Dr Wendi's Health

How does sugar affect your brain?

How does sugar affect your brain?

Sugar binds to dopamine and serotonin receptors in your brain making you feel temporarily good because these same neurotransmitters are involved in mood regulation.

If you consume sugar every day, your dopamine and serotonin receptors will down regulate, and this can lead to cravings, getting ‘hangry’/ irritable, low mental energy, decreased ability to concentrate, and low mood….not to mention the effects on your waistline.

Research shows that people that consume more refined sugar and flour like bread, baked goods, pizza crust, and pasta (that digest easily and quickly into sugar) are significantly more often diagnosed with depression. People that remove sugar from their diet and eat whole foods often get rid of depression symptoms….exercise has proven to be very valuable as well.

One way to mitigate this response is to consume protein or healthy fat with the sugar, such as adding a spoonful of peanut or almond butter to your oatmeal with sugar; this will slow its absorption in the digestive tract and minimize the effects on your brain.

Some people can have a genetic predisposition to have very strong dopamine responses to sugar that causes intense cravings, that are even stronger if you add some stress. For these people it may be that the best solution is to completely remove added sugar from their diet. It only takes about 2 weeks for sugar cravings to go away once you quit sugar…..including artificial sweeteners, and you might find that your brain is less foggy, more energetic, able to concentrate for longer, and less moody. It may be worth the experiment to see how it is impacting you.


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