High Anxiety, When Sugar Falls.
I’d like to talk a bit about anxiety. Not so much about the external factors that help to create or worsen it: environmental toxins and other stressors; social interactions and relationships; hereditary and developmental effects; early life and present day trauma.
Nor even the many different methods used to try and manage what can potentially become a chronic and debilitating issue.
This is not going to be about the pharmaceutical products – or supplements – some of which can be exceedingly helpful.
And it won’t be an attempt to give a step by step prescription as to how to eradicate anxiety with just 3 simple rules.
What I want to do, really, is talk a little about the manner in which the degree of anxiety experienced by a person isn’t always entirely dependent upon the stressful nature of their particular life circumstances.
Why anxiety can become something which appears to come and go for no apparent reason – or to simply be there in the background constantly – regardless of how stress-free a persons life might appear to be (relative to the difficulties faced by others), according to some kind of objective measuring stick.
It’s probably true that susceptibility to chronic anxiety is – one way or another – always going to be related to some kind of interaction with environmental factors, including many different kinds of traumatic early life experiences as well as a variety of other stressors.
It’s equally true, however, that feelings of anxiety can not really be understood independently of the particular physiological condition of the individual, and sometimes it is these factors which have the most potential to be tweaked in a manner which can help to create a certain amount of buffering against stress.
Contrary to many popularly held belief systems of the day, there is a large amount of experimental evidence pointing to the relationship between the biological effects of exposure to stress (upon the ability of metabolism to function in an optimal fashion), and the manner in which this can feed into a kind of inhibitory harm avoidance/ learned helplessness state of which anxiety and social phobia is a part.
The substances which rise under stress – including cortisol and adrenalin, as well as serotonin and estrogen – powerfully interact with each other in such a way as to suppress thyroid metabolism and energy systems, whilst at the same time interfering with the natural production of the protective hormones (for example progesterone), known to impact upon brain function.
The more stress one is exposed to – especially, but not exclusively, at an early stage of life – and once these processes are set in motion, it becomes easier and easier for this metabolically suppressed state to become self-perpetuating.
It can eventually get to a point where it becomes far more difficult to avoid triggering an anxiety response, regardless of whether circumstances can objectively be seen to be stressful or not, perhaps even in a way which appears to be unrelated to external factors.
Of course on some level, the reasoning behind the argument that eventually, exposure to less and less stressful circumstances will be able to set off an anxiety response – perhaps even a panic attack – is a little bit circular. One of the reasons for this is because some of the factors which can promote anxiety – such as serotonin for instance – are also likely to impact upon the perception of events, possibly increasing a sense of fear or imminent danger.
This is not only true in relation to social hardship, but applies also to anything which might be considered stressful in a biological sense, regardless of the fact that others may have a system which still manages to function in such a way as to enable far greater resilience to what may logically appear to be greater degrees of stress.
Things which interfere with blood sugar regulation, such as exposure to bacterial toxins as well as the polyunsaturated fats, are known to fuel rising levels of cortisol and serotonin (and the numerous other inflammatory substances) which feed anxiety.
When the capacity for glycogen storage is diminished, and when levels run low – often in the face of increased sensitivity to stress – cortisol (and adrenalin) is released as a means to providing alternate fuel, which then further promotes the kind of inflammatory catabolic conditions which can lead to a serotonin and estrogen dominant anxiety inducing state.
Many symptoms of what is commonly referred to as PTSD can also be seen to be in many ways, directly connected to an increased cortisol (and other stress substance) response in relation to chronic or acute stress, damaging and interfering with the proper functioning of the brain and other organs.
With all of this in mind, it’s easier to see why sugar restriction is probably one of the worst dietary strategies for dealing with anxiety and the many other mood related issues which often go hand in hand.
In fact, simple white sugar can be used as part of a therapeutic strategy attempting to reverse – or at the very least minimise – the processes which are in play behind a chronic anxiety related condition. The same processes which make it more and more difficult to return to a thyroid driven metabolism, thereby enabling a lessening of nervous system over-stimulation.
That’s not to say that this is, by any stretch a black and white scenario, and that all you need to do is increase your intake of white sugar and then all will be rosy.
There are lots of possible variations to diet and lifestyle – many of which have been discussed in previous articles – that might need to be experimented with in order to see significant and lasting results.
In some ways they all relate to an attempt to redirect away from a stress metabolism – towards improvements in energy system performance – and the inclusion of sufficient sugar consumption often plays a large part in this transition.
Increased intake of sugar – in combination with sufficient consumption of easy to digest protein and nutrients (sodium and magnesium for example) – even if it is just for as long as it takes to allow for the settling down of a stressed and over-excited nervous system, can be something which makes the difference to conditions which are only becoming normalised due to increasingly common ‘abnormal’ circumstances of chronic and acute stress.
This kind of approach can also help to create the opening sometimes required in order to allow for a range of other approaches to anxiety reduction and avoidance to become accessible.
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