The sneaky ways sugar can affect our mental health

There are certain times of the year when we all indulge in sugar (even taking candy from our kids, if we’re being honest). We may go on baking frenzies during the holidays or have a large slice of cake during birthday celebrations. Or perhaps we sneak in an extra nibble or two of the leftover pie after dinner. It’s okay, we all do it. While everything in moderation is best, we should also consider that an extra spoonful of sugar here and there can take a toll – not just on our waistline, but also on our minds.

Closeup image of a happy woman holding and enjoy eating cheese cRead on to learn more about how sugar can impact our minds:

1. Anxiety

For adults, anxiety disorders are the most common class of mental disorders, where nearly 25% of the population experiences something of the sort. Not all conditions can be attributed to sugar, but did you know that sugar can cause certain symptoms, which can contribute to a panic attack? These symptoms include difficulty thinking, fatigue and shaking.

Cutting back on sugar can help the body to cope with stress in a healthier way by boosting your energy (and keeping you free from harmful sugar highs and crashes).

2. Depression

Speaking of the ups and downs that come with sugar consumption, this roller coaster ride sugar has us on can contribute to an increased risk of depression. Some research explains that sugar suppresses a certain hormone that is low in individuals with depression.

3. Memory

High glucose levels have shown to diminish mental capacity over time. If you’re a little too keen on the cookies, there is a chance you’ll experience deficits in memory, learning and other cognitive functions.

It’s normal to experience sugar cravings every so often. Instead of reaching for refined sugars, your body and mind will thank you for turning to fresh fruit instead. Your body and mind will benefit. Now that is sweet.

Folic acid, mutation and wellness

47096319_MDo you feel a lack of energy? Confused, sometimes? Depression that you cannot link to any other cause?

A range of seemingly unrelated symptoms may be the result of the way that your body processes folate, or vitamin B9. Folic acid is an essential vitamin, and while supplements can make up for a lack of vitamin B9 in the diet, some otherwise healthy people have a genetic mutation that interferes with the body’s ability to process it, called methylation. This can be treated.


Folate, folacin or vitamin B9 is an essential vitamin. We need it to metabolize amino acids, which are needed for cell division, part of the process of growth and maintenance of body tissues.

Folate deficiency can lead to a certain form of anemia, in which red blood cells are enlarged and immature. Symptoms include feeling tired, heart palpitations, shortness of breath and open sores on the tongue.

Pregnant women are often prescribed folic acid supplements to prevent miscarriages as well as certain birth defects in their babies, including neural tube defects, spina bifida and congenital heart defects. This is especially important in the first trimester.

Some studies have found that folic acid supplements for pregnant women reduced the risk of autism spectrum disorders by 23%. Folic supplements have been linked to reductions in rates of heart disease, stroke and congenital heart defects. Folate deficiency has also been linked with diarrhea, depression, confusion, Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of cognitive decline. Long-term insufficiency may increase the risks of colorectal, breast, ovarian, pancreas, brain, lung, cervical and prostate cancers.


Because humans cannot make folate, we must get it from food. The recommended daily intake of folate for adults is 400 micrograms. Dark, leafy vegetables such as lentils, asparagus, spinach and lettuce are good sources of folate. Peanuts and sunflower seed kernels are also very rich sources of folate, as are chickpeas, soybeans and walnuts. Chicken liver and calf liver are meats that are excellent sources, as well.

The MTHFR mutation

Methylation, the process in which the body uses folate, is controlled by the gene MTHFR. It’s responsible for producing an enzyme called Methylene tetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR), which is a catalyst, or trigger, for the production of DNA and RNA and in cell division.

There are a number of possible mutations in the MTHFR gene, most of which are benign. However, one called C677T can interfere with the methylation process, leading to puzzling and often serious symptoms of a condition called hyperhomocysteinemia, or excels levels of a hormone called homocysteine.

Our research has found a number of conditions and symptoms either caused or made worse by the MTHFR mutation, from autism to asthma, to male infertility to various cancers.


As with all treatments at Proactive Wellness Centers, we begin with a comprehensive assessment of your health and your body. This includes a complete lab panel of blood and other fluid tests. We also perform an advanced genetics panel, Cartoid Intima-Media Thickness (CIMT) tests to measure the thickness of the inner layers of the arteries and, if indicated, food sensitivity testing. These tests give us a full picture of your overall health and needs.

With this, we can develop dietary and lifestyle guidelines suited to your health needs, age and sensitivities. For example, we may recommend adding a green smoothie to your daily diet. We may also recommend reducing or eliminating consumption of:

  • dairy products
  • gluten
  • processed foods
  • antacids

Depending on the lab results, symptoms and age, we may also recommend adjustments to your lifestyle. These could include:

  • eliminating carpeting from your home
  • filtering chlorine from drinking water
  • using an electric rather than a gas stove

Nutritional supplements

At Proactive Wellness Centers, we have found that nutritional supplementation is key to advancing a patient’s overall wellness. But treating a long-term folate deficiency caused by the MTHFR mutation requires more than a simple folic acid pill once a day. Each patient requires the right supplements at the right time.

For example, methylated folate can make inflammation worse, so in a patient with a folate deficiency, inflammation must be treated before adding folate supplements.

Other possible supplements could include:

  • broad-spectrum intravenous vitamin therapy
  • multivitamins (excluding B9 or folic acid)
  • glutathione
  • fish oil
  • nattokinase
  • vitamin C
  • vitamin D3
  • probiotics

Then, we would consider adding methylated folate, as long as the patient is not inflamed.

The right solution

Every body is unique, and that means that every treatment regimen must be uniquely tailored to the patient’s needs.

Imbalances in one part or one system of the body may manifest symptoms in other parts. Rather than focusing on one system or symptom, as specialists do, we take a functional medicine approach to find the root causes. In this way, we can develop a protocol that works for each individual.

If you have symptoms that you cannot account for or that successive specialists have failed to address, book an appointment for an assessment to put you on the path to optimal, life-long wellness.

6 tips for starting a meditation practice

Meditation is on the rise, and for a good reason. Practicing meditation eases stress and anxiety and even has a physical effect. Some studies show that the incidence of heart disease and other complications is lowered by those who employ the breathing techniques and peacefulness that comes with meditation. 52942829_M

For those who want to start meditating, sometimes too much thought goes into how to begin. Meditation is about mindfulness, not overexertion of your thoughts. Here are six simple ways to get started.

1. Start small.
Remember not to feel overwhelmed. This may be new to you, but it doesn’t have to be stressful. Begin — the rest is easy.

2. Form a designated space.
Your meditation space can be anywhere, including a corner of your living room or the floor of your office. Don’t feel like you have to have a room solely for meditation; any space where you know that is where you can go to practice is the space for you.

3. Meditate on a schedule.
Don’t worry if you don’t follow your schedule exactly. Simply having some semblance of a schedule will keep you motivated to continue on your new-found meditation journey.

4. Utilize an app.
There are so many phone applications now, such as Calm and Headspace, that guide you in meditation. Both of these apps track your meditation activities in some way, and they serve as a fun way to stay motivated.

5. Consider investing in comfort.
Meditation is all about being in the moment, but how can you focus on anything else during your meditation time if you’re distracted by a chair that forces you to keep adjusting how you’re sitting.

6. Let others know your intentions.
Whether it’s a spouse, your children or a roommate, letting those you live with know that you want to pick up the practice of meditation will help them understand when you take a moment to yourself.

Follow these tips, and you’ll be comfortable practicing the art of meditation in no time. Remember to begin small, and all the rest will fall into place.

Your body type should help determine your treatment plan

42109334 - family sharing mealEverybody is unique, and that means that every body is unique, too. Which means that your optimal health plan should be unique — tailored to your individual, unique body size and shape.

In clinical terms, this involves a complete understanding of your morphology, or body shape and composition, and metabolism, which is how your body stores and uses energy.

Indicators of morphology

While weight and height are, at best, crude indicators of body shape, we have found that the ratio of waist and hip measurements to chest, shoulders and other measurements can be very useful.

A number of medical studies tell us that fat buildup around the waist is more dangerous than elsewhere in the body. It’s associated with higher incidence of heart disease, heart attack, stroke and other critical illnesses.

Body composition

One of the most important measurements for your body is the proportion of total body fat. Men require at least 3-5 % body fat, with 8-18% the idea range. Clinical obesity starts at 22% body fat.

For women, the ideal range is 18-25% total body fat; clinical obesity starts at 32%.

Of course, obesity presents a number of health problems, including added stress to joints and skeleton. But at one point, excess body fat can lead to insulin resistance, also known as metabolic syndrome.

Insulin is a hormone that allows glucose, or blood sugar, to enter cells to “burn” as energy. In insulin resistance, cells do not respond normally to insulin, which leads to excess sugar levels in the bloodstream. This in turn leads to formation of new fatty tissue and accelerated weight gain, leading to more strain on the body’s systems, as well as potentially to diabetes and liver disease.

For men, insulin resistance can start to happen at around 29% body fat, and for women at 32%. This is a serious concern that can lead to hypertension, heart disease and even cancer.

At Proactive Wellness Centers, we do more than put a tape measure around your shoulders, chest and waist. We look to find out exactly how much of your total mass is lean, fat and water. We use a range of technologies to give us a full picture of exactly what you’re made of.

One of our most important tools is the InBody 570 body composition analyzer from GE/Inbody. This device looks like the weight scale you would find in most physicians’ offices or at a gym, with extra handles. The handles, however, are electrodes. When you hold the electrodes, the InBody 570 sends a mild electrical current through your body, and measure the impedance (a type of electrical resistance).

In 45 seconds, the device tells us the proportion of total body fat, Fat Mass (FM), and Fat Free Mass (FFM), and water in your body.

This helps us produce a complete picture of you and your health, with the goal of producing a plan for your optimal, lifelong wellness.

Your lifelong wellness plan

Everyone’s body is unique, and that means that everyone should have a wellness plan that is tailored to their unique shape, size and health circumstances. Visit our website to get started on finding your lifelong wellness plan.