How to Break Your Sugar Addiction

4 Easy Ways to Stop Sugar Cravings

by Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Diet & Detox Digestive Health Preventative Medicine

The number one cause of cellular inflammation and the diseases and symptoms associated with it is refined sugar. Sadly today sugar is added to—and hidden in—about 75% of all foods.

Sugar in all forms acts like an opiate in the body. Eating foods that quickly turn to sugar quite literally medicates pain—both emotional and physical.

If you regularly use sugar (including white foods, alcohol and candy) to boost your mood or improve your tolerance for physical pain, you’ll could end up finding yourself in a vicious cycle that makes it very difficult to stop eating sugar.

This is not about willpower or your being “bad.” In fact, sugar is 8 times more addictive than heroin in susceptible individuals! The good news is, once you understand the chemistry that fuels your sugar cravings you can do something about it. 

How to Quell Your Sugar Cravings

In order to recover from sugar addiction, you need to eat a low glycemic diet that will not spike your blood sugar. This is what I recommend in my Hormone Balancing Food Plan, which I discuss in my New York Times best-selling book, The Wisdom of Menopause.  AND no matter what fad diets (Keto, Paleo, Carnivore, etc.) you decide to try, you MUST stay away from low fat diets!

The main reason many women are hungry is that most of the “healthy” low-fat diets we have been sold are laden with sugar. These sugars are sold to us as healthy in the form of highly processed carbohydrates including pasta, grains, bread, cereal, white potatoes, even “health” bars. But beware! These foods trigger a rapid increase in insulin and cause weight gain.

Replacing sugar-laden foods with those that are low on the glycemic index and healthy fats such as olive oil, nuts and dark chocolate will keep your blood sugar stable. This can help you recover from sugar addiction and finally lose weight. When you eat vegetables, protein and healthy fats, you feel full longer. The best part is you don’t have to count calories! This is because your fat cells determine how much weight you gain or lose.

When you eat a low-fat diet, you are actually triggering your fat cells to hoard more calories for themselves, leaving too few for the rest of your body. When this happens, you remain hungry and often overeat. And if you reduce calories to try to stave off weight gain, your fat cells will continue to hoard more calories and you will get fatter. 

Eating healthy fats turns off your body’s starvation response, so you are able eat whenever you’re hungry and until you are fully satisfied. In addition, these fats help to lower your insulin levels and decrease inflammation so you can more fully enjoy the activities you love, get better sleep and quell that sugar addiction once and for all.

4 Easy Ways to Stop the Sugar Cravings

In order to make this sustainable, you also need to engage in activities that raise your nitric oxide levels and create “happy” neurotransmitter levels in your brain and body. Think about the last time you were madly and deeply in love. Were you craving sugar or other illicit means to boost your self-esteem? I bet you felt high on life—emotionally full—and probably thought very little about food, unless it was to plan a romantic dinner. 

So I want you to try replacing your sugar habit with something you enjoy even more. This will keep you from craving sugar or whatever other addiction is undermining your low glycemic diet and your health.

One thing I truly enjoy is eating with good friends and family. Whether it’s in nice restaurant or cooking with others at home, who you eat with and how you eat affects your health on many levels. People who regularly sit down to eat dinner with others are far healthier than those who eat standing up or in their cars. I also know that I just don’t feel as satisfied when I eat alone—even if I eat the exact same food! Finally, when I have to eat food that is not particularly healthy such as when I’m traveling, I pray over it before eating. This elevates the entire experience.

Here are 4 activities that can raise help you break your sugar addiction—and in my opinion they are much more enjoyable than even the gooiest chocolate brownie. 

  1. Enjoy Sex. If you don’t have a partner, be your own partner! Set the stage for self-pleasuring starting with a luxuriating activity like stretching followed by a bubble bath, reading a steamy novel, or creating a sexy playlist. If you struggle to enjoy sex, I suggest you read my book Goddesses Never Age for more tips on removing obstacles to pleasurable sex and my 11 tips for for experiencing the best sex of your life regardless of your age. 
  1. Exercise. Moving your body for 30-45 minutes a day, 4-5 days per week is not only great for your heart, studies show moderate aerobic exercise can decrease depression by 50%. This can be as simple as taking a walk! 
  1. Meditate. A stressful lifestyle in which you are working too hard, worrying too much, and sleeping too little results in high levels of the stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine. And these stress hormones cause us to crave sugar and put on weight. Like exercise, meditation is an excellent way to lower stress hormones. 
  1. Engage in pleasurable activities. Doing what you love on a regular basis is the key to living the sweet life from sugar addiction. So I want you to have lots of contact with humans or pets. Dance. Hold potluck suppers. Celebrate your friends and yourself. Take a trip. Find a new social group to do it with. Live life to the fullest. 

Now, I am not suggesting that you use these activities as a way to ignore your body’s signals. Hunger is an important feedback message, and you want to honor your body by giving it what it needs. 

So here’s what I recommend: Start adding regular, pleasurable activities to bring sweetness to your life. And also feed your body with a healthy low carb diet. If you’re not ready to give up sweets entirely—or if you’re someone who is satisfied with just one bite—then eat sweets, but only with others as a celebration. Savor sweets slowly like you are dancing in the moonlight with a lover. Eat sensually and joyously.

You can also plan a “cheat” meal or day. Look at your calendar in advance, choose the day of the week or month and eat whatever you want. When you deliberately pursue healthy and sustainable pleasure, you can savor the real sweet life! 

You have the power to create a sweet life—while also keeping your blood sugar stable and losing weight. 

What do you do to manage your sugar cravings?

Last Updated: June 19, 2024

Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Christiane Northrup, M.D., is a visionary pioneer and a leading authority in the field of women’s health and wellness. Recognizing the unity of body, mind, and spirit, she empowers women to trust their inner wisdom, their connection with Source, and their ability to truly flourish.


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  1. Carolle
    7 years ago

    Dr Northrup, about 10 uears ago I bought your amazing book The Wisdom of Menopause and followed your advice in using the Reset program from Usana. I have used this program once a year in order to reset my sugar levels and metabolism and it always did the trick for me to stop the sugar cravings. This would work well until the next Christams season where I found I was indulging quite a bit then I would choose the following spring to follow the Reset program again. Unfortunately, Usana does not sell this product anymore and what the now offer is completely different.

    Would you be able to tell me if this new product is as effective and if not, is there another product on the market (like a 5-day cleansing) that you would recommend?

    Thank you,

    1. Esther
      7 years ago

      Carol, the Reset has been re-launched and is better than before with the addition of probiotics! Yay!

      1. Jackie
        2 years ago

        Where can I find info on the Reset program? Thank you!

  2. diana
    8 years ago

    when you mean sugar does that include fruit?

  3. Deborah Conwell
    8 years ago

    Just yesterday I got test results back from my doctor regarding food allergies. WOW! Found the foods I have been eating over the past 53years are working against me not for me. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia 6 years ago and other doctors treated me to say the least as a nut case! Only wanting to treat the outside symptoms with pain med not look internally why this is happening what is actually causing my severe Inflamation, Weight Gain, Severe Pain Everywhere, the list goes on. I started listening to my body about 8 months ago and it was telling me Run don’t walk…Quit with all of the sugar as well as other foods that seem to cause my body and mind problems. Lowering my sugar intake has helped but I have a bit of a road ahead in conquering what is good for “my” body. There is also a lot of stress that I do not know how to manage. One being with my son who is diagnosed bipolar/ borderline personality disorder. Two I have 4 step children (adults) who are self centered, users and just more drama than I want . I surely don’t need. HELP!

    1. Brenda R.
      8 years ago

      Deborah – I’m brand new to this blog, just came upon it in my own search for information. But I read your email and feel compelled to ask you to consider what you want to fill your life with – and then take the steps to do that. If you don’t do that, be prepared to consider that by NOT taking those steps – you are making a choice – to let stress and drama into your life. My wish for you is that you choose otherwise.

  4. Jean S.
    8 years ago

    Eliminating sugar, grains, dairy (unless raw), gluten, junk food (high fructose corn syrup) alcohol, soda pop (diet & regular), etc. has changed my and my husbands lives. I used to be addicted to sugar and then I educated myself through reading Dr. Northrups articles and others (Dr. David Perlmutter’s Grain Brain). Once I educated myself on all the damage the food I listed caused it was easy to give them up. Inner inflammation is the precursor to any and all disease. We both have dropped all of our excess weight and do not need to lose anymore. No counting calories…we eat organic veggies, grass fed meat, salmon, greens, and especially avocado’s, organic cold compressed extra virgin coconut oil & olive oil……the healthy fats are so important. We also drink plenty of good water. We do not crave anything. Thank you for educating me years ago Dr. Northrup on the dangers of all the crappy food in this country, especially sugar. The more people wise up and quit buying all that bad stuff the sooner there will be many more producers of good healthy organic foods.

  5. Carol
    8 years ago

    Although I’ve never been overweight, I have a sweet tooth and have to control it for a variety of serious health concerns. I have not been as disciplned this year but always eat avacados and nuts and use coconut milk in my cereal every day and often use olive oil, olives and coconut oil. These healthy fats do keep me slim and trim and decrease my desire for carbs but not sugar. I also exercise or take long walks, use 5 htp, green coffee extract or a natural blood sugar control supplement. My fasting glucose and A1c are good. I’m 64 and a size 2. I’m trying to work on reducing the sugar cravings and use stevia when possible. As far as the comment on progesterone cream, I’ve been using bioidentical progesterone/ phytoestrogen for 20 years and won’t be without it. I don’t know if it as helped my weight but I feel so much better on it.

    1. Carol
      8 years ago

      Thank you Dr. Christiane Northrup !! My intention is to find a way to share this with my Sweetheart Tom & assist him to choose a healthier lifestyle………protect his heart, get blood pressure under control , relieve pain from injuries & recent surgeries . Bless you !

  6. M Stroebe
    8 years ago

    I love hot chocolate as a daily treat. But in order to make it low sugar, I use 3 teaspoons of organic unsweetened cocoa powder and one small teaspoon of high quality organic sugar cocoa for about 4 grams of sugar. Add to skim milk and it is a great treat.
    Thank you for the above suggestions. One other item I have eliminated is sugar cough drops. I looked them up online and discovered my favorite brand had 4 grams of sugar per piece. Less sugar is a great way to feel better overall.

    1. Barbara
      8 years ago

      You might want to substitute the skimmed milk for something like coconut cream. Better than the milk. It’s richer, tasty and healthier. I get mine in Whole Foods. Not many places carry it!

  7. Jane
    8 years ago

    Check out for those seriously need help fighting sugar and flour addictions. if Dr Northrup doesn’t know about Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson’s work, she will soon. This woman is Doing more for this segment of the population that struggles with the addictive nature of sugar, more than anyone else I’ve encountered.

  8. Mary
    8 years ago

    Hi Dr. Northrup,

    I have recently been diagnosed with osteoarthritis. Do you have any advice for me?

    Thanks and keep up the great work to re-educate all of us!


  9. Elizabeth
    8 years ago

    I’m 65 and developed the middle age belly 8 years ago once menopause hit with all its accompanying horrors. When I go too low carb I develop diarrhea. I have laryngopharyngeal reflux (I stopped taking the medication since it wasn’t helping and actually causing me side effects.) and other digestive/intestinal issues. Too many vegetables and I’m in the bathroom for hours and the reflux is aggravated. I can stay away from sugar and have never been a sweet eater. But, put a plate of white potatoes lathered in butter and I’m stuffing my face with those babies…lol Anyway, eating a small amount of bread, rice or potatoes helps keep the diarrhea at bay but that defeats the purpose of trying to get rid of sugar causing foods. I’m getting a bit frustrated because no matter what I do or eat, I’m causing something to go haywire in my body. Low carb/low sugar helps me lose weight but my body seems to require more carbs so I end up keeping this big belly. Ugh!

  10. June
    8 years ago

    Recently started using natural progesterone cream and BAM my sugar cravings stopped!!! Crazy eh? Well its been 3 months and I swear its ” magic” lol no more headaches and no more sugar cravings… Soooo strange for me to pass on a cookie lol but I am loving this! Lost my belly fat and almost feel guilty for NOT having to work to have lost it LOL … Oh well -loving my cream!!!

    1. Sheila
      8 years ago

      Which cream do you use?

    2. Shirley
      8 years ago

      Sounds wonderful. Please tell us which cream you used. Thanks.

  11. Shelly Dax
    8 years ago

    Been doing 60% good fats, 20% protein, 20% carbs for 8 weeks. (no sugar, only stevia and xyla in my coffee) Lost 4 pounds, more energy, no heart burn, less gas, less puffy around eyes, skin nicer, less inflammation. It wasn’t that hard. Craving sugar waaaay less now. Craving for veggies had increased tenfold. And it’s true that the healthy fats make you feel satisfied. And side note: Goddesses Never Age was fabulous. Helped change my life!

  12. Jen
    8 years ago

    I did this 6 months ago and have lost 17.6 pounds. No more craving carbs. I feel great and have more energy.

  13. Michele Newton
    8 years ago

    I recently went low carb and lost 12 pounds in two weeks. Aside from that, all digestive issues and food allergies…gone. As someone with hypothyroidism, it is the only thing that works for me.

  14. Chris
    8 years ago

    Have you seen this.

  15. Leigh Anne
    8 years ago

    It’s definitely an addiction, when I’ve been the most successful at keeping this addiction at bay I definitely have followed these suggestions and if I get a really bad craving I feed it with fruit instead of processed sugar. It really makes all the difference! Like anything it takes work. Some days I do better some days I don’t but overall I feel healthier.

  16. Kathy
    9 years ago

    I believe the phrase I’ve heard recently, “Sugar is the new Tobacco.” Food is purposely made addictive and those who have the right genetics or something end up like me, unable to control the amount of sugar I eat. I’ve recently discovered FAA (Food Addicts Anonymous) and FA (Food Addicts in Recovery.) This is helping me tremendously. I am so angry about the how the food industry has just gone too far, but I can only save myself and share with those who are interested. For me, food (sugar, flour and wheat) is truly an addiction and I am learning how to cope with sugary foods being everywhere, all around me at work, social gatherings, grocery stores and birthday parties. Thank you for your continued work and education on this topic.

  17. Lauren Lucky
    9 years ago

    I keep a bag of chocolate chips in the cupboard for personal daily consumption. Way too many times, I have packed my cheeks so full of chips I actually look like a chipmunk. Sometimes it is actually hard to chew because my mouth is so full of chips. Do you think this might be a problem???? In case you are wondering, I have a little stress in my life!

  18. Mairi
    10 years ago

    I have many health concerns, diabetes and heart health being the most important. I too am a sugar addict,I need help kicking this. I will try all you have recommended. I think because of the sugar and I’m sure other things, I am full of inflammation and candidiasis . I know you wrote a book on this but I can’t find it to buy PLEASE HELP.

  19. Llinda
    10 years ago

    Dr. Northrup what are your thoughts about using stevia to sweeten rather than sugar?

  20. Christiane Northrup
    10 years ago

    Stay tuned in my e-letter for my upcoming interview with my friend and colleague Dr. Mark Hyman who has a new 10 Day Sugar Detox book I want you all to know about. A great way to get started on the sweet life! Love your comments. And yes– 16 grams of sugar/day is about right. BUT– there is a wide range that will work. Depends on how sensitive you are. For some, sweet potatoes which as low glycemic, have too much sugar. For others– just fine.

  21. Kelly M
    10 years ago

    Hi Dr. Northrup, I am a 46 y/o, type I diabetic, and I am addicted to sugar. I have been feeling like such a fraud because, not only do I own a nutritional supplement (a green food supplement that I retail to health food stores), but I am studying to be a certified holistic health coach and I want to help diabetics and women going through perimenopause. Meditation has been recommended to me and I have yet to try it. THANKS again, this was very helpful Kelly M. – Pittsburgh, PA

  22. health and beauty
    10 years ago

    Hi, I wish for to subscribe for this webpage to get most recent updates, thus where can i do it please assist.
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  23. gold
    10 years ago

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I really appreciate your efforts and I am waiting for your next write ups thanks once again.

  24. Terry
    10 years ago

    Dr. Northrup this article has confirmed to me once again that my choice of not eating sugar has been a true step in the right direction for better health. It took many years for me to see that sugar (which I thought was my “go to feel good friend” was actually a false support). Since eliminating sugar I have seen a dramatic change in how much more energy I have to get me through the day. Thank you for caring about all of us!
    Peace to you and your family.

  25. Christiane Northrup
    10 years ago

    I really like the way many of you have NAMED sugar as the addiction it really is. Especially when combined with other chemicals like MSG ( in all its many guises– common in chips, etc.). Lisa– you are correct– we tend to continue the tastes we developed in childhood. Lori– I also love the “release” instead of “lose” word. Great affirmation.

  26. Lisa
    10 years ago

    It’s about what you are used to since childhood. I didn’t have sugar in my up bring so it has never been a problem to cut it out. I brought up my children the same way. They don’t like sugary stuff as well (in their 20s). I do understand that it must be difficult for many who had been brought up with sugary stuff as a reward. It’s the culture, a deadly culture of sugar and quick pleasure. Sad.

  27. Sharon T
    10 years ago

    I consider myself a Sugar addict. Once, I have sugar I want more. I can not stop, like you say a drug addict, worse than heroin with some people. I can go about 30 days with out sugar and than I crash . I binge and off to the races can not get enough. I am like the lady above said, alcoholic. I have sugar and down hill it goes. I am not sure WHY I fail? But, I do know when I am clean of sugar I feel amazing!! The clarity in my mind and mood is Great !

  28. Lori D
    10 years ago

    Thank you for this article. I remember when I went on a trip to Rome–a friend sent with me 2 chocolate muffins that I usually love. I was so happy, content and full of joy on that trip that those 2 muffins sat in my hotel room and held no appeal whatsover. I actually enjoyed the trip so much I ate very well and weighed less when I came home! Definitely an emotional tie to our desire for food. And being happy and content released weight for me.

  29. Kate
    10 years ago

    Loved this article – we don’t need sugar or empty carbs……

  30. Elisa
    10 years ago

    Once I eliminated sugar – not just white sugar but also those carb laden junk foods that convert to sugar in the body – cravings of all kinds stopped. It was EASY to eat high quality proteins, healthy fats and above ground vegetables and not feel deprived of anything. I hope anyone struggling with a sugar addiction receives the grace to kick the habit. (A useful and related read: Dr. David Perlmutter’s “Grain Brain”. Dr. N interviewed him on her HayHouse Rdaio program in DEC 2013.)

  31. Barbara R
    10 years ago

    First I would like to thank you – I just love your newsletters & so look forward to them. You are so uplifting & such an inspiration!! I don’t have a problem staying away from sugary treats except for Ghirardelli dark chocolate – so addictive – Just one little square & I have to have more. What I find is that if I stay away from it for just a few days – then I don’t crave it anymore!!

  32. Tina G
    10 years ago

    I have read that a woman should limit herself to 16 g of sugar per day. Is that correct?

  33. Ann Marie
    10 years ago

    Dr. Northrop,
    You are the best! Thank you for your advice and for caring enough about all of us to share your incredible wisdom. My Higher Self has been prompting me to eliminate refined sugars from my menu. Thank you also for your course, Attracting the Love of Your Life. Your friend from Minnesota. P.s. Originally from Massachusetts

  34. Rita M
    10 years ago

    As always…Sound advice. It is easier than one thinks.
    I just love you and all you stand for.
    You inspire me to be a better person.
    Rita M❤

  35. didi
    10 years ago

    Been a sugar junkie most of my life. The only way I can curb it is to eat a blood sugar stabalizing diet. Years ago a chiropractor gave me 40 30 30. Fat burning nutrition. 40% complex carbs, 30% lean protein and 30% good fats. Takes the cravings way down.

  36. Gail S
    10 years ago

    I always knew sugar was addictive to me. I’ve never been able to control my cravings except, you are right, when madly in love. After life gets comfortable and less passionate, it’s now time to find a new non-human passion to pursue. Thank you for the helpful advice. I know what I need to do now.

  37. Lori D
    10 years ago

    I remember my mom telling me years ago that if I considered my life “sweet” I would not desire as many sweets. So this article surely resonates with me! Recently I decided to eliminate refined white sugar one or two days per week. . . found that after I did it a few times it wasn’t so difficult. This has also made me desire sugar less on the other days, so my total intake has been cut down quite a bit. And it feels like quite an accomplishment! I dropped a few pounds so far too! 🙂

  38. Gigi
    10 years ago

    Thank you……these suggestions are the perfect compliment to the 21 Day Sugar Detox that I am starting with Diane Sanfilippo’s book 🙂

  39. Eva
    10 years ago

    This was for me. Great advice.

  40. Roberta
    10 years ago

    As always your information is a Godsend. Last year I learned that beet sugar in the USA, is a GMO food which means it is probably sprayed to high heavens and toxic because of that alone. I switched to organic dehydrated cane juice for baking and wine making, the two times I use sugar. Although it is still a source of “sugar”, it is cleaner than GMO white sugar and from my research, had a bit of nutrition.

    Thanks & Peace-out 😉

  41. Paula Gervais
    10 years ago

    LOVE the article! lol… I have been trying very hard to incorporate these into my life since it has been filled with high levels of stress on many levels. Being 50 lbs overweight (oops! make that 49 (I “ELIMINATED” 1lb. this morning – I say ELIMINATE cause ‘losing’ means I’ll find it eventually! Your articles always bring a MOTIVATING twist!

  42. Leslie Lax
    10 years ago

    I have struggled with sugar addiction for years. For me the term “moderation” doesn’t hold true. I know myself very well. One piece of chocolate, a few potato chips and I’m done for. I can’t even have those things in my house for company because just knowing it’s there gets me crazy and I “have ” to eat it until it’s gone !! So my only way to control it is not to have any at all. I liken it to the alcoholic……one drink leads to a slippery slope of all out bingeing.
    Great article!

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