Let's talk about sugar baby...lets' talk about anxiety- Sugar Dysregulation
In an earlier blog I wrote about “psychiatric pretenders” where I touched on being HANGRY! This is where the hormones cortisol, adrenaline/noradrenaline (epinephrine/norepinephrine) are triggered due to low blood glucose levels and can cause irritability and emotional liability.
But can blood glucose dysregulation lead to anxiety?
It sure can!
Even if you don’t have anxiety stabilising blood glucose levels is key to having overall improved mood, energy, mental focus, sleep and fewer cravings.
The first step is determining whether your blood sugars are high, how much sugar you are consuming and if it is contributing to your anxiety.
Now sugar is sneaky, it creeps into so many foods without your realising it. That bottle of sauce on the shelf in the supermarket or that food in a box , how long do you think it has been sitting there? And how is it possible I can still eat it and it’s not rotten?
Good question, I’m glad you’re thinking about things and questioning your environment and habitual choices.
It is jam packed full of so much salt to prevent it going off, that how it’s still edible. But how do you make that salt filled food taste good? You add sugar. Have a look on the packets before you buy food off the shelf next time you are in the supermarket, how much has been slipped into foods you wouldn’t think need to have sugar? Not to mention the other additives in there.
You should be aiming to eat foods that don’t come in a packet, foods that are “naked”- ohh lala.
That way you know what you’re eating, it’s real food your body is designed to process.
Now I hear you down the back there saying “but what about the impact farming practices have had on fresh food Courtney?” Don’t worry I’ll talk about that another day- I hear you. And yes that does impact food but eating packaged, processed foods is not a better option.
Now back to sugar, you need to look at how much you are getting in a day. Has that afternoon stack of biscuits to reward yourself with for your hard work, now turned into an every day event?
A good way to check in with yourself is to write down what you are eating in a day and just see where the excess maybe coming from. Or even just the sugar you might not realise is creeping in.
Even so called “healthier treats” like raw treats are full of sugar- thats why they are still a treat!
Key word here is “healthIER” .Now don’t get me wrong I love baking and making healthier treats but just because they are healthier doesn’t mean you should have them every day.
Foods such as:
agave nectar etc.
Still will have an affect on your blood glucose levels and cause a spike in blood glucose & stimulate insulin. These “healthier sugars” may have other trace elements and minerals that are good for you but… they are still SUGAR.. bubble burst I’m sorry :( …(sorry not sorry)
But in saying all this, don’t get the wrong impression.
Sugar is NOT EVIL!
Anyone that tells you that it is evil has bought into a marketing gimmick and is regurgitating other people thoughts and opinions without having any understanding of how the body works. They do not know what they are talking about ,so please ignore this illogical, emotionally charged advice.
Glucose is a great fuel for your cells, that is up-taken rapidly and used easily,especially by the brain. It uses it effectively and efficiently. If you have carbohydrates your body will always use this as its fuel source first. We need all types of micro and macro-nutrients to be healthy. It’s about balance and having the right amounts. And not using FEAR as a motivator.
Before you start screaming at me about KETO, yes fats are a fantastic source for the brain and I’ll touch on that later.
Now the issue with sugar and lets extend this to carbohydrates esp grains- is they should be thought of as a food to “deserve” rather than a necessity. You need to have done something like strenuous exercise and eat it at the right time of the day (i.e. post work out to increase glycogen stores again) to warrant its’ intake. If you eat a whole heap of sugar before bed ( yes toast with honey counts! Both are carbs that will be broken down into sugar) what is your body going to do with that sugar? You have spiked insulin and will now store that sugar in your liver ,muscles and the rest as fat. If you don’t burn sugar your body wants to store and keep it for later. So remember that when you eat carbohydrates.
Vegetables and fruits are sources of carbohydrates and necessary for all the micronutrient & phytoconstituents they contain
Like antioxidants, carotenoids, oligomeric proanthocyanidins, chlorophyll, sulforophane, indol-3-carbinol, fibre etc Which you get by eating a variety of fruits and vegetables esp. different colours. They are low calorie and aren’t what cause the real blood glucose level spikes. It’s NOT the sweet potato causing you’re blood glucose issues…. ok? So enjoy a variety of fruits and vegetables in many different colours, your body likes variety. Fruits intake should be less than vegetable intake and fruits should be eaten as the whole fruit rather than juice. When you have the juice you are getting way too much sugar (as often 10 oranges are used in 350mls) you would not sit and eat as many fruits are it takes to make the glass of juice. Plus you loose the benefits of fibre that is in the fruit.
Sugar can increase lactate levels
And this can cause anxiety and panic attacks; if you suffer from anxiety you may be more sensitive to lactate. Other factors that increase lactate levels are:
low levels of niacin, Vitamin B6 & Vitamin B1
low levels of calcium and magnesium.
Lactic acid builds up in your muscles when you exercise, when you stop it leaches out of the muscle and into your circulation; your liver then has to get rid of it. If you have too much or can’t process it fast enough, that acid will irritate your nerves & trigger your sympathetic nervous system- so you go into that anxious flight or fight state. If you find you are felling anxious post exercise rather than nice and relaxed like you should due to the endorphins, this might be why. Your not processing lactate properly.
Refined sugar and nutrient depletion
Refined sugars are problematic, in fact I’ll say harmful in a lot of cases, because they contain no nutrients and are purely just carbohydrates for energy.
During processing mineral are stripped from them such as:
Your body therefore has to use its own stores of these minerals, as well as your own stores of B vitamins and calcium to digest this sugar. Resulting in depletion of these nutrients (which you guessed it! ) can cause anxiety and depression. Also when you eat these sugary foods they fill you up and you don’t then have room for the nutrient dense foods you should be eating.
Mercury, Arsenic, BPA,POP and Dioxins Toxicity and GMO foods
High fructose corn syrup is in a lot of processed foods and is often tainted with mercury, a toxic metal that is linked to a HUGE number of mental health conditions including ADHD, Autism etc. So it is best avoided. Not only that but Arsenic exposure (which often comes from chicken & contaminated water sources) increases insulin resistance and blood glucose problems, causing epigenetic inhibition of sugar regulation- amongst a lot of other things. Dioxins, BPA,POP (persistent organic pollutants) etc can also play a role- but I might save this be a discussion all to itself. The toxicity we find ourselves giving in today is what i believe personally contributing the most to a lot of conditions we are experiencing in the modern world. Its not the isolated pollutants that is the problem anymore but the chemical cocktail we are in.
What can you do about this dysregulation?
Don’t add extra sugar to food
This seems like a no brainer, but that includes NO:
sugar or honey in your coffee/tea
If you are craving sugar and going mad without it, we need to look at this addiction and see what is going there. Why there is an imbalance in your brain chemistry ( I’m thinking of a word that starts with C….. Candida… and this bug may just be one culprit causing this).
Avoid sugar, processed foods and “white foods”
white rice (except basmati- as it has a moderate GI)
white breads inc pizza, pasta, wraps etc.
Choose whole foods such as brown rice- that are more complex carbohydrates, high fiber foods such as legumes and vegetables. In general eat organic whole foods whenever you can- to avoid pesticides, added hormones, excess omega 6 from meats that are grain fed etc.
Eat enough protein
You need adequate- not excessive- protein at each meal. Proteins are used in almost every metabolic function in the body; in detoxification pathways and so many enzyme reactions -as well as by your muscles so you can move. And not only that, you need proteins so the amino acids they are made up of can be used by the brain to make neurotransmitters- that play a major role in mood. Amino acids are also needed for the second brain- your gut- where most of your serotonin is made (which is a feel good hormone).
If you are vegetarian try adding more:
fermented and sprouted soy products
But obviously meat is a complete protein and the most easily absorbed source, so if you are a meat eater it’s easier to get your protein intake up.
Balance your carbohydrates throughout the day
Try and eat “LOW GI” or “LOW GL” food sources to avoid those peaks and dips throughout the day, Ensure you have enough good quality carbohydrates to give you energy throughout the day. Low GI/GL food sources give a slower burn of energy the high GI/GL foods.
Try and avoid grain food types- esp. gluten containing forms. We don’t need grains breakfast, lunch and dinner. Like so many people do- think cereal for breakfast, sandwich for lunch, burger/pasta/rice for dinner. Try and cut down grains and if you suspect you have intolerances, talk to a practitioner to figure out why.
Add in good fats
Fats are so so useful in the body. 50% of your brain is made up of DHA which is a fat. The brain needs fats to function. Fats/cholesterol is needed to make your hormones, so all that cortisol from your anxiety you have been using is putting burden on your adrenals. You need fats to help replenish it.
Having more fats allows you to make the hormones and also other sex hormones (is your period out of whack because you are anxiety??) You might need to look at what your fat intake is.
Sources of good fat include:
Try intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting is an interesting one. Its a simple diet, you are either eating or not (fasting). If you can get your head around it, by adding in fasting days you start to train your body to use its fuel more efficiently. In the beginning you are hanging out for when you can eat again but over time your body adapts and then runs more efficiently than ever. It gives your guts a break so they aren’t always working and they then have time to repair etc. There are lots of different methods out there including:
5 & 2
16 & 8
1 day fast for 24-36hrs a week etc.
But intermittent fasting allows:
your head to be clearer
your brain to make more BDNF
mitochondrial biogenesis to occur
decreases in ghrelin & your blood glucose levels to balance out.
decreased insulin stimulation (same as in the keto diet).
This eating style allows causes better mood balance, decreased brain fog, more focus and decreased sugar imbalance.
I won’t say too much here but ketone diets are actually very good for the brain. The brain runs extremely well on ketones. Ketones are break down products of fat cells. The Keto diet is a high fat, low carb and reasonable protein diet (not excessive protein -otherwise your body will turn that protein into sugar via gluconeogensis).
These diets make you “fat adapted”. By having low carbs it stops those swings with loads and dips of carbohydrate intake. Fats give you a slow burn of energy to sustain you throughout the day. Ketones also turn off inflamazones that lead to inflammation- in fact it is a low inflammatory diet. That is with the correct fats, as trans-fats are very inflammatory, I’m talking about having good fats in this diet- see earlier in the post RE this what are good fats.
When on a keto diet it is important to make sure you get adequate fibre and enough vegetables; which sometimes people lack & don’t balance correctly. As fibre is importnatn for proper bowel function, to prevent cancer etc and vegetables as discussed earlier contain a lot more nutrients/minerals etc than just carbohydrates that our bodies need.
This diet is really good for people that are high insulin secretors. Whereas for people who are low insulin secretors this diet doesn’t do as much for you in terms of metabolism- look at the research by Dr Ludwig if you want to know more about this (he explains this research paper in an interview with “Metabolic Mike”- if you’re into metabolic health he is worth following).
If you wake up anxious and hungry at night you maybe having a drop in blood glucose at night. So a snack like a banana ( which contains tryptophan- promotes sleep) with nut butter such as almond butter or peanut butter (not ones with added sugar and salt). other things that might be keeping you awake are too high cortisol levels, food sensitivities (from your dinner), caffeine, low serotonin or GABA.
Supplements and Herbs
Chromium, Glutamine,Magnesium, Gymnema, Fenugreek, Cinnamon, Goats Rue, Korean Ginseng, Bitter Melon etc. can be used to regulate blood glucose levels. In addition to changes in diet- herbs stimulate functions in the body, nutrients are the building blocks. Herbs and supplements make the healing take place faster and more efficiently the diet alone. Which will be discussed in more detail in another blog.