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  • Joy Stevens, ND

Sugar Hangovers ARE a Thing


I inadvertently performed an experiment on myself last night. I attended a Christmas program followed by refreshments. Typical church fare. Nothing particularly healthy but some quite tasty, the homemade caramel popcorn especially so. I made several trips to the dessert table for refills. Mistake. Big mistake. Big. Huge.

I knew I was likely to have diabetes by morning, but what I wasn't expecting was the hangover. Yes, sugar handovers are a real thing.

Our bodies strive to maintain equilibrium. As my blood sugar concentration increased, my body worked to correct the situation. Insulin was secreted by my pancreas to move the glucose from my blood into my cells. To dilute my blood while waiting for the glucose leave, water was moved from my cells to my blood. Now my cells became dehydrated so thirst was triggered and the need to urinate diminished.

I had severe dry mouth all night long, the kind where your tongue feels like it has baked in the sun on a hot summer day, and I was up several times in search of a large glass of water.

Our pancreas usually secretes the right amount of insulin, but in the case of a sugar binge, it may secrete a bit too much. When that happens, blood glucose levels drop too far resulting in a crash and burn, technically called reactive hypoglycemia, causing fatigue, headache, irritability, dizziness, confusion, blurry vision, shaking, sweating, and hunger.

Well, what goes in, must come out. As the glucose left my blood, the excess water was no longer needed. Thus began the multiple trips to the bathroom.

Needless to say, between the initial thirst and the later need to urinate, I didn't sleep very well. I woke tired with a headache and generally felt crappy, very reminiscent of a alcohol hangover.

I do not have diabetes (and a single high sugar binge will not cause diabetes as I implied above) so my body handled this fairly well. Continual binges are likely to result in type 2 diabetes and for those with diabetes, the affects can be much more dramatic as their ability to maintain equilibrium is compromised.

This incident reminded me of sugar's toxicity. When we look at all the effects of high blood sugar on the body (weight gain, depressed immune response, cardiovascular damage, nerve damage, kidney damage, eye damage, to name a few) it is clear sugar should be considered a toxic substance. Labeling it with a skull and cross bones and treating it as a controlled substance would not be unreasonable.

Lesson learned.


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