Do you frequently experience extreme hunger, weakness, fatigue, anxiety, nervousness, severe mood swings, brain fog, disorientation, or trembling? Many of us recognize these symptoms as related to hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. However, most hypoglycemics do not know they have this insidious condition. Even more don’t realize it has been linked other serious health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes (Type II), atherosclerosis, ADHD, adrenal fatigue, food allergies, infertility, obesity, and even cancer and Alzheimers, to name a few. The great news is that as prevalent and debilitating as hypoglycemia can be, it is totally manageable and even preventable.
Maintaining an optimum blood glucose level is essential for a healthy metabolism and a foundation for good health. The more common form of hypoglycemia is characterized by intermittent, but frequent episodes of low blood sugar (often referred to as “reactive hypoglycemia”), as opposed to continuously low levels. What is considered low? The general consensus is that consistent readings below 80 are too low. And if left unmanaged or untreated, this pattern is a precursor to the more chronic conditions mentioned above, most commonly to Type II Diabetes which has become an epidemic in this country.
Another troubling result of reactive hypoglycemia is excess insulin levels, which has more recently been implicated as the bigger culprit in the conditions listed above. Insulin is a hormone that is secreted by the pancreas when blood glucose levels are too high. As is the case with reactive hypoglycemia, it is triggered by a high-glycemic meal or snack, which causes blood glucose levels to spike. The pancreas responds by secreting insulin to bring glucose levels back down. The problem is when insulin is released, it also tells the body to store fat. But remember, we have a role in whether any of this comes to be.
With the exception of the rare case where hypoglycemia can be brought on by a genetic defect, it is generally caused by improper dietary and lifestyle habits, which eventually places undue stress on the endocrine system (i.e., pancreas, liver, adrenal glands, kidneys). The dietary pattern that is linked to hypoglycemia is a consistently disproportionate consumption of refined carbohydrates or simple sugars relative to proteins and fats. In other words, too much pasta, bread, sugary snacks, and fruit juice and not enough meats and fresh vegetables. In fact, vegetarians constitute the majority of hypoglycemics. The lifestyle habits that contribute to hypoglycemia are improper stress management and lack of exercise, including both cardiovascular and strength training.
There are various clinical tests that a qualified health practitioner can perform to conclusively determine whether you have hypoglycemia. In fact, you can purchase a glucometer at your local pharmacy and monitor your blood glucose levels yourself in accordance with the instructions that accompany the meter. However, if you frequently experience two or more of the symptoms mentioned above on a regular basis, it would be wise to begin incorporating some of the following recommended dietary and lifestyle changes immediately. After all, no one has ever been harmed by the good nutrition of a hypoglycemic diet or regular exercise and stress management.
A good hypoglycemic diet is not a whole lot different than the healthy lifestyle nutrition plan recommended for everyone else — a diet consisting of whole, fresh, unprocessed foods with a good balance of proteins, carbohydrates, and natural fats. This means eating protein from meats or eggs or dairy with every meal and limiting your consumption of breads, pastas, cereals, and other flour based foods. Your carbs should mainly consist of fresh vegetables and the lower glycemic fruits such as berries, melon and grapefruit. Eating smaller, more frequent meals is also essential.
Exercising at least five times per week for at least 30 minutes at a time (cardiovascular and strength training) and practicing daily stress management techniques (such as meditation, yoga, or other forms of deep breathing) facilitate the maintenance of optimum blood sugar levels, as well as help to prevent and manage various other health conditions.
If you have been diagnosed with or you suspect you may have hypoglycemia, don’t waste any time dealing with the condition. Consult with a health practitioner who is familiar with and trained to handle the condition for specific dietary and exercise guidance. In the meantime, follow the recommendations mentioned above.