Sugar and Mood: White Flour, Processed Food, Obesity, and Emotional Distress
If mood shifts interfere with your life, the food you eat can make it better or worse. Nutrition can sometimes remedy mental health problems. Some with mental health labels have problems with toxicity or nutrient deficiencies. These people might benefit from vitamins from a health food store, but most people with mental health labels can simply learn about sugar and mood.
Sugar is a powerful, addictive, mood altering drug, for everyone, not just people with troubling mood swings. How extreme and abrupt your mood changes are is largely controlled by the amount of sugar in your blood, and whether the level changes suddenly or gradually.
Dramatic Evidence of Sugar and Mood
Think of children at a birthday party gorging on cake, candy, and ice cream. The sugar in their bodies and brains suddenly shoots way above normal. They get wild and crazy and energetic for a while. Then, the body over-produces insulin to absorb all that sugar and mood problems follow. Blood and brain sugar drop abruptly. The children get cranky and irritable, and their parents take them home.
The same happens to adults, only our reactions are more contained.
You can measure the effect of blood sugar precisely with a lab test called the “fasting blood sugar.” The person fasts overnight, then the lab draws blood and tests the sugar level. The person then drinks a concentrated glucose (sugar) solution.
By repeating blood sugar tests every hour, as the blood sugar shoots up, then falls abruptly when the body over-produces insulin to absorb it, observing mood and energy changes, having the person describe his or her feelings, the relationship between sugar and mood is obvious and measurable.
Avoiding peaks and valleys in blood sugar levels through the day will keep your mood changes smooth and gradual. Healthy snacks between meals keep your moods even; sugary snacks make them worse.
Sugar Is Everywhere
Americans eat an average of 9 teaspoons of sugar a day, sprinkled in coffee, sugar, fruit, and cereal. It’s an ingredient in most infant formula and processed food – anything that comes in a box, can, or wrapper, the US Department of Agriculture says.
In tiny print, sugar is listed in the ingredients under neutral-sounding names like, glucose, fructose, corn syrup, manitol, and sorbitol. The USDA estimates the average American eats 200 tons of sugar in a lifetime. Sugar and mood are strongly linked.
The body also absorbs alcohol and processed flour (white bread, pasta, starches) as glucose — sugar. Even packaged “whole wheat bread” contains white flour.
Overeaters Anonymous does not prescribe a diet, but tells all its members to “abstain” from sugar and white flour.
If you eat sugar, you’re probably addicted to it, Dr. Mercola’s newsletter, DrMercola.com, says. It triggers an addictive reaction through the pleasurable dopamine and opioid systems in the brain.
These chemical reactions are amplified by our early childhood associations with sugar and mood in comfort food: the cookies and cakes our mothers baked, sugary cereals, and sweet snacks, ice cream, and candy bars.
Stabilizing Sugar and Mood
The way out, for some people, is cold turkey. Eat only meat, fish, and dark green vegetables, nothing that comes in a box or package. The health risks of artificial sweeteners are serious in large quantities long term, but Stevia no-calorie sweetening products have been in use for decades overseas with no bad effects.
If you deprive your body of sugar, starches, and white flour, your body will start burning fat for energy, instead of sugar, in a few days to a week. You can tell if your body is burning fat with a “keto-stick” from the drug store dipped into your urine. If the stick turns blue or purple, you’re burning fat. If it doesn’t, too much sugar in some form got into your system.
How much fat, or how many calories you, eat, makes no difference. Eat all you want of the right things.
Low Sugar and Weight Loss
Dr. Robert Atkins, a Manhattan cardiologist who specialized in weight loss among wealthy, glamorous, weight-obsessed New Yorkers, published the first of many low sugar diet books in 1972. He explains the sugar cycle in layman’s terms.
Research has confirmed what Dr. Atkins observed in his patients. Hard to realize now how hysterically doctors reacted when Atkins first told people to eat all the fatty, high cholesterol foods they loved, and count carbohydrates (grams of sugar) instead of calories and cholesterol.
Rumors that Dr. Atkins died from his own diet are false, self-serving, and malicious, according to the NY Times’s website, although some problems have been reported with liver metabolism or cholesterol levels.
Dr. Robert Shochet, head of family medicine at Johns Hopkins, said he prescribes low-carb diets for his patients because they like it and are more likely to stay with it. Diets that require you to feel hungry, deprived, and guilty are unsustainable, he says.
When your body starts burning fat instead of sugar, you lose your craving for sugary treats, and enjoy a steady, slightly elevated mood.