A growing body of evidence suggests a link between blood sugar levels and mood. According to existing data, depression affects a huge number of people with diabetes, who are more susceptible to unstable blood sugar levels. And this is not a surprise, because the brain runs mostly on glucose.
Poor glycemic regulation is often reflected in various mental health symptoms, such as anxiety and irritability. The symptoms may appear often, and sometimes they can signal depression, but sometimes they are nothing more than your brain warning you to check your glycemic regulation. In this article, we’ll review the established connections between mood and unstable glucose levels, with the goal of better understanding our mental health.
The Science behind It
Insulin receptors in the brain’s emotional regulation centers assist the cells in using glucose for energy. An experiment on mice showed that when the receptors are removed, anxiety and depression occur.
Also, insulin can elevate some hormones linked with the stress response. On the other hand, insulin resistance may impair negative responses on the stress hormone pathways. These processes produce a cycle between increased stress and insulin dysfunction. In simpler words, insulin resistance can cause an abnormal stress response and thus lead to depression.
Monitoring Blood Sugar Levels and Mood Changes
The connection between mood and blood sugar is best established using continuous glucose monitoring to get real-time feedback. This way, we can not only assume but know that blood sugar levels can contribute to altered mood or feelings of anxiety. The main benefit of this knowledge is that identifying those patterns can push you to make lifestyle changes that can prevent the development of anxiety and depression.
The impact of blood sugar fluctuations on our mood is only natural because continuous highs and lows can cause a lot of physical and emotional stress. This can go beyond confusing emotions, and it is associated with chronic fatigue and even depression.
Highs and Lows and Their Consequences
Hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, is linked with feelings of anger and sadness. On the other hand, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) is associated with nervousness and anxiety. However, diabetics are not the only ones susceptible to these fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Non-diabetics that consume high amounts of added sugars and refined carbohydrates are also at risk. Furthermore, glucose instability can alter certain hormonal responses like cortisol, epinephrine, and adrenaline which can lead to anxiety-inducing symptoms such as shaking, sweating, mood swings, blurred vision, and crankiness.
Diabetes and Depression — What’s Different?
Since a large percentage of diabetics suffer from depression, we must wonder: are the symptoms different for them? Well, coping with a chronic disease like this is, naturally, overwhelming. However, common symptoms of depression are pretty much the same: inability to concentrate, loss of appetite, feeling lethargic, binge eating, insomnia, feeling isolated, being anxious, having suicidal thoughts, and no longer finding pleasure in activities you once enjoyed.
What’s different for diabetics is that poor disease management can cause symptoms similar to those of depression.
Diet Is a Significant Factor
So far, limited research shows that anxiety reduction is possible by switching from refined carbs — which can raise glucose levels — to a diet rich in healthy fats, vegetables, fruit, proteins, seeds, and legumes.
There is also a possible link between insulin resistance, inflammation, and mental health symptoms. It is found in microorganisms that live in our digestive tract. A diet that leads to obesity can also cause different conditions, such as anxiety, depression, decreased insulin, and abnormal microbiomes.
Lifestyle Habits That Stabilize Blood Sugar
Treating mental health problems is important, and it’s best to visit a therapist if you are experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety. However, you may rule out alternative causes by changing your lifestyle and stabilizing your blood sugar levels.
Stress can harm glucose regulation because of the hormonal changes that happen during both acute and chronic stress. The key to good stress management is practicing your emotional strength. Some of the things you can do to gain control over your emotions are exercising, connecting with people, avoiding stressors, avoiding unhealthy habits, having some “me time,” and trying to nurture a positive outlook on life.
Eat More Protein and Fiber
We’ve already mentioned that protein has a low impact on blood sugar levels, while fiber also has a lower glycemic index compared to refined foods.
Reduce Your Intake of Refined Carbs and Sweet Beverages
A diet high in refined carbohydrates is your greatest enemy. Not only that it can lead to various health problems, including diabetes, increased cholesterol, high blood pressure, and obesity, but it can also increase the risk of depression, mood swings, and anxiety. So, best stay clear of refined carbohydrates and sweet beverages.
Recognizing the risks of diabetes, poor diet, and blood sugar fluctuations is essential to identifying the health problem you are facing and treating it accordingly. Hopefully, this will bring you some clarity. If your troubles persist, don’t hesitate to consult your doctor.
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