The Relationship Between Anxiety and Hypoglycemia
The number of individuals suffering from anxiety has been on the rise for years. Like many conditions, there are multiple reasons for anxiety and anxiety attacks to occur. From a naturopathic perspective, anxiety can stem from adrenal fatigue, food sensitivities, nutritional deficiencies, or hypoglycemia.
Hypoglycemia is a condition in which the blood sugar drops to a lower than normal level. Blood sugar rises when we eat and decreases as time lapses between meals. The symptoms of hypoglycemia are light-headedness, dizziness, shaking, sweating, irritability and nervousness. A significant symptom is uncontrollable irritability when hungry, which most people have experienced. The irritability usually goes away with food, but if it is a common or even daily occurrence (coupled with other symptoms), it may mean you are hypoglycemic.
When frequent anxiety is a patient’s primary concern, I begin with dietary questions to decipher if the anxiety is related to the occurrence of low blood sugar. Are feelings of anxiety appearing at certain times of the day? Do you eat on a regularly scheduled basis? Is your diet high in carbs and low in protein? This can mean that the drops in blood sugar are being mistaken for anxiety or simply exacerbating underlying anxiety. There is also a correlation with hypoglycemia, anxiety, and people who smoke and/or have a higher than average desire for alcohol.
To treat anxiety caused or worsened by hypoglycemia, you must begin with regularly scheduled meals and snacks. Eat breakfast every day, beginning with a protein rich meal. Schedule a protein rich snack every 2 hours between meals. Meals should be eaten every 4-5 hours with snacks every 2-3 hours in-between. Eating right for hypoglycemia does not mean consuming more calories or food. It means eating smarter for your body. Protein rich meals consist of nuts, fish, soy, eggs and or healthy, lean meats. A smoothie made with protein powder is also a filling, nutritious snack or light meal.
By eating regularly and adding adequate amounts of protein, you keep blood sugar at a stable and consistent level. It is ok to snack on a piece of fruit or a handful of carrots, but be consistent with adequate amounts of protein in your diet throughout the day so as not to cause a blood sugar crash. Caffeine and alcohol will also cause blood sugar irregularities. Drinking caffeine will ‘use up’ your blood glucose causing low blood sugar, and alcohol will cause elevated blood sugar that then crashes too low.
Nutritional supplementation may also be useful. Chromium picolinate taken at each meal can help regulate blood sugar levels. For those individuals who feel nauseous in the morning or are unable to tolerate the breakfast meal, taking chromium picolinate at bedtime may alleviate these morning symptoms. Gaba (a supplement used to induce relaxation, analgesia, and sleep) taken in regular, daily doses can help decrease feelings of anxiety. Magnesium taken at bedtime can also decrease nighttime anxiety that leads to difficulty sleeping.
Although anxiety is pervasive and affects many individuals, there are multiple naturopathic approaches that can decrease and alleviate anxious feelings. Diet and regulating blood sugar levels is a great place to start.
Dr. Shannon Sinsheimer is a licensed naturopathic doctor at Optimal Health Center in Palm Desert and can be reached at (760) 568-2598.
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