Why Insulin Levels Matter!
One of the most important aspects of a balanced ADHD diet is the maintenance of steady blood sugar levels. A sudden rise in blood sugar causes hyperactivity and anxiety while a sudden drop makes you sluggish, unfocused and cranky. Erratic blood sugar levels not only affect mood and executive functioning, it also causes a myriad of health problems.
Once I had a clear understanding what blood sugar (aka glucose) levels were all about, it became easier to adjust my ADHD diet and stick with an easy exercise routine – two essential ways of keeping blood sugar levels steady. If you want, you can skip the following explanation and find out how to maintain healthy glucose levels at the bottom of the article. That said, it’s definitely easier to change a bad habit when you know why it’s in your best interest.
Too Many Carbohydrates in the ADHD Diet?
When we consume carbohydrates, our bodies transform these compounds into usable energy in the form of glucose. Glucose just so happens to be the body’s primary short term source of energy. Glucose levels in blood plasma need to be kept within relatively strict limits otherwise the body starts to experience severe problems. This is why the body has a clever mechanism designed to prevent a sudden drop or rise in blood sugar levels.
When you eat too many carbs, the pancreas produces insulin to prevent blood sugar levels from peaking. Insulin does this by making the cell membranes more permeable, facilitating the uptake of glucose into the cells. This is crucial for maintaining metabolic homeostasis.
The body prefers to store excess sugar in the cells of the liver and muscles (in the form of glycogen). It’s stored there as a quick access, energy reserve. Unfortunately, in people who eat too many carbs, these cells are always filled to the max.
When there’s no longer room in the liver or muscle cells, excess sugar is systematically returned to the blood in the form of fatty acids. These fatty acids are then transported to the thighs, belly, buttocks and breasts to be stored as fat. This is why many people still manage to gain weight even when they reduce their fat intake. In some cases, the excess sugar – now fatty acids – gets stored around certain organs like the heart or kidneys. This is really bad news for the body!
Excess sugar in the bloodstream also wreaks havoc on the cells’ receptor sites, making it impossible for them to properly store and access glucose as well as other nutrients. As a result, it becomes harder to burn stored fat and absorb amino acids as a means of maintaining muscle mass. Last but not least, excess sugar creates acidic conditions in the body. Consequently, large amounts of minerals – like sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium – are detracted from within the body to restore this imbalance. This complex process puts immense strain on our system and, over time, seriously affects the entire body.
Too Little Carbs in the ADHD Diet?
A balanced ADHD diet requires regularity. Skipping meals, dieting, fasting as well as a lack of high quality proteins and carbohydrates causes blood sugar levels to drop. When there’s not enough glucose in the blood – as opposed to too much – the pancreas produces insulin’s functioning opposite, glucagon. Glucagon’s job is to take the stored glycogen from the liver cells and muscles and convert it back into glucose – creating energy in an accessible form.
In some cases, however, there may not be enough stored glycogen. This activates the body’s stress response; the body pulls the ‘alarm bell’ by activating the adrenal cortex to produce cortisol and adrenaline aka stress hormones. These hormones then facilitate the conversion of proteins and fats into glucose, in an attempt to create more energy.
Essentially the body is forced to use protein to get the glucose for energy. This can impair the building of muscle and the maintenance of bone, skin, hair and other tissues. This scenario also causes typical ADHD symptoms like hyperactivity, blurred thinking, inattention, forgetfulness and more.
Health and Mood issues related to Irregular Blood Sugar Levels:
- Food Cravings
- Loss of Muscle
- Mood Swings
- Nerve Damage
- Slowed Metabolism
- Dizziness, Lightheadedness
- Irregular Body Temperature
- Feeling Sluggish and Tired
How to Optimize Glucose Levels Through Your ADHD Diet
Maintaining healthy blood sugar levels is fairly easy. If you’ve been eating too many carbs, especially refined and processed ones‚ your body may need time to recalibrate and properly reset its functions. If you’ve been on and off diets, your body will also need some time to get back to a balanced state. Take it one step at a time. The basics are quite simple:
Go for Healthy Carbs and Exercise
Eating healthy carbs – in moderation – and exercising is the best way to heal the insulin receptor sites located on the surface of your cells. Physical activity re-awakens the healthy process of storing and burning glucose and fat.
If you are not used to exercising, there’s no point in creating a harsh and rigorous exercise routine for yourself. Find something you enjoy doing like dancing, cycling, running, swimming or yoga and do it regularly for about 20 to 30 minutes – or until you start sweating lightly. You can also choose a longer, low-intensity workout in the form of an hour walk after dinner or a bike ride. Avoid long and intense cardiovascular workouts because they activate the body’s stress response!
Back to ADHD diet Main Page