Why Do People With Alcohol Use Disorder Crave Sugar?

Why Do People With Alcohol Use Disorder Crave Sugar?

Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to liver damage, which may cause an increase in sugar cravings.

Why Do People With Alcoholism Crave Sugar?

If you've ever known someone with an alcohol use disorder or have experienced it yourself, you may have noticed a common craving for sugary foods. This isn't just a coincidence. There is a scientific reason behind this phenomenon that has to do with how alcohol and sugar affect the brain.

Are Alcohol Use Disorder & Sugar Addiction Related?

Alcohol and sugar both activate the brain's reward center, which releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and motivation.

When someone drinks alcohol or eats sugary foods, dopamine is released in the brain, creating a pleasurable sensation.

However, over time, the brain becomes less responsive to dopamine, leading to the need for more alcohol or sugar to achieve the same level of pleasure.

The Link Between Alcohol and Sugar Cravings

Research suggests that people with alcohol use disorders are more likely to have imbalances in their blood sugar levels, leading to cravings for sugar. When someone with an alcohol use disorder stops drinking, their body may crave sugar as a way to regulate their blood sugar levels.

Additionally, research has found increases in sugar use and cravings for both sweets and alcohol cravings in early recovery.

Read: Is Sugar a Drug? Experts Agree.

Similarities between alcohol and sugar

  • Both substances activate the brain’s reward center, causing cravings, tolerance, and compulsive behaviors.
  • Excessive consumption of both alcohol and sugar can lead to adverse consequences.
  • Both alcohol and sugar provoke the release of high levels of dopamine, promoting pleasurable feelings.
  • Sugar tolerance is similar to alcohol tolerance, requiring increasing consumption to achieve the desired effects.
  • Prolonged, heavy use of either substance can lead to the body relying on it to function normally.

Moreover, alcohol use can interfere with the body's ability to absorb certain nutrients, such as thiamine, which is essential for glucose metabolism. This can also lead to a craving for sugary foods.

Finally, abstinence from either alcohol or sugar following a period of high intake can result in withdrawal symptoms.

Read about: Addiction on the Brain

The Effects of Sugar on the Brain during Addiction Recovery

While sugar cravings may be common during alcohol addiction recovery, it's important to understand how sugar can affect the brain and potentially impact recovery.

Changes in the Brain

Studies have shown that consuming excessive amounts of sugar can lead to changes in the brain's reward center, similar to those caused by drug use. These changes can result in a heightened desire for sugar and a decreased ability to experience pleasure from other activities.

Read: Why Do Alcoholics Crave Sugar?

Negative Impact on Mood and Energy Levels

Furthermore, consuming large amounts of sugary foods can lead to fluctuations in blood sugar levels, which can negatively impact mood and energy levels. This can make it more difficult for individuals in addiction recovery to maintain stable moods and avoid relapse triggers.

Importance of a Balanced Diet

It's important for individuals in addiction recovery to monitor their sugar intake and prioritize a balanced diet that supports their overall health and well-being. Incorporating whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats can help stabilize blood sugar levels and reduce cravings for sugary snacks.

In conclusion, while it's understandable that individuals in addiction recovery may experience cravings for sugary foods, it's important to be mindful of the potential impacts on the brain and overall health. Prioritizing a balanced diet can support long-term recovery goals and improve overall well-being.

How Alcohol Use Disorder Affects Nutrient Absorption

Alcohol use disorder can have a significant impact on the body's ability to absorb nutrients beyond thiamine. Chronic alcohol use can damage the lining of the stomach and intestines, leading to inflammation and impairing nutrient absorption.

Vitamin B12

Alcohol consumption can interfere with the absorption of vitamin B12, which is essential for nerve function and DNA synthesis. This can lead to symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, and numbness or tingling in the hands and feet.


Additionally, heavy drinking can deplete the body's stores of important minerals such as magnesium, calcium, and potassium. These minerals are essential for proper muscle function, nerve transmission, and bone health.

Health issues

Over time, nutrient deficiencies caused by alcohol use disorder can contribute to a range of health problems including anemia, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, and cognitive impairment.

Therefore, it's important for individuals with alcohol use disorder to prioritize a balanced diet that includes a variety of nutrient-dense foods to support their overall health and well-being. In some cases, supplementation may be necessary to address specific nutrient deficiencies.

The Effect of Alcohol Use Disorder on Liver Function and Sugar Cravings

Alcohol use disorder takes a significant toll on the liver, which is responsible for processing and breaking down alcohol in the body. With chronic alcohol use, the liver becomes inflamed and can develop scarring, known as cirrhosis.

As the liver's function declines, it becomes less effective at regulating blood sugar levels. This can lead to a craving for sugary foods as the body tries to compensate for low blood sugar levels.

Furthermore, when the liver is damaged, it may not be able to produce enough glucose to maintain normal blood sugar levels. This can also cause an increase in sugar cravings as the body attempts to regulate its blood sugar levels.

Tips for liver health

  • Reduce or eliminate alcohol consumption
  • Incorporate liver-supportive foods into the diet: leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, garlic, turmeric, and berries
  • Regular exercise and stress-reducing practices such as yoga or meditation may also support liver function and help reduce sugar cravings.

The Role of Stress in Alcohol and Sugar Cravings

Stress is a common trigger for both alcohol and sugar cravings. When we experience stress, the body releases cortisol, a hormone that can increase feelings of anxiety and tension.

Alcohol Cravings and Stress

Research has shown that individuals with alcohol use disorder may be more sensitive to stress, leading to an increased risk of relapse. In fact, studies have found that stress can induce alcohol craving even in those who have been abstinent for extended periods.

Sugar Cravings and Stress

Similarly, stress can also trigger sugar cravings as a way to cope with negative emotions. When we eat sugary foods, our brain releases serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with mood regulation and relaxation.

However, relying on sugary foods as a coping mechanism for stress can lead to a cycle of dependence and withdrawal symptoms similar to those experienced with alcohol use disorder.

Read: Why Do Recovering Alcoholics Crave Sugar?

Healthy Coping Mechanisms

Therefore, it's important for individuals in addiction recovery to develop healthy coping mechanisms for managing stress. This may include practices such as mindfulness meditation, deep breathing exercises, or engaging in physical activities like yoga or running.

By developing healthy ways to manage stress, individuals in addiction recovery can reduce the risk of relapse and improve overall well-being.

Strategies to Manage Sugar Cravings during Alcohol Addiction Recovery

Free photo photo of young beautiful woman with long blond wavy hair, wearing a denim shirt, holds donuts in her hands, gonna bite one of them. isolated over white background.

Managing sugar cravings during alcohol addiction recovery can be challenging, but there are strategies that can help individuals cope and reduce their risk of relapse.

1. Eat Regular Meals

Eating regular meals throughout the day can help stabilize blood sugar levels and reduce cravings for sugary snacks. It's important to prioritize nutrient-dense foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats to support overall health and well-being.

2. Avoid Skipping Meals

Skipping meals can lead to drops in blood sugar levels, which can trigger cravings for sugary foods. It's important to establish a routine that includes regular meals and snacks throughout the day.

3. Monitor Your Sugar Intake

Monitoring your sugar intake can help you identify patterns in your cravings and make adjustments as needed. This may include reducing your intake of processed foods or sugary drinks.

4. Drink Plenty of Water

Drinking plenty of water throughout the day can help keep you hydrated and reduce feelings of hunger or thirst that may be mistaken for sugar cravings.

5. Practice Mindful Eating

Practicing mindful eating techniques such as paying attention to hunger cues, chewing slowly, and savoring each bite can help you feel more satisfied with your meals and reduce the likelihood of overeating or reaching for sugary snacks.

6. Find Alternative Ways to Cope with Stress

Stress is a common trigger for both alcohol and sugar cravings, so finding alternative ways to cope with stress is essential for managing cravings during addiction recovery. This may include engaging in physical activities like yoga or running, practicing mindfulness meditation or deep breathing exercises, or spending time in nature.

By incorporating these strategies into their daily routine, individuals in addiction recovery can manage their sugar cravings more effectively and reduce their risk of relapse while supporting their overall health and well-being.

How a Balanced Diet Can Support Mental Health During Addiction Recovery

In addition to physical health, a balanced diet can also support mental health during addiction recovery. Research has shown that there is a strong link between the gut and the brain, with the gut microbiome playing an important role in mental health.

Benefits of a balanced diet

A diet rich in whole foods such as:

  • fruits,
  • vegetables,
  • whole grains,
  • lean proteins, and
  • healthy fats

can help promote a healthy gut microbiome and reduce inflammation in the body. This can have a positive impact on mood regulation and overall mental health.

Furthermore, certain nutrients have been shown to be particularly beneficial for mental health. For example, omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish like salmon and tuna have been linked to improved mood regulation and reduced risk of depression.

Similarly, foods high in antioxidants such as berries, leafy greens, and nuts have been shown to reduce inflammation in the body and improve brain function.

Importance of regular meals

Incorporating these foods into a balanced diet can not only support physical health but also improve mental well-being during addiction recovery. Additionally, it's important for individuals in addiction recovery to prioritize regular meals throughout the day to support stable blood sugar levels and reduce cravings for sugary snacks that may negatively impact mood regulation.

The Importance of Hydration during Addiction Recovery

Proper hydration is essential for overall health and well-being, especially during addiction recovery.

Dehydration Risks

Dehydration can cause a range of symptoms such as:

  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability

These symptoms can increase the risk of relapse.

Furthermore, dehydration can often be mistaken for feelings of hunger or sugar cravings. This is because the body may send signals to the brain indicating a need for food when it is actually in need of water.

Benefits of hydration

Drinking enough water throughout the day can help reduce feelings of hunger and sugar cravings by keeping the body hydrated.

Additionally, drinking water before meals can help individuals feel more satisfied with their meals and reduce overeating or reaching for sugary snacks.

It's important for individuals in addiction recovery to prioritize hydration by drinking plenty of water throughout the day. In addition to water, other hydrating beverages such as herbal tea or coconut water can also support hydration levels.

By staying properly hydrated, individuals in addiction recovery can support their overall health and well-being while reducing their risk of sugar cravings and other symptoms that may negatively impact recovery efforts.

The Role of Exercise in Reducing Sugar Cravings during Alcohol Addiction Recovery

Exercise has been shown to have numerous benefits for individuals in addiction recovery, including reducing the risk of relapse and improving overall well-being. In addition to these benefits, exercise can also help reduce sugar cravings.

How Exercise Helps

Research has shown that exercise can help regulate blood sugar levels and reduce cravings for sugary foods. During exercise, the body uses glucose as fuel, which can help stabilize blood sugar levels and reduce the likelihood of experiencing a sugar crash later on.

Furthermore, exercise has been shown to release endorphins, which are neurotransmitters associated with feelings of pleasure and well-being. By increasing endorphin levels through exercise, individuals may be less likely to turn to sugary foods as a way of coping with negative emotions.

Types of Exercise

There are many different types of exercise that can be beneficial for reducing sugar cravings during addiction recovery. These include:

  • Aerobic exercises such as running or cycling
  • Resistance training using weights or bodyweight exercises
  • Yoga or other mind-body practices

It's important for individuals in addiction recovery to find an exercise routine that works for them and fits into their daily schedule. By incorporating regular exercise into their routine, individuals can support their overall health and well-being while reducing their risk of sugar cravings and other symptoms that may negatively impact recovery efforts.


In conclusion, a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle habits are essential for individuals in addiction recovery to support their physical and mental well-being. Nutrient deficiencies caused by alcohol use disorder can contribute to a range of health problems, while stress and liver function can trigger sugar cravings during addiction recovery.

By prioritizing regular meals, staying hydrated, engaging in regular exercise, and finding healthy ways to cope with stress, individuals can manage their sugar cravings more effectively and reduce their risk of relapse.


  • "Alcohol Use Disorder." Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 9 June 2020.
  • "The Gut-Brain Connection." Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School, 1 Aug. 2018.
  • Sinha R. "Chronic Stress, Drug Use, and Vulnerability to Addiction." Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences vol. 1141 (2008): 105-30.
  • Volkow ND et al. "Stress Neuroadaptation and Its Role in Compulsive Addictions." Neuron vol. 96, 3 (2017): 527-545.

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