Alcohol and The Sugar Connection

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What would you say if someone told you that alcoholism has its roots in sugar addiction? Problems with over-consumption of alcohol often begin with eating habits as children.

Since all alcoholic drinks contain sugar, it is a wonder that this association is often overlooked. A 12-ounce beer has about 13 grams of carbohydrates in it. So if you have five beers over the course of one evening, that’s 65 grams of carbohydrates in four to five hours (or less, depending on how fast you drink).

If you believe this line of thinking to be faulty, it is imperative to see the film “SuperSize Me“. In documentary style, this movie shows what happens when one person goes on a binge for 30 days and eats nothing but McDonald’s food.

You may be wondering about the connection between alcohol and McDonald’s (aka sugar and chemical overload). Keep reading. The man in the film is monitored by three different doctors during the journey into destroying his body. Although the example put forth in the film is an extreme one, it shows why this diet or anything like it is a poor one to undertake.

During day 22 of the experiment, his doctors conduct blood tests on his liver to determine the extent of the damage. The results are unbelievable. His liver is in the same condition as someone who had been on a long alcoholic binge: thus firmly establishing the sugar-alcohol connection. McDonald’s foods are highly processed, full of chemicals, and most importantly, wrought with simple carbohydrates which are the same thing as sugar. Alcohol in all forms also contains…you guessed it, sugar.

Studies have shown that people who display unhealthy eating habits and abuse sugar have similarities to those who are so-called alcoholics. Many people who become alcoholics in their adult years regularly kept unhealthy diets as children and adolescents. The pattern is a predictable one that is often also underpinned by unstable emotional environments. When a child is allowed to consume refined sugar “foods” that regularly replace nutritious foods, this sets up the perfect beginning to a life of poor choices for health.

Children are easily made to believe by their parents and other authority figures that various foods regularly eaten by the whole of society are actually good for them and contain substantive nutrition. Although sugar is not technically in the same category as alcohol or drugs, food with refined sugars and processed flour as well as candies and desserts represent the initial stepping stone to sugar consumption that can plateau out as alcohol abuse in adolescents and adults.

On a fundamental level, all are addictive substances because they each contain one key ingredient – carbohydrates or simple sugars. When sugar is introduced into the body, a reaction occurs where the blood sugar achieves a high point causing the body to go into hyperactivity mode. This process often leads to the mistaken diagnosis of ADD or ADHD. Drugs such as Ritalin are often prescribed to level out the chemicals in the child’s brain that are considred “abnormal”. What is not addressed are the large amounts of refined sugars consumed by these same children, as well as lack of adequate physical activity and supportive emotional relationships with family members. Children who consume large amounts of refined sugar in their diets are much more likely to go on and become drug or alcohol abusers later in life – especially when these other conditions are present.

Here’s something interesting: the food pyramid tells us that we should eat 6 to 11 servings of whole grains each day. But the vast majority of “whole grain” choices in our food environments are far from whole grains. On a continual basis, we are lied to on labels about what is contained in many foods we buy in the store. Simply taking the time to read the list of ingredients will immediately reveal that a good majority of these foods are not whole grain, have been enriched, are not a natural source of vitamins or nutrients, and contain added sugars and other chemicals that are dangerous to consume.

Even if we did consume all whole grains in those servings, which would be difficult at best, we would be consuming far too many carbohydrates for our own good compared to other important nutrient, mineral, and vitamin-containing foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, and healthy proteins like antibiotic and hormone free meats and raw dairy products (in moderation, of course). And that doesn’t even include all the junk-related and refined sugar foods we consume on a daily basis, nor sugary beverages (alcoholic beverages included).

The body requires proper nutrition and support to function on an optimal level. Most of what people put in their mouths does not support the complex system that is the human body. When a person is working at a stressful job and does not have time to prepare wholesome, nutritious meals, a decline in health is inevitable.

Many people believe that what they are eating is healthy when it isn’t because consumers have been repeatedly lied to and mislead about nutrition. Corporations have in their best interest to sell what tastes good to consumers, not what is nutritious. Even though there is a wealth of information available about sugar and alcohol consumption, people tend to overindulge since food and drink containing sugar is so prevalent and easy to come by.

Everywhere we look there are more temptations to purchase and eat the things that we shouldn’t, and not nearly enough emphasis on organic, whole, healthy foods. When you go to a restaurant or bar and order a drink, how often do you stop at just one? How often do you have two, three, four, or five? When you go to a restaurant to eat, think about how many items on your plate are full of refined carbohydrates versus a whole, natural food. When the server comes to take your plates at the end of a meal, how many times are you offered dessert as an ending to your visit? Almost every time.

Anxiety and depression, the two basic human emotional disturbances, are perpetuated by unhealthy lifestyles such as lack of activity, overloads of stress, improper rest, and – eating poorly. When people encounter stress, their bodies respond by telling them they need more support – sleep, exercise, healthy food and whole food supplements, plenty of purified water, and adequate stress relief.

The average American lifestyle fails to include the right combination of these important components. For stress relief and boredom, many people turn to eating refined sugar foods and beverages, drinking, and drug use. Unhealthy snacks and foods are so convenient and readily available, people have a tendency to load up on those kinds of foods rather than taking time to prepare a healthy meal or snack instead. The more we consume these kinds of foods, the more we crave them.

When you visit the grocery store, notice which foods are the most visible and prevalent on the aisles. Just pick up a box or a can of any food and read the ingredients. If you cannot make heads or tails of what they are, why should you be eating or drinking it? Any food or drink product that contains more than three or four ingredients should automatically be a red flag to any consumer.

When we consume such massive amounts of sugar, run ourselves into the ground with stress and busy schedules, fail to get adequate exercise and rest, it’s no wonder our bodies fail. Patients would rather end up at the doctor asking for medication to deal with symptoms they experience as a result of the abuse their bodies are receiving than commit to making a real, healthy lifestyle change.

To learn more about sugar-addiction and how it can be linked to alcohol and drug abuse later in life, visit the following web sites:

The Society for Neuroscience.
Sweet Tooth, Alcoholism Linked

This article was originally featured in the October 2007 issue of Healthy Beginnings.

8 Comments

  • March 9, 2010 - 5:19 PM | Permalink

    Raine,
    Children are fed so much sugar at school, especially during birthday celebrations or other school events. Then, when they become hyper, they are punished for acting out!
    I have seen a child who obviously doesn’t eat much sugar at home start bouncing up and down after one cupcake.
    We are really, really trying to cut down the amount of sugar in our house. I need to go through sugar withdrawal before I don’t crave sweets anymore. Then, I can have small amounts of dessert from time to time without getting “hooked” again. Scary.

  • March 10, 2010 - 1:27 PM | Permalink

    Ellen – I think everyone struggles with trying not to eat too much sugar, because it’s everywhere. You can only do the best you can. But you are right. It’s sad to see children getting heavy discipline when they act out or put on drugs when maybe it’s just their diets that are to blame. Perhaps if they weren’t eating so much refined sugar their behaviors and attitudes would change. When my son was much younger, he was so incredibly moody and emotional about everything. It took practically nothing for his mood to spiral downward into utter frustration and anger over the smallest things. Of course, when kids are younger they do not understand as much and things are harder to communicate with them. But when we changed our eating habits and he wasn’t eating as many refined carbohydrates and sugar, his disposition improved quite dramatically. Then sure enough, if he went to a birthday party or event where there was a lot of sugar and he ate it, his behavior just went in the toilet. One party we attended he actually got into a horrible altercation with almost every child there and we ended up leaving early because he was screaming and yelling and crying, and couldn’t be reasoned with. Those days of his behavior are now thankfully in our rear-view mirror.

    One thing I want to make clear to everyone about this article is that I am not in any way, shape, or form saying that if you have a problem with sugar, you also an alcoholic. The article is really just saying that if you are an ‘alcoholic’ (and I think that term is not really very useful because it doesn’t really mean anything), you probably have a sugar addiction. I have talked to a lot of “recovering alcoholics” who have said that when they stopped drinking they began to eat a lot of sweets. It’s not a character defamation nor an issue of willpower. It’s simply that these people have a yeast overgrowth which causes them to crave sugar – however they get it. The example of Morgan Spurlock in the “SuperSize Me” film just illustrates that his liver was in the same condition of someone who was an alcoholic – the doctors even stated this fact in the film. That’s where the connection comes in. So all I am really saying is that some people eat a lot of candy, drink a lot of soda, and some abuse alcohol. Whichever way you go, the problem is rooted in sugar addiction – not that you are an alcoholic.

    I just think it’s unfortunate how people go to detoxification centers and seek counseling for a problem that is not so much rooted in psychological issues as it is physical – that your body is overrun with this yeast that causes you to crave sugar – so you eat more of it. But none of those interventions ever acknowledge the connection to sugar nor use diet as a way to treat the problem by cutting out sugar. There is absolutely no focus on doing a candida detoxification and making sure the foods people eat are whole, nutrient-dense foods that replace the consumption of those with empty calories. I know this because I’ve had several people who were very close to me with “alcoholic issues” who went through these interventions, and none of them ever received information nor counseling on yeast control and management of proper diet.

  • October 6, 2010 - 11:51 AM | Permalink

    I heard of this connection years ago on Oprah of all shows. This was when she was with those two doctors, I wanna say they were the Carbohydrate Addict’s Diet doctors. It made sense to me at the time when they said if alcoholism ran in your family, more than likely you were addicted to carbs. Case in point for my own family, alcoholism is in my family and I AM addicted to sugar/carbs.

    Since cutting sugar/carbs from my diet, when I do indulge myself and eat something carby/sugary, I feel hungover the next day. The same as if I had gone on a bender and drank 7+ beers or drinks. Most times, the “hangover” isn’t worth the sugar I’m eating.

  • October 6, 2010 - 12:05 PM | Permalink

    Paula – yes, I agree with you that the “hangover” feeling is probably the same whether you are eating lots of refined sugar in foods or drinking a lot of alcohol. I don’t drink enough to get hungover anymore and I never eat a lot of sugar at a time either, thankfully…so I haven’t had a hangover in a long time. But it’s interesting to note that people who report having sugar cravings and then eat healthy fats like cheese, nuts, or meats lose their sugar craving. Julia Ross says those sugar cravings are actually our body’s way of saying we need nutrients and that fats are the perfect food in which to supply that need to us. Nature is pretty astoundingly smart, isn’t it?

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  • October 5, 2013 - 7:51 PM | Permalink

    <. Read Valerie Bertinelli 40 Pound Weight Loss. Please call 866-211-5538 or visit our site for more information. This estimated cost was 19 times more than the amount collected from taxes on the sale of alcohol. The alcoholic was on a downward spiral that I could not pull him out of. " That rehab back in John's time included service work like washing floors. However, should you be in this situation, do not give up on the thought of entering rehab for your addiction. Especially because they will be living amongst people of the same age group as they are of and they will be comfortable even like living at the treatment center.

    My website signs of alcohol abuse – Thanh -

  • February 18, 2017 - 10:20 AM | Permalink

    As self control is affected by levels of glucose it is not surprising that consumption of sugar is related to addictions. It is also well known too that diabetes correlates with alcoholism .- probably because of unstable self control.

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