blood sugar, anxiety & hormones

how balancing blood sugar effects your hormones and anxiety symptoms

TRUTH: I used to not eat breakfast. 

There were a lot of mornings when I was in college (and let’s be real, as a newborn mother, too), that I would go past noon before eating anything (sometimes 2pm).  I would drink coffee all morning and then realized as my hands started to shake that I needed to put something in my body other than caffeine.  

These were both times of increased stress, decreased quality of sleep and excessive (or nonexistent) exercise. 

How did I feel during these times: ANXIOUS AF

My first experience with anxiety occurred when I was driving home one day from working as a medical scribe in the ER, when all of a sudden my feet and tongue started tingling.  I had no idea what was going on so I chalked it up to a long shift, and needing food and sleep.  At the time, I was preparing for applying to medical school and had just bought a home with my boyfriend (now husband). 

What was my breaking point:

When I was sitting on the couch one day and realized that half of my face was numb.  And upon closer inspection, my lips wouldn’t move on the same side.  My doctor at the time prescribed me an antiviral and steroid, leaving me with the diagnosis of Bell’s Palsy with an unknown prognosis of when I may regain feeling and control of half of my face. 

I turned my life around in ways you wouldn’t believe that have majorly shaped who I am today.  One of those decisions was saying goodbye to a longtime dream of becoming a surgeon, and opening a new door into the realm of studying Functional Medicine and Nutrition where I learned extensively about how to heal our bodies from the inside, in order to balance the dysfunctions causing our symptoms. 

I can’t tell you I’m anxiety free today (hello breastfeeding), BUT the tingling sensations and loss of neurological function on one side of my face have subsided.  

The Game Changer in My Anxiety Symptoms :

BALANCING BLOOD SUGAR

This has two major components:

The timing of your meals & the quality of your food

You guys.  I totally get the benefit of fasting for the encouragement of apoptosis and cellular vitality in our bodies.  And if a daily fasting regimen works for you and you’ve done your research and you feel great, GO FOR IT! You do you, friend. Biochemical individuality is one of my favorite concepts in the whole world (that and epigenetics – both for another day).

But for me, eating 4-5 balanced meals a day at 2-4 hour intervals made the most drastic improvements to my anxiety symptoms and overall energy.  

Here’s why:

When food enters into your mouth, it begins to be broken down by different workers through out your entire digestive system.  The job of these workers is to get this whole cheeseburger into it’s smallest parts: sugar, protein, and fat. If your meal has a lot of simple sugars (think processed foods), it takes less energy to break down the pieces and the sugars enter your blood stream fast and all at once, giving you the so called “sugar high” followed by the ever so popular crash.  This alone wreaks havoc on your hormone production based on energy needs, but if you are constantly dropping into this high/crash cycle, the excessive reliance on cortisol and adrenaline to pick you back up uses up time, energy, and availability for all the other chemicals in your body – especially those in your brain.  

Cortisol is also known for decreasing the availability of serotonin (the neurotransmitter associated with depression and anxiety when in deficient amounts) by sending it back into the cell it came from, instead of sending it to target tissues to balance mood, regulate social behavior, manage appetite, enhance memory, and stimulate libido. 

By eating real foods with a balance of macronutrients (fat, protein & carbs) and loaded with micronutrients (vitamins & minerals) at regular intervals, your body is able to release the sugar into your blood stream at a slow and steady rate and decrease excessive cortisol production, providing your body with sustainable energy resources to maintain basic tasks (like hormone production and mental processes) as well as maintain adequate levels of neurotransmitters to defeat anxiety. 

So by balancing my blood sugar throughout the day, my body and brain are able to continue to produce the chemicals it needs to stay healthy, mentally and physically.  Who would have thought the timing and quality of foods you ate had such an impact on your mental state. 

Other things that helped me:

Mindfulness Meditations – I love using the body scan meditation on the Calm app as a pleasant reminder to stay in the moment. Depending on my time constraints I will do 5, 10, or 15 minutes. 

Processing my emotions – I realized when something would happen that started to trigger anxiety, I would put it in the back of my head and never truly process it until I absolutely had to…but this provided so much general anxiety that I could never pinpoint what was causing my discomfort at a given time.  Now, when something happens, I set aside time (either immediately or at night when I have quite time) to process through everything by journaling through it (kind of my own therapy)

What are you doing to improve your mental health?  Let me know in the comments!!

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