Women and the struggle with ongoing negative emotions, brain fog, weight management and ageing too fast… could it be as simple as managing blood sugar levels?
Depression and anxiety is a daily battle, and now the norm for many of us, although it shouldn’t be. We deserve to feel good – at least most of the time.
Our emotions are often there to show us that we need to do some work within, like a navigational system to steer us onto different paths, change our lifestyles, change our relationships, to forgive and let go and to build fortitude.
All the challenges are little gifts (we always see this in hindsight and never when we are going through the experience), this is why I trust in the process of life – it is all happening as it should.
I have experienced a miscarriage which was one of the most difficult experiences of my life. It hits you hard as many of you may know. I started to question so much of my knowledge as an “expert” and that is why female health has become such a passion of mine.
We are here for a short time on earth in this physical form and it is our birth right to live and experience it all. Embrace the hardships and be resistant as possible to the ebbs and flows that lie ahead. By doing this, you remove the expectations that things should always being amazing and perfect, as this is not possible. Let that go.
So what can we do NOW, physically, to deal with the ongoing negative emotions?
I want to start off with the lowest hanging fruit – one thing that I have seen work over and over, and perhaps it is the most transformative and safe strategy – that is blood sugar control.
A growing body of evidence suggests a relationship between mood and blood sugar, or glycaemic highs and lows. Symptoms of poor glycaemic (glucose) regulation have been shown to closely mirror mental health symptoms, such as irritability, anxiety, and worry.
How does blood sugar regulation work?
Every time you eat your blood sugar rises, which is then naturally brought down by the hormone insulin as it works to take the blood sugar into your body’s cells to be used for energy, or signaling the liver to store blood sugar for later use.
When there is an irregularity in glucose or blood sugar highs, which usually occurs after a meal that is high in sweet or starchy food, there is then an opposite drop or crash which is when you reach or crave the next thing that will spike it.
The unhealthy high and low effect makes it difficult for insulin to do its work, leading to an increased level of insulin in the blood, more fat storage and long term damage.
How does sugar affect mood?
- Sugar is highly addictive and affects your dopamine levels – you feel good when you have your sugar hit, but only for a little while until you need another hit.
- Depression is twice as common in women, it’s also twice as common in people with diabetes, and blood sugar problems are worse in depressed people with diabetes.
- Sugar increases inflammation which is shown to lower mood and lead to all-day insulin spikes which affects your mood negatively.
- High sugar diets lower BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor) levels in the part of the brain that creates memory and helps you manage your emotions.
- Sugar promotes weight gain. We all know what this does to our mood and our self-confidence.
- Sugar affects your sleep. This is perhaps the one area we all need to invest in – good quality sleep. If we don’t get enough sleep we will feel 100% off, we won’t deal with stress, we will crave more sugar and we will feel more overwhelmed. It is NB to rest your body and mind.
One of the largest studies to date, looking at sugar intake and its effect on mood, (the Whitehall II study in the UK, involving 10,308 individuals) showed that consuming more sweet food and beverages was associated with a 23% greater risk of depression, independent of other health behaviours or sociodemographic factors (Knüppel, 2017).
In addition to mood issues, the consequence of these spikes and crashes is a domino reaction of inflammation and aging, leading to symptoms like wrinkles, acne, cravings, chronic fatigue, weight gain, insomnia and infertility.
How can nutrition and lifestyle make a difference?
The good news is this does not have to be your reality. I have seen and experienced first-hand what the power of nutrition and lifestyle can do.
Scientific studies show us that we should all care about our glucose levels, and all the time. 80% of people who don’t have diabetes experience glucose spikes every day after eating, it is just about managing it.
My approach is to always start with your diet to bring it back to a whole-body-balance, working with the gut-brain axis (GBA), the communication between the central nervous system of the brain and your stomach or gut, eating in a way that supports our gut microbiome.
The best food is REAL food. A diversity of vegetables, fruits, fermented foods and good quality protein and fats, with the following targeted changes:
- Simply, and first and foremost, cut out any sugar and processed foods. Research conﬁrms that you can repair your insulin receptors in 72 hours.
- Stop snacking between meals
- Start your day with protein and good fat
- Know that if you eat junk you will feel it
- Take berberine before meals. What is berberine? See below.
- Make sure you have a good vitamin B12 and magnesium intake
- Look at the adaptogen ashwagandha, to help regulate cortisol, sleep, mood and hormones.
Along with diet, look at these lifestyle changes:
- Move or exercise, it is the most effective and safe antidepressant
- Upgrade your sleep, this is everything
- Read and listen to people that inspire, motivate and change your perspective. We have access to books, podcasts and endless resources.
Berberine – your secret weapon for blood sugar control
Berberine, a naturally-occurring yellow plant extract with a long history of medicinal use in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, is a potent AMPK (adenosine monophosphate protein kinase) activator in the body and quite commonly called the ‘metabolic master switch’.
Berberine helps to:
- Regulate blood sugar levels
- Reduce the markers of insulin resistance and growing insulin receptors.
- Helps reset PCOS (often linked to insulin resistance)
- Helps with cholesterol levels
- Balance waist-to-hip ratio
- Help balance female sex hormones
- Supports healthy gut bacteria
- Helps treat or prevent fungal, parasitic and bacterial infections
- Helps support a healthy inflammatory response
It is also interesting to note that the primary mode of action for metformin, the pharmaceutical medication for diabetes, is the activation of AMPK.
There are a number of berberine supplements in the market but they may have limited results because of their absorption. I currently take and recommend Natroceutics Berberine Complex because of its super effective bioavailability.
A final note on glucose spikes – our body’s way of dealing with glucose spikes is to store the excess glucose in our fat cells which makes us more susceptible to weight gain.
So, no spikes = better mood and effortless weight management.
Consider these very real facts about blood sugar when optimising your health, now and long term.
Further reading If you are up for a sugar ‘detox’, take a read through my blog MY 30-DAY SUGAR DETOX CHALLENGE with a free downloadable guide.