There are many factors that can create or cause neurotransmitter imbalance(s) in any given person; however, one of the most common is consuming a diet that is deficient in one or more nutrients necessary for proper neurotransmitter function. For many people, one of the biggest culprits in this regard is our extreme over-consumption of sugar.
Sweet and Out of Control
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the average American consumes about 156 pounds of sugar each year; that is over 44 teaspoons of sugar every day! The consumption of soda and energy drinks accounts for more than 36% of the added sugar in our diets with the average American consuming over 54.5 gallons of soft drinks per year; that’s almost 600 twelve-ounce cans. This unbelievable over-consumption makes soda and energy drinks the single largest source of refined sugar in the diet of most Americans.
The question remains, why is sugar consumption so bad and how does consuming sugar related to trichotillomania? Sugar is basically an anti-nutrient, which means that it requires more nutrients to process it than it contains. This means that consuming sugar literally steals nutrients from the body in order to metabolize it; many of these nutrients are necessary from proper neurotransmitter function, and over time, consuming sugar can cause a great enough deficit to significantly alter neurotransmitter production.
In addition, sugar contains none of the necessary amino acids or cofactors necessary to produce neurotransmitters and sugar-laden foods often displace other, more healthy foods (that can help improve neurotransmitter balance). This nutrient-deficient diet doesn’t supply the body the necessary nutrients to maintain proper neurotransmitter production, which creates imbalance over time.
In addition, consuming sugar over-stimulates the body causing increased release and destruction of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. Combined, the effects of over-consuming sugar lead to dramatic swings in neurotransmitter balance over time, which and lead to all sorts of symptoms, including the increased urges to pull so often experienced by those with trichotillomania.