Blood Sugar and Mood
Have you ever considered how what you eat affects your mood? Ever eaten a big bowl of pasta and felt energized, elated or even a little bit hyper? Or forgotten to eat lunch and started to feel depressed, angry or irritable? This is because our mood (and energy, which is closely tied to our mood), is directly affected by the ups and downs of our blood sugar.
What is Blood Sugar?
Blood sugar, also called glucose, is fuel that the body extracts from the foods that we consume. Glucose is an important source of energy for the body, and fuels many of its major systems.
So how does glucose enter the body? In a nutshell, when we eat carbohydrates our pancreas is triggered to begin releasing insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps usher glucose into the muscles and the liver to be used as energy whenever we need it. When our body’s need to free up energy a hormone called glucagon tells the liver to release glucose back into the bloodstream.
It seems like a perfect system. It functions very well when we eat a balanced diet and don’t overload our system with refined carbohydrates. But what happens when someone’s diet is high in sugar and refined carbs and low in healthy protein and fat? Well, the blood sugar roller coaster begins..
What is blood sugar roller coaster?
Having a balanced diet results in the release of a slow and steady supply of glucose into our bloodstream. I imagine it to be like a trickling creek. When a diet is high in refined or simple carbohydrates, the bloodstream is flooded with sugar. Think a raging river! This bombardment of blood sugar triggers the pancreas to release a huge amount of insulin to move it out of your bloodstream and into your tissues. However, once the blood sugar has been absorbed, you can actually experience a bit of a blood sugar low and feel hungry again.
Now, let's talk about this in terms of mood and energy. Say that you eat a big bowl of sugary cereal for breakfast (very little, if any, protein or healthy fat). You will notice a surge in energy and an improvement in mood. You are essentially on a bit of a sugar high! However, once that blood glucose is gone and you experience a blood sugar low, you are left feeling hungry, grouchy, and most likely craving foods. Oh, and not healthy food. When in a blood sugar low most people don’t crave a kale salad with chicken on top. They reach for something refined that will send their blood sugar through the roof again!
Being on the blood sugar roller coaster long term can cause a host of health issues. Insulin sensitivity and weight gain are common. But here I am focusing on mood. Depression, anxiety, brain fog, and inability to focus are common behavioural symptoms of blood sugar dysregulation.
Balancing blood sugar is especially important for children whose behaviour is even more overtly tied to the foods that they consume. Many parents come to me to address hyperactivity with their children. They are giving dietary changes a try in a last-ditch effort before putting them on medication. When we balance the child’s blood sugar levels most parents are shocked at what a remarkable difference it makes in focus and concentration!
How to get off the blood sugar roller coaster?
Getting off the ups and downs of the blood sugar roller coaster is a crucial for adults and kids alike. Improved mood, reduced anxiety, increased focus and sustained energy are just a few of the amazing benefits of regulating blood sugar.
If you think that you may be in need of blood sugar support, I highly suggest meeting with a nutritionist who will provide you with dietary, supplement and lifestyle recommendations that are specific to your individual needs.
To get you started on balancing your blood sugar I leave you with 3 simple recommendations!
1 – Remove added sugars from your diet. What are added sugars? Sugars that have been put into your foods during preparation (think adding sugar to cereal or processed peanut butter) or added at the table (think adding sugar to your coffee or sprinkling it on top of your oatmeal.
2 – Eliminate refined carbohydrates from your diet. Refined carbohydrates are anything that no longer represents the grain in which they were made from. These are fragmented and altered products, which are man-made, packaged or boxed. Examples of refined carbohydrates include breads, crackers, cereals, pastas and processed foods. Typically, the more refined a food, the higher the sugar content.
3 - Eat healthy protein and fat with every single meal! This will slow the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream, giving time for the appropriate amount of insulin to be released and reduce the highs and lows of the blood sugar roller coaster.
If it sounds like you might be riding the blood sugar roller coaster please contact me to schedule a free 15 minute discovery nutrition call. During this complimentary consultation we will discuss your main health concerns and determine whether my Holistic Nutrition services are right for you. I look forward to hearing from you!