Imagine you’ve just eaten half a dozen cookies (or brownies or mini cupcakes or whatever your sugar vice is). Not too long after, you start to feel really tired and sluggish, maybe a bit shaky, and perhaps like you need to eat more sugar to keep going. Many of us know this feeling as a blood sugar crash, and this is just one way that sugar can wreak havoc on your system. It’s actually got way more to do with your mental health than you might know.

Sugar is perhaps one of the most impactful foods on our mental health, and usually not in a good way. Yes, your brain feeds on glucose, but it doesn’t actually need plain sugar or simple carbohydrates to get that fuel. Your body is plenty capable of converting protein and fat into glucose and your brain tends to be happier and healthier this way. Plus, not all sugar is created equal – an apple is going to serve your body much differently than a candy bar. Simply put, eating too much sugar or simple carbohydrates can easily throw your brain off track. Here are 7 reasons you should mind your sweet tooth for the sake of your mental health.

Anxiety – When your blood sugar goes up and down, it triggers the release of adrenaline and cortisol into your bloodstream which causes anxiety and panic attacks. 

ADHD – Studies have found that long-term consumption of sugar affects dopamine receptors and can cause problems with attention, hyperactivity, and aggression.

Depression – Many studies have found that sugar consumption raises your risk of depression and this is likely due to sugar causing chronic inflammation, poor gut health, and low brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF.

Bipolar Disorder – We know that people with bipolar disorder are 3x more likely to have type 2 diabetes and that both of these conditions share a common pathophysiology. Blood sugar imbalances can also cause severe mood swings and irritability.

Schizophrenia – Studies have found that sugar consumption can decrease BDNF and increase inflammation, which can worsen outcomes in schizophrenia.

Autism – We know that people with autism have impaired glucose tolerance and low levels of enzymes needed to digest sugars. This can lead to gut dysbiosis and autistic symptoms. 

Alzheimer’s Disease – One study found that people who consume excess sugar are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s. People with type 2 diabetes are also more likely to develop Alzheimer’s. Additionally, Alzheimer’s is associated with impaired glucose tolerance and has even been called type 3 diabetes. 

So that was a lot of bad news, but the good news is that, if you are able to cut out or reduce your sugar intake, you will likely see a big improvement in your mental health. I know – not the sugar! It can feel impossible to reduce your sugar intake. Quite literally, sugar is addictive. However, reducing your sugar intake is totally doable. Focus on small changes and take them one step at a time. With the support of a health coach, it can even be a piece of cake! (pun intended!)

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