A couple months ago, my newsletter’s main article was about sugar and what too much of it could do to your body and your health. This month, I’m choosing to address sugar again from a different point of view—the effect of too little sugar in the body.
Hypoglycemia is a condition characterized by an abnormally low level of blood sugar (glucose), your body’s main energy source. Hypoglycemia is commonly associated with the treatment of diabetes. However, a variety of conditions, many of them rare, can cause low blood sugar in people without diabetes.
Like fever, hypoglycemia isn’t a disease itself — it’s an indicator of a health problem. In my holistic chiropractic practice, it is a condition that occasionally presents itself in my clients.
Your body needs a steady supply of sugar (glucose) in order to function properly. You may have briefly felt the effects of low blood sugar when you’ve gotten really hungry or exercised hard without eating enough. This happens to nearly everyone from time to time. It’s easy to correct and usually nothing to worry about.
However, if glucose levels remain too low, as occurs with hypoglycemia, it can have detrimental effects on your brain and your body.
The stress that hypoglycemia creates produces symptoms that can vary from person to person and be different depending on how low your blood sugar level drops.
Mild hypoglycemia can make you feel hungry or like you want to vomit. You could also feel jittery or nervous. Your heart may beat fast. You may sweat, or your skin might turn cold and clammy.
Moderate hypoglycemia often makes people feel short-tempered, nervous, afraid, or confused. Your vision may blur. You could also feel unsteady or have trouble walking.
Severe hypoglycemia can cause you to pass out. You could have seizures. It could even cause a coma or death.
If you’ve had hypoglycemia during the night, you may wake up tired or with a headache. You may have nightmares, or you may sweat so much during the night that your pajamas or sheets are damp when you wake up.
These signs and symptoms aren’t specific to hypoglycemia. There may be other causes. A blood sample to test your blood sugar level at the time of these signs and symptoms is the only way to know for sure that hypoglycemia is the cause.
Possible causes in people with diabetes
If you have diabetes, the effects of insulin on your body are drastically diminished, either because your pancreas doesn’t produce enough of it (Type 1 diabetes) or because your cells are less responsive to it (Type 2 diabetes). As a result, glucose tends to build up in your bloodstream and may reach dangerously high levels. To correct this problem, you likely take insulin or other drugs designed to lower blood sugar levels.
If you take too much insulin relative to the amount of glucose in your bloodstream, it can cause your blood sugar level to drop too low, resulting in hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia may also result if, after taking your diabetes medication, you don’t eat as much as usual (ingesting less glucose) or you exercise more (using up more glucose) than you normally would.
What causes hypoglycemia in people who don’t have diabetes?
Most hypoglycemia occurs when you haven’t eaten (when you’re in a fasting state), but that’s not always the case. Sometimes hypoglycemia occurs after a meal because the body produces more insulin than is needed. This type of hypoglycemia, called reactive or postprandial hypoglycemia, may occur in people who have had gastric bypass surgery. It may also occur in people who haven’t had surgery.
Ongoing problems with low blood sugar can also be caused by:
• Diseases of the liver, kidneys, or pancreas
• Metabolic problems
• Certain medicines
• Use of alcohol
• Missed meals
• Severe infection
• Adrenal insufficiency
If you notice symptoms coming on 2-5 hours after eating, there is a chance you have hypoglycemia. Heavy starch foods such as potatoes, rice, pasta and other grain products should be avoided as much as possible. Also, foods and drinks with table sugar, honey, sucrose, glucose, corn syrup and any other sweetener that is high on the glycemic index should be avoided.
There is one very important thing you can do for free and it will have a big impact on the symptoms–chew your food till it is liquefied! This has a dramatic impact on the blood sugar level and if you do this you will quickly notice a reduction of symptoms.
If you suspect that you or someone you care about may be experiencing the effects of hypoglycemia, please call Amber in my Ventura office at (805) 644-0461 and make an appointment to see me. I will work with you to find which organs or bodily processes are malfunctioning and recommend supplements and procedures to build your body back up for your optimum wellness and well being!