Sweet foods can be delicious, whether it’s a wedge of lemon meringue pie, a scoop of pistachio nut ice cream or marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes. In addition to adding sugary calories to your diet, and perhaps your waistline, sweet foods can also make you thirsty. That might help explain why cookies are so often paired with milk, or maple-glazed ribs with a tart glass of lemonade. You become thirsty after eating sweet foods because of the way sugar interacts with your body’s cellular composition.
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Simply put, thirst is the normal desire to drink fluids. Small changes in thirst levels are common, and can be attributed to food choices, weather, physical activity and other everyday factors. Larger fluctuations in thirst levels can indicate problems such as head injuries, diabetes, dehydration or mental disorders. Because your body is accustomed to operating with certain levels of fluids, thirst lets you know when fluid levels must be replenished by drinking fluids or eating foods containing fluids.
When you consume sweet foods, sugar enters the bloodstream and begins to circulate through the body, according to Indiana Public Media’s “A Moment of Science.” These sugar particles funnel water from your body’s cells, depleting supplies. Your body’s cells then send chemical messages to the brain indicating that it’s time to consume additional fluids. Meanwhile, your brain routinely monitors blood concentrations to maintain normal levels. When the brain senses sugar overloads, that also triggers thirst.
It might not be the sugar alone in sweet foods that causes you to become thirsty because other food tastes also create thirst. Salty and spicy foods also create thirst. If you ate trail mix containing sweet chocolate pieces and salty peanuts, both ingredients might contribute to thirst. Wedges of mango dusted with cayenne pepper could also cause thirst because of the sweet-spicy combo.
Excessive thirst might not be an indicator of eating too many sweet foods, but of very high blood sugar and more serious medical conditions, including diabetes. If you’re also experiencing blurry vision, fatigue or passing more than 5 quarts of urine daily, it’s time to check with your doctor. It’s also possible to become addicted to sugar. Monitor your intake of sweets, choosing naturally sweet foods over sugary processed foods when possible for better health. Thirst might decrease with age, according to the Noll Physiological Research Center article, “Influence of Age on Thirst and Fluid Intake.” Your body still requires fluids, so sip water even if you’re not experiencing dramatic thirst. Not all fluids are equal — sugar and calories from soft drinks and juices can lead to weight gain, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. Stick with water, tea and coffee as more healthful choices.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- Better Medicine: Thirst
- Medline Plus: Excessive Thirst
- Indiana Public Media; "Moment of Science"; Sweet Thirst; Don Glass; May 2007
- "Psychology Today"; A Real Sugar High; Angela Pirisi; January 2003
- EduLife; "Influence of Age on Thirst and Fluid Intake"; W. Larry Kenney et al.
- Harvard School of Public Health: Healthy Beverage Guidelines
- Indiana Public Media; "Moment of Science"; Why Salt Makes you Thirsty; Don Glass; May 2006