Controlling Surges in Sugar Cravings

Many people struggling with alcohol use aren’t aware of the link between heavy drinking and sugar consumption. This connection becomes evident once they stop drinking, and start developing an insatiable desire to eat sugar in the form of candies, chocolates, and other sweets. It isn’t uncommon for those struggling with heavy drinking, to receive advice from others about eating sweets to combat their desire for a drink. This strategy may alleviate cravings momentarily but can lead to weight gain and other health issues.

The good news is that the tendencies to abuse sugar and alcohol are learned behaviours, and you can unlearn them.  Here are a few things you can do:

Improve self-control by changing your environment.

It’s possible to train ourselves to control our thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. To enhance self-control, we need to learn new behaviours. And to learn new behaviours, it’s helpful to change our environment. In Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy, we call this technique stimulus control. Try this:

  • Have a fixed schedule for your meals,
  • Eat at the same time and focus on your food – instead of the phone, or the TV,
  • Purchase groceries on a full stomach to avoid buying sweets on impulse,
  • Purchase groceries for the entire week and fill your fridge with healthy food,
  • Prepare your food the night before,
  • Take healthy snacks with you to avoid buying junk food,
  • Eat in restaurants that offer healthy food,
  • Always have healthy snacks at home (fruits, vegetables, yogurt, etc.).


Increase your intake of protein.

Before making any changes in your diet, consult with a dietitian specialised in alcohol addiction. Overcoming health issues through nutrition should only be done with the supervision of an expert. A simple and safe strategy you can start with is eating more protein instead of carbohydrates.

Protein helps keep you satisfied for longer periods of time, helping to decrease the desire for sweets. It will also help prevent sugar crashes, low blood sugar episodes that occur after eating too many carbs – and that can lead to added anxiety and nervousness. Try a diet rich in protein and low glycemic foods, such as:

  • Beans,
  • Low starch vegetables,
  • Low-glycemic fruits such as cherries, grapefruit, apples, and oranges,
  • Whole rye bread,
  • Wheat bread (including whole wheat),
  • Brown rice,
  • Tropical fruits,
  • Wheat pasta,
  • Boiled potatoes,
  • Refined breakfast cereals,
  • Rice cereals,
  • Rice pasta, rice cakes, and instant rice.

Try a biomedical and nutritional boost.

Making changes that you will be proud of requires both psychological and physical efforts. If you’ve been trying to reduce or quit alcohol with no success, a biomedical and a nutritional program can be the missing key to your recovery. Nutrients like L-Glutamine, Chromium, and Zinc and medication that blocks endorphins associated with alcohol consumption, such as Naltrexone, have been shown to be beneficial for some people. .

It’s essential to consult with a professional before making any changes. Naltrexone is a prescription medication, and you don’t want to make major changes without consulting healthcare professionals.  .

Naltrexone. When we drink, endorphins are released in our brains. These endorphins travel through pathways, and create positive reinforcement that makes us want to drink again. In some cases, perhaps because of genetics or life events, these pathways turn into superhighways through repetition. Naltrexone (NTX) helps by blocking the endorphin receptors when we drink, turning superhighways into pathways again. This results in a gradual unlearning of the behaviour, letting the person regain control of their alcohol use [1] [2] [3] [4] [5].

But how effective is it? Naltrexone has been used to treat alcohol abuse for more than 25 years, and there is reliable scientific proof of its effectiveness. In clinical trials, people who took NTX had fewer heavy drinking days [6], and it helped to prevent subsequent drinking once the drinking occurred [7]. It also reduced relapse rates and the time it took to relapse [7]. For those who drink, NTX has been shown to increase significantly the number of days between episodes [8]. People who take NTX also report that the subjective “high” caused by alcohol is significantly reduced [9]. Also, a significant benefit of Naltrexone is that it is not habit forming.

L-Glutamine. L-Glutamine is one of the most popular supplements to control sugar craving. It has been used in clinical studies to help combat sugar cravings and alcohol addiction [11]. Studies have shown that this amino-acid may help decrease anxiety, improve sleep, and reduce alcohol craving [12] [13] [14].

Chromium. A missing mineral in many alcoholics’ diet, Chromium helps by fighting insulin resistance [15]. People who struggle with alcohol use may consume vast amounts of carbohydrates.

Zinc. Alcohol abuse contributes to zinc deficiency [16], and this can lead to sugar craving, making it worse to quit drinking [17].  Zinc helps the body to metabolise alcohol properly and strengthens an alcohol-damaged immune system [18].

[Editor’s Note:The author of this post is a content contributor to Alavida, and this contributor was paid for their writing. The opinions, views, results and experiences are theirs alone.]

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REFERENCES: [1] Goldstein A. 1997. Neurobiology of heroin addiction and of methadone treatment. Paper presented at: the National Methadone Conference, Chicago, IL, April 1997.  [2] Naltrexone: an option for alcohol-dependent patients? 1997. Drugs Ther Perspect. 10(1):5-8. [3] O’Brien CP, Volpicelli LA, Volpicelli JR. 1996. Naltrexone in the treatment of alcoholism: a clinical review. Alcohol. 13(1):35-39. [4] O’Malley S (consensus panel chair). 1998. Naltrexone And Alcoholism Treatment. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series 28. Rockville, MD: US Dept of Health and Human Services, Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. DHHS publication (SMA) 98-3206. [5] Swift RM. 1995. Effect of naltrexone on human alcohol consumption. J Clin Psychiatry. 56(suppl 7):24-29. [6] O’Malley SS, Jaffe AJ, Chang G, Rode S, Schottenfeld R, Meyer RE, Rounsaville B. 1996a. Six-month follow-up of naltrexone and psychotherapy for alcohol dependence. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 53(3):217-224. | O’Malley SS, Jaffe AJ, Chang G, Schottenfeld RS, Meyer RE, Rounsaville B. 1992. Naltrexone and coping skills therapy for alcohol dependence: a controlled study. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 49:881–887. | O’Malley SS, Jaffe AJ, Rode S, Rounsaville BJ. 1996b. Experience of a “slip” among alcoholics treated with naltrexone or placebo. Am J Psychiatry. 153:281–283  [7] Volpicelli JR, Alterman AI, Hayashida M, O’Brien CP. 1992. Naltrexone in the treatment of alcohol dependence. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 49:876–880. | Volpicelli JR, Clay KL, Watson NT, O’Brien CP. 1995a. Naltrexone in the treatment of alcoholism: predicting response to naltrexone. J Clin Psychiatry. 56 Suppl 7:39-44.  [8] Anton RF, Moak DH, Latham PK, et al. 2001. Posttreatment results of combining naltrexone with cognitive-behavior therapy for the treatment of alcoholism. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 21(1):72-77.  | Anton RF, Moak DH, Waid LR, Latham PK, Malcolm RJ, Dias JK. 1999. Naltrexone and cognitive behavioral therapy for the treatment of outpatient a placebo-controlled trial. Am J Psychiatry. 156(11):1758-1764 [9] Volpicelli JR, Rhines KC, Rhines JS, Volpicelli LA, Alterman AI, O’Brien CP. 1997. Naltrexone and alcohol dependence. Role of subject compliance. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 54(8):737-42. [10] Leavitt, S.B. “Evidence for the Efficacy of Naltrexone in the Treatment of Alcohol Dependence (Alcoholism)”. [11] R.B. Pelton. “Glutamine in the Treatment of Alcoholism: A Preliminary Report.” Qtr J Stud Alcohol 18:4 (December 1957): 581-587.” [12] Bobrova, N.P. V.G. Koval’chuck, O.V. Chumakova. “Effect of Chronic Alcohol Intoxication, Termination of Ethanol Administration, and Treatment of Abstinence with Glutamine and Riboflavin on Neuromediatory Systems of Gamma-aminobutyric Acid and Acetylcholine in the Rat Brain. “ Vopr Med Khim 28:1 (January-February 1982): 103-106. Garbin, O. [13] V. Vartanian. “Habit or Addiction: Observations AFter Treatment of Alcoholics with L-glutamine.” Clin Ter 51:4 (November 1969): 367-371. Garbin, I. [14] V. Vartanian.”Treatment of Alcoholism with PArental Administration of L-glutamine.” Minerva Med 59:80 (October 1968): 4254-4261. Slolt, G. “Glutamine in the Treatment of Alcoholic Intoxication. A Doubleblind Trial.” Nord Psykiatr Tidsskr 22:1 (1968): 39-43. [15] Hua Y, Clark S, Ren J, Sreejayan N. Molecular Mechanisms of Chromium in Alleviating Insulin Resistance. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. 2012;23(4):313-319. doi:10.1016/j.jnutbio.2011.11.001. [16] Lorentzen, H.F., A.M. Fugleholm, K. Weimann. “Zinc Deficiency and Pellagra in Alcohol Abuse.” Ugeskr Laeger 162:50 (December 2000): 6854-6856. Jendryczko, A. [17] Bovt, V.D., V.A. Ieshchenki, M.M. Mal’ko, et al. “Study on the Connection of Alcohol Motivation with Zinc Content Changes in the Hippocampus.” Fiziol Zh 47:3 (2001): 54-57. [18] Skal’ny, A.V., E.N. Kukhtina, I.P. Ol’khovskaia, et. al. “Reduction of Voluntary Alcohol Consumption Under the Effects of Prolongedaction Zinc.” Biull Eksp Biol Med 113:4 (April 1992): 393-395.

Omar E. Martínez is a freelance writer and a therapist specialised in the fields of clinical psychology and personal development. He helps clients regain control of their lives through optimism and cognitive-behavioural therapy.