Here’s how excess sugar intake can affect the nervous system
Regarded as the brain’s processing center, the central nervous system (CNS) governs various activities, including the regulation of breathing, heart rate, body temperature, sensory information processing, and motor signals. It is the brain’s lifeline, carrying out several essential functions. Studies have linked excessive sugar intake to the damage of the brain’s blood vessels, causing brain atrophy and vascular dementia. Keep reading to know more about the impact of high sugar levels on the nervous system.
An overindulgence in sugary foods can considerably slow down cognitive functioning and cause memory problems. It can also increase the risk of mental health disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease among the elderly. Studies have demonstrated that when consumed in high amounts, sugar causes the release of the stress hormone called cortisol in the body, which can cause problems with memory. Consuming too much sugar over a period of time affects faculties like spatial and object-recognition memory.
A high intake of sugar triggers the release of dopamine, which can cause one to become fidgety and inattentive. The instant boost of energy one typically experiences after a sweet treat is temporary, and it is typically followed by a drop in glucose levels, leading to a lack of focus.
The heart rate is controlled by the autonomic nervous system, which contains the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Excessive sugar intake can affect the heart’s rhythm and elevate blood pressure levels, eventually causing damage to the cardiovascular system.
The brain and spinal cord are two important components of the CNS, and it governs one’s decision-making abilities. Eating too many sugary food items can lead to elevated glucose levels, which have been found to affect decision-making and self-control abilities.
Onset of depression and anxiety
The primary mediators of anxiety in the CNS are the hormones norepinephrine, dopamine, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), and serotonin. Consuming excessive sugary foods and beverages can cause mood disorders and trigger or worsen depression and anxiety symptoms. The drop in blood sugar levels after the initial spike can cause the release of adrenaline and cortisol in the body, which elevates anxiety levels and may lead to panic attacks.
The CNS provides extrinsic neural inputs to regulate digestion. High sugar intake can lead to a condition called gastroparesis, which affects the way in which food is digested in the body. Moreover, sugar leads to the growth of bad bacteria and yeast in the large intestine, causing the build up of gas.
Declining mental capacity
Regularly binging on sugary snacks and foods is linked to a decline in mental and cognitive functions, impairing one’s mental capacity and affecting the blood vessels. High amounts of sugar can significantly impair one’s learning processes and lead to the onset of dementia and other related mental health conditions.
The brain directly or indirectly contributes to all forms of hypertension through the sympathetic nervous system. Too much sugar can reduce the production of nitric oxide in blood vessels, causing vasoconstriction and high blood pressure as a result. In turn, high blood pressure can affect one’s heart health and cause speech and movement problems.
Weakened response to stress
The CNS is responsible for triggering stress responses by regulating the autonomic nervous system and helping the brain interpret potentially stressful scenarios. The overconsumption of sugar can suppress the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis in the brain, which is responsible for controlling stress responses.
A network of nuclei in the CNS regulates the duration of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Sleep is controlled by different neurotransmitters and mechanisms in the nervous system. A number of studies have indicated that low glycemic control among patients with Type-2 diabetes leads to decrease in REM sleep. Moreover, having too much sugar elevates one’s cortisol levels, leading to restlessness during sleep and sleep cycle issues. Lack of sleep can substantially affect one’s daily functioning, causing loss of focus and mood swings.
Fluctuations in body temperature
The nervous system plays a crucial role in regulating body temperature, with different parts contributing to the process, from the spinal cord to the brain’s upper regions. High sugar intake disrupts this process by hampering blood circulation and causing an increase in temperature throughout the body.
Tips to manage sugar intake
Replace sugary foods with fruits
Having too many sugary foods, such as desserts and baked items, on a regular basis can cause a spike in one’s glucose levels. It can also increase the production of cortisol, and affect one’s blood pressure, causing problems with the nervous system’s functioning. It helps to replace these sugary foods with natural sugar sources, such as fruits and fresh fruit juices.
Eat nutrient-rich foods
Having a balanced meal plan containing all vital nutrients, including healthy carbs and fats, sufficient protein, vitamins, and minerals, can reduce one’s sugar cravings and control blood sugar levels. One’s meal plan should include nutrient-rich foods like leafy greens, fruits, eggs, oily fish, chicken, lentils, and lean meats.
Drinking plenty of water can help flush out excessive sugar from the body and enhance digestion. Research has demonstrated that individuals who consume sufficient water have a lower risk of developing diabetes. Staying hydrated can help the central nervous system promote digestion.
Exercise increases one’s sensitivity to insulin, which helps the body manage blood sugar levels effectively. Controlled blood sugar levels can help the CNS carry out processes like cognitive functioning, digestion, blood circulation, and heart rate regulation more smoothly.
Check blood sugar levels regularly
It is essential to regularly check one’s blood sugar levels to record fluctuations. Ensuring that blood sugar levels are in check can enable the CNS to function more efficiently. Furthermore, regular tests can help one evaluate any possible causes of spikes in glucose levels. Eliminating these triggers can enhance the functioning of the CNS.