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Sugar: Its effect on mental health and withdrawal

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Altostrata

[Edit:  Also see:  http://survivingantidepressants.org/index.php?/topic/1667-cravings-sweets-chocolate-carbs-etc/]

 

More and more evidence is emerging that even mental health can be affected by what we eat, particularly the bad stuff in the modern diet like sugar and starches that get metabolized into sugar. The research mentioned in this article found a statistical relationship between sugar and depression and schizophrenia, as well as heart disease and diabetes. This article suggests why sugar is bad for mental health.

You can see how cutting down on sugar might aid in recovery from antidepressant withdrawal, as well as a lot of other illnesses!

Dietary Sugar and Mental Illness: A Surprising Link
By Stephen Ilardi, Ph.D. Jul 23 2009 Psychology Today

Noted British psychiatric researcher Malcolm Peet has conducted a provocative cross-cultural analysis of the relationship between diet and mental illness. His primary finding may surprise you: a strong link between high sugar consumption and the risk of both depression and schizophrenia.

In fact, there are two potential mechanisms through which refined sugar intake could exert a toxic effect on mental health.

First, sugar actually suppresses activity of a key growth hormone in the brain called BDNF. This hormone promotes the health and maintenance of neurons in the brain, and it plays a vital role in memory function by triggering the growth of new connections between neurons. BDNF levels are critically low in both depression and schizophrenia, which explains why both syndromes often lead to shrinkage of key brain regions over time (yes, chronic depression actually leads to brain damage). There's also evidence from animal models that low BDNF can trigger depression.

Second, sugar consumption triggers a cascade of chemical reactions in the body that promote chronic inflammation. Now, under certain circumstances (like when your body needs to heal a bug bite), a little inflammation can be a good thing, since it can increase immune activity and blood flow to a wound. But in the long term, inflammation is a big problem. It disrupts the normal functioning of the immune system, and wreaks havoc on the brain.

Inflammation is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and even some forms of cancer . . . it's also linked to a greater risk of depression and schizophrenia. And again, eating refined sugar triggers inflammation. So does eating heavily processed molecular cousins like 'high fructose corn syrup'.

If you think about it, it makes sense that our bodies don't handle refined sugar very well. After all, for the vast majority (99.9%) of our existence as a species, there simply was no such sugar. We were endowed with a sweet tooth so that we'd crave the highly nutritious fruits that were available - sometimes in short supply - in the ancestral environment. But with the advent of processed sugar cane a few centuries ago, the blessing of our formerly adaptive sweet tooth suddenly turned into a curse - causing us to crave foods that we were simply never designed to process.

....


http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-depression-cure/200907/dietary-sugar-and-mental-illness-surprising-link

Edited by KarenB
added link

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Rhiannon

I know for me sugar consumption makes me feel like crap. And it's widely accepted that it leads to inflammatory processes, although frankly these days I hardly believe anything I read from "science" as it's practised.

 

I have to point out one thing about this piece. We don't actually know if UNDRUGGED schizophrenia and depression lead to shrinkage of the brain. The pharma companies are using it as a scare tactic--better take drugs for schizophrenia and depression because otherwise your brain might shrink! but there's no documentation of this happening WITHOUT the drugs, and I think we should certainly consider that it might be CAUSED by the drugs.

 

I don't know about the BDNF thing, can't speak to the documentation of that and whether that happens in the absence of psych drugs. Doubt it's been studied. There's precious little research funding for anything that might indicate people should NOT spend tons of cash on psychiatric drugs.

 

Also want to add that there have been some suggestive preliminary findings showing that intestinal flora can affect behavior. (In mice.) I don't know much about the extent of this research, just a short article in Sci News recently, but I know that this is an area that's beginning to get some attention--our natural flora in general and intestinal flora in particular. And the gut nervous system is also getting some attention lately as well. All the same neurotransmitters that our brain uses are also used by the gut's own nervous system. (The gut has its own nervous system and is constantly sending signals to our brains from it.)

 

The stuff that's showing up points to the possibility that the condition of our gut's natural flora can affect our mental health and behavior.

 

And sugar definitely screws up normal flora.

 

But you don't really need all the science to notice that eating lots of sugar makes you feel like crap, compared to when you don't eat any. It's like figuring out that exercise is good for you. Kind of obvious if you do a little personal experimentation. Well, I shouldn't say "you," that's presumptuous, but it's true for me anyway.

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Altostrata

This particular blog writer is not the best at analyzing psychiatric balderdash.

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compsports

This particular blog writer is not the best at analyzing psychiatric balderdash.

 

Hi Alto,

 

Can you clarify?

 

I am not getting that sense in reading his blog entries but I realize I could be missing something.

 

Thanks!

 

CS

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Altostrata

He kinda sorta buys into the neurotransmitter story, and as Rhi pointed out, he wasn't very critical about brain shrinkage.

 

But -- he focuses on non-drug improvement in mental health, which is good.

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compsports

He kinda sorta buys into the neurotransmitter story, and as Rhi pointed out, he wasn't very critical about brain shrinkage.

 

But -- he focuses on non-drug improvement in mental health, which is good.

 

I reread the article and Rhi's post and see what you are saying.

 

If I see one more post that says that undrugged depression leads to brain shrinkage, I will scream. That has not been proven as far as I know. I agree with Rhi on that.

 

CS

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BentBuddha

Interesting. This is why I find the Paleo diet so interesting also. It's anti inflammatory. A brain in a state of inflammation could have a harder time healing from prolonged WD than one that isn't. And could brain inflammation possibly be the cause of some ppl ending up these psych drugs in the first place.

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Altostrata

I doubt that sadness causes brain inflammation.

 

However, inflammation in the body could cause someone to feel crummy and that perhaps could affect mood.

 

There's always a question about whether illness causes depression or vice versa in these articles that come out of psychiatry trying to convert it in to a real medical profession making people healthier.

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dalsaan

Hi everyone,

 

Just thought I would share my recent experiences giving up sugar (as much as possible).

 

I decided to do this because I have put on a lot of weight since I started the Mirtazapine and I read somewhere that

AD's interfere with your body's regulation of glucose (and that Mirtazapine in particular wasnt good in relation to this)

 

So about 3 weeks ago I gave up sugar and markedly decreased my coffee intake. This has been really positive, I have much less

arousal/vigilance/anxiety symptoms, have slept a lot better (better than I have in about 4 years) and feel healthier/calmer/happier.

 

Yesterday I had a stressful day with my dog being suspected of cancer (she is in surgery today) and so I had two coffees with sugar.

 

Last night no sleep, on edge, unable to concentrate. The usual suspect in all of this would be caffeine but I have given caffeine up

before without any noticable effects. On this basis I think its more about the effects of the sugar than the caffeine (although thats

never going to help.

 

There are some books by David Gillespie which detail the negative effects of sugar and provide a diet plan. They are worth checking out

 

http://sweetpoison.com.au/

 

cheers

 

Dalsaan

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jr1985

I thik sugar has a negative effect on me. I became suicidal after I pigged out on chocolate and ice-cream, then something stressful happened. I suspect the hypersensitivity from the effexor w/d caused me to over-react to the sugar.

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dalsaan

Hi JR

 

I agree I think my Hypersensitivity has contributed to how I respond to sugar as well. And it blows me away how much sugar is in everyday food

 

This stuff has been really big for me. Last night I had a dream. No quite as dramatic a statement coming from me as opposed to Martin Luther King - but close! I don't remember the last time I slept and dreamt.

 

Dalsaan

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jr1985

Omg I know! I was shocked there's 20-30g of sugar in these tiny smoothie bottles they sell in my supermarket, and they're marketed as healthy!

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jr1985

Dalsaan, did you gave any withdrawal symptoms from giving up the sugar? I've had cravings like crazy and feel very fatigued. I don't know if the fatigue is sugar or Effexor w/d.

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Nikki

Hi folks

 

I always sugar is the ruination of my life....yesterday I caught myself saying this and re-thought it thru. I buy the sugary foods, I lift the spoon to my mouth. So, I guess it's me. :D

 

I've had cravings since childhood. Stinks. I have been reading about the Paleo Diet and there was a video showing how sugar is the culprit behind heart disease, not really the fat.

Check it out.

 

It give me the blues after I eat it, and whatever I have, it's not enough. Like both of you, sugar is bad for me.

 

I do think ssri's can cause more of a craving. Before ssri's I was able to stay on a diet and curb the cravings. After ssri's...this became almost impossible.

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Baxter

Sugar does me in as well. As does one beer or 4 oz of wine.

 

In another post, somebody mentioned a book by Kathleen DesMaisons, Prozac not Potatoes. I just read it and found it very interesting. The author started out as an addiction counselor, ended up a nutritionist because she saw such poor results from just giving psychological support and counseling to addicts and alcoholics trying to recover.

 

She has a theory of sugar sensitivity, serotonin, and beta endorphins that is really interesting. Sugar DOES make our bodies go nuts and some of us are pre-loaded to go more nuts than others. It's worth a read (get it from the library because you may not want to spend the $$)

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dalsaan

On the question of cravings, it's a bit hard to say because I gave up a decent sized caffeine addiction at the same time. I did feel horrid for about a week and a half. Headaches. Fatigue etc.

 

I have never been a really big sweet tooth but did crave sugar on mirtazapine. This went away fairly quickly after I cut it out

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Phil

I have problems with sugar addiction. It's always my "go to" food when I am stressed or depressed for whatever reason. I usually manage to go without it for periods of time, but always come back to it.

 

I've been doing some research and it seems that sugar is related to dopamine release, which explains how it can be so addictive. Here's an article on it:

http://www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/S22/88/56G31/index.xml?section=topstories

 

I think for me, because I have so little in my life that motivates me, sugar has been my replacement.

I tried doing a low-carb diet but the cravings for sweet foods just drove me mad (I was literally day-dreaming about chocolate, even the cheap nasty kinds I don't usually enjoy!)

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starlitegirlx

Sugar was the one thing I craved for several months during my withdrawal. I'd only eat, for the most part, things that were filled with sugar. Not sure if it was a tastebud thing or what. Also, during that time, withdrawal symptoms dragged on and I felt like trash. Now I've started craving protein, veggies, hummus, salmon, walnuts, spinach, and other healthy foods. Also decaf coffee every few days. Not that I don't still grab a cup of ice cream but I don't live on pure sugar and in the few weeks that I've made this change, I've started to notice strange and positive small differences. Nothing big but funny how those little things seem to matter just as much.

 

Sugar is actually considered a toxin by many. It's considered dangerous and akin to a poison. I believe there is merit to that give that if you have enough of it over a long enough time, particularly children, you can develop type 2 diabetes. I figure that's a reaction to the toxin our body cannot handle.

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jr1985

I'm wondering how sugar effects those of us (all of us?) with sensitive nervous systems. Reason I'm asking is because I'm trying to work out whether the symptoms I'm experiencing are due sugar -

 

Poorish sleep/early morning awakening/over arousal

Heavy head

Feeling of "not with it"

Hot

Depressed/anxious

 

These seem to occur the DAY AFTER eating sugar, I don't really notice it on the same day. E.g yesterday I ate a plate of Dutch pancakes with maple syrup and cream i bought from the Xmas market, and today I feel like crap.

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GiaK

I cut out all processed sugars and carbs and am careful with fruit...the only sugar I eat...it helps

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jr1985

In what way does it help you, gia?

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GiaK

I do better with a whole food diet...I've eliminated a number of longstanding health problems that way...eliminating processed foods and sugar was part of that...at this point I can't tease out what exactly the sugar part does...it's too integral to the whole situation...

 

I eat really clean now...

 

initially that cleared up a longterm acute irritable bowel problem and it's also cleared up pain from endometriosis...my psoriasis has diminished and I no longer have arthritis in my knees...

 

it did not cure my withdrawal syndrome, but I know that by having a good foundation my body is more likely to continue healing and it's clear my body has responded positively to putting whole real food into it rather than processed foods of all kinds including sugar.

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Skyler

These seem to occur the DAY AFTER eating sugar, I don't really notice it on the same day. E.g yesterday I ate a plate of Dutch pancakes with maple syrup and cream i bought from the Xmas market, and today I feel like crap.

I don't notice sugar effects nervous system/withdrawal symptoms directly... but I feel better without the 60 lbs lost by avoiding processed foods, and most sugar (carbs). I only cheated a few times, and then felt 'soggy' and fatigued the next day.

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Jonno

I developed intolerances for a wide range of foods, drink, and supplements during w/d.

 

My experience with sugar has been that within an hour or so of eating it, my heart will start to race and my w/d symptoms will increase. In early withdrawal this effect would last for a day or so - affecting sleep and the symptoms JR described, but 3 years later it is much improved - it is less pronounced and lasts for only 30/60 mins when it happens.

 

I eat sugary things in small amounts and only occasionally now, and it doesn't really cause me any problems.

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GiaK

ah...yes...an added bonus 56 lbs lighter...(never tried to lose the weight...just happened)

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Lise

I used to be able to eat any food at all without any problems. Very rich food, tons of sugar, even food that'd gone slightly off, all went down with no problem, healthy appetite, steady weight, doing a ton of exercise.

 

Withdrawal from Lexapro meant that for one thing I lost my appetite. It's come back gradually after I reinstated meds.

But I've gotten very sensitive to sugar. I can still have a small amount, such as a bite of chocolate or a glass of cordial. But if I have a lot of sugar or a meal high in processed sugar or white flour, my anxiety tops, my heart races, I can't sleep and I get automatic thoughts. In short I've become a lot more sensitive to sugar even though I've reinstated.

 

I discovered this in particular when my mother visited 2 weeks ago for my birthday, and we went to a Christmas market and had some Christmas treats - fatty and sugary! - as well as a lot of candy for birthday celebrations. Next day I felt absolutely horrible.

 

My friend started dieting and exercising and cut out sugar from his diet. We both had a fast-food meal a while after he started his diet, while I was living with him because of w/d. He's also on antidepressants but not tapering or in withdrawal. We both felt really awful and anxious while that food was in our bodies. So in my case it might not be only the withdrawal, but also the fact that I've started eating more healthily because anxiety about bad food was part of my withdrawal symptoms.

 

The diet that works for me is low in processed foods, chemical additives, and sugar, semi-high in fat since I still don't eat as much as I should, and filled with grains and good organic meat and cheeses, and good vegetables, organic when I can get them. I still have soda and candy but not a lot, and I tend to only have chocolate or cake as "candy", not sugary stuff like wine gums or whatever.

 

In short: sugar totally messes up my nervous system now. I've gotten a lot more sensitive towards it.

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jr1985

I discovered this in particular when my mother visited 2 weeks ago for my birthday, and we went to a Christmas market and had some Christmas treats - fatty and sugary! - as well as a lot of candy for birthday celebrations. Next day I felt absolutely horrible.

 

Thanks for your post, Lise, it was very interesting. Can you explain how you felt the day after the Christmas market?

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compsports

Due to continuing to fall asleep after dinner because of feeling comatose, I have decided to get more serious about a low carb, zero sugar diet. I have read that glutamine curbs sugar cravings. What other supplements have people had success with that do the same thing?

 

Thanks!

 

CS

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Skyler

Due to continuing to fall asleep after dinner because of feeling comatose, I have decided to get more serious about a low carb, zero sugar diet. I have read that glutamine curbs sugar cravings. What other supplements have people had success with that do the same thing?

You don't need anything 'fancy', when you lower your carb intake enough, the cravings will disappear. I'm not sure what a zero sugar diet is? Are you talking sugar additives, or zero carbs, which is not possible. Eat 10 to 11 fruits and veggies, (aim for mostly veggies at the get go), and double the recommended protein a day. Do some reading and identify low carb fruits and veggies. Use 0 cal dressing, Walden Farms is good.

 

Your cravings will vanish. May take a couple of weeks, but they disappear... it's pretty amazing actually.

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compsports

 

Due to continuing to fall asleep after dinner because of feeling comatose, I have decided to get more serious about a low carb, zero sugar diet. I have read that glutamine curbs sugar cravings. What other supplements have people had success with that do the same thing?

You don't need anything 'fancy', when you lower your carb intake enough, the cravings will disappear. I'm not sure what a zero sugar diet is? Are you talking sugar additives, or zero carbs, which is not possible. Eat 10 to 11 fruits and veggies, (aim for mostly veggies at the get go), and double the recommended protein a day. Do some reading and identify low carb fruits and veggies. Use 0 cal dressing, Walden Farms is good,

 

VERY low carbs, and your cravings will vanish. May take a couple of weeks, but they disappear... it's pretty amazing actually.

 

Thanks for responding.

 

When I say zero sugar, I mean candy and stuff like that.

 

Actually, I do need to take something to help as everytime I have tried to reduce the carbs, I don't make it during the day feeling like I am going to pass out. So I might try something like cinnamon which seems benign.

 

CS

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Georgia

E.g yesterday I ate a plate of Dutch pancakes with maple syrup and cream i bought from the Xmas market, and today I feel like crap.

 

Could be the wheat flour gluten. I get almost immediate effects (sleepy, sluggish, foggy) from eating bread... not sure if it's the gluten or the carbs, but restricting wheat in my diet has been helpful. Sugar, like hard candies, does not seem to have such a bad effect.

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GiaK

most people's cravings do disappear when one eliminates junk carbs (and most carbs in general, really)...but as with most things it's not true for everyone...one sometimes has to experiment with various tweaks to the diet...and some people do report having lasting cravings, though it seems to be a minority group.

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Lise

 

I discovered this in particular when my mother visited 2 weeks ago for my birthday, and we went to a Christmas market and had some Christmas treats - fatty and sugary! - as well as a lot of candy for birthday celebrations. Next day I felt absolutely horrible.

 

Thanks for your post, Lise, it was very interesting. Can you explain how you felt the day after the Christmas market?

 

 

Hm, let's see now. Jittery in general. Anxious and easily irritated. No mental energy whatsoever. Intrusive thoughts. Impossible to concentrate or be social in any way. I felt especially bad in the mornings (I had bad food two days in a row). I pretty much felt as if all systems were on high alert. I think I also had a little trouble with my bowels but that might be from not having enough water.

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alexjuice

I agree that a whole food diet is the smartest, though most difficult, adaptation to undertake.

 

I am intolerant to many foods, so I've eliminated them. The elimination of sweets presented a huge challenge for me. When I later found a gut infection, I better understood this.

 

In early withdrawal I was sensitive to all sorts of foods. Sweet foods affected me but they not as memorably as the oddly stimulating foods like ground flax and sardines. Or the suprisingly mellowing foods like pineapples adn fresh ginger tea.

 

There's some threshold between eating mots nutritiously and eating most conveniently that's attainable and everyone probably needs to decide how much convenience they can forsake.

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CSC

Hi there. Having been off zoloft since July, I have noticed that I am very sensitive to sugar as well. I think I have been sensitive for a long time but just didn't notice or care (thanks Zoloft!). I'm actually surprised at all of the physical 'issues' that have come to light lately since being off zoloft. Anyway, I'm struggling with that as well and am trying to cut it out of my diet, with some success. I think I need to go totally sugar free however. THat's when I feel the best.

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compsports

Unfortunately, I received top quality candy for Christmas that I couldn't resist. I mean, it was really good.

 

Unfortunately, because I am paying the price, I am going to find someone to give it to in my apartment building. I am just not the type of person who can restrict myself to a very small amount.

 

I really hate to part with it but obviously health comes first.

 

CS

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