Mood swings may be caused by low blood sugar

Published on Wed, Aug 17, 2011 by Annelle Norman

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Is your mood caused by irritability, anxiety, brain fog, a meltdown, attention deficit – or low blood sugar?

If you or one of your family members suffers from any of the above, it may be due to hypoglycemia, a condition in which your blood sugar has either dropped or has not been properly maintained by your body. When your blood sugar is low, your brain is in crisis, and it send urgent signal to your adrenals.

Your adrenals are glands that secrete adrenalin, the life and death survival hormone that enables you to respond to critical situations with the energy and strength to protect yourself. With that signal from your brain, your adrenals quickly go into action, telling the liver to begin a metabolic process called gluconeogenesis, taking stored fat and turning it into sugar.

Because the process doesn’t happen that quickly, the adrenals send an urgent signal to the brain telling it to eat something quickly. That’s when you (or your child or spouse) may feel irritable, agitated, shaky, spacey, or have a meltdown or even a panic attack.

Your brain is smart enough to know that if food is white, or has white in it, it’s going to turn into blood sugar quickly, and you will survive. It’s not a character defect or shortcoming if you crave sweets or carbohydrates – it’s all about survival.

The problem is, once you have consumed sweets or simple carbohydrate (bagel, muffin, cracker, or even a “healthy” snack such as a rice cake or banana) your blood sugar goes up. It’s too much for your pancreas, which secretes insulin, lowering your blood sugar – and the whole process starts all over again.

Our obesity and insulin resistant diabetic epidemic tells us that most Americans are engaging in this up/down, up/down blood sugar dysregulation many times each day. Every time your blood sugar drops, it challenges your adrenals and uses up cortisol, which can lead to adrenal exhaustion. Every time it spikes, it causes insulin secretion, which over time and excess, eventually leads to insulin resistance.

How do you break the pattern and prevent illness? Start your day with protein, not with carbohydrates and simple sugars. Even the most fiber-dense cereal eventually turns into glucose in your system, so imagine what happens when you eat sugary corn flakes or puffed rice.

Instead, have an egg and turkey bacon or sausage, a sliced apple or pear with some almond butter or peanut butter, mix up a bowl of yogurt with nuts, seeds and berries or even have leftovers from last night if there’s some protein in it. Do your best to eat protein to “break fast” within 45 minutes of rising, which will start your day and your blood sugar on a steady foundation.

To keep your blood sugar steady and level throughout the day, take snacks to munch on: nuts and seeds work great, as does string cheese, nut butters or bites of leftover meats. Doing this alone can change your life. By fueling your brain and your body, you will feel better, more steady, resourceful, less moody, you will get more done, be clearer in your thinking, your memory will improve and you will be more efficient – and prevent disease and ill health in the future.

I have had more than one patient thank me and say I have changed their life after following this advice faithfully. It is quite remarkable how much better we function and how much more stable our moods can be when we feed these amazing bodies properly.

Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine said, “Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food.” Good advice for us all.

Annelle Norman, BSc LCH, has opened a holistic wellness and anti-aging clinic in Point Roberts. Visit her at