What’s the number one underlying cause of anxiety ?
Blood sugar dysregulation!
In fact, blood sugar and weight loss are the top two reasons that people seek help from a nutritionist or dietitian.
Sugar is a demon for so many reasons, but it is at the root of most of my clients’ anxiety issues. Once we get their blood sugar under control, lots of things get better.
Why Sugar Imbalance Creates Anxiety
You’ve heard the term “hangry”, hungry and angry at the same time?
You may have even experienced the jitters, lightheadedness and irritability of hypoglycemia. Those are the first steps of blood sugar dysregulation.
Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), left unchecked, can develop into Insulin Resistance, Type II Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome.
This roller-coaster ride comes along with anxiety and mood swings.
Consuming refined carbohydrates leads to a blood sugar spike and then a drop in blood sugar, which can result in anxiety, nervousness and irritability.
The more sugar you eat, the more your body becomes depleted in various nutrients, further impairing your body to control sugar levels.
Refined sugars are harmful because they contain no nutrients beyond carbohydrates for energy. During the refining process, minerals such as chromium, manganese, zinc and magnesium are stripped away.
Your body, therefore, has to use its own reserves of those minerals, as well as B vitamins and calcium, to digest the sugar.
And because blood sugar swings call on the adrenal glands to produce large quantities of cortisol, the adrenal glands are ultimately stressed. Stressed adrenal glands mean worse blood sugar control.
HPA Axis Disorder, aka Adrenal Fatigue, can be another victim of unbalanced blood sugar.
Eventually the pancreas wears out too, producing insufficient quantities of insulin. Even the liver can have difficulty converting glycogen and proteins/fats to glucose.
It’s a downward spiral.
Sugar is a Drug Addiction
It’s a LEGAL addiction and worse than cocaine, opiates, heroin and amphetamines.
We don’t even think twice about it.
The average American adult eats over 150 pounds of sugar annually, more than people in 50 other nations. In the 1700s, the average adult consumed just 4 pounds of sugar per year. We’ve gone off the deep end of the sugar pool.
If you are thinking, not me, I don’t eat that much sugar, think twice.
Sugar is in everything, not just the obvious candy, baked goods and sodas. Sugar is in unlikely places like ketchup, pasta sauce, pasta, salad dressing, soups, etc.
There are almost 60 different names and types of sugar, which makes it easier for food manufacturers to hide it.
Evaporated cane juice, high fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, brown sugar–those are obvious sugar additives. But organic agave nectar, honey, blackstrap molasses, malt syrup and many others are not so obvious, but still sugar.
It’s worth learning how to read an ingredient list. Here’s a list of food ingredients you may want to avoid.
Ingredients appear on food labels in order of their predominance.
The sneakiest manufacturers use several different types of sugar so that it won’t look like sugar is their number one ingredient. They don’t have our best interests in mind.
Naturally occurring sugars are those that are inherent in food, like fruit and milk.
Even celery has some sugar content.
A banana has 14 grams of naturally occurring sugar and a cup of sweet potato contains 6 grams.
So natural sugar is okay? Not so fast.
Eating whole food gives you the fiber and other nutrients that the food contains. Whereas drinking fruit juice or even vegetable juices precludes the fiber that helps your body metabolize food properly.
Eating too much fruit (or other food with naturally occurring sugar) will cause blood sugar and insulin spikes just like foods with added sugar does.
If you think you are safe using artificial sweeteners, think again.
Aspartame, one of the five FDA approved artificial sweeteners, is the most widely used and is a neurotoxic substance that accounts for over 75% of the adverse reactions to food additives reported to the FDA each year.
Some of those reactions include seizures and death but more commonly depression, irritability, anxiety, fatigue, and insomnia.
Aspartame breaks down into two amino acids, phenylalanine and aspartic acid. Phenylalanine blocks production of serotonin that helps control food and mood.
A shortage of serotonin causes the brain and body to scream for the food that supplies more of this brain chemical–sugar.
All artificial sweeteners are toxic, not just aspartame.
Most were introduced to our food chain in the 1960’s. This has not been enough time for evolution to adapt our bodies to these toxins.
And there’s no guarantee that we ever will.
All Carbohydrates Turn into Sugar
We tend to think of all carbs as bad.
Remember that all vegetables, fruit, grains, and legumes are carbohydrates. They naturally convert into glucose in the digestive system.
Obviously those carbohydrates aren’t bad by themselves.
Refined (processed) carbs are what has done us in.
Here’s an example:
If you have ever held a Saltine cracker in your mouth for longer than a minute, you will know how rapidly the taste changes from salty to sweet. The enzymes in your saliva break down that refined carb into sugar before you even swallow it!
The difference between a refined carb and a complex carb is the fiber content. The more fiber, the less sugar.
A piece of white bread contains 15 grams of carbs and less than a gram of fiber. A cup of broccoli has 6 grams of carbs and 2.5 grams of fiber.
Uncontrolled blood sugar levels can create a vicious cycle. When levels fall, you have increased sugar cravings, which causes you to eat sugar, setting you up for another spike and then drop in blood sugar level.
Learn from your Labs
How is your body handling glucose aka sugar?
Find out by looking at your lab results. You can order these tests from any of our lab partners, but if you have health insurance your doctor can order these tests:
- HbA1C also known as A1C : identifies the average blood glucose concentration over the previous 3 months.
- Fasting Glucose: detects the amount of glucose circulating in the blood when no food has been consumed for at least 8 hours.
- IGF-1: detects the level of insulin-like growth factor whose activity is similar to insulin.
- Fasting Insulin: detects the amount of insulin circulating in the blood when no glucose has been consumed for at least 8 hours. This can be helpful in diagnosing insulin resistance.
It’s a good idea to find out where you are so that you can tailor your lifestyle changes to your current condition.
Be a Fat Burner Rather than a Sugar Burner
Flip the switch to become a fat burner rather than a sugar burner. It doesn’t take long, about 2 weeks if you really put your heart into it.
My article, The Two Week Sugar Detox Plan, is a simple overview of the Do’s and Don’ts of flipping that switch. <—Click the link for the overview.
Instead of sugar you can enjoy such things as coconut, cinnamon and raw cacao (yep, that’s chocolate) for a sweet taste.
If you need recipe ideas that will keep you on the plan and still taste great, check out RealPlans. This subscription service allows you to enter the type of ‘diet’ you would like to be on (paleo, keto, Primal, Whole30, etc.) and eliminate the foods you don’t like.
You will get suggested recipes, a shopping list and all the nutrition breakdown (if you’re into that sorta’ stuff). For $14/month, cancel at any time, it makes life so much easier than scouring through recipes, Pinterest and cookbooks.
It’s got to taste good to keep you involved. (I am not an affiliate of RealPlans in any way, it’s just a great service).
Healthy Fat will not make you Fat
Did you know that healthy fats have no effect on blood sugar and insulin levels.
Ketones, an alternative source of fuel, are made from healthy fats like coconuts, avocado, nuts, seeds, olives, butter, ghee, lard, etc.
These types of healthy fats not only make ketones, but they make food taste good!
Ketones give us long-lasting energy because they can be stored, whereas there are only limited stores of glucose.
Healthy fat WILL NOT MAKE YOU FAT, despite what we were told. Excess sugar is what makes us fat.
A ketogenic diet includes high healthy fat, moderate protein and low carbohydrates.
Dr. Nasha Winters, ND, cancer survivor and noted cancer doctor, recommends 70-75% of calories from healthy fats, 20-25% from quality proteins and 5-10% from carbohydrates.
You will want to increase your healthy fat intake slowly so as not to overwhelm your digestive system, especially your gallbladder and liver.
Supplements that can help with Sugar Cravings
A few supplements can help control your blood sugar and your cravings for sugar. While some of our cravings are simply just habits that we have to break, many cravings are the body’s needs for fuel or other nutrients.
These 3 supplements may help:
- Chromium–this mineral can help with hypoglycemia symptoms by increasing the action of insulin. Chromium is depleted by a high sugar diet. It also helps raise serotonin levels. You’ll want at least 200 mcg of chromium with meals.
- Glutamine–this amino acid provides fuel for your brain when blood sugar dips low and reduces cravings for sugar, carbohydrates and alcohol. Try taking 500-1500 mg 2 to 3 times a day between meals. Glutamine is also very healing for digestive issues. Avoid Glutamine for bipolar disorder patients.
- Gymnema Sylvestre–this herb is one of the most practical herbal recommendations for improving blood sugar regulation in diabetics. Gymnemic acids help desensitize your taste buds to sweet tasting foods when they are placed directly on your tongue, which may help diabetics and others consume fewer calories. Research suggests that gymnema is one of the few herbs that may enhance your body’s production of the hormone insulin. It should be avoided by those with hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
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Joli Tripp and Mind Blowing Wellness are not medical doctors nor licensed medical professionals. No comment or recommendation should be construed as being a medical diagnosis. If you suffer from a medical or pathological condition, you should consult an appropriate healthcare provider.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease.
Mind Blowing Wellness is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. Mind Blowing Wellness is also an affiliate for Thrive Market receiving a small commission for new memberships.
The Metabolic Approach to Cancer, Dr. Nasha Winters, ND, 2017
The Anti-Anxiety Food Solution, Trudy Scott, CN, 2011