Halloween Sugar and Spirits: Is Alcohol Abuse a Sugar Addiction?

We all know a few moms who like to have a drink or maybe five.  There’s nothing wrong with having a drink now and then, or even one a day, but few people know the real reason they are drawn to alcohol.

Most people don’t realize that alcohol is actually a sugar.  In fact, alcohol is the fastest acting sugar on the brain. Within seconds of taking your first sip, those sugars reach your brain.  In short, a “buzz” is actually a sugar high, which is interesting considering the addictive nature of sugar.

Research has shown that sugar may be as addictive as heroine (Princeton University, 2001).  Sugar is a relatively new addition to our diet, and our brains just haven’t adapted yet.  Consider this:  sugar tends to affect the same part of the brain that heroine, cocaine, and other hard drugs.

The two main neurotransmitters involved with sugar addiction are serotonin and beta endorphins. Sugar gives you a quick, very temporary burst of both.  We usually think of serotonin as the depression hormone, but it’s also responsible for concentration, attention, and impulse control. When your serotonin levels are lower, you may become less able to say “no.” Beta endorphins are a feel good chemical that is released after exercise and are also associated with self esteem.  In other words, people who are well accomplished might still have trouble with self esteem if they have lower beta endorphin levels.

Sugar tends to increase both of these important neurotransmitters, thereby altering the brain’s biochemistry and correcting the deficiencies that may have been there.  Basically, there are probably people out there who are self medicating for specific problems with depression, anxiety, and self esteem who are likely addicted to sugary foods. Even sugar replacements such as Splenda tend to trigger cravings for sweet foods, thereby feeding the sugar addiction.

So maybe alcohol abuse is another form of sugar addiction.  This is probably why many people who quit drinking seem to put on a few pounds-the sugar cravings hit and the battle of the bulge begins.  So, what do you do?

Two things:  exercise and follow the excellent 7 step program for changing the brain’s biochemistry and effectively treating sugar addiction.  Exercise rebalances the neurotransmitters in the brain.  By rebalancing, I mean that exercise replenishes the neurotransmitters in areas of the brain that need them.  The 7 step program can be found in the groundbreaking book, Potatoes, Not Prozaac.

This Halloween, watch the sugar at home.  I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have fun, but the whole idea of going around to gather bags of candy when half of our kids are overweight is a bit insane.  In fact, Halloween always puts me in a bit of a quandary-should I buy the good stuff and feed the obesity crises or do I become the party pooper house that gives out the crap like popcorn and stickers?  I think I’ll do a little of both this year and see what happens.  Ta-ta for now, and Happy Halloween!