How Sugar Contributes To Anxiety And Depression
Did you know that eating sugar harms more than just our waistlines?
Sugar-rich foods are ultra-refined carbohydrates that might comfort you for now but are hazardous in the long run.
We have all been there. After a stressful day at work, one thing that we reach out for is a sugary treat- a tub of ice cream or a pack of donuts while we binge on our favorite TV show. As the sugar cravings kick in, the last thing we think is of our health, specifically our mental health.
However, there is plenty of evidence that we should.
According to a 2017 study published at US National Library of Medicine – National Institutes of Health, intake of sweet food and added sugars has been linked with depression. The research confirmed that sugar intake from sugary foods and beverages have adverse effects on long term physiological health.
Sugar linked to Anxiety and Depression- What Research Says
An NCBI 2014 research has found that heavy sugar consumption leads to an increased risk of depression and an increase in symptoms of schizophrenia. (Schizophrenia: A disorder that affects how a person feels, behaves, and thinks.
According to a 2008 study, subjects that binged on sugar and then fasted displayed anxiety. Further, in a 2009 study, the subjects who were fed sucrose as compared to high-oxidant, honey was also more likely to suffer from anxiety.
How Sugar Affects Your Brain And Fuels Depression And Anxiety:
Suppresses BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor)
BDNF, a natural antidepressant stimulates the formation of new brain cells and keep the brain from neurodegenerative diseases.
As you consume sugar or combine it with high fat intake, the BDNF production decreases automatically. Low levels of BDNF lead to various anxiety disorders, depression, obsessive-compulsive orders, and schizophrenia.
Leads to emotional lows and highs
If your idea of coping with stress is a piece of cake, you are sure to know what is sugar rush. While most of the people can get through the rush, there are some who have a hard time dealing with it.
Why does this happen?
After eating sugar, your body releases insulin to absorb excess glucose in the blood and balance the blood sugar levels. This rush creates stress in your body and makes your body work hard to get back to normal levels.
So, this up and down leaves you drained, tired, nervous, sad, and irritated.
Further, if you deal with anxiety and depression, the sugar will worsen them even more.
Causes a serotonin crash
Most of the antidepressant medicines belong to a group known as SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors). These medicines re-circulate the serotonin and keep levels in the brain high. They also act as a neurotransmitter and play an essential role in keeping your mode positive.
However, as you consume sugar, it gives you a serotonin boost. However, the spike is short-lived as serotonin level crashes in an hour or two, and you end up feeling worse.
So, the more you rely on a sugar rush, the harder you fall.
Causes gut inflammation
A 2017 study found that sugar and fructose contribute to a leaky gut, a condition where things not intended to go through the lining of the intestines, goes through it, causing inflammation and immune reaction. Another research conducted in 2017 showed that gut inflammation leads to mood disorders such as anxiety and depression.
Also, a whole area of research known as “the cytokine model of cognitive function” is focused on how inflammation can lead to anxiety and depression.
Not only this, your gut manufacturers 90% of the feel-good neurotransmitter, serotonin; so if your body starts to have a gut problem, it will not manufacture enough of these transmitters contributing to depression and mood disorders.
Leads to high and low blood sugar
Food items with sugar, glucose, and fructose lead to a rise in blood sugar levels. As the blood sugar spikes, your body responds by making insulin, which causes the blood sugar to drop.
The low blood sugar causes adrenal glands to release stress hormones such as cortisol. These hormones release the stored sugar and bring your blood sugar level back to normal.
At the same time, they also trigger panic attacks and lead to an increase in anxiety levels.
Increases the risk of developing depression
Overconsumption of sugar or sweets causes imbalances in certain brain chemicals. These imbalances often lead to depression and also increase the long term risk of developing a mental disorder in some people.
According to a July 2017 research published on Nature, it was found that men who consumed 67 grams of sugar or more are 23% more likely to get diagnosed with clinical depression in five years.
According to research published on the US National Library of Health and Medicine, patients with major depressive disorders tend to exhibit all the features of an inflammatory response.
Eating sugar leads to increased inflammation that later on contributes to fear and anxiety. Not just sugar, diets that are high in sugar, starches or unhealthy fats promote inflammation in the body. Moreover, there are instances, when processed foods contain inflammatory ingredients such as gluten and more.
Leads to the hypoglycemia-anxiety connection
There is an article on Alternative Mental Health that eating sugar can induce anxiety independently of hypoglycemia. (Hypoglycemia is a condition in which the body is unable to regulate blood sugar levels.) However, the symptoms of both are the same including mood swings, restlessness, irritability, and nervousness.
So, if you suspect that your anxiety level is related to hypoglycemia or your blood sugar levels are going low, you must limit the intake of sugar, complex carbohydrates, and unhealthy fats.
What to do next? Quit sugar!
If you find that sugar is contributing to your depression or anxiety, try eliminating it from your diet.
We know we are constantly bombarded with ads and menu of sweet and tasty treats. Even, healthy foods also have high levels of sugar in them. Moreover, it goes by over 60 different names of food labels.
So, the best way to keep you from sugar consumption is to become familiar with nutrition labels. There are times when labels claim no added sugars, but the nutrition panel will show you the exact amount of sugars and carbohydrates in the product.
You can also try eating the foods that stabilize sugar levels or that have a proper amount of healthy nutrients. Try incorporating natural mood boosters and natural sugar alternatives in your diet.
A 2016 research shows, if you modify your diet, the symptoms of general anxiety disorders and hypoglycemia are sure to improve.
However, to start with, eat a nutrient-dense breakfast, tame your sweet tooth, and maintain a healthy weight.
Although the sugar cravings never seem to go, replacing them is sure to give you relief from depression and anxiety issues. Next time, if a low day strikes; forget sugar and look for treats that may lift you.
Remember: Withdrawal of sugar is not easy. It can lead to a series of side effects including panic attacks, fatigue, anger, confusion, and anxiety. There is a chance that an individual can also go in a state of withdrawal.
So, if you plan to quit sugar; don’t go cold turkey. Instead, start reducing it in small amounts, and then increase to larger amounts, as you see fit.