Do you find yourself feeling waves of anxiety or depression that manifest several times throughout the day? Or do you suddenly get in a bad mood or feel angry around meal times? If so, chances are you are susceptible to food swings! You read that right, I said food swing- a mood swing that occurs simply because you are hungry! Or hangry-whatever!
Hunger and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) are primitive signals known to set off a stress response in the body. In people who are predisposed to hypoglycemia, anxiety and depression can be common symptoms of this stress response. Triggered by drops and fluctuations in blood sugar, anxiety and depression can appear in people who are sensitive and can become chronic if food intake isn’t consistent.
In some ways, humans are built like animals. We were designed to need energy from food. Without that energy, our bodies wouldn’t be able to function properly. Just like animals, we too get very unhappy when blood sugar is low. The feeling of anxiety, anger, irritability etc. is a mechanism that was designed to make finding food a priority. This priority is important as it helps to avoid starvation and provides the energy we need to go on. For humans, low blood sugar can have a very negative effect on mood. While the primitive animal goes into food-finding mode, sometimes our more complex human brain doesn’t realize it is a food issue, and instead simply feels anxious, depressed, angry, or even all three at the same time. Soon we begin to stress about other issues (work, relationships etc.) and the real offender—low blood sugar—is not addressed. In a panic, sometimes a person who is hungry and stressed out might even go for more sugary foods (like sodas, cookies and cakes) which solves the problem momentarily but can cause even greater blood sugar fluctuations and keep the cycle going.
To keep blood sugar levels steady and to avoid any food swings or hangry outbursts, it is important to eat regularly throughout the day- ideally every 2-3 hours. And, as much as possible, it is best to consume balanced meals and snacks that have plenty of protein, fat, and complex carbohydrates. Eating simple sugars, especially when you are hungry, can make things worse. Foods with simple carbs/sugar will spike your blood sugar, which sets off a reaction to activate the hormone insulin. Insulin then tends to drops our blood sugar even lower than when it started, keeping the negative cycle going. If you’re in the mood for a simple carb, pair it with some fat and/or protein to prevent that quick blood sugar drop later!
Ideas for good blood sugar control
- Eat regularly- every 2-3 hours
2. Aim for balance: Meals should include: Protein (wild seafood, grass-fed meats, eggs, beans, cheese). Fat (avocado, nuts, oils, cheese, nut butters). Complex Carbs (brown rice, sweet potato, whole grains bread)
- Include Snacks
-Apple with almond butter, raw nut and seed mix with dark chocolate chips, carrots and hummus
- Reduce the amount of simple carbs, such as cakes, cookies, and breads. Keep these as occasional treats instead of everyday staples.
5. Include fiber-rich foods. Adequate dietary fiber helps blood sugar remain stable by slowing entrance of sugar into the blood stream and prevents crashing.
6. Try Chromium. Small doses of Chromium can prevent blood sugar dips and spikes. 200mcg of Chromium once a day in the morning can help stabilize blood sugar levels.
7. Take B- Vitamins. B-vitamins aid in carbohydrate metabolism and are critical for many other functions in the body. These vitamins are water-soluble and can easily be depleted by stress, carbohydrate consumption and environmental stressors. To make it easy, replace your existing multivitamin with this one . It’s made with food based, methylated B-vitamins which are more easily absorbed.
Written by Kayla Rillie, RD
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