Am I Fueling my Anxiety with Sugar?


So, last Sunday night I had another panic attack (not last night). It was so irritating because I’d been doing all the things that were working. And still …. I had ramped-up anxiety and heart palpitations. My head was swimming in fear. All of this happened right before I went to bed. I finally managed to go to sleep about midnight, but Monday I was really mad. “I am so sick of this sh*t,” I angrily texted Jessica.

I thought about my day on Sunday, and there was only one thing that I could think of that could have ramped my anxiety up that way. I have often been told that people who struggle with anxiety and depression should not eat sugar. I had come home from my walk at Tickfaw State Park and eaten an ice cream sandwich and a handful of chocolate-covered almonds on an empty stomach. I wondered if the sugar crash caused that anxiety attack. So, I made a point to experiment last week and track my experience. Sure enough, on days when I didn’t eat any sugar, I felt relaxed and calm. I would think about the same problems that I obsess over when I’m anxious, and I really didn’t care. I felt no fear about them at all. On Thursday, I ate a lot of dessert after Thanksgiving dinner, and I woke up in the middle of the night obsessing. Dammit!!! I don’t want sugar to be the bad guy.

So I spent the next 3 days watching my sugar intake. I felt great again. I had absolutely no anxiety. Last night, I decided to try a little experiment after dinner. On a full stomach, I decided to eat some cane syrup on some cornbread. Altogether, it was about 24 g of sugar. About an hour after I ate, I took Ashok out, and I realized I was starting to get fearful. In my heart, I felt this tightness in my chest, and my fear started to rise. I remembered that I had eaten the sugar.

This morning I watched a video by Robert Lustig on the toxicity of sugar. He makes the point that sugar has become a public health threat. He says that the issues we have with health care are caused by the high cost of treating metabolic diseases that are created by our insane intake of sugar. We absolutely cannot afford the medical care needed to battle these diseases. And he says – for a number of reasons – that these issues are created by our food supply and NOT because people won’t take responsibility for themselves. I’ll let you watch it because I’m sure I can’t explain it, but it makes sense to me. What’s scary is that a large subset of ‘healthy’ people also have these metabolic problems, but they don’t know it.

I called a friend of mine who cut out sugar and flour 17 months ago. I told her about my theory that sugar is increasing my anxiety. I don’t really think it causes it, but I think it ramps it up beyond manageability. She said she believes it. She has lost 94 pounds, and she’s never felt better. She went on further to say that she doesn’t regret her lifestyle change at all. In fact, she feels like she’s making an amends to her body for the hell she’s put it through over the course of her lifetime. I wonder how much damage I’ve done to my body with sugar. For years, I can remember binging on sugar when I was depressed. Maybe it would be a nice thing for me to do at this age to start giving some respect to my body that has gotten me through so much.

I know that today I had no roller coaster ride from the sugar highs and sugar lows. I had no anxiety. I felt relaxed. I was hungry only at mealtimes. My cravings for food in general were reduced. By the time I left for my workout at 6:30 PM, I still felt energized. I’m usually worn out by that time of day and have to force myself to go to the gym. I am sleeping like a dead person even without my herbs. I had some withdrawal symptoms last week. I had a mild headache, and yesterday I took a nap because I was tired. But, today I felt great. I remember the freedom I felt when I cut out caffeine. I didn’t even know I was feeling bad until I felt better.

So, I’ve been caffeine-free for about 6 months and now I’m working on the really hard one – sugar. I’m not sure I’m going to cut it out totally, but I’m going to limit it to the 6 teaspoons a day that is recommended for women. I’m sure this will be a process. But, I meant it when I told Jessica that I was sick of being anxious. Right now, I am highly motivated to feel relaxed and good as often as possible. As far as I’m concerned nothing tastes as good as feeling great feels. I felt better when I quit smoking. I felt better when I kicked alcohol. I felt amazing when I kicked caffeine. I am banking on feeling better when I kick the sugar habit. They are all addictions. I like my freedom. I don’t want to be a hostage to any addiction anymore. I think I’m worth that. More to come … this will be a process.

Resources I found:

Institute for Responsible Nutrition

Lustig’s Famous Lecture on Sugar: The Bitter Truth


9 Comments on “Am I Fueling my Anxiety with Sugar?

    • Well I went through this to some extent last year and was shocked at how much was in my soy milk and coconut milk. I got rid of those, and I thought I’d be ok. But it looks like I have to cut deeper.

  1. Sugar is tough. I gave up soda and can’t really drink it anymore. Still take sugar in my coffee and love cookies etc.
    I’m sure you can cut way back. Cut out completely is another story!
    I saw Dr listings video on YouTube. Very interesting

    • I’m not looking forward to this one. I dont know that i will cut it out completely. But, if i start with the anxiety BS everytime i eat a cookie, im sure it will lose its allure. Time will tell. I thought i could use caffeine every now and again, but it ramps up my anxiety too much.

  2. Will you detail more the sugar you’re cutting out? I was awake from 2:30-5 this morning with anxiety and sadness. Now I don’t want to be up to go to work. I had peanut butter (all natural) and jelly (all fruit) on crackers for dinner. I should watch the video. Just curious what you are cutting out.

    • Absolutely. Right now just added sugar in any form. For instance, anything that has cane sugar, honey, molasses, anything that ends in -ose that is in the first 3 ingredients on the label. I’m also not adding honey to tea anymore. I had already cut out sweetened soy milk and coconut milk because of the sugar content. I’m also trying to balance any carbs with protein. I’m using the wisdom from my dietician when I was working with my hypoglycemia. 15g of carbs is considered a serving of carbs. That should be balanced with a protein and/or fat serving to stabilize blood sugar. My guess is you had a lot more carbs in that snack coupled with the fact that a full dinner is important due to blood sugar drops during the nighttime fast. Maybe this is a good blog idea!

      • This was very helpful and I think it is a great blog idea!

  3. Pingback: Riding the Train | Midlife Moments

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