Another Reason to Limit Sugar? It May Aid Anxiety

Throughout the pandemic, doctors have worried that the mental toll of lockdowns, ever-changing guidelines, disrupted routines and worry could cause a “twin pandemic” of mental health problems. America has been under added stress for almost a year. In December, 42 percent of people survey by the U.S. Census Bureau reported depression or anxiety symptoms. That was an increase from 11 percent in 2019.

It will take America a while to recover from the feeling, even when vaccines are widespread, and we can start living a bit more normally. “I don’t think this is going to go back to baseline anytime soon,” said clinical psychologist Luana Marques, at Harvard Medical School. She points out that it can take years for people to get back on track after traumatic events, like after 9/11.

But, if you have been suffering, there are ways to help yourself. We’ve been over a lot of it before. You should take breaks from the news. Reconnecting to family, friends and people in your community can help you feel supported. You should take time to enjoy activities that allow your mind to wander. And, you can try mindfulness activities to ward off stress. But one thing we haven’t written about is the way sugar can impact anxiety.

If you have blood sugar concerns, you avoid eating it as often as possible. But, added sugar is in so many foods you just wouldn’t expect. That’s why it’s always important to read labels.

Your diet cannot cause anxiety. However, a poor diet that is heavy in added sugars can exacerbate the problem. Because glucose can increase feelings of being lethargic, brain fuzziness and physical discomfort, it can feed into your anxiety and amplify it. Your body can interpret these feelings as symptoms of a panic attack and release the corresponding hormones, ratcheting up your feelings of stress. Despite the fact that you aren’t having a panic attack, your body thinks you are.

Studies with rats have repeatedly shown that high-sugar diets cause rats to become more prone to suffer anxiety over time. However, the good news is, studies also show that the damage was somewhat reversible with dietary changes. When the rats stopped eating sugar, they showed fewer symptoms, higher energy levels and subsequently handled stress more easily as time went by. They were not fully recovered, but they were much improved. Of course, these were rat studies, not humans, but the results are heartening.

Stress can make you crave sweet things. That can, in turn, make the anxiety worse. You’ll feel monetarily soothed but, over the long term, be doing more harm than good. If you find yourself in that position. Look for naturally sweet foods that are rich in fiber — like fruit. That can satisfy your sweet tooth without impacting your blood sugar.

Additionally, sugar spikes can cause rushes of emotions linked to depression; you’re on an emotional roller coaster. Keeping your blood sugar even helps keep your mood stable as well. Changes in blood sugar can also upset sleep patterns, causing more anxiety and mood problems.

Sugary foods contribute to mood swings and anxiety. Period,” said Brigitte Zeitlin, RD.

All of these reasons give you even more cause to avoid sugar stick to a healthy diet. Sugary food can be comforting and delicious in the moment. But, in the long run, they impact health in so many different, negative ways. They are better to be enjoyed as something special rather than as a daily part of life!

Banner image: Anna Sullivan via Unsplash
February 15, 2021
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