Low blood sugar

A layperson’s understanding

Following George’s excellent article on Blood Sugar, I thought I’d add my two cents regarding hypoglycemia, commonly referred to as low blood sugar.

The word hypoglycemia comes from hypo– (less than normal) and glycemia (the presence of glucose in the blood). Answers.com’s Alternative Medicine Encyclopedia gives us this definition of hypoglycemia:

Hypoglycemia occurs when blood sugar (or blood glucose) concentrations fall below a level necessary to properly support the body’s need for energy and stability throughout its cells.

and lists the symptoms of hypoglycemia as follows:

  • cold and pale skin
  • numbness around the mouth
  • apprehension
  • heart palpitations
  • emotional outbursts
  • hand tremors
  • mental cloudiness
  • dilated pupils
  • sweating
  • fainting

Now, I’m a pretty strong person with a lot of mental pep and drive, and don’t get me wrong — I don’t live on a diet of donuts, nor do I experience low blood sugar "attacks" often.

However, that little list doesn’t do justice to what a low blood sugar attack feels like: the sudden surprise overheating, sweating, shaking hands, fast-pounding heart, a panicky feeling, and the sensation that you’re going to pass out soon. In short, not a real good time.

Back in the 1990’s and after I’d started experiencing occasional hypoglycemic symptoms, we had discovered Dr. Barry Sears’ Zone Diet. This diet combined protein, fats and (as I recall) carbohydrates which, depending on how you compiled your meals, could have you eating a few bites of food and several peanuts and not much else — or a veritable trough of food that would be difficult to consume. We also found Dr. Sears’ Zone Bars which, along with being tasty, seemed to even out my blood sugar nicely and -presto!- no more problem. However, it wasn’t at all convenient to drag this type of food to work (or, if you were not motivated enough, to prepare such meals), and so one fell into the habit of eating Zone bars. Lots of them. And the problem with that is that, in my opinion, they’re not really the kind of nutritious food that one ought to eat on a long-term basis. (Nor are they, as I recall, recommended for such.)

You see (speaking for myself), someone prone to hypoglycemia may be eating well, after a manner of speaking. For me, it was not the quality of food we were eating — we eat mostly organic and/or "natural" food. It was pretty much what I was eating, and sometimes what I was eating with what and when. If you’re like me, you may get engrossed in what you’re doing and not eat quite as often as you should.

The other problem is that someone experiencing low blood sugar may also be drawn to foods that contribute to the problem, and so you go round and round. And you may find yourself eating more, or choosing less nutritious foods in order to balance out this "thing" that’s happening to you. So diets that work for other people may not at all work for you.

For example, on occasion, we’ve adopted some diet that seemingly would work splendidly for every last person in the world, except me — I’d end up feeling depleted. And so what do you do? You look for something that, one way or another, translates to carbs and sugar. Yay! But what is all this but an attempt to consume enough sugar to balance the deficiency of glucose in the blood? Unfortunately, if you don’t understand what’s happening, it’s difficult to find a fix.

So, the research I conducted for our Blood Sugar article — and George’s comments towards the end — clarified this for me. The concept is to consume foods that don’t impart of huge sugar jolt to the body — which then, in self-defense, produces insulin in an attempt to regulate the sugar. One result of this is that all of the food you’ve just eaten lands on your hips, as they say.

Now, it wasn’t as if I was existing on donuts and wondering what the problem could be. For me, the issues seemed to be:

  1. Not eating often enough, and
  2. Some of what I was eating contained sugars (some of them hidden) that were too much for the body, setting me up for an eventual crash — if I didn’t eat again soon enough.

And, it’s not that I can’t eat sugar, but that there are better and worse sugars. Sugar is contained in many foods, some of them not what you’d consider sugary. And there are even things you can do when you do eat straight sugar that will slow down its absorption into the blood — that is, without giving yourself a sugar jolt that triggers insulin production (and the soon-to-come post-sugar crash).

So, just a few days of eating based upon this new understanding has already led to the loss of the occasional sensation of teetering toward the brink of a low blood sugar crash. To understand it is to be able to control it — and I’m pleased to know that that does not mean I have to live on a diet composed solely of extra-lean meats and bone-dry salads. I’m pretty much eating the same things as before, but more frequently and in different combinations.

Who knew it would be so easy, and the results so beneficial?

If you’re interested, I highly recommend George’s article, Blood Sugar and Healthy Eating.

Note: I must add that there are apparently other causes of low blood sugar, such as drug-induced attacks, so this is something that probably ought to be taken to a physician to determine, as I’m not a doctor.

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7 Comments for "Hypoglycemia – low blood sugar"

  1. Saint Clic

    Nice an easy to read/understand. Thanks

  2. Tammy (Texas)

    I received test to confirm that I a defft. Hypoglycemic…doing lot’s of surfing to get pointers on the treatment. Thanks for the nice easy to understand info!

  3. Diane Vigil

    Ah, you’re welcome, Saint Clic and Tammy. I thought it would help to have a plain-English explanation for those of us who’d like to get a grasp of hypoglycemia. Glad it helped!

  4. kathleenmaxwell

    Just went to the dr. today. Tried to explain to him that my blood sugar was dropping pretty often. He said my sugar couldn’t drop because I was not a diabetic. Well, I’ve got news for him. It does. The lowest has been 38. It drops 5 to 6 times a month. Must be the way I am eating. I do feel lousy when this happens. Got to get something in my body in a hurry or I’m feeling shaky, sweaty, nervous and my legs even get shaky. What I really want to know is can your blood sugar drop without being a diabetic. My sugar never goes up. Confused.

  5. Diane Vigil

    Hello, Kathleen. I know what you mean.

    Well, this is the point where you’ll need to consult a doctor, as I am not one. However, I get low blood sugar “episodes” and am not a diabetic. I’d suggest going to a doctor who knows what the difference is between diabetes and hypoglycemia.

    I do find that it’s helpful to not eat stuff with sugar in it (and then to wait too long to eat). If you read our Blood Sugar article, that may help to explain what’s happening … I know it’s helped me quite a bit, and my blood sugar episodes have tailed off almost entirely. :)

  6. sam

    Agree – stay away from sugar (and alchohol that is high in sugar). I love all the new technology for diabetics. My neice is a juvenile diabetic – she has this really cool pump that sends the insulin into her leg. I am so proud of how she is able to go about her daily life and not let her illness get her down. She is hoping that there will be a combination ipod/cellphone/insulin pump invented – maybe she will become an inventor!

    What is A Normal Blood Glucose Level

  7. Blood Sugar and Healthy Eating

    […] also Hypoglycemia – Low Blood Sugar Send to a […]

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