourself from snapping by resorting to alternative sources that make you smile. Keri recommends a hot bath with lavender and coconut oil, relaxation through breathing or walking in nature.


  1. Cravings.

Oscar Wilde claimed he could “resist everything except temptation” but we have a little more faith in you! Sure you may start seriously considering selling your first-born for a piece of apple pie, but with a little will power this withdrawal too shall pass.

In the interim, distract your cravings with non-sugar related activities. While Keri thinks you should you “busy yourself with jobs around the house”, a nice massage can be just as effective!

Still craving something sweet? “Have a spoonful of coconut oil as Sarah suggests,” Keri says.


  1. Appetite changes.

So the only thing you feel like is mac-and-cheese and you’re suddenly starving All. The. Time!  

If you quit sugar and are still always hungry, you’re probably not doing it right. While giving fructose the flick frees you from calorie counting, it’s important to refuel your body with filling fats and satiating protein-rich meals instead of empty carbohydrates.

Keri also suggests some supplements which may help plug nutritional holes while your body adapts. “I recommend vitamin C powder, magnesium, zinc and spirulina.”


  1. Shakes.


Some members of our community reveal that they literally shake when they cut their sugar consumption. While these withdrawal symptoms are typically not severe and eventually subside, they are usually a result of quitting sugar cold turkey after previously consuming high amounts.

That’s why we always treat sugar quitting as a gentle experiment. (Minus the mad scientist lab coat).


  1. Insomnia.


Whether dreams of desserts are keeping you awake or changes in your diet have caught your body off guard, many report temporary disruptions in their sleeping patterns when quitting sugar.

Kerri suggests you change your gym routine from cardio to resistance training and yoga. You might also want to consider some meditative exercises before you crash, so consider swapping your late-night noms to omms!

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