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Welcome to The Maris Practice Blog. Here you will find musings, reflections and information about best practice in alternative therapies. We hope you find it useful and interesting.

Does sugar make you sad?

sweet

There has been lots of speculation in the media about a link between sugar and depression. In addition to obesity, diabetes, inflammatory diseases, eating high levels of sugar does have consequences that go far beyond our waistlines.

Eating sugar gives your brain a huge surge of a feel-good chemical called dopamine, hence the crave for a sweet treat at the 3pm slump instead of an apple or a carrot. Whole foods, like veggies do not cause the brain to release as much dopamine which means your brain starts to crave and need more sugar to get the same pleasure (it looks and sounds like an addiction!).

It makes sense that excess sugar consumption is bad for our teeth and leads to weight gain, but why would sugar be bad for our mental health? Food can have many effects on your mood and emotions. When you’re hungry and in need of food you can be grumpy, upset or even angry. The term ‘Hangry’ has been used many times in describing this state of mind. At the other end of the spectrum, when you’ve eaten a delicious meal, you may feel elated and euphoric.

People that suffer from depression are especially vulnerable to sugar’s negative effects on the brain. Eating lots of sugar is going to give you sudden peaks and troughs in the amount of glucose in your blood, causing symptoms such as irritability, dizziness, insomnia, excessive thirst, digestive disturbances and blurred vision. It has also been implicated in aggressive behaviour, anxiety and depression as well as fatigue.

Eating a refined sugar and ‘white’ diet of bread, pasta, rice and processed foods is the same as putting a sugar drip into your arm. These foods supply very little in the way of nutrients and give you none of the mood enhancing B vitamins.

It’s worth considering how much added sugar is in your own diet beyond what’s found naturally in foods like fruits. Sugar taken in while eating a piece of fruit does not give us the same blood sugar spike that sugar loaded processed foods do. The best way to keep tabs on sugar consumption is to become familiar with nutritional labels. While the list of ingredients might claim no added sugars, the nutrition facts panel will show the amount of carbohydrates and sugars in the product. Choosing foods that are low in refined ingredients such as sugar, but high in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals can relieve the symptoms of depression.

A few simple but effective changes to make might be:

• Swap your latte for a black americano,
• Instead of fruit juice, eat a whole fruit item (i.e. an orange not orange juice),
• Develop a liking for peanut butter instead of strawberry jam,
• Choose sweet potato wedges instead of chips.

The next time a low mood threatens to spoil your day remember where sugar is hidden in plain sight and look to other tasty treats to lift you out of the doldrums.

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