“So addicted to carbs. Help!”

Ask Bitten Jonsson

How do you break free from sugar addiction if you’re struggling immensely? And why do a get uncontrollable sugar cravings in the evening after fasting all day?

These and other questions are answered this week by our food-addiction expert, Bitten Jonsson, RN:

So addicted. Help!

Hello Bitten.

My wife, daughter and I started low carbing in February of this year and were doing so well, then my wife’s birthday in June involved cake and it’s been a snowball effect since. We really need help.

I set out to begin a new day to eat what I should and blow it before the day is up. I have tried to support my family but when I blow it, they do too. I am so addicted that I don’t know where to start, how to manage my day and how to keep going.

Thank you for your help, if you can help me.

Peter, I really feel with you all and know that relapse is so common that most of us encounter it several times during our recovery process. I have been there more than once. And knowledge was the key for me. Once I understood the physical side, the biochemistry of addiction in my brain I was able to look for and use more tools to recover. Willpower is of no use here.

When we “detox” from sugar/flour like you did in February, your brain’s reward systems will heal slowly but surely. Sugar does have a huge impact on neurotransmitters and receptors, that’s why addiction exist. I will use an analogy to explain. If you cut yourself, it will take some time to heal and you will end up with scar tissue forever. Addiction is a chronic, progressive (get’s worse over time) illness. Once we have developed it, we need to change our whole lifestyle in order to recover, not just change food, but that is the biggest most important start, it is the foundation for us to have strength to take the next steps.

In the reward system we talk about “up regulation”, and it is our wise brain making more receptors when we eat “sugar/carbs” due to the increased release of neurotransmitters (dopamine, endorphin). We experience this release in the beginning as the “good high” and it creates what is called “euphoric recall and addiction memory circuit”. This extremely pleasant feeling is a memory for us with an inherited sensitive reward system. It is what causes addiction and we will keep chasing this feeling forever.

The more sugar we eat, the more neurotransmitters are released until your body can’t keep up production so now you end up having fewer neurotransmitters, but too many receptors and we start feeling, down, tired, irritated, miserable and cravings from hell, and so forth, from all the sugar we eat and now your wise brain “down regulates” which means it “plugs” the extra receptors it made during up regulation.

Now we really feel horrible, some of us are very depressed and/or wired but tired, and have panic anxiety. A volatile blood sugar is so common, not to mention hyperinsulinemia, overweight, diabetes type 2, etc. Physical consequences… The effect of sugar is now decreased, but craving is increased. Many of us will start using alcohol here and end up alcoholics. I did. This is called sensitizing. By the way, up regulating and down regulating happens with any addiction, alcohol, opiates, street-drugs, gambling, this is why we talk about Addiction Interaction Disorder today, one illness with many outlets.

This is why “one single bite” of a cake, piece of bread, candy etc. will cause a full-blown relapse because the “plugged” receptors will instantly open like starving “baby birds” and scream for more.

So you need to learn about the addicted brain, read the book Food Junkies by Vera Tarman, join our support group on FB “Sugarbomb in your brain”, look for support groups where you live. Sit down with your family and explain that you can not have any sugar/flour at home. Talk about relapse and look for risk situations such as birthdays, holidays and more. Make a strategy to handle them, have foresight on a daily basis, how to eat, when to eat, and what to do, and this is also why we sugar addicts can’t drink alcohol, it leads to relapse in sugar.

Be gentle with yourself and take a day at a time.

I wish you great recovery,

Why do a get uncontrollable sugar cravings in the evening after fasting all day?

Dear Ms. Jonsson,

I have been experimenting with intermittent fasting now since July 2017. There have been many benefits and I have shared this wonderful experience with many friends that have also benefited.

In summary, I fast from 8 pm every night and commence eating again the next day at approximately 6 pm. I have also adopted an LCHF diet. However, after my meal, despite feeling very satisfied, I have an uncontrollable desire for sweets – cakes, chocolate, ice cream… Whatever is available.

I can’t repress this desire until it is satisfied. It has very much gotten in the way of me maximising the benefits of intermittent fasting and LCHF. Then of course there is the guilt that follows and an interrupted nights’ sleep I suspect from the sugar.

Firstly, why such intense cravings? I have never ever experienced this before in such an uncontrollable way. Secondly, how can I remedy this problem? It is really getting me down as I have never felt so out of control before and always been a relatively healthy person. This behaviour is very uncharacteristic.

Thank you for your time and I look forward to your response.


Hello Manolo,

I know that many have great rewards with intermittent fasting but I advice against it for sugar addicts because exactly what you experience will happen again and again.

Remember that our illness is in the brain’s reward system and that part is in the most primitive survival part of our brain. And we can call it a “faulty-wiring problem” so for us to be “drug free” we need to understand that we have a different biochemistry and fasting will trigger cravings from that survival part.

I advice you to read Dr. Vera Tarman’s book Food Junkies, she explains this very well. We need to eat 3 meals a day and nothing in between.

I wish you great recovery,


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