This One Hormone Is Linked to 7 Psychiatric Issues
When you think about hormones, your mind probably goes to estrogen and testosterone and how they impact physical development as well as brain function. But there’s another neurohormone that plays a major role in your mental well-being—insulin.
The Basics of Insulin Action
In the body, the hormone insulin is involved in regulating blood sugar levels. Your body’s cells need sugar (glucose) for energy, but they can’t absorb it directly from your bloodstream. That’s where insulin comes in. Released by the pancreas when you eat carbohydrates, insulin is like a key that unlocks cell membranes so they can get the glucose they need from the foods you eat.
Now, not all carbohydrates are created equal. Complex carbohydrates (such as vegetables, quinoa, and fruits) help keep insulin working effectively and stabilize blood sugar levels. However, simple sugars (such as cookies, candies, and sodas), as well as highly processed carbohydrates (such as bread, pasta, and crackers), require the pancreas to pump out large amounts of insulin and can cause blood sugar levels to soar.
Physical Consequences of High Insulin Levels
If there’s too much sugar in your bloodstream, insulin signals your body to shuttle it to the liver for storage, which can eventually lead to fatty liver disease in some people. Another consequence of high insulin levels is that the body switches from breaking down and flushing dietary fat from the body to storing that fat, which over time, can lead to weight problems. One of the main consequences of chronically eating a high-sugar diet and obesity is a decrease in insulin’s ability to regulate blood sugar, leading to pre-diabetes and diabetes.
Insulin and Mental Health
How do insulin and blood sugar levels affect your mind? Eating sugar or refined carbs causes blood sugar levels to spike and, subsequently, causes them to crash. This rollercoaster effect can impact your moods and mental wellbeing. Research shows that high-sugar diets, as well as blood sugar and insulin issues, are associated with:
- A 2008 study found that people with diabetes have a 20% higher prevalence of developing anxiety during their lifetime than people without diabetes.
- People with type 2 diabetes are 2-3 times more likely to have depression than people who aren’t diabetic, according to research in the Journal of Medicine and Life.
- Psychiatrists have long known that many antipsychotic medications that are used to treat schizophrenia have side effects, such as glucose elevation, which may lead to diabetes, and in turn insulin resistance. But a pair of 2019 studies point to insulin resistance as a potential risk factor for schizophrenia. One of the studies in JAMA Psychiatry suggests that insulin resistance is a hallmark of schizophrenia and that multiple genes are involved in the co-occurring conditions. And research in Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology suggests that insulin resistance may be a risk factor for the development of schizophrenia.
- Elevated blood sugar levels and pre-diabetes, which occurs in people with insulin resistance, is associated with brain atrophy, memory loss, and dementia.
- Low blood sugar can occur when the body produces too much insulin. This can produce feelings of irritability and can make some people can get downright mean or angry.
- Research shows that the body’s insulin system works in concert with the brain’s dopaminergic system to set the reward level associated with foods, drugs, and other things. Impaired insulin signaling is believed to play a role in drug addiction, obesity, and cravings (especially for sugar and carbohydrates).
- Improper control of insulin may impact the risk of ADD/ADHD, according to research from Vanderbilt University Medical Center. In addition, having trouble concentrating, which is a common symptom of ADD/ADHD, is also frequently seen in people with diabetes.
Balancing Insulin Levels for Better Brain Health
If you want to get your brain right and your mind right, it is imperative to regulate your body’s production of insulin and to stabilize blood sugar levels. Eliminating sugar and other refined carbohydrates from your diet can help.
At Amen Clinics, we take a whole-body approach to helping people overcome symptoms. We perform comprehensive evaluations that include brain SPECT imaging and important lab tests, as well as looking at the many lifestyle factors, such as diet, that can contribute to mental health symptoms or hold you back from reaching your potential. Our wrap-around services focus on the least toxic, most effective solutions, including brain health nutrition coaching.
If you want to join the tens of thousands of people who have already enhanced their brain health, overcome their symptoms, and optimized their performance at Amen Clinics, speak to a specialist today at 888-288-9834. If all our specialists are busy helping others, you can also schedule a time to talk.