A Surprising Link Between Blood Sugar And Anxiety
While the sweet stuff is regularly in the spotlight for its ramifications on physical health, the link between anxiety and blood sugar should not be dimmed. We’re shining the light on the surprising association between the two!
Sugar : The latest villain reigning the obesity and diabetes epidemic the U.S. is facing.
While the sweet stuff is in the spotlight for its ramifications on physical health, the link between anxiety and blood sugar should not be dimmed.
Hypoglycemia And Adrenal Fatigue
You may not realize it, but becoming severely stressed can trigger adrenal fatigue, which can lead to hypoglycemia. This is because several adrenal hormones including cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine play critical roles in the regulation of your bodys blood sugar levels. In fact, epinephrine plays a role in the short-term control of your bodys blood glucose. Epinephrine is involved in the increase of blood sugar when the body encounters stress. Meanwhile, cortisol is involved in the long-term maintenance of your bodys blood glucose levels.
When the body experiences stress, the adrenal glands prepare it for a fight or flight response by releasing the primary stress hormone cortisol. As cortisol levels rise in the body, both fat and muscle in the body become less sensitive to insulin. Because of this, more glucose becomes readily available in the bloodstream.
This activity is all part of the bodys entire NeuroEndoMetabolic Stress Response system. It is made up of the response from several organs and systems in the body, including the heart, liver, hormones, immune system, and the adrenal glands. Using the hormone cortisol, the adrenal glands help ensure that the body has enough energy to deal with the stress at hand.
When this happens, the cells fail to receive the glucose and other nutrients that they need to stay healthy. You may find yourself craving sugar while feeling shaky, tired, and even weak.
Insulin Resistance In The Brain
Insulin receptors are expressed throughout the brains emotional regulation centers, allowing the cells in those regions to absorb and utilize glucose for energy. If you remove these receptors in mouse brains, the mice tend to get depressed and anxious. As insulin resistance develops, it may have similar negative effects on the brain and contribute to mood issues.
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Symptoms Of Sugar Rushes
Similarly, sugar rush and withdrawal do have a tendency to mimic some of the physical symptoms of anxiety, like shaking and nervousness. This is linked to the rush of energy that you get as the glucose is broken down in your bloodstream in order to release sharp spikes of energy. For most people, this only occurs after considerable sugar consumption, but depending on what you eat and how long you go before eating again, you may be at risk of over stimulating your body and worsening anxiety if you eat sugar.
These symptoms are not causing anxiety, but if you already have anxiety, the added shaking and tension may make your anxiety worse.
Symptoms Of Depression Or Anxiety In Patients With Type 2 Diabetes Associated With A Lower Exercise Frequency
This 2017 study from Canada found that patients with type 2 diabetes who were struggling with mental health issues like depression and anxiety also exercised less frequently.
Researchers also concluded that these findings were not occurring side-by-side but that depression is a genuine obstacle or barrier to getting regular exercise in this population of patients.
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Seek Education About Your Hypoglycemic Risk
The more you understand your risk of hypoglycemia and the steps you can take to prepare for an episode, the easier itll be to manage your fears.
Talk to your doctor about assessing your overall risk. Together, you can develop a plan to prepare for the possibility of a hypoglycemic episode.
You may want to ask your doctor about purchasing a glucagon kit in case of an emergency.
Teach family members and friends how to use the kit if you have a severe low blood sugar episode. Knowing there are others looking out for you can help give you greater peace of mind and reduce your anxiety.
Managing And Treating Anxiety As A Person With Diabetes
Getting help for anxiety can be challenging for a variety of reasons.
The first is that mental health issues, in general, all come with the stigma of feeling as though you are weak or flawed for struggling in the first place. The reality is that even though things like depression and anxiety are rarely discussed as openly as topics like your favorite insulin pump or recipes for low-carb bread, they are very common, and you are not alone.
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Keep A Close Eye On Your Blood Sugar Levels
Its always important to keep tabs on your stress and blood sugar. Thats why we recommend a fasting blood sugar test at every yearly physical.If your blood sugar starts to creep upwards, we can be proactive and start measures to help you.
This is particularly important if you have diabetes or prediabetes. In fact, if you have these conditions, we may suggest that you have blood sugar screenings more often. We can guide you through when you should check your blood sugar, and our dietitian can help you select healthy meals.
Since Balancing My Blood Sugar I Havent Had A Depressive Episode In 11 Months
Thats the longest Ive ever gone without one since I first started having them in high school.
Now, lets be fair: in addition to balancing my blood sugar, Ive also been balancing my sexual hormones, adrenals and micronutrient levels on the physical side, while getting super-buff in the emotional and mental strength side of things.
My emotional recovery has come leaps and bounds since last years depressive episode I have a stronger support system here in San Diego, I now default to my healthy coping mechanisms instead of old inefficient ones, and I am finally, finally, finally ok with not being ok when the feels come around. Running away or stuffing it down arent options anymore I deal, and so it moves through me faster.
Addressing everything from every side of things within me led me here. It wasnt just my blood sugar, but my spikes and crashes were making recovery extremely difficult.
Because managing my blood sugar has been so healing for me, Im hoping that it might help you, too. Here are the steps I took to level out my hypoglycemia.
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Tell Your Healthcare Team
If you frequently experience low blood glucose levels, the first thing that may be needed is a change to your diabetes regime medication type, the dosage, or the timing of medication and/or food. Your doctor will be able to help with this.
Also, if you are experiencing less warning signs than previously, there are ways of recovering these, through avoiding all hypos for as little as a few weeks. This needs careful planning to avoid the opposite problem of overly high blood glucose levels, but is very possible with guidance.
So Many Of My Patients Who Have Depression Actually Just Struggle With Low Blood Sugar
Hmmm, I thought. Thats one way to trivialize the disease.
After struggling so long with lows I thought I had no control over whatsoever, I couldnt accept that this one physical symptom could be the trigger for them because that means I could have done something about it a lot sooner. Though it was difficult to comprehend, it made some logical sense.
When blood sugar drops, it illicits the stress response in our brains. For those of us who are predisposed to depression and/or anxiety, this can be the trigger that sets us off into an episode. If one had eating habits like mine a year ago , one could make the cycle chronic.
That said, its not the one and only trigger for depression and anxiety in those of us who have it, but I have realized that it is a MAJOR one . At least, thats what I realized about myself
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What The Research Says
40% of people with diabetes. This prevalence is much higher than that in the general U.S. population, where the condition affects 18.1% of people.
People with diabetes are at risk of developing low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia. Some of the symptoms of hypoglycemia are identical to those of anxiety.
Additionally, the results of a 2015 animal study suggest that experiencing several episodes of hypoglycemia can increase the likelihood of anxiety. The reason for this may be that hypoglycemic episodes trigger chemical and metabolic changes that physically affect the part of the brain that plays a role in processing anxiety.
Diabetes and anxiety share several symptoms. The American Diabetes Association and the National Institute of Mental Health both list the following symptoms for hypoglycemia and anxiety, respectively:
- feeling on edge or irritable
- difficulty focusing thoughts
The procedures that healthcare professionals use to diagnose diabetes and anxiety are quite different.
What Extreme Conditions Can Occur If Hypoglycemia Is Left Untreated
Although severe episodes which can trigger potentially life-threatening comas are rare, they require immediate emergency room care, so its best to make sure you are tracking your blood sugar so that you never have to worry about getting to that point. A drop in blood sugar means less fuel for your brain, so its critical for your body to receive enough glucose. Hypoglycemia that leads to extended, reduced brain function is the biggest concern, as this can lead to seizures and loss of basic bodily functions controlled by the brain, which can ultimately lead to death, explains Dr. Dyer.
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How To Keep Sugar From Contributing To Anxiety
Of course, this isn’t just to freak you out and make you throw out all of the dairy-free ice cream in the fridge. Lots of other things can contribute to anxiety, including stress, coffee, work, and even family relationshipsâso cutting out Oreos isn’t the magic bullet for reducing anxiety. But the impact of sugar on anxiety levels can affect anyone, says Zeitlinâand if you have an existing anxiety disorder, sugary foods will likely exacerbate your condition, she adds.
One way to combat this is certainly to reduce your sugar intake, including processed foods and breads. It’s also a good idea to load up on foods low in sugar and high in fiber âZeitlin says they have a much more even effect on your blood sugar, which can help cut back on feelings of “increased anxiety.” She also recommends stopping eating about two hours before you go to sleep. “This gives your body time to properly digest and process the foodâsugary or notâand let that energy subside in time for you to actually fall asleep and stay asleep.”
When you are eating foods higher in sugar, Burch suggests pairing it with foods higher in fiber and healthy fats. “This slows the absorption of sugar, preventing it from spiking blood sugar as much,” she says, and thus making it less likely to put you in an anxiety spiral.
Additional reporting by Jessie Van Amburg.
The Blood Sugar Trigger: The Sneakiest Culprit For Depression + Anxiety
March 6, 2017 by Amy |
When I went to my naturopath for the first time a year ago, I took a BUNCH of tests. Hormone tests, micronutrient tests, gut tests, and so on and so on. It was enough to make my head spin.
Good thing I did, though, because I found out quite a bit about myself as you might remember from last year. You can read the whole shabang about my initial stages of healing adrenal fatigue here.
One of the other conditions we discovered from all that testing was that I had low blood sugar which I thought was semi-normal. My mom has it, so I just grew up thinking it was something people just deal with.
When my naturopath saw this, however, she noted it as one of the first things we needed to address. She confirmed with me that I struggled with depression, and then she said:
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How Common Is Low Blood Glucose
Low blood glucose is common among people with type 1 diabetes and among people with type 2 diabetes who take insulin or some other diabetes medicines. In a large global study of people with diabetes who take insulin, 4 in 5 people with type 1 diabetes and nearly half of those with type 2 diabetes reported a low blood sugar event at least once over a 4-week period.2
Severely low blood glucose, defined as when your blood glucose level drops so low you cant treat it yourself, is less common. Among U.S. adults with diabetes who take insulin or some diabetes medicines that help the pancreas release insulin into the blood, 2 in 100 may develop severely low blood glucose each year.3
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Eat Breakfast & Then At Regular Intervals Throughout The Day
I was on the intermittent fasting train for a while , which means that I went up to 16 hours without eating. *cringe* For me, that meant that Id eat my last snack at night, then wait until the afternoon the next day to eat again.
Beyond the disordered reasons why thats not the best idea for me, it was killing my blood sugar. I had low energy all day until I ate, so Id overdo the coffee to make up for it .
Heres something that seems obvious, but did not compute to me back then: your body needs food. Thats how it runs. Without it, your brain will be mush and your body will be sad. 🙁 If you want to feel vivacious, energetic and LIGHT, youll need food to truly get there on a regular basis.
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Depression And Anxiety May Increase A Patients Risk Of Type 2 Diabetes
This 2017 study from Florida and Indiana found that 25 percent of patients with depression and anxiety developed type 2 diabetes within the 10-year period of the study. And concluded that helping patients prevent the development of diabetes should include more adequate treatment and screening for mental health issues.
These findings suggest that screening positive for anxiety is a risk factor for diabetes mellitus in older adults independent of depression and traditional diabetes mellitus risk factors, explained the researchers.
Anxiety requires greater consideration and awareness in the context of diabetes mellitus risk assessment and primary prevention.
Sugar Can Increase Your Risk For Developing Depression
Its hard to avoid reaching for comfort foods, especially after a difficult day.
But the cycle of consuming sugar to manage your emotions may only make your feelings of sadness, fatigue, or hopelessness worse.
Multiple studies have found a link between diets high in sugar and depression.
Overconsumption of sugar triggers imbalances in certain brain chemicals. These imbalances can lead to depression and may even increase the long-term risk of developing a mental health disorder in some people.
In fact, a found that men who consumed a high amount of sugar were 23 percent more likely to receive a diagnosis of clinical depression within 5 years.
Even though the study just involved men, the link between sugar and depression is also found in
to look at how the withdrawal symptoms from sugar can resemble those of certain addictive substances.
Evidence in the literature shows substantial parallels and overlap between drugs of abuse and sugar, explains Dr. Uma Naidoo, whos considered the mood-food expert at Harvard Medical School.
When someone misuses a substance for a period of time, like cocaine, their body goes into a physiological state of withdrawal when they stop using it.
Naidoo says that people who are consuming high amounts of sugar in their diets can similarly experience the physiological sensation of withdrawal if they suddenly stop consuming sugar.
Thats why going cold turkey from sugar may not be the best solution for someone who also has anxiety.
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