The Link Between Sugar And Anxiety
Just as you may eat sugar to lighten your mood when youre feeling blue, you may also eat it to relax when you are feeling stressed or anxious.
In the short term, stress can depress appetite, but chronic stress increases appetite by raising levels of stress hormones and the hunger hormone ghrelin.
Stress also affects food preferences, making you crave sugar, fat, or both.
Thats why no one craves a big salad when theyre stressed out!
Heres how sugar affects blood sugar levels, contributing to anxiety.
Why Quitting Sugar Is So Darn Hard
Are you ready to quit sugar cold turkey? Good luck. Not only is sugar-free food hard to find, but evolutionary and cultural influences come into play, too.
Back when food was way scarcer, our ancient ancestors needed to take every advantage they had to consume high calorie foods. So the human brain evolved to perceive sugarand fatas very rewarding, says Schwartz. Today, our brains are still wired for feast or famine, even though you can buy thousands of calories of food for a couple bucks at the local convenience store.
Schwartz agrees that sugar can cause major health problems, but says it isnt acting alone. The most potent way to activate the brains reward system is actually by combining sugar with fat, he says. And much of the American diet contains both of these components.
Thats why one bite of ice cream never feels like enough and before you know it, youre looking at the bottom of a pint. Or why you find McDonalds french fries so hard to resistthe ingredient list includes both dextrose, an added sugar, and fat in the form of canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil and hydrogenated soybean oil. Dip those fries in ketchup and youre getting even more sugarthis time high fructose corn syrup.
I wouldnt say people become dependent on it in the way they become dependent on a drug, says Schwartz. But for some people, the anticipation of eating something that is highly rewarding becomes an important focus for how they live each day.
Avoid Adding Sugar To Hot Beverages
Adding a few teaspoons of sugar to a cup of tea or coffee might also negatively affect mood. In fact, some research found that participants who consumed more sugar-sweetened beverages had a higher chance of experiencing symptoms of depression.
The average person in the U.S. consumes around 22 teaspoons worth of added sugars every day.
Sugar can be very addictive, as the dopamine that the brain releases when a person eats sugar provides a high, which can become a dependence.
However, many people who completely eliminate sugar from the diet find themselves irritable, moody, and with low energy. Moderation could be key.
Also Check: How Much Sugar Is In Patron Tequila
How To Eat Your Way To A Better Mood
We all have foods we rely on after a rough day, like indulgent mac and cheese or chocolate peanut butter desserts. But according to Rachel Kelly, author of The Happiness Diet , these foods could actually be doing us more harm than good.
Kelly began to think more about how the meals she eats affect her mental health when she visited the doctor five years ago, worried about her persistent anxiety. s I left she asked if had I thought about happy foods, she told us. She said to eat more oily fish, green leafy vegetables, and nice one more dark chocolate. I began to introduce more of these foods and began to feel calmer and happier.
Kelly co-wrote the book, which references more than 150 scientific studies, with nutritional therapist Alice Mackintosh. See their tips for eating good mood foods and avoiding ones that might have a negative effect on your emotions below.
Foods to Avoid
Kelly says that reaching for that caffeinated soda in the afternoon is pretty much a no-no. Aspartame, the artificial sweetener in many colas, contains an amino acid called phenylalanine. In some scientific studies, phenylalanine has been shown to hinder our production of serotonin , Kelly said, meaning the thing youre trying to get a pick-me-up from could actually be bringing you down.
What to Eat Instead
Foods to Add to Your Diet
For an in-between-meals mood boost try the following:
Sugar Zaps Your Brain Power
Your stomach may be telling you to dive in and drink your way out of that jumbo cherry Icee, but your brain has a different idea.
Emerging research has found that diets high in sugar can impair cognitive functioning, even in the absence of extreme weight gain or excessive energy intake.
A found that consuming high levels of sugar-sweetened beverages impaired neurocognitive functions like decision making and memory.
Granted, the research was done on rats.
But a more recent study found that healthy volunteers in their 20s scored worse on memory tests and had poorer appetite control after just 7 days of eating a diet high in saturated fat and added sugars.
While more studies are necessary to establish a clearer link between sugar and cognition, its worth noting that your diet can affect your brain health.
You May Like: How To Test For Blood Sugar Levels At Home
Eating Commercial Baked Goods Is Linked With Depression
Muffins, croissants, pastries, and other commercially prepared baked goods may taste good, but they may also trigger depression. Spanish researchers found that individuals who ate the most baked goods had a 38 percent higher risk of depression than individuals who ate the least number of baked goods. The researchers suggested the intake of trans fats may play a role. This type of unhealthy fat leads to inflammation and increases your risk for cardiovascular disease and heart attack. Its commonly found in commercial baked goods.
Trans fats were banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration . American food manufacturers have until mid-2018 to remove all trans fats from their foods.
You can read food labels to find out if the food youre eating contains trans fats. You can also focus your diet on whole foods that do not contain artificial ingredients like trans fats.
Does Sugar Cause Anxiety
Contrary to what you may have read online, sugar does not cause anxiety. Anxiety is a mental health issue, and it’s very uncommon for a person’s diet to “cause” anxiety. What sugar does do is create changes in your body that may make your anxiety symptoms worse, or cause feelings that trigger anxiety attacks.
Lets explore the latter.
When you suffer from anxiety attacks, you tend to become hypersensitive to your body. You fear your anxiety attacks, and you notice every single time you feel tired, lightheaded, sick, etc. You notice each and every ache and pain, and you notice when you’re not thinking clearly. Every time you notice any of these changes, your anxiety spikes as a result.
Sugar itself doesn’t necessarily cause any of these sensations. But sugar does stimulate various sensations in your body. Glucose – and the insulin released to counter glucose – can cause fatigue, trouble thinking, blurry vision and general ill feelings. For those without anxiety, many of these symptoms go unnoticed. But for those with anxiety, each and every one makes you worry that a panic attack is coming, and that fear increases your likelihood of getting one. Furthermore, sugar consumption may leave you with a stomach ache, if you each too much of it. This experience of physical discomfort can also trigger or worsen your anxiety.
You May Like: What Should My Blood Sugar Be At
If Youre Craving Sweets Heres What To Eat Instead
Just because youre ditching or limiting processed sugar doesnt mean you have to deny yourself the pleasure of sweet-tasting food.
In addition to being a doctor known as an expert on food and mood, Naidoo is also a chef and the author of the forthcoming book This Is Your Brain on Food.
Here are a few of her favorite low- or no-sugar recipes.
Identify Your Unhealthy Craving Pattern
Watch to find out when you are craving sugar. More than likely, you are in a cycle. You probably follow one of the unhealthy sugar craving patterns and knowing your triggers are going to help you change the habit of adding sugar to your diet. Ask yourself:
- Do you tend to choose sweet things as motivation or to boost your energy?
- Do you search out sweets when you are feeling sad or low?
- Do you want a dessert after every meal
You May Like: Will Losing Weight Lower Blood Sugar
What Our Study Adds To The Debate
For our latest study, my colleagues and I put the reverse association idea to the test. We used sugar intake from sweet food and drinks to predict new and recurrent mood disorders in a group of British civil servants. We also investigated whether having a mood disorder would make people more inclined to choose sweet foods and drinks.
We found that men without a mood disorder who consumed over 67g of sugar a day had a 23% increased risk of suffering from a mood disorder five years later, compared with those who ate less than 40g. This effect was independent of the mens socioeconomic status, physical activity, drinking, smoking, other eating habits, body fatness and physical health.
We also found that men and women with a mood disorder and a high intake of sugar from sweet food and drinks were at higher risk of becoming depressed again five years later, compared with those who consumed less sugar. But this association was partly explained by their overall diet.
We found no evidence for a potential reverse effect: participants did not change their sugar intake after suffering from mood disorders.
The Role Of Tryptophan
Tryptophan is an amino acid that is a precursor of serotonin. That means your body needs tryptophan to make serotonin. Tryptophan may also produce a calming effect through interactions that take place within the realm of the gut-brain axis.
Several studies have proposed that low levels of tryptophan can increase hunger and drive food cravings, as well as contribute to symptoms of depression.
A diet with plenty of high-tryptophan foods may be helpful in boosting mood and managing cravings. Tryptophan is naturally found in protein-rich foods such as seafood, eggs, and poultry, and can also be taken in the form of a supplement.
Read Also: When Are You Supposed To Check Your Blood Sugar
Emerging Trends In Substance Misuse:
- MethamphetamineIn 2019, NSDUH data show that approximately 2 million people used methamphetamine in the past year. Approximately 1 million people had a methamphetamine use disorder, which was higher than the percentage in 2016, but similar to the percentages in 2015 and 2018. The National Institute on Drug Abuse Data shows that overdose death rates involving methamphetamine have quadrupled from 2011 to 2017. Frequent meth use is associated with mood disturbances, hallucinations, and paranoia.
- CocaineIn 2019, NSDUH data show an estimated 5.5 million people aged 12 or older were past users of cocaine, including about 778,000 users of crack. The CDC reports that overdose deaths involving have increased by one-third from 2016 to 2017. In the short term, cocaine use can result in increased blood pressure, restlessness, and irritability. In the long term, severe medical complications of cocaine use include heart attacks, seizures, and abdominal pain.
- KratomIn 2019, NSDUH data show that about 825,000 people had used Kratom in the past month. Kratom is a tropical plant that grows naturally in Southeast Asia with leaves that can have psychotropic effects by affecting opioid brain receptors. It is currently unregulated and has risk of abuse and dependence. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that health effects of Kratom can include nausea, itching, seizures, and hallucinations.
Coping With Food Cravings
While you might feel better at the moment, overindulging in sweets to cope with stress has long term physical consequences such as weight gain. There are also emotional consequences. Over time, a high-sugar diet may worsen symptoms of depression .
There are some ways you can learn to cope not only with cravings but what is causing them. Its important to address whats really driving you to reach for a cookie when youre upset so you can better care for your mind and body.
Don’t Miss: What Happens When Your Blood Sugar Drops Too Low
What Does Too Much Sugar Do To Your Body
Scientists now point to the consumption of sugar as one of the biggest threats to human healthincluding mental health.
Its common knowledge that eating too much sugar and processed foods can lead to health problems like obesityandtype 2 diabetes in young adults. But thats not all. As researchers explore the question What does too much sugar do to your body?, theyre drawing new conclusions about sugars negative impact on well-being, learning ability, mood, and overall quality of life.
Recent studies on sugar and mental health have found that consumption of sugar and sugar additives has the following results:
- Reduced cognitive function.
Thats important information for young adults, who tend to consume more sugar than other age groups. According to research by Healthy Food America, individuals between the ages of 20 and 29 have the highest rate of sugar intake than any other demographic.
The Blood Sugar Roller Coaster
Foods with a high glycemic index like sugar, high fructose corn syrup, or wheat cause blood sugar levels to spike.
The body responds by making insulin which causes the blood sugar level to drop.
Lowered blood sugar then causes the adrenal glands to release the stress hormones cortisol, norepinephrine, and epinephrine.
This prompts the liver to release stored sugar to bring blood sugar levels back to normal.
But these hormones, the same ones released when the body is in fight-or-flight stress mode, also ramp up anxiety.
Don’t Miss: Why Is Blood Sugar High In The Morning
Avoid Foods With A Long Shelf
Manufacturers refine foods and add preservatives and additives to extend shelf-life so make sure you avoid processed foods with a long shelf-life.And just to remind you, processed foods are those with a list of ingredients.While whole grains and legumes have a longer shelf life, they dont have an ingredients list, or if they do it only lists that one item!
Sugar And The Dopamine System
There are several reasons that explain sugar’s negative impact on mental health. For one, sugar can wreak havoc on hormone levels as well as blood sugar.
Sugar impacts and dopamine levels. Amber Dixon, dietician, geriatric nurse, and CEO of Elderly Guides, explains, Sugar is a mood-altering substance, which means it can affect your mood, energy levels, and even your ability to focus. Eating sugar, especially in large quantities, triggers the release of dopaminethe brain’s “reward” hormoneand serotonin, which increases your sense of well-being.
Addiction treatment expert Harold Hong, MD says that these neurotransmittersserotonin and dopamineplay a crucial role in regulating mood. An imbalance of serotonin in the brain can absolutely contribute to the development of depression, Dr. Hong says.
When dealing with psychological or emotional stress, the body tends to . Craving carbohydrates, or other sugary foods, can be the brain’s way to self-soothe depressive feelings. This explains why a person might want something sweet to calm their nerves at the end of a tough day.
But unfortunately, these happy feelings don’t last.
Eating sugar can cause levels to climb, Dr. Hong explains. But when cortisol levels are high, they interfere with . The addition of sugarto the body makes bloodsugarlevels fluctuate rapidly. Known as , these fluctuations can trigger emotional disturbances, such as feelings of irritability, anxiety, and fatigue.
Don’t Miss: What Blood Sugar Level Indicates Diabetes
Does Depression Make You Binge On Sugar Or Is It The Other Way Round Its Time To Unveil The Truth And Decode The Connection Between Sugar And Depression
An occasional sugar high after gorging on that bar of chocolate or digging into your favourite tub of ice-cream is perfectly normal, but if you find yourself doing this all the time, your body is giving you signs.
Yes ladies, it means that your mental health needs more attention. You might be anxious about something or suffering from depression, anything is possible. Dont believe us? Read on to find out more.
We all know how food triggers certain emotions in our bodies, right? If we are happy, we celebrate by eating our favourite food, and when we are down and out, we again turn to food. Sadly, all this food we are consuming is processed, as per a study conducted by The British Journal of Psychiatry.
The study goes on to prove that those participants who consume more refined carbs have developed depression over a period of five years. Now thats an eye-opener, isnt it?
This is how sugar invades our system There are two kinds of sugar:
Simple sugar: This type of sugar is found in vegetables, fruits, and nuts. Since it is complemented by other minerals, vitamins and fibres, the body takes time to absorb it.
Processed sugar: This kind of sugar has zero nutritional value, and provides empty calories. It is found in chocolate bars, soft drinks, and it goes straight into our systems.
According to a study published in the journal Science Reports, women are more prone to common mental disorders and depression, caused by increased sugar intake.
Why Do I Crave Sugar 4 Potential Causes
Oscar Wong / Getty Images
Sugar cravings are often caused by imbalances in blood glucose levels. Low blood sugar levels might cause you to crave something sweet in order to bring up these levels. Other factors that can play a role include psychological stress, medications, hormone imbalances, and health conditions.
Its not unusual to crave carbs, sugar, and chocolate when you are stressed or dealing with depression. Cravings can be your bodys way of letting you know its not getting something it needs, such as a specific vitamin or mineral. Having certain cravings, such as for chocolate or other sweets, is also often linked to how you feel emotionally.
You dont have to completely deprive yourself of the treats you enjoy. The key is understanding why you are craving them and making sure that your overall diet is balanced and nutritious.
Learning a little more about the connection between food and mood can empower you to control your cravings rather than letting them control you.
Don’t Miss: How To Take Blood Sugar Test At Home