Thursday, September 23, 2010

Diet and OCD

For as long as I can remember, I have been addicted to sugar. It isn't just that I like sugar, I go through withdrawal symptoms and have serious cravings without it. All of the information out there that says you feel better and the cravings diminish after a few days have proven completely irrelevant to my situation.

I appear to have reactive hypoglycemia; my blood sugar rises with a meal, but plummets like a rock right after. I get extremely sleepy and cold after a meal, unless I quickly follow with sugar. Problem is, eating candy or consuming a sweetened beverage like cocoa just sets me up for an even more precipitous drop in blood glucose - sometimes into the 40s and 50s. The solution? Perhaps not the best one, but I just keep on eating sugar.

It doesn't take a genius to ascertain that this plays havoc with my moods and energy levels. And, since adrenaline shots are the body's natural way of dealing with hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels in the body), this diet can quickly and easily create an anxiety nightmare. In fact, at one point during my eating disordered days, I began experiencing actual panic attacks from the surges of adrenaline brought on by the extreme hypoglycemic episodes that resulted from consuming a pint of fat-free ice cream (which is not, by the way, sugar-free) and then rejecting it.

On days when I was having a particularly awful time with the OCD, I started looking for what" bad days" had in common. The answer? Yep, you guessed it. Sugar. I recently had one of my best run of days in two years in terms of rituals, obsessions and general OCD symptoms. Coincidentally, or not so much, I had run out of candy three days earlier and had been forced to snack on healthier sweet snacks like bananas and apples.

Though it is incredibly difficult, I am now doing my best to follow the hypoglycemic diet. This is basically a diabetic diet. I still allow myself some sweet things, but I make sure I have eaten protein or complex carbohydrates before indulging and I keep those indulgences small. It seems to be helping so far.

I was rather astonished at the amount of information on the internet about the connection between sugar and anxiety disorders, and diet and many so-called psychological disorders in general. It seems to me there is a great deal that our diets can do to heal us...and to destroy us.

While sugar avoidance is uncomfortable (and requires a heck of a lot more healthy food to replace those empty calories and keep my glucose levels balanced out), OCD compulsions and the nightmare grip it can have on my life is much worse.

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