blood sugar and mood by a registered dietitian

Mood Swings and Blood Sugar Spikes, Are They Connected?

Unstable blood sugar levels can lead to poor mental health outcomes including anxiety and depression. 

Is your mood being affected by blood sugar dysregulation? 

If you are feeling symptoms of anxiety and depression, your blood sugar levels could be a reason why.  Many people suffer from mental health conditions and may not realize that their blood sugar could play an important role. 

In today’s article, as a registered dietitian, I will be giving you more insight into how your blood sugar levels could be affecting your mental health.

With the cooler months ahead, I will also be including some information on seasonal depression and what you can do to help!

Blood Sugar Levels + Mental Health

There have been numerous scientific studies that have looked at the connection between high and low blood sugar levels and increased risk for mental health disorders. 

In fact, people with diabetes have been shown to have an increased risk for both anxiety and depression (as much as 2x higher!). 

It has also been shown that consuming foods with high amounts of sugar can lead to unstable moods and depressive symptoms. When we eat these foods our blood glucose rises and remember, what goes up must come down. 

These sugar crashes can become a problem if they are frequently happening in your day-to-day life which could potentially lead to prediabetes or type 2 diabetes. Symptoms of blood sugar fluctuations have been shown to closely mirror mental health symptoms, such as irritability, anxiety, and worry. This makes sense as the brain runs primarily on glucose. 

Reactive hypoglycemia happens after a few hours of eating when your blood sugar drops low. It is more common in those who push through long hours without food, eat at irregular hours, are on a restrictive diet, or whose diet is high in refined, processed carbs. It’s likely the result of your body making too much insulin after a carb-heavy meal. Sometimes your body continues to release extra insulin even after you’ve digested your meal. This added insulin makes your blood glucose level drop below normal.

You may be wondering, how do I know if I have reactive hypoglycemia? 

Here are some common symptoms:

  • Major dips in energy during the day
  • Feeling hungry all day
  • Headaches
  • The need to have snacks all day
  • Become shaky, lightheaded, or get headaches when you don’t eat
  • Having issues sleeping and waking up at night 
  • Anxiety
  • Have health conditions linked to insulin resistance like PCOS. 

What Can You Do About It?

It is clear that managing blood sugar levels can have a positive effect on your mood. 

Below are a few diet and lifestyle changes you can start to implement to help keep your blood sugars stable. 

  • Having structured meal times in place. Aim to have at least 4 hours in between meals. For example Breakfast 8 am, lunch 12 pm small snack at 3 pm, and Dinner by 7. 
  • Start your day with a savory meal that includes healthy fat and protein. Think avocado toast with hemp seed, eggs, or smoked salmon. 
  • Increase intake of protein and fiber. Protein has a low glycemic index (GI), which means they have a low impact on blood sugar levels since they don’t turn to sugar as fast. Fibrous foods are also shown to have a lower GI value when compared to their refined counterparts, think whole grain bread vs white bread.
  • Reduce intake of sweet beverages and refined carbohydrates (cookies, chips, pastries, candy, granola bars). A diet high in refined carbohydrates, including sweet beverages, can lead to spikes and dips in blood sugar. 

Talk to your doctor and additional tests may need to be done. If you are dealing with anxiety and depressive symptoms, look into balancing your blood sugar to see if that helps. 

There are plenty of dietary and lifestyle modifications that you can make to achieve this. If you are looking for support on how to manage your blood sugar and improve your mood, my 12-week program may be right for you. Click here to learn more. 

Also, If you haven’t yet, make sure to check out my article on 3 lunch ideas that are blood-sugar friendly!

Benefits of Vitamin D for Mood + Mental Health

vitamin d and sad

Another way you can support your mood is by making sure your body has an adequate amount of vitamin D. 

There is lots of evidence out there that shows vitamin D has a significant impact on regulating mood and decreasing the risk of depression. 

Do you feel sadness and depression creep in as the weather cools down? This could be a sign of seasonal affective disorder or SAD. SAD is a mood disorder characterized by depression that occurs at the same time every year.

To help combat SAD it is recommended to consider a vitamin D supplement. They are a low-cost and low-risk way to improve your mood and reduce your negative emotions. 

Our body can normally synthesize vitamin D from the sun. But as Fall and Winter rolls around, many of us are getting less than the ideal amount of sunlight. Taking 2000 IU is a safe amount for most people. It is always a good idea to get your vitamin D levels checked to see if you need more or less. Many people need more than the recommended 2000 IU. 

The Takeaway

Your mood and how you feel can dictate many areas of your life -your work, relationships, self-worth, and more.

As a dietitian, I have seen the effects that blood sugar regulation can have on mood and mood disorders. Taking charge of your blood sugar levels can be life-changing.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out!

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