The Link Between Hypoglycemia and DepressionAugust 17, 2016 • Posted in:
Helen came to The Center • A Place of HOPE suffering from anxiety and depression. Her moods swung from hopelessness and lethargy to being stressed out and anxious. If it wasn’t one, it was the other. Both were taking their toll, and she wanted an end to them.
Helen was tired of never feeling settled. She had become terrified she was bipolar because of her roller-coaster moods. It was this fear that finally propelled her into counseling. In addition to her therapy, Helen set up an appointment to see our nutritionist. What was mysterious to her was obvious to him. Helen had hypoglycemia, which was a major source of her depression and anxiety.
Over the course of her adult life, Helen developed a pattern based upon her eating habits and food choices. She preferred quick, calorie-rich foods, eaten sporadically, with large amounts of caffeine throughout the day. Because she worked for a newspaper, Helen’s duties were stressful and time-sensitive. Many times she put off eating, subsisting instead on high-caffeine beverages and sweets, consumed on the run. The caffeine and sweets propelled her headlong into nervousness and anxiety as her blood sugar levels spiked. The resulting crash of insulin to counter this massive sugar dump in her system brought feelings of depression and physical depletion. At these low times, Helen doubted her abilities, fretted over her age, and raged over any mistake. When Helen hit rock bottom, she questioned whether she was really capably of doing her high-stress, high-profile job. Her body was playing right into her fears of unworthiness and inadequacy to handle her job.
Hypoglycemia is more commonly known as low blood sugar or the “sugar blues.” The body’s main source of fuel is glucose, which is a form of sugar. Glucose is produced by the body through the consumption of carbohydrates, sugars, and starches. Glucose is absorbed into the bloodstream during digestion. Glucose that is not needed is stored in the liver as glycogen. When the amount of sugar in the blood is insufficient to fuel the body’s activities, hypoglycemia occurs. While this condition has been universally accepted as a cause of depression, even skeptics will agree that hypoglycemia can cause weakness, mental dullness, confusion, and fatigue. All of these symptoms, when taken together, can exacerbate depression.
Some in the medical community, especially those schooled in holistic medicine, do make the connection between depression and hypoglycemia, including the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. 
Food and caffeine became Helen’s drugs of choice. Food, so abundant in this country, is often used as a form of self-medication and comfort, especially high-sugar, high-fat foods. These foods flood the bloodstream with an energy surge. While using food to treat feelings of depression may prove temporarily effective, the resulting crash of low blood sugar can make you feel even worse. As you look at your own cycles of depression, look for a connection between what you eat and how you feel.
Here are common signs of hypoglycemia:
- confusion or disorientation
- rapid heart beat
- slurred speech
- tingling lips
If you find yourself having feelings of hopelessness, stress, anxiety, and depression, The Center • A Place of HOPE can help. Call us at 1-888-771-5166 to speak confidentially with a specialist. Or view our depression treatment page for further information.
 M. J. Park, S. W. Yoo, B. S. Choe, R. Dantzer, and G. G. Freund, “Acute Hypoglycemia Causes Depressive-Like Behavior in Mice,” Metabolism 61, no. 2 (February 2012): 229-36, summarized at U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21820138
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