Your mental health is such an important component of your overall well-being, and eating sugar could be sabotaging your best efforts to reduce stress in your life. Read on to learn about the different ways in which sugar consumption contributes to stress and takes away from your overall mental health.
Sugar Messes with Your Brain
Stress and anxiety go hand in hand, with stress contributing to your anxiety and anxiety increasing your feelings of stress. Eating sugar has been shown to worsen this cycle and contribute to perceived stress and anxiety.
Symptoms of stress and anxiety (including fatigue, difficulty thinking, jitteriness, energy crashes, and stomach ache) are many of the same symptoms of eating too much sugar. In this way, sugar consumption can mirror or exacerbate anxiety symptoms, worsening your overall feelings of stress.
Fortunately, lifestyle changes are one of the key ways to manage anxiety. While sugar isn’t the sole contributor to stress and anxiety, and giving up sugar won’t completely cure anxiety in your life, it is a solid step in the right direction towards managing your mental health.
Sugar and Depression
Depression is another condition that is heavily impacted by stress. Whether your feelings of depression and stress are major or mild, a diet high in sugar may be making things worse. Studies frequently show the link between higher consumption of refined sugars and higher risk of depression and mental illness. Removal of sugar from the diet can decrease this risk while making stress and depression more manageable.
Blood Sugar, Inflammation, and Stress
Eating too much sugar over time contributes to elevated blood sugar and chronic inflammation in the body, which play a role in many diseases and disabilities. Stress actually triggers a similar inflammatory response in the body, leading to a host of inflammation-related problems. Stress and sugar can both suppress the immune system, leaving your body open to attack.
Obesity and Stress
With sugar consumption levels, obesity rates, and perceived stress levels all on the rise, it is important to take a look at the correlation between the three. Studies do show a link between diets high in sugar that lead to obesity and feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression. It’s easy to see how this dangerous cycle is perpetuated – sugar is eaten as a comfort during times of stress, but the added calories lead to unwanted weight gain. This additional weight is a source of stress, which then triggers the desire to consume additional sugar, worsening both the obesity and the stress. Only by breaking the cycle in healthy ways can both stress and weight gain be counteracted for good.
How to Strengthen Mental Health and Build Resiliency
To break unhealthy cycles, manage stress, and regain control of your mental health, some recommended lifestyle choices/changes include:
- Cutting out sugar and other heavily processed foods
- Minimizing alcohol and caffeine
- Moving your body on a regular basis
- Prioritizing the nutrients zinc, magnesium, B vitamins, omega-3s, and probiotics in your diet
- Getting professional help if your stress levels feel unmanageable on your own
- Maintaining a healthy weight (or losing weight if needed)
- Prioritizing healthy sleep, healthy relationships, and healthy hydration
Not only does sugar impact you physically in a number of unwanted ways, it can create and contribute to mental health problems and stress as well. By opting for a sugar-free lifestyle that prioritizes healthful eating and movement, you can strengthen your mental health and build resiliency so you can handle whatever life throws your way.