Optimum Mental Health Step 3 REBALANCE

Optimum Mental Health Step 3: REBALANCE

REBALANCE is part of my four-step plan to optimum mental health.

Sub-optimal mental health can be driven by a multitude of different factors and, even if someone’s symptoms present the same as another person, they can have very different root causes.

My personalised programmes are designed to delve deeply into addressing biochemical imbalances which may be contributing to anxious or depressive symptoms, frequently beyond the scope of mainstream healthcare. I always aim to leave no stone unturned in my quest to help clients feel better!

Although there are many possibilities, needing to rebalance body systems is a common presentation in clinic and they can broadly fit into the following interlinked categories – hormones, neurotransmitters, gut health & inflammation.

Today I am going to talk about the hormone INSULIN and how BLOOD SUGAR imbalance can contribute to poor mental health.

REBALANCE your blood sugar

Being told that sugar is bad for our health is nothing new – there have been numerous public health messages telling us to limit our intake. Not only does it contribute to the obvious things like obesity and dental decay, but excessive sugar intake can also have much wider health implications such as immune dysfunction, inflammation, and poor mental health.

But I avoid cakes, chocolates and biscuits….

Unfortunately, sugar is everywhere, and we must be quite careful to avoid it. Food manufacturers know that we really like sugar, and we will crave it, like any other drug, which means we are likely to consume more of their products! So, even if you refrain from the obvious things like chocolate, biscuits, and sweets, you are likely to be exposed to lots of hidden sugars if you are not vigilant.

Some of the common offenders for hidden sugars are:

  • Cereals and cereal bars
  • Pasta sauces
  • Soups
  • Salad dressings
  • Anything labelled low fat such as yogurts

What happens when we eat excess sugar?

Your body finds sugary foods the easiest type of food to digest – there is no hard work needed to extract the energy from the food, and consequently sugar arrives in your blood more rapidly. However, your body dislikes lots of sugar in the blood and it must act fast to get it safely into your cells, either for immediate use or packed up into fat storage for use another time.

It does this by releasing the hormone insulin, which is required to aid the transport of sugar out of your blood and into your cells. Your body will always try to release the appropriate amount insulin relative to the appropriate amount of sugar in the blood – i.e., high blood sugar = high compensatory insulin release.

However, an elevated insulin release causes the glucose to leave your blood too rapidly, leaving you with symptoms of low blood sugar, such as fatigue, irritability, feeling hungry and experiencing cravings for stimulants. We then tend to desire the same foods again and so the pattern continues and is often referred to as the blood sugar rollercoaster.

How is this relevant to my mental health?

Glucose (aka sugar) is the primary fuel for your brain, and it requires a constant and steady supply to function correctly. Being on the blood sugar rollercoaster means that you are experiencing plummets in your blood sugar throughout the day. Your brain deems this as a stressful event and will send out stress signals, such as cortisol and adrenaline, to alert the body that supplies are limited, which can ultimately trigger anxious episodes.

Although it is often thought that people eat sugary, comforting foods because they are depressed, it has more recently been demonstrated that eating such foods over time can directly trigger depression in its own right. This might be due to sugar exerting an inflammatory action on the body, affecting the synthesis of neurotransmitters such as serotonin. This might also be why people with type 2 diabetes, driven by excessive sugar intake, have double the risk of suffering from depression.

What can I do about it?

It is a good idea to think about how much sugar you are eating throughout the day, especially if you are prone to mood disorders.  Take time to double check food labels, remembering that sugar isn’t always labelled as sugar. Hidden sugars usually end in ‘ose,’ and the nearer the start of the ingredient list they are, the larger the amount present. Examples include sucrose, dextrose, maltose, fructose, lactose, and glucose.

Here are a few more tips:

  • Swap white bread and pasta to wholegrain varieties and opt for brown rice over white.
  • Avoid regularly eating cakes, sweets, and biscuits.
  • Avoid drinking fruit juices, fizzy drinks, and squashes, especially between meals.
  • Choose a piece of fresh fruit or a small square of quality dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa) if you fancy something sweet.
  • Avoid low-fat processed products, such as yoghurts and cereal bars – these often have more sugar to compensate for taste.
  • If you don’t suffer from high blood pressure, liquorice and peppermint tea tastes very sweet and is an effective choice for curbing a sweet tooth after a meal. 

Don’t forget to check out my other blogs on Step 1 NOURISH, Step 2 REST, and Step 4 RECONNECT to compliment this blog and, if you’d like to have a chat about how I might be able to help with personalised support for optimum mental health, then book in a free exploratory call with me.

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