4 Causes of Sugar Cravings to Stop Deficiency

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What Causes Sugar Cravings_

Sugar cravings are a common occurrence for many people.

In fact, most of us have conditioning to crave sugar on a regular basis!

What most people don’t know is that deficiencies of various types cause sugar cravings.

For example, people with sugar cravings often have deficiencies in some nutrients:

  • calcium
  • magnesium
  • vitamins B12, D and E

When you lack a nutrient your body gets depleted and it tells you to eat something sugary!

You can have other deficiencies causing sugar cravings, too, like lack of sleep. Relaxation is also something you need but you may not think you ‘need’ to relax.

This blog post will talk about the different causes of sugar cravings from a deficiency perspective.

It’ll also talk about the ways that you can stop these deficiencies and stop craving sugary foods.

If you are curious about a different perspective on causes of sugar, check out my video interview with Mike Collins, former sugar addict and creator of SugarAddiction.com at the bottom of this post.

What Deficiencies Causes Sugar Cravings?

Sleep Deficiency

picture of woman sleeping at her desk to show how to avoid things that make you sleepy before bed

A lack of sleep can lead to craving sweet food. 

Even a few nights without quality rest and it becomes all but impossible to resist sugary treats.

The main reason why sleep deprivation impacts sleep is energy.

Your brain lacks energy and so turns to sugar to get that energy.

Plus, your brain is desperate. So your brain wants quick sugars which are things like candy, junk food or fast food often.

Additionally, when you lack sleep then you can’t process information. And it becomes harder for you to make decisions.

When those sugar cravings hit, your brain is telling yourself that the only way is down and out with a sugary treat!

This is why sleep deprivation causes cycles of food addiction or overeating.

People receive messages from their brain saying to eat sugar. But that’s because they don’t get enough sleep quality hours in bed each night!!

But there ARE ways around this cycle, by giving your brain enough rest time. This way your brain processes information better 🙂

How To Stop Lack Of Sleep? 

If you’re not getting enough sleep at night, then try these things to help eliminate a cause of sugar cravings:

  • Get on a schedule!
  • Try going to bed and waking up the same time every day.
  • Don’t nap during your days off from work or school
  • Don’t drink caffeine later than 4pm
  • Have a dark quiet room
  • Use a weighted blanket

Relaxation Deficiency

picture of stressed out woman with sticky notes on her face to show bad work life balance

Sometimes people say stress causes sugar cravings and that’s true.

But another way of looking at stress is thinking about how stress is typically a lack of relaxation.

We all have days when we’re relaxed and feeling good.  On those days, some unfortunate news can happen but  we remain unshaken. Our mood and eating habits don’t change in response to stress.

But if we are already in a state of stress and are lacking relaxation, then bad news can hit us like a train. We start craving sugar and binge on processed foods and other things.

The worst part is how easy you can forget that you need relaxation. We tend to think we can work, work, work all day long and never lose focus.

We tend to think of relaxation as a luxury and not something we need. But the more we work without taking breaks then the more stress we take on.

There is a tipping point where we have too much stress. When we have too much stress your body starts becoming fatigued. This is where your sweet tooth starts tingling!

Fatigue is the body’s natural response to feeling overwhelmed. Your body cannot stay ‘on’ all day and night like a desktop computer.

But instead of sleep and relaxation you push through the stress and never slow down.

Since you aren’t recharging your body then your body needs an alternative fuel source. Your body then turns to sweet foods to power itself through the day.

And sugar cravings get really bad when you lack both sleep and relaxation.

How To Stop Lack Of Relaxation

So how do you combat sugar cravings from lack of relaxation?  Try implementing some sort calming technique such as:

  • Deep breathing exercises (see below)
  • Meditation/yoga practice
  • Take a 10-15 minute break every hour
  • Go on a walk during phone calls
  • Or anything else where you learn better ways of managing stress

The body needs relaxation (in addition to sleep) in order to work well. Without proper time allotted towards recovery, our bodies get depleted.

You can’t treat your body and mind like a computer. A computer can run all day long without breaks but you cannot do the same!

Lack Of Proper Nutrition 

binge eating obsessive thoughts

Nutrition doesn’t need to be complex. But you can’t expect to eat bread all day and not go crazy for sugar too.

Your body needs some fiber, protein and healthy fat to feel full and satisfied.

If you’re not eating enough fiber, protein or fat then your body will crave sugary foods as a substitute.  

See, when you are lacking protein, fiber and fat usually this means you are eating too many carbs.

When you eat simple carbs such as bread or cereal, your body converts the carbs into sugar.

In other words, your blood sugar levels rise and this triggers a release of insulin.

How To Stop Nutrition / Low Blood Sugar Deficiency

If you always eat lots of carbs then changing your eating habits can be difficult.

Of course it’s best to eat whole and unprocessed foods.

But if that is difficult then try protein shakes until the habit becomes more natural for ya! 🙂

There are a few other ways to avoid blood sugar spikes and crashes.

You can eat more protein with your carbs, like combining nuts and oatmeal in the morning instead of plain oatmeal.

If you are a vegetarian or vegan try adding avocado, nuts and seeds to your meal, for example to a salad.  Of course you can also do this even if you eat meat!

Unsweetened Food Deficiency

Artificial Sweeteners

Oftentimes we hear about artificial sweeteners. We’re so used to artificial sweeteners that we’ve become deficient in liking or wanting unsweetened foods!

Yes, the American palate has become desensitized from eating too many processed and artificially sweetened foods!  It seems like artificial sweeteners are in almost everything.

The sugar industry is worth a crazy amount of money. Why? Because they get you and me both to eat way more sugar than we should.

Always eating sugary sweeteners then makes you think this is how normal food tastes. This is how you develop a sweet tooth over time!

So then when you have food that isn’t artificially sweetened, you feel like something is missing. Then you start to crave sugary treats because this is what is normal to you.

Even with savory or salty foods, it feels like something is missing if there isn’t enough sugar in the recipe.

No wonder why so many people find themselves with a nasty sugar craving proclivity! Because what else do their bodies know?

How To Stop Unsweetened Sugar Craving Deficiency

To stop desiring sugar then your body must get a steady stream of glucose.  To get a steady stream of glucose you need to eat wholesome foods on a regular basis.

See, glucose is the energy your body produces after it digests foods. Another word for glucose is blood sugar.

After your body digests carbs like white rice or muffins, your body quickly turns the carbs into glucose. 

But glucose is also found after you eat protein, fat or fiber too!

Protein, fat and fiber are different from sugar or carbs, Because the energy from these sources gets converted into glucose slower than is the case with carbs.

This is one reason why many people crave sweet foods. They eat lots of carbs, get a quick glucose energy release, and then quickly use up this sugar energy in their blood.  

Now they are low on blood-sugar levels and are craving some more quick energy for their brain or muscles.

To cut down these kind intense desires, eat healthy snacks with protein. Have nuts to help stabilize your blood sugar so a sugar craving doesn’t spike hard afterwards. 

If you want something sweet then try having dark chocolate.  Dark chocolate is actually pretty darn good for you (in moderation)!

Try to pick a chocolate with less sugar and you are 100% good to go!

What Hormone Makes You Crave Sugar? Lack Of Serotonin!

brain stem

A lack of serotonin in the brain is one cause for food cravings.

Serotonin also plays a role with mood stability, sleep and appetite control as well!

Serotonin is like the ‘happy’ hormone. But there are many things which can cause your brain to become serotonin depleted.

Here are some ways you exhaust your stores of serotonin:

  • Being lonely:  loneliness can lead to depression
  • Lack of sleep: not getting a good night’s rest decreases serotonin levels as well.  
  • Too much caffeine: coffee is high in stimulants and this interrupts your sleep cycle. Sound familiar?
  • Starvation: dieting to lose weight means your brain doesn’t get enough nutrients to produce serotonin.

Yes! That’s right! Diets, especially very restrictive diets, can deplete your serotonin.

I work in an eating disorder center and we often treat patients with anorexia.

People with anorexia don’t eat enough food and they often report ‘brain fog’.

Brain fog is where it is difficult to think. This difficulty in thinking doesn’t go away by getting sleep or taking a break either.

How To Stop Lack Of Serotonin

Since serotonin is the ‘happy’ chemical, you can boost serotonin by doing self-care.

You can boost your serotonin levels by doing activities like meditation or exercise.

Or you can go on a walk, cook yourself a pleasurable meal, or visit with a close friend.

Other ways to practice self care include journaling, reading a book or listening to music.

If you have low serotonin levels, it may be time to seek professional help from your doctor or counselor!

Conclusion: What Causes Craving For Sugar?

To stop sugar cravings you need to be honest with yourself. Where are your deficiencies?

  • Sleep?
  • Relaxation?
  • Nutrition?

If you are deficient in all three areas then just tackle one at a time.

If you continue to have sugar cravings after tackling one of these, then you are still deficient!

Same thing applies to food cravings in general. You are missing something important like sleep, relaxation or enough nutrition!

These deficiencies are not always easy to spot. So keep trying to really be honest about yourself. What does your body really need?

It’s easy to overlook things like rest and sleep. But if you are serious about cravings then understanding these needs is important.

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About the Author

Jared Levenson is a former binge eating wrestler turned Zen Buddhist Monk, Internal Family Systems counselor and nutrition wellness coach. He's helped hundreds of people through universal meal principles and internal family systems to make peace with food, stop binge eating, and find true health and wholeness.


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