You are perhaps quite aware of the damages that excess sugar causes to the human body. But do you know its effect on your brain? If you are suffering from difficulties in brain function due to excess sugar intake, find out the ways of respite.
Though the brain requires more energy than any other organ in our body yet, excess of sugar can cause huge damages to your brain. Excess sugar leaves a negative imprint on brain functionality, memory, mood, focus and much more; but the best part is that this damage can be reversed.
What are the effects of sugar on your brain?
The effects of sugar are pronounced on our brains if we are having an excess of it. Excess sugar will be an impediment to our cognitive skills as well as on self-control. Sugar has drug-like effects in that a small amount of sugar will increase the craving for it. Sweet foods have addiction-like effects in our brains and we tend to overeat losing self-control and naturally put on weight.
This stimulus was quite helpful for early humans as they could locate calorie-rich food at times of food scarcity. But in the present scenario, this can only cause hazards like diabetes and obesity. The neuro biochemical and behavioral features of drug abuse and sugar addiction have been found to be quite similar.
Also, over time, you will require more amounts to reach the same level of reward. This will only lead to overeating of sugar, a worsening addiction, and a debilitating effect.
Sugar gives our brain a big surge of dopamine – the feel-good chemical and this is the reason you will crave more sugary foods like candies at all hours of the day! But you won’t feel the same with whole foods like fruits and vegetables.
How does sugar affect brain functionality?
The excess sugar in the blood causes damage to your blood vessels and this is one of the primary reasons for vascular complications of diabetes which usually leads to damage of blood vessels in your eyes and brain and the eye damage causes retinopathy.
Patients suffering from diabetes for a long time are affected by brain damage which occurs over a period of time adversely affecting memory, learning, various cognitive functions, and motor speed.
Again if your blood sugar level shoots up very frequently it is bound to reduce your mental capacity. This is because the rise in HbA1c levels causes brain shrinkage.
Even if you are not suffering from diabetes, but are consuming excess sugar you will score low on cognitive functions. Higher quantities of sugar in your diet reduces the formation of a brain chemical namely brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which is required for learning and formation of new memory. The fall in BDNF leads to Dementia and Alzheimer’s.
How does sugar affect your focus?
Excess sugar causes an instant rise in blood sugar level which makes you overtly alert but this is only a temporary phase that will at the most last 20 minutes. As soon as the glucose level drops, you will feel distracted and unfocused very easily. Excess sugar damages the synaptic activity of your brain thereby causing damage to the communication between brain cells.
Sugar forms free radicals in the membrane of our brains thus compromising the capability of the neurons to communicate. This gives one a foggy feel. Sugar intake has been found to cause a fall in our ability to remember instructions and process ideas.
How is sugar related to reward response?
High-glycemic foods activate those regions of our brain which are associated with ‘reward response’ and naturally such food will incite deep hunger pangs as compared to low GI foods. The high GI foods cause a sudden spurt in the blood sugar level stimulating addiction in our brain following the vicious circle of eating behavior, reward and craving.
Does excess sugar have effect on your memory?
Excess sugar intake results in higher levels of glucose in your blood and this causes endless damage to your cognitive skills slowing it down and also reduces attention and memory. High sugar results in inflammation in the brain causing memory impairment. Along with cognitive skills, sugar negatively affects by blocking our memory receptors. This will definitely slow down your capability of acquiring new information and solving problems and often Alzheimer will come knocking at your door.
The excess sugar damages the synaptic activity of brain cells and impairs the communication between them. It also causes insulin resistance. Insulin not only controls blood sugar but also strengthens the synaptic connections between the brain cells. So a dearth of insulin means fading memory and lower cognition. This will ultimately cause Alzheimer’s. And this is the reason Alzheimer has been termed as “Type 3 Diabetes” by many researchers.
Can excess sugar affect your mood?
Excess sugar intake will also have its influence on your mood. More sugar consumption causes a rise in your blood glucose level and this is directly proportional to your ability to process emotion. Again, more sugar intake may result in type 2 diabetes which may lead to increased anxiety or feelings of sadness. Depression is another mental condition that can be caused due to excess sugar. This is because after the sudden spurt in blood sugar level, there is a decline with sugar absorption by cells and then you start feeling anxious, sluggish, irritated, fatigued, disinterested and jittery and may also have mood swings. This is essentially due to the effect sugar has on dopamine which very much controls the pleasure and reward centers of your brain.
Also, mood-enhancing neurotransmitter serotonin is released on the consumption of sugar. But if we keep on over-activating the serotonin pathways, there will be a fall in its supply and causing depression.
Again high levels of sugar in your blood will cause inflammation in your brain and neuroinflammation might be a possible causal factor of depression.
Sugar in excess causes mood swings as it depletes the vitamin B stores and blocks the chromium receptors. Both of these are emotion balancing chemicals and a dearth of these will lead to irritability, aggression, anxiety and mood swings.
How much sugar is safe for you?
The answer to this query is not very straightforward. You will always find some people not being affected even after consuming quite an amount while some others will be easily affected even when they have just a small fraction of that amount. However, American Heart Association (AHA) has advised men not to have more than 150 calories (37.5 gm or 9 teaspoons) of added sugar per day, while this measure for women is 100 calories (25 gm or 6 teaspoons).
What is brain fog?
It is a condition when you are not able to think or feel distinctly, your thoughts become a bit hazy, your responses slow down and your memory fades. The causes can be many, but consuming excess sugar can be one of the potent reasons.
How to reverse brain damage caused by sugar?
The best part about brain damage caused by excessive sugar consumption is that it can be reversed. The key to it is having a healthy diet and exercising every day. But if you were already suffering from ailments like diabetes or heart problems, the excess sugar has probably already taken its toll. And to reverse that you will require the guidance of your physician for developing the diet and exercise chart that will be apt for you, given your medical conditions.
Why can brain damage be reversed?
We are quite aware of the mind-body effect. But there is also the body-mind effect where your brain can be impacted with your diet and body healing. Actually, our body and mind are not two separate systems. They together form one singular system which is continuous and co-existing. What you practice on your body affects your mind and vice-versa.
If you are consuming too much sugar and not enough fat, it will lead to diabetes which causes inflammation in your brain. So, your food intake will have to be refined in order to reverse the deterioration of your brain.
Can memory loss and cognitive decline caused by excess sugar be reversed?
Memory loss and cognitive decline caused due to excessive sugar intake can both be prevented and declined. For this, you will need to balance your blood sugar level and control your insulin. In this way, you will be able to overcome diabetes and soon your mood swings will also disappear. There will be a surge in your energy level and you will be able to focus better and diseases like Alzheimer’s will take a backseat.
The key to controlling and reversing the adverse effects of sugar on the brain is through a proper, balanced diet, low levels of stress and exercise. Also, hormonal imbalances and nutritional deficiencies should be taken care of. Care should be taken to reduce inflammations and toxins. With all this, the body will take its own recourse. It knows how to heal!
What are the steps to reverse brain damage caused by excess sugar?
Your diet should comprise whole foods with low-glycemic index. You just need to cut-off the refined carbs, caffeine, dairy, sugar, processed foods, alcohol, and inflammatory omega-6 rich oils. In their place, put in good fats like walnuts, cashews, pastured chicken, olive oil, avocados, almonds, grass-fed meats, pastured eggs, and coconut oil.
- Healthy fats should form a big portion of your regular diet.
- Exercise every day. It might be a 30-minute walk or intense exercising including weight-lifting. Such exercise will slow down and prevent diseases related to excess sugar consumption.
- Hormone levels should be taken care of. This includes sex and thyroid hormones. It these are out of proportion, you need to go for the treatment immediately.
- Regular vitamin and mineral intake is a must. A multi-mineral and multi-vitamin supplement should be taken daily.
- Chronic stress is bound to affect the functionality of both your brain and body. Relaxation techniques, if followed regularly, have been shown to have extraordinary effects in preventing and reversing dementia. It may be through meditation, deep breathing or yoga. These will calm your minds, relax them and reduce anxiety and stress levels.
Also, the presence of heavy metal can be an impediment to reversing brain damage. So you need to detox your body from heavy metals like mercury.
An 8-hour sleep every night is an absolute must. Poor sleep is bound to affect cognition in a negative way and your brain health declines.
These strategies will give your brain a scope to recover, heal and soon you will see a reversal in the brain damage that had been caused by excess sugar ingestion. These tips are equally helpful for those who have not undergone any brain damage as these will act as medicines helping you to stay in good health and in preventing brain ailments.
What are the foods to include to reverse brain damage?
Grass-fed meats, wild-caught seafood, walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds and nuts which contain Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an omega-3 fatty acid is effective in treating brain damage. This is because DHA plays an effective role in reversing the entire gene pattern. DHA is present in the membranes of our brain and has to be replenished from time to time through dietary intakes. DHA is important as it plays a leading role in strengthening brain synapses, helping damaged neurons reconnect, preventing cell death, activating genes that cope with brain damage and turning off those that increase brain inflammation.
A low-sugar, low-GI diet is the key.
Curcumin is one other ingredient that has shown its ability in reversing brain damage and rejuvenate memory.
If we can cut out the refined carbs and sugar and instead add lots of good fat, not only the problem of dementia be prevented, it will be reversed.
Healthy fats like omega-3 fats found in coconut oil, wild fatty fish, avocados, nuts, extra-virgin olive oil, seeds and whole eggs should form the main part of your daily diet.
A multi-mineral and multi-vitamin supplement in your diet is a good idea. This should encompass extra vitamin B6, folate, omega 3 fat supplement, vitamins B12 and D3.
Also a good probiotic in your meals will augment the brain-gut relationship and you will be aptly benefitted.
Foods to improve focus – High fiber and high-protein foods will keep your focus intact all through the day and will prevent sugar cravings. You can try out ½ cup beans or 14 almonds or ½ cup lentils.
Foods to boost your memory – Memory can be augmented with vitamin E, omega 3s, low sugar berries, and dark leafy greens. Minimally processed oils like coconut and olive and almonds, peanuts, sunflower seeds, and hazelnuts are all a good source of vitamin E. You will get your daily dosage of folate from dark leafy greens like spinach, collards, kale, and broccoli. Avocados and fishes like mackerel, salmon, tuna will be your source for omega 3s. Blueberries, acai berries, and strawberries are varieties of low sugar berries.
Foods to combat stress and release serotonin without increasing the blood sugar level sharply are avocados, walnuts, and berries.
Mood dips can be dealt with regular meals having lots of fiber and protein. This will keep a check on your insulin levels and you will feel satiated for a longer time. Such foods comprise oily fishes like sardines, trout, mackerel; complex carbs like legumes and whole grains; vegetables and fruits.
Foods that will keep your mental and emotional balance on a level plane are oily fish, green, non-starchy veggies and probiotics like fermented sauerkraut, kimchi, and other veggies.
Thus we can come to the conclusion that sugar is as harmful to the brain as for any other part of our body, if not more. And, since the brain is the all-controlling organ of our body, any damage caused to it will result in negatively affecting several processes and also change us from who we are as it is going to affect our emotions, empathy, and memory. But the only light that beckons in this all-dark dungeon is that the process can be reversed with the proper diet and exercise!