Have you ever wondered if sugar could have an effect on your mood?
I noticed that most members of my family would become irritable, emotional, anxious, frustrated, and cranky when we hadn’t eaten. It also appeared we would have more ADD symptoms with a less than perfect attention span. Could a drop in blood sugar be to blame? When I asked my children’s pediatrician if my sons constant need to eat; his anxious and cranky disposition could be related to sugar intake she said, “It’s normal for children to need to eat every few hours,” or “every child reacts negatively to sugar.” So, I never thought anything else. Retrospectively, it seemed sugar was having a profound effect on him and on all of us.
Sugar inflames the body; suppresses the immune system and leads to many autoimmune disorders. Sugar also causes hormone imbalances, interferes with the absorption of vital vitamins and minerals and spikes triglycerides, which can cause cravings for more food. It can also affect insulin production, and cause issues, hyperactivity, increased brain fog, and fatigue, and affect cognitive function. It also causes chromium deficiency (which leads to hypoglycemia).
For my son, hypoglycemia was certainly causing some of his mood symptoms. Hypoglycemia is a condition that occurs when a person’s blood sugar (glucose) is too low which comes after an initial spike. Some of the other symptoms of hypoglycemia include: headaches, aggression, blurred vision, anti-social behavior, sugar addiction, faintness and depression.
I later discovered that those of us with allergies, including food allergies, food intolerance’s/sensitivities, can be closely related to hypoglycemia due intestinal inflammation and the effect they can have on blood sugar (ie, from adrenaline surges after eating) and vitamin and mineral levels. Take magnesium for example, one of the most important minerals for a healthy brain and stable mood. “We have too much sugar in our diet today, and it takes 29 molecules of magnesium to digest one molecule of sugar, this sugar overload eventually leads to a magnesium deficiency.” Hyla Cass, M.D., explains in her book, Supplement Your Prescription: What Your Doctor Doesn’t Know about Nutrition, that many anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications may also deplete magnesium and calcium in the body, working against natural healing.
I also discovered that medication used to treat mood disorders and psychostimulants like Ritalin could not only lead to seizures, tics, hallucinations, headaches, insomnia, growth issues, decreased appetite, addiction, malnutrition, heart valve weakness, kidney and liver problems, they can also cause blood sugar destabilization, and/or severe fatigue.
It all started to make sense. So what can we do to stop those cravings for sugar?
- Address potential Food Sensitivities. These food intolerances may be causing inflammation and having a direct influence on your blood sugar levels.
- Cook Nutrient Rich Foods. Increasing vital nutrient intake supports a healthy brain. Eating whole foods and avoiding refined carbohydrates; processed foods can significantly enhance your mood and stop those violent mood swings.
- Eat Protein. Everyone talks about how we need more dopamine and serotonin, which usually translates into more medication. However, if we look at the physiology behind how neurotransmitters are made in the first place, most of them depend on an adequate intake of protein. Therefore, it’s essential that we eat an adequate supply of protein daily. Protein is the most satiating macronutrient, which helps signal to the brain that you are full and helps to stop cravings.
- Snack smarter. Head to the cabinet or fridge for treats made with real fruit, pure honey, real maple syrup or blackstrap molasses. They not only ward against sugar spikes, but are full of healthy nutrients the brain needs. Or, grab a handful of nuts or seeds instead.
- Get Sleep. Research shows that sleep affects the part of your brain that controls willpower. “Not enough shut-eye makes you more impulsive and can fuel addiction,” So if you’re short on sleep, you’ll likely find it harder to resist temptation.
- Eat Fermented foods and take Probiotics. Foods like sauerkraut and pickles contain many natural probiotics which help boost the mood. Bacteria and yeasts feed on sugars. If your balance of bad bacteria is high relative to good bacteria, your sugar cravings will be really intense. And eating too much sugar feeds those bad bacteria, so it gets to be a downward cycle. Lots of people have found that when they eat fermented foods and/or take a quality non-dairy probiotic their sugar cravings go away. In addition, research suggests that young adults who eat more fermented foods have fewer social anxiety symptoms. “Probiotics in the fermented foods are favorably changing the environment in the gut, and changes in the gut in turn influence conditions such as social anxiety.
- Drink Water. You may sometimes think that your body is asking for sugar, when in fact it’s dehydrated and really craving water.
- Increase Healthy Fat Intake. Foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids including fish, olive oil, coconut oil, nuts and avocados nourish the brain and help beat cravings.
- Have plenty of Greens & Sea Vegetables. Eating foods rich in minerals not only boosts brain power, but can reduce your craving for sugar. Minerals are “energy nutrients” and without enough mineral stores – our body seeks other sources. Eating foods higher in zinc, magnesium and chromium like green beans, broccoli, nuts, seeds and mushrooms can help to fight hypoglycemia and stop those cravings.
- Eat foods that Stabilize Blood Sugar Naturally. Out-of-control sugar levels can be reined in and regulated with the right foods. So make sure to eat plenty of cinnamon, chia seeds, turmeric and ginger, fennel seeds, apple cider vinegar and cherries.
To learn more about alleviating depression, anxiety, attention deficit disorder ADD/ADHD, mood-swings, oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and autism without the side-effects of medication, please find me at www.healingwithouthurting.com or download my award winning book Healing without Hurting (2014).