Wednesday, 17 April 2013 19:06

Hypoglycemia

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  • Do you have chronic low or fluctuating energy?
  • Moodiness and irritability?
  • Confusion?
  • Dizziness?
  • Do you suffer from palpitations, tremors and sweats?
  • Rapid heart beat?
  • Hunger that cannot be satisfied?
  • Anxiety and nervousness, fasting headaches, and craving for sweets?

Then you could be labelled as being fatigued or maybe even neurotic. Or are you simply hypoglycemic?

“Hypo” means low and “glycemia” is Latin for sweet. There are two types of hypoglycemia: clinical or subclinical. Clinical hypoglycemia (true hypoglycemia) is diagnosed by having a fasting glucose of less than 50 mg/dl or by having an impaired glucose tolerance test. Whereas subclinical hypoglycemia (hypoglycemia which is not lab diagnosed but where the patient is commonly labelled as having low energy or as being neurotic) is diagnosed based on symptoms experienced 2-5 hours after eating and a measurable low blood sugar is not found. It is the latter, which is most often misdiagnosed.

Hypoglycemia is a disorder occurring only in civilized sugar and refined flour consuming societies. It is virtually unheard of in underdeveloped countries. The average North American diet guarantees hypoglycemia, with sugar, white bread, coffee, and soda. In fact, in one year the typical North American consumer eats: 20 gallons of ice cream, 100 lbs of refined sugar, 300 cans of soda pop, 200 sticks of gum, 63 dozen donuts, 50 lbs of cakes and biscuits, 12 lbs of potato chips, corn chips, popcorn and pretzels, and 18 lbs of sweets and candy. I don’t know about you but someone else is eating my share.

To truly understand hypoglycemia a certain amount of knowledge of body physiology is necessary. The body needs a steady supply of energy to function. This energy is derived primarily from carbohydrates, which are converted through digestion into their simplest form: glucose. Glucose is essential for all body functions, especially for the brain and nervous system. Insulin controls the flow of glucose from the blood into the cells. The pancreas contains certain cells called Beta cells that produce insulin. Insulin along with oxygen and chromium move sugar from the blood into the cells.

When sugar or flour products are consumed the body quickly digests them and floods the bloodstream with glucose. The body then reacts by secreting insulin into the bloodstream allowing glucose to go from the bloodstream into the cells and thereby lowering blood glucose levels. Excess sugar enters the liver and muscles where it is stored in the form of glycogen; or it is stored as fat. When a lot of insulin is needed following a simple carbohydrate meal, there is essentially less energy for the brain (as the insulin will bring the sugar into the other body cells), which may account for fatigue and lethargy after meals.

If the body must constantly send out a lot of insulin to balance the effect of a meal of simple carbohydrates, the pancreas begins to falter. The glucose balancing load then falls on other organs (adrenals, pituitary, thyroid, liver), which in turn will begin to falter.

The brain uses up to 80% of available glucose and is very sensitive to glucose levels. A severe drop in blood glucose levels could be a life-threatening event called insulin shock. A severe drop in glucose levels stimulates the release of hormones such as:

  • Adrenaline
  • Glucagon
  • Cortisol
  • Growth hormone which increase blood sugar levels to protect against insulin shock

The pituitary releases growth hormone causing the adrenals to release cortisol in turn telling the liver to produce more sugar and telling body cells to decrease the consumption of sugar. The thyroid gland increases the metabolic rate to help the liver make more sugar quickly.

Adrenaline produces the physical symptoms of hypoglycemia such as:

  • Sweating
  • Tremor
  • Anxiety
  • Increased Heart Rate
  • Hunger

If the hypoglycemic reaction is gradual such symptoms as:

  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Blunted Cognitive Functions
  • Emotional Instability
  • Confusion
  • Abnormal Behaviour Arises

It has been established that psychiatric patients do have a higher incidence of hypoglycemia than the general population.

In the treatment of hypoglycemia one should eat a diet high in complex carbohydrates in order to balance blood sugar. When complex carbohydrates (long chains of sugar molecules) are consumed, the digestive tract can only break sugar off the complex carbohydrate at a slow rate ensuring gradually rising and stable blood sugar values.

EATING PRINCIPLES:

  • Eat 4-5 Small Meals Throughout The Day
  • Snack On Nuts And Sour Apples
  • High Fiber Diet
  • High Complex Carbohydrate Diet

THERAPEUTIC FOODS:

  • Complex Carbohydrates
  • Whole Grains
  • Chinese Sweet Rice
  • Brown Rice
  • Yams
  • Potatoes
  • Walnuts
  • Tofu
  • Soybeans
  • Corn
  • Fish
  • Chicken
  • Vegetables
  • Black Beans
  • Nuts
  • Kelp
  • Dulse
  • Swiss Chard
  • Turnip Greens
  • Egg Yolks
  • Wheat Germ
  • Cod Roe
  • Lecithin
  • Sesame Seed Butter
  • Seed And Nuts
  • Goat’s Milk

AVOID:

  • Sugars, Honey
  • Simple Carbohydrates
  • White Flour
  • Fructose
  • Syrups
  • Sweet And Dried Fruits
  • Coffee
  • Fatty Foods
  • Fried Foods
  • Fruit Juices
  • Alcohol

I have found chromium to have the most noted therapeutic effect on rectifying hypoglycemia. I have used 400 mcg up to 2400 mcg per day on my patients with good results. In a few cases I have used Vitamins C and B complex to support the thyroid, pituitary and adrenals.

Most people in our society suffer from hypoglycemia and don’t even know it. A further 3,000,000 Canadians have progressed from hypoglycemia to diabetes. Hypoglycemia is a warning signal as the first step towards diabetes. Hypoglycemia is reversible and therefore diabetes is preventable.

Back in the sixties, medical doctors dismissed the seriousness of hypoglycemia by prescribing candy bar therapy. That is: when a patient felt weak from hypoglycemia it was recommended to eat a candy bar. This therapy would cause a short-term relief of the symptoms only to further worsen the disorder.

In my practice I use diet therapy, vitamin and mineral supplements and stress management techniques to effectively treat my hypoglycemic patients.

With some of the above recommendations individuals may easily help themselves. However self-help can prove to be costly and time consuming, leaving you with an inaccurate idea of how effective natural therapeutics can be. If you want successful long lasting results and want them quickly I suggest you consult your local Naturopathic Doctor. He or she is highly trained to diagnose your condition and to set up an individualized therapeutic regime prescribing the appropriate therapies.

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