Blood sugar and bipolar disorder

I’ve started to use a mood tracker called Optimism to track my mood vs. standard parameters such as how much sleep I get, how well I sleep, and how much exercise I get. I have noticed an interesting trend: a few days after I get relatively more exercise, my mood gets worse, and a few days after I am sedentary, my mood gets better. I need to track myself for longer to see if this is a real trend, but I have noticed that I tend to feel best when sitting on my butt all day sipping coffee or eating sugary snacks.

I’m trying to lose weight and improve fitness, so this latter option is not really one for me. In searching around for information on bipolar disorder and blood sugar levels, I came across this interesting post from Everyday Health. Apparently my love for sweets is common among bipolar people, and the cravings I get for sugar are my body’s way of self-medicating, trying to spur my metabolism to produce more serotonin. I take a supplement that helps boost serotonin levels, but I’ve been a sugar addict for far longer. Anyway, this craving produces spikes and crashes in blood sugar (if one satisfies the craving with simple carbohydrates only) which can worsen mood as well as lead to weight issues and insulin resistance. So my plan to counter this is to not cut out carbs completely, as well-meaning friends have foolishly suggested, but to substitute complex carbohydrates for the simple ones. Complex carbohydrates are metabolized more slowly, producing a more gradual change in blood sugar levels and a more even blood sugar level overall. Given the effects of blood sugar levels on serotonin and dopamine levels (see Everyday Health post for a summary), I figure it’s not wise to make radical changes to my carbohydrate intake- any changes I make have to be slow and gradual ones, much as if I’m changing my medication.

While I wasn’t able to find any blog posts or online articles describing the effects of strenuous exercise on bipolar people, I think there exists a consensus that more clinical information on this topic is needed. I myself know that I can’t exercise very strenuously for several days in a row without negative consequences, so I suspect there is some link between more exercise than usual, blood sugar levels, and mood- and just as I need to make changes to blood sugar gradually, I need to make changes to the level of exercise I routinely get gradually as well. Right now I do 10,000 steps a day when I can (often wearing ankle weights, which help get a good workout) and today I’ve added a little yoga to the mix. I’m going to add things slowly and level them off when they seem to be getting too strenuous, and hope that this approach helps me get fit without jarring my system too much.

It’s frustrating, being this susceptible to so many influences: sleep, sunlight, stress, diet, and exercise level all seem to greatly impact my mood and ability to function like a normal person. It’s like being some kind of exotic and extremely fragile potted plant.

Have a great day!

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