Search for a self-help book on anxiety or stress relief, and you’ll find thousands of books from the popular book published in 2004 by Dale Carnegie, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, to Zen as F*ck by Monica Sweeney.
In her book, Ellen Vora, the author of The Anatomy of Anxiety, explains in an interview published in Newsweek.com.
In my practice, I start with the assumption that anxiety is a blood sugar issue until proven otherwise. I’m not being dismissive of people’s very real suffering, nor am I implying that everyone with anxiety is diabetic. The truth is that blood sugar is not binary – you’re not either diabetic or perfectly healthy. For many of us, our bodies are operating somewhere along the spectrum of dysglycemia, in which a subtle subclinical impairment of blood sugar regulation causes us to swing up and down throughout the day, with every blood sugar crash generating a stress response. And, the stress response can then feel synonymous with anxiety and even panic. Given that the modern diet is so blood sugar-destabilizing, these stress responses are at the root of much of the anxiety I see in my practice. I’ve found adjustments to blood sugar to be among the most immediate and effective salves for anxiety.
We can help stabilize blood sugar by eating more protein and healthy fats and avoiding added sugar, refined carbohydrates and alcohol. If a comprehensive diet overall feels out of reach, start with a spoonful of almond butter or a handful of nuts at regular intervals throughout the day, creating a safety net of blood sugar to blunt any crash created by our sweet tooth.
This approach gets me very excited because it’s exactly what I coach people on. Yes, I am a keto Nutritionist, and I teach people how to do keto, but one of the key aspects of the keto diet is regulating blood sugar levels. The fact is, keto is not a trendy new diet. Not at all. The ketogenic diet is a hundred years old, and it was developed and used for children to manage their epilepsy. The keto diet developed for children with drug-resistant epilepsy was very restrictive in maintaining and keeping children’s blood sugars low. Today there are more resources and products available to make the lives of these children and families a bit easier, but the blood sugar control is still vital for these kids.
Does food affect our mood?
It is surprising how we don’t connect what we eat with our mood. We don’t even notice it with our children, who cannot fully regulate their emotions until the age of about twenty. Without thinking twice about it, we will easily give a child a coke or cream soda. The average soda beverage contains about nine teaspoons of sugar. Imagine that child eating nine teaspoons of sugar! If we think about it that way, no one will do that to their child, yet we do. And, what then happens when the child or ourselves eat the nine teaspoons of sugar? We don’t think about the physiological consequences and responses in the body when we eat and drink things.
We are so ignorant that, we’ll sit in a restaurant and a child is throwing a tantrum at the table and we think to ourselves; “those parents don’t know how to control their child”. Your teens might be at each other’s throats, slamming doors and giving you attitude. What about the afternoon slump most of us experience after lunchtime? All of these scenarios is a symptom of the dysregulation of blood sugar caused by what we ate (or didn’t eat).
How to regulate your blood sugar.
For decades we have blindly followed the dietary guidelines of eating a low-fat diet, exercising to lose weight and consuming a minimum of 4-5 whole grains a day. Another big fat marketing lie, conjured by cereal manufacturers to get people to eat more cereal, was breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
Jordan Peterson emphasises a similar notion as Ellen Vora and recommends that people eat a big breakfast that consists of protein and fat. Avoiding carbohydrates and having a big breakfast of protein and fat can stabilise their levels of negative emotions.
For clarity, Jordan Peterson’s statement must be taken into context. I’ve just said we’ve been lied to and we shouldn’t believe breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but then I say we should eat a big breakfast of protein and fat.
It would be better for someone who is not following a low-carb or ketogenic lifestyle to regulate their blood sugar if they consumed a breakfast of fat and protein. In contrast to what most people do, which is either rushing out of the house, eating nothing and having an energy crash mid-day. Or having a carbohydrate-rich breakfast with bread, or a cookie, as he says in the video.
For someone who is following keto, the norm, once the body has stable blood sugar and regulates insulin, would be to skip breakfast. This is ideal if you want to lose weight. The body cannot have high blood sugar levels and be in ketosis simultaneously, except if you drink Exogenous Ketones (BHB). High blood sugar levels shut down the production of ketones and eating carbohydrate-rich food will kick you out of ketosis.
So, what can we do to improve our anxiety?
Some of the most challenging aspects of the past two years have been to regulate our emotions, thoughts, and behaviours in these new and unfamiliar circumstances. For most of us, the circumstances have gotten the better of us. Just think about people sheepishly confessing how their increase in waist circumference is thanks to the “C0viD dIET”.
When we become more mindful of the things that drive our emotions, like considering the food we eat how and when we eat, we can make conscious decisions to manage our anxiety.
Admittedly, making any meaningful change takes time AND EFFORT! And, when you are already feeling overwhelmed and anxious, it may not be the best idea to start a new diet. Perhaps it would be easier to make small changes. Start by simply paying attention to when you feel most anxious. Or, be more aware of the sugar in your diet and start cutting out excess sugar or refined foods. Why not take on a challenge to cook all your meals yourself for the next 30 days instead of buying takeout?
Without denying real psychological issues, the bottom line is, you may not need therapy and making small lifestyle changes is far less expensive than therapy!