Blood Sugar and Mood: A Missing Link
For my blog this month, a dear friend of mine, Clara Wisner, is featured in a blog swap! This is my first blog swap and Clara introduced me to the idea (it's what people in the blog world are doing). A blog swap is an opportunity to learn and hear from another practitioner in the healing community.
When Clara and I first met, I experienced an instant connection. A passionate, powerful woman working to change and make a difference in the world, literally she is currently traveling the world! Her and I discussed health and wellness, understanding one another's struggles, victories, and orientations. Clara comes from a holistic perspective with training in nutrition and Emotional Freedom Technique. Here is her blog on blood sugar and mood, please enjoy!
Ever been “hangry”? That feeling where you’re shaky, light-headed, and feel like you literally can’t think about anything but food?
Maybe that’s a bit extreme, but you know what I mean, right?
You’re probably relatively aware that not eating for long stretches of time can change how you feel.
However, what most people are not aware how inextricably linked blood sugar balance and our mood actually is.
Many people use sugar to regulate their moods unknowingly. How much more likely are you to reach for that cookie if you’re feeling upset, stressed, or sad? Ice cream? Chocolate? There is a reason for this. Sugar gives you a little, quick hit of dopamine, so just like a drug it can actually make you feel good for a little bit. However, similar to drugs we don’t get this feel good dose without plenty of negative consequences.
But even if you’re not using sugar as a way to make yourself feel better, levels of blood sugar and blood sugar control still have a giant effect on your mood.
An extreme example is people with diabetes, who are very vulnerable to blood sugar highs and crashes. Highs and crashes can cause instant changes in mood and behavior, making the person angry, irritable, and even aggressive or violent. This study found that…
Low blood sugar was associated with “negative mood states,” especially nervousness
High blood sugar was sometimes associated with “positive mood states,” but it could also be associated with different negative moods, especially anger and sadness.This study found that high blood sugar increased “sadness and anxiety.”
Most people aren’t diabetics, and most people rarely get to diabetic-level blood sugar lows (although if you artificially induce diabetes-type blood sugar fluctuations in non-diabetic people, you get the same mood problems). But blood sugar isn’t a switch that you flip from “healthy” to “diabetes.” It’s a spectrum from good blood sugar control at one end to diabetes on the other, with problems steadily increasing the closer you get to the diabetes end.
I also want to make abundantly clear that I’m not just talking about sugar from candy and sweets. I’m talking about any simple sugar that breaks down quickly. Any food with a glycemic index of 55 or higher is going to cause blood sugar imbalance. This means most grains, white potatoes, and juice, among other things not typically considered “sugary”.
So how does your blood sugar contribute to your anxiety and/or depression?
Our body needs to have blood sugar within a specific range at all times to function properly. If our blood sugar dips below or rises above this range, then we can literally die. No joke. Therefore, our brain is set to go on high alert whenever we get out of a comfortably safe range of blood sugar.
This is also called the “amygdala hi-jack.” When our blood sugar dips low or goes too high, or we are in a perceived life-threatening situation, our amygdala or our lower, survival, black-and-white-thinking,“reptilian” brain hi-jacks the more critical-thinking, compassionate, problem-solving frontal lobe of our brain, and takes over.
We literally go into beast mode.
Our kind, caring, considerate personality is not part of beast mode, that’s all left behind in the frontal lobe, so our mood and thinking can drastically change. This happens at all levels, it’s not one or the other, but we can see how a chronically spiking and crashing blood sugar level can start to fatigue our brain and make our thinking get a little cloudy and could eventually cause some long term anxiety and/or depression.
Chronically unregulated blood sugar has also been shown to cause inflammation in the brain as well, which is a widely accepted theory of the cause for a lot mental illness.
Evolutionarily, humans had more enzymes and were more efficient at using the stores of fat on our bodies to regulate our own blood sugar, so we didn’t have as much of a problem staying in this range with long periods of famine. However, times have changed, and so has our physiology.
Now that we have food (especially foods that are highly glycemic) available everywhere and anywhere we go, most people who eat the Standard American Diet (SAD) and believe that ‘grazing’ on food all day is a healthy thing, do not have the enzymes or the physiological means to efficiently use the fat on their bodies to regulate their blood sugar unless they are literally starving. When we’ve got such easy access to easily available sugar and we’re constantly eating all the time why would our bodies go to the trouble of producing these fat burning enzymes anyway?
Our body has A LOT of jobs it’s got to do to keep us alive, and is in a constant state of triage. The fact that we may not be able to burn the extra fat on our body efficiently is less important to the body when it has to detox all the toxins in the food we are eating NOW, which could potentially kill us quickly if they aren’t handled by the liver and digestion. Again, especially when we keep on feeding our bodies high accessible sugar.
So what do we do then? How can we rebalance our physiology to be more efficient at using the fat we already have on our bodies so we can stay at a relatively level blood sugar all day long? We can actually trick our bodies into building those fat burning enzymes again in a relatively short amount of time.
The simple answer of how to start producing these enzymes again is to eat more good quality fat and less low quality carbohydrates. When you have a sugar craving, eat good quality fat instead. Want a cookie? Eat a tablespoon of grass-fed butter or coconut oil. Start to tell your body, “You can’t have sugar, but you can have this fat, so learn how to use it!”
There are great books written all about this subject with tons of directions, recipes and everything you need so I won’t reinvent the wheel here. Three of my favorites are: The 21 Day Sugar Detox by Diane Sanfillippo, The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson, and Why We Get Fat by Gary Tabues.
Personally, balancing my blood sugar and getting into a more fat-burning physiological state has quite literally changed my life. I’m less nervous, more patient, caring, kind, and understanding. I feel balanced and even-keeled in most trying situations. I’ve seen this pattern again and again. I’ve had clients come in with debilitating anxiety and ravaging depression, and once they go through a sugar and caffeine detox they are much better equipped to do the personal development work involved in healing from mental illness.
This isn’t magic, it’s physiology.
Clara Wisner is a Certified Nutrition Therapy Practitioner and Lifestyle Coach of rEvolutionary Lifestyle. She attended the Nutrition Therapy Institute in Denver, CO from 2012-2015. Clara Wiser is also a Certified Primal Expert, an Emotional Freedom Technique practitioner, and a Level 1 Voice Dialogue Facilitator.
Clara specializes in helping women ditch toxic habits and release the self-sabotaging beliefs that keep them from creating the health and happiness they desire with her unique coaching approach that addresses mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional health.
Having a highly clinical education in nutrition, Clara blends this scientific knowledge of biology and physiology, with her deep and personal understanding of the emotional components of dietary and lifestyle change. By blending the clinical with the energetic, Clara creates customized nutrition and lifestyle programs that facilitate true mind-body transformation for her clients.
Clara works with people one-on-one all over the world via phone and virtual sessions, and in her private coaching practice in Denver, CO. She also created and runs the 21 Day rEvolutionize Your Life Program and the Fire Up Your Metabolism Plan.
If you are looking for more personalized support on your health journey, Clara is the one to reach out to. She makes a personal commitment to every client's success, and it is her number one mission in life to make sure every person she works with feels highly supported, completely safe, and incredibly cared for.
Clara is currently traveling the world with her husband working on the research for a book about the different healing modalities in the places she visits. Her adventuresome soul is happy.
Social Media Links:
FACEBOOK: REvolutionary Lifestyle
SNAP: Revolutionary Lifestyle
FREE OFFERING: (sign up for a 3-day reset): http://www.clarawisner.com/get-free-health-guidance
Please contact me or Clara if you are interested in learning more!
Sending love, Stacey