I spend a lot of time discussing the role that excess sugar plays in physical health, particularly in relation to digestive health and Candida. But there is an increasing amount of evidence to suggest that a diet high in natural and added sugars may play a role in psychological disorders too.
In recent times, there has been a marked change in attitudes towards the study of mental health issues. Many research studies have attempted to determine possible triggers for depression and whether this can be prevented. One particularly interesting line of research has explored the link between consuming excess amounts of sugar and depression. We already know that probiotics can affect your mood, but can such a common foodstuff as sugar really be detrimental to your mental health?
Stable Blood Sugar = Stable Mood
Eating large amounts of sugar has been proven to produce uneven peaks of glucose in the blood. Your brain and body depend on an even supply of glucose to function properly, and an imbalance can manifest symptoms including fatigue, dizziness, irritability, insomnia, anxiety, aggressive behavior, and depression. For a clear example of how excess sugar can impact us, look at how large quantities of carbonated drinks and candy can affect the behavior of a child.
Sugar Depletes Your B Vitamins
Another link between depression and sugar is found in B vitamins. Refined sugar, along with many refined carbohydrates like white bread or pasta, is very lacking in terms of nutrients. However, the body requires micronutrients including B vitamins, calcium and magnesium to digest the sugar. If the food you are eating contains none of these micronutrients, you are using up your body’s reserves. This is important because B vitamins are known to be mood-enhancing. When you eat refined sugars, each nutrition-less spoonful depletes your levels of B vitamins further.
Sugar And Chromium
Sugar has also been shown to deplete your body’s supply of chromium, another nutrient that is intrinsically linked to mood. Chromium is needed to keep your blood sugar level stable, which in turn helps the body’s insulin reserves to function properly. It is a vital mineral that we need to maintain a healthy mind and body. Some health professionals even recommend supplementing with chromium to combat depression.
Strategies to Reduce Your Sugar Intake
Whilst these factors can affect any one of us, it is those individuals with depressive tendencies who are even more sensitive to the ways in which sugar can affect mood and behavior. Sugar is so prevalent in the modern Western diet that it can seem almost impossible to avoid. But there are a number of simple strategies to help you track your sugar intake. This can have benefits for your gut health and overall vitality, as well as helping to improve your mood.
- A great place to begin is to keep a daily food diary. Make the conscious effort to document every single meal, snack and beverage you consume throughout the day. Avoid those sugary and unhealthy foods wherever possible. Having a detailed document of your food intake may just lead you to notice patterns of how you felt on a certain day and what foods might have caused or contributed to the change in mood.
- Try to maintain your blood sugar level as best you can. The best ways to do this are to always eat a balanced, nutritious breakfast, and to stick to three meals a day at regular intervals. Aim to consume lots of nutritious foods with low sugar content and plenty of fiber.
- Work to try to actively enhance your body’s beta-endorphin level. This can be achieved through reducing or eliminating sugars and ‘white foods’ in order to prevent the beta-endorphin spikes that result from eating sugar. Undertaking physical exercise and activities such as yoga, dance or even meditation can help too. These physical exertions support the organic production of beta-endorphins in a consistent and steady way, which in turn help to regulate mood and encourage more consistent patterns of behavior.
There may be no miracle cure for depression, but being more aware of the importance of a healthy diet can certainly help. Controlling your sugar intake and restoring balance to your gut flora will not only reduce inflammation and relieve chronic conditions like Candida, it could make you a happier person too! Check out our treatment plan for more information on switching to a healthy, low-sugar lifestyle.