Fight Back Against ‘Food Swings’

By Kayla Rillie, Registered Dietitian

Do you find yourself susceptible to waves of anxiety or depression that manifest several times throughout the day? Do you find yourself in a bad mood or feeling angry around meal times? If so, chances are you are susceptible to food swings! You read that right, I said food swing – a mood swing that occurs simply because you are hungry…or hangry!

Hunger and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) are primitive signals known to set off a stress response in the body, and for many, this stress response can cause anxiety and depression. Triggered by drops and fluctuations in blood sugar, these mental health issues can become chronic if food intake isn’t consistent.

Humans, like all animals, are designed to get energy from the food we eat. Without that energy, our bodies wouldn’t be able to function properly. Those feelings of anxiety, anger, and irritability we get when our blood sugar dips is actually a brilliant mechanism that ensured our great, great, great ancestors made foraging and hunting for food a priority. This helped them to avoid starvation and maintain the energy to survive in even the cruelest of conditions.

Nowadays, low blood sugar, and the negative effect it has on mood, can be a bit more challenging to navigate. Where more primitive animals would simply be spurred into food-finding mode, our more complex human brains often register the feelings of anxiety, depression, or anger, and attribute them to other root causes. We blame our bad moods on our jobs…relationships…our astrological signs…everything but the real offender – low blood sugar. Worse still, feeling depressed or stressed prompts many of us to reach for soda, candy, or chips. But junk food is no more than a Band-Aid on the problem – we feel better temporarily, but the blood sugar fluctuations only keep the cycle going.

So can we keep blood sugar levels steady and avoid any hangry outbursts? Try following the 7 rules below to stop riding those food swings once and for all.

1.) Eat regularly – every 2-3 hours

2.) Aim for balance. Meals should include:

  • Protein (wild seafood, grass-fed meats, eggs, beans, cheese)
  • Fat (avocado, nut oils, cheese, nut butters)
  • Complex Carbs (brown rice, sweet potato, whole grains bread)

3.) Include snacks

  • Try an apple with almond butter, raw nut and seed mix with dark chocolate chips, or carrots and hummus

4.) Reduce the amount of simple carbs (such as cakes, cookies, and breads) that you consume. Keep these as occasional treats. And if you are treating yourself, consider pairing the simply carb with some fat and/or protein to prevent that quick blood sugar drop later.

5.) Include fiber-rich foods. Adequate dietary fiber helps blood sugar remain stable by slowing entrance of sugar into the blood stream and prevents crashing.

6.) Try Chromium. Small doses of Chromium can prevent blood sugar dips and spikes. 200mcg of Chromium once a day in the morning can help stabilize blood sugar levels.

7.) Take B Vitamins. B-vitamins aid in carbohydrate metabolism and are critical for many other functions in the body. These vitamins are water-soluble and can easily be depleted by stress, carbohydrate consumption and environmental stressors.

Ask The Psychiatrist: How To Find Mental Health Care

­

With the abundance of treatment options and mental health professionals, each promising different approaches and better results, finding the right care for you or a loved one can be an added stressor in an already challenging situation. Below, True Life Center’s Executive Medical Director, Dr. Krista Roybal, shares some advice to help individuals feel more empowered and less overwhelmed when taking the first step toward recovery.

 

Q.) I’m finally ready to get help for my depression, but I’m confused as to whether I need a psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist, or counselor. Don’t they all do the same thing?

A.) First of all, I want to commend you for having the courage and awareness to seek help. Reaching out to any of the professionals you listed would be a good place to start. All have the training and insight to refer you elsewhere if need be, depending on the severity of your depression and the kind of support you are looking for. Generally speaking, you will need to see a psychiatrist (all of whom hold M.D.’s) if you are interested in exploring medication as part of your treatment. Psychologists, therapists, and counselors are differentiated mainly by their education, training, and licensure. As you begin making phone calls, inquire about the credentials, specializations, and treatment approach of each. It’s most important that you find someone you trust and feel comfortable with. An indication of a good fit is if you feel, “this person gets me.” You’re still unsure, I recommend contacting a comprehensive treatment center like True Life, where all of the professionals you mentioned are under the same roof, and a team member can listen to your unique story before providing recommendations.

 

Q.) A friend suggested I attend rehab for my bipolar disorder. Isn’t rehab just for addiction?

A.) I’m guessing your friend is using the term “rehab” to refer to inpatient treatment programs (also known as residential treatment), which require that patients live-in the facility for the duration of treatment. Though a majority of inpatient facilities deal primarily in addiction, residential mental health treatment programs do exist. Whether or not inpatient is the right solution for you depends on a number of things including the severity of your illness, the stressors in your environment, your financial situation, and your treatment goals. If you’re looking to focus solely on recovery, without worrying about the distractions of daily life, inpatient programs offer a controlled environment, close supervision and highly scheduled days. Alternatively, outpatient mental health treatment centers like True Life typically offer programming that allows patients to spend several hours a day, several days a week at the facility. These type of programs, commonly called Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP) are often more affordable than their residential counterparts, provide increased schedule flexibility, allow patients to maintain work and family commitments while receiving treatment, and give patients the opportunity to immediately incorporate what they learn at treatment into their real lives.

 

Q.) Therapy is expensive! Can’t I just talk to a friend about my problems for free?    

A.) You’re right – good mental health care is not cheap, nor should it be. You are paying for the time and expertise of a professional who will remain objective and confidential while listening for understanding, encouraging independent thinking and self-reflection, and delivering feedback designed to promote long-term, sustainable growth. Your friends, wonderful as they may be, are simply unable to provide the same type of guidance. I encourage you to consider the cost of not seeking professional help. Ignoring or delaying treatment often comes at great personal cost in terms of job performance, broken relationships, physical health and more. Your life and wellbeing are worth investing in!

 

If you have any questions about mental health treatment, please give us a call at 858-384-4535 or visit truelifewellbeing.com. We are happy to assist you in finding the care you need, even if True Life isn’t the right fit.