Sugar Makes Everything Sweeter.
We live in a stressful world, and the stress we’re exposed to creates stress in the body. The stress in the body can then cause more stress in the body, and this can impact upon how stressful the world seems to be. Which means we can be very stressed, even at times when things aren’t necessarily that stressful. It can become a vicious circle.
The truth is you can’t separate body from mind. Your thoughts have a powerful impact on your body, and things that effect the function of your body also have an effect on your thoughts, whether you’re aware of it or not.
People react very differently to similar kinds and degrees of stress, and although it is probably not possible for this to be measured in a scientifically precise manner, there is plenty of good evidence which shows why it’s not just a matter of wrong thinking versus right thinking.
“In trying to replicate prior findings on “rates of resilience” surrounding spousal loss, divorce, and unemployment…findings consistently differed across all life adversities…we believe that it will be much more productive to focus scientific efforts on trying to learn from those who do function relatively well in the face of adversities, and harness what is learned toward expediently helping those who falter…”
One thing we can be pretty certain about, is that stress and adversity are an unavoidable part of life. Because life necessarily involves risk, it’s important to be able to notice when something is potentially harmful or dangerous, otherwise you might forget to move your hand away from the fire or run away from the dragon.
It’s also important to be able to recognize when you need to eat or drink, or warm up or cool down, so we have inbuilt ways to determine that as well.
On top of that, we’ve evolved to have mechanisms which protect us from low sugar availability and stress, promoting survival during times of famine and hardship, enabling us to return to more optimal function when conditions go back to normal. This is true for the whole system, but it is especially important for the brain.
“The mammalian brain depends on glucose as its main source of energy. In the adult brain, neurons have the highest energy demand, requiring continuous delivery of glucose from blood. In humans, the brain accounts for ~2% of the body weight, but it consumes ~20% of glucose-derived energy making it the main consumer of glucose…”
“Glucose cannot be replaced as an energy source [for the brain] but it can be supplemented, as during strenuous physical activity when blood lactate levels are elevated or during prolonged starvation when blood levels of ketone bodies are elevated…”
But things have gone a bit haywire in recent times. Our bodies and minds are being stimulated and injured in a multitude of new ways, which ends up adding to the stress load and interfering with the proper performance of emergency signalling systems.
The negative effects of ongoing interference with metabolic function tend to accumulate, and things can eventually reach a point where the body is in a constant state of emergency, even when there is no objective immediate threat.
Early life trauma has been demonstrated to have a long term impact upon the response of the body to stress (and susceptibility to disease), and the changes in the system can be difficult to reverse without an awareness of some crucial yet often misexplained biological processes related to the stress response, as well as ways to turn it down.
“Adverse conditions in early life are thought to have far-reaching implications for adult health and survival. In humans, the strongest evidence…from studies…link early adversity to…cardiovascular disease, schizophrenia and type II diabetes in adulthood.”
One way to lower stress and improve the way things work is by changing the way you think. But that can be difficult (if not impossible) to achieve, especially when you’re stuck in a chronic and inflamed state of stress. When you’re in that kind of state, no matter what you do it often seems as though you never really get anywhere. Like your brain just keeps coming back to where it was previously, and all your efforts are a complete waste of time.
And you’re probably not just imagining it. It really is a case of ‘one step forward, two steps back’. When you’re in a chronic state of physiological stress – what might otherwise be a small thing can set off a powerful nervous system reaction.
During times like this the energy you expend on thinking (about how stressful your thoughts are) and the effort taken to try and make it stop, can end up being a big part of what’s helping keep stress levels high.
Knowing ways to cut short or limit the stress reaction with food can be a powerful way to settle down an over-excited brain, as lack of energy availability promotes excessive brain stimulation making it difficult to relax.
“…findings suggest that sucrose feeding may attenuate stress…The brain is the most important site where glucose is used. If a massive amount of glucose is consumed in the brain during stress, therefore, it is possible that feeding a high-sucrose diet contributes to counteracting stress.”
Even though when it comes to cutting a stress reaction short sugar is fundamental, a lack of sugar in the diet is not the only thing driving stress. There are a number of factors which cause problems in the system and can interfere with the brain, and they aren’t necessarily that difficult to improve or fix. Taking a look at digestion will almost always be fruitful.
Too much bacteria in the intestines can seriously impede physical and emotional resilience to stress. There is a powerful relationship between bacterial endotoxin and other inflammatory stress substances – like cortisol, estrogen, serotonin and nitric oxide – and this relationship is central to the creation of conditions which increase susceptibility to stress, and can be part of what results in a heightened sensitivity to stressful thoughts.
“Endotoxin-administration in human subjects…induces specific dose-dependent symptoms…at lower doses…symptoms such as…reduced appetite, and cognitive impairment occur…These symptoms are similar to symptoms seen in idiopathic depression…”
When the stress substances are systemically high for too long, events that would not normally be perceived as stressful or dangerous, can cause reactions that are arguably unnecessary and avoidable, often appearing from the outside to be somewhat irrational and disproportionate.
“There is now a growing consensus that serotonin acts at multiple sites to contribute to stress-induced HPA axis activation…Depression has long been linked to dysregulated HPA axis function…the increase in cortisol was significantly related to the increases in ratings of anger and depression…”
“…study showed a modest but significantly higher 1-hour cortisol awakening response among anxiety patients, which was driven by those with panic disorder with agoraphobia and those with comorbid depression.”
“…miscellaneous stressors trigger a wide spectrum of alterations in hormonal and neuronal physiologies, resulting in behavioral (anxiety and depression disorders, diminished food intake and gastrointestinal dysfunctions, decline in sexual behavior, diabetes, and loss of cognitive function) and other physiological responses…Exposure to stressful stimuli has been found to be associated with activation of nitric oxide synthase and generation of NO…”
And stressful thoughts or perceptions are often also a big factor causing interference with digestive function in the first place. Over time, difficult experiences and circumstances suppress digestion and can lead to an increase in bacterial issues as well as interference with intestinal barrier function. This enables endotoxin (and other stress promoting things) to pass through in greater amounts to the liver and into the main system, setting in motion the potential for some issues to become chronic in nature.
“…we…describe microbes that appear in places other than where they should be, e.g. in the blood, forming a blood microbiome…we suggest that the metabolic…products of these…microbes correlate with, and may contribute to, the dynamics of a variety of inflammatory diseases…”
Chronic stress interferes with the performance of thyroid energy metabolism. The more energy systems are compromised, the more it is possible for digestion to be impeded. This can then allow foods which might otherwise have been beneficial to be left undigested, feeding bacteria and letting them move further up the intestines, causing an increase in circulation of the inflammatory substances.
Because stressful thoughts can also cause the wasting of glycogen, this can further promote increasing cortisol levels and a rise in the release of free fatty acids from storage. When fat moving into circulation is polyunsaturated, this interferes with metabolic and digestive function in a number of different ways, increasing exposure to endotoxin (promoting serotonin, estrogen, cortisol, nitric oxide and other inflammatory substances) potentially intensifying reactions to stress.
“…the pathophysiology of anxiety disorders might be associated with oxidative stress and lipid peroxidation…Serum levels of lipid hydroperoxide (LOOH) are a reliable marker of lipid peroxidation…LOOH levels were significantly higher in the anxiety disorders group than in the control group.”
“…oxidative imbalance appears to have an important role in anxiety development…increased malondialdehyde levels…have been observed…The involvement of oxidative stress with anxiety-like behavior has been widely demonstrated…”
Chronic and systemic low level inflammation has itself been shown to interfere with the functioning of the brain causing mood instability and other symptoms, which is perhaps one of the reasons why aspirin is known to be an effective anti-depressant.
“Depression is associated with alterations in corticostriatal reward circuitry. One pathophysiological pathway that may drive these changes is inflammation. Biomarkers of inflammation (for example, cytokines and C-reactive protein (CRP)) are reliably elevated in depressed patients…”
Consuming sufficient quantities of simple, easy to digest sugars – from fruit juice, milk, honey and white sugar for example – can help limit the harmful effects of exposure to all kinds of stress.
Getting enough salt in your diet helps to stabilize the stress reaction, as do magnesium, calcium and potassium.
Replacing starchy and fibrous carbohydrates (grains, seeds, legumes and lots of under cooked veggies) with simple sugars, can reduce opportunity for bacteria to overgrow, lowering endotoxin and many other potentially toxic things.
“…intake of orange juice with an HFHC [high fat high carb] meal prevented the marked increases in ROS generation and other inflammatory indexes…after the intake of glucose or water with the meal, there was a significant increase in plasma endotoxin concentrations, whereas the intake of the meal with orange juice prevented this increase.”
Consuming more of the simple sugars and lowering exposure to endotoxin and the polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) can assist in the production of cholesterol, a fundamentally protective substance in relation to every area of physiology, including nervous system function.
Cholesterol is important for the stabilisation of the mind, especially when being exposed to extra stress, and low cholesterol has been associated with many forms of violent and aggressive behaviour.
Simple dietary changes like this can sometimes be enough to improve basic resilience to stress. Sugar – combined with protein and nutrients from fruit juice and milk – provides fuel for thyroid function, improving digestive effectiveness and protecting against too many toxins entering the main system, damaging other organs.
This can then reduce levels of cortisol, serotonin and estrogen (and other mediators of stress), lowering inflammation, promoting the effective conversion of cholesterol into the more specialised protective things, like pregnenolone, progesterone, DHEA and testosterone. All of this can help calm the mind and dampen the impact of anything potentially stressful.
“…DHEAs opposes the action of cortisol and exerts a true anticortisol effect. This antagonism might be related to a competition in their synthesis and release by the adrenal gland. In the present case, high level of anxiety (state and trait) was associated with an increase of cortisol, while low level (of anxiety) was related to an exclusive rise of DHEAs.”
Sugar – and other things that help to improve thyroid energy metabolism in the brain – encourages the production of GABA (as well as inhibitory substances like pregnenolone and progesterone) and helps to suppress the stress promoting things (like nitric oxide and glutamic acid) reducing brain excitation. Increasing GABA has been shown to play a role in controlling unwanted and stressful thoughts. Avoiding PUFA and other anti-metabolic substances is also likely to play a big role in the ability to limit over-stimulation of the brain.
“…observations suggest that a GABAergic hippocampal mechanism suppresses retrieval over a broad spectrum of perseverative thoughts (whether images, episodes, or worries about future events). This proposed mechanism linking hippocampal GABA to the volitional control over the contents of awareness may help to interpret a growing body of human and animal research pointing to hippocampal GABAergic hypofunction as a pathophysiological driver of intrusive symptoms…”
All in all, promoting thyroid energy system function can be seen to help protect against the harmful effects of stressful thinking, and avoiding stressful thinking can be seen as a way in to improving metabolic function. The combination of the two can be powerfully synergistic.
Measuring and tracking resting pulse and temperature readings before and after breakfast and lunch, can help determine whether or not you need to eat more or perhaps increase your carb to protein ratio by adding some sugar into your milk, or in your oj with other food. Bag breathing for a couple minutes a few times a day has also been shown to be a big help with metabolism, calming stressful thinking and panic. Seeking out new environments and enjoyable experiences, enough sleep, as well as plenty of exposure to daylight (and supplemental red light) can dramatically improve brain and overall function.
There are many different techniques (or practices) which can help reduce the energy draining effects of excessive circular thought, calming the body and improving thyroid function and metabolic energy systems. But first things first, you may need to change your mind about sugar.
Some other things which have been shown to be helpful when it comes to stress reduction include cyproheptadine, famotidine, methylene blue, pregnenolone, progesterone, thyroid hormone, theanine, lysine, the antibiotic minocycline, activated charcoal, raw carrot fibers, glycine, niacinamide and some other pro-metabolic substances.
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