Popular Lenten Detox a Real Headache

Premier Health Now

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Giving up sugar for Lent is no easy challenge. Two reasons:  

  1. Sugar is seemingly everywhere – a hidden ingredient in many foods. 
  2. The effects of sugar withdrawal can be a real headache. 

To find out more about what many people may be experiencing right now, Premier Health Now talked with Diane Birchfield, RD, LD, a Premier Health dietitian. 

Removing the “-ose” in Your Diet 

About 15 percent of total calories consumed by the typical American adult come from added sugars, which aren’t found naturally in food. They’re added during processing or preparation. They appear on food labels as words that end in “-ose,” which is the chemical suffix for sugar: sucrose, fructose, dextrose. 

Neuroscientists call sugar a “natural reward” because it’s pleasurable to the brain. It puts the yummy in many foods and beverages. It’s so pleasurable that it can be addicting just like drugs, tobacco and alcohol. That’s why giving it up for 40 days can be a real sacrifice. 

Your Body in Sugar Withdrawal 

Lent’s “cold turkey” approach to giving up sugar is probably best, says Birchfield. “You wouldn't recommend limitations to an alcoholic of one drink each day, or a smoker to one cigarette a day,” she explains. 

Regardless of your approach, your body probably won’t like it. In addition to the headaches, you may feel irritable, bloated, lethargic and depressed. You also might find yourself compensating by eating more carbs. 

Labels Won’t Lie 

After Lent you might decide to continue cutting back on added sugars, suggests Birchfield. Fortunately they will be easier to recognize. She reports that by 2018, labels will spell out how much sugar is natural, and how much is added. That will make it easier to follow the American Heart Association’s recommendation to limit the amount of added sugars you consume each day to 25 grams (women) and 36 grams (men). Which means if you drank 20 ounces of Pepsi (69 grams) or Coca Cola (65 grams) today, you’ve significantly exceeded your limit!

It's easy to get the care you need.

See a Premier Physician Network provider near you.