Hypoglycemia: Facts And Treatment

Hypoglycemia is a condition that wreaks havoc on the body, but with proper diet and precautions the condition can be improved and corrected.

b>Definition

Hypoglycemia is a medical condition that literally means low blood sugar (hypo = low, glycemia = sugar). Blood sugar is the amount of glucose circulating in the body. There are a host of symptoms that may indicate this condition. Some of them are poor concentration, dizziness, fatigue, nervousness, irritability, anxiety, phobias, panic attacks, headaches, migraines, tinnitus, ringing in the ears, allergies, forgetfulness, blurred vision, and vertigo.

To confirm whether or not one is suffering from hypoglycemia, an oral glucose tolerance test (GTT) can be done. Basically, a person fasts; then blood is drawn, and a measured amount of glucose is given. Blood is then drawn again in predetermined intervals up to five hours afterward. After this, sugar content is measured in each of the blood samples. A normal blood sugar reading is 80 to 100 mg of blood sugar of glucose for every 100 cc of blood. Although other parts of the body can utilize protein and fat for energy, the brain can only use glucose in order to function and this glucose must be provided in a steady supply or else some of the above symptoms can occur. When low blood sugar occurs, the circulatory system will be adversely affected and this can also result in some disturbing symptoms such as palpitation, angina, chest pain, and shortness of breath.

The pituitary, thyroid, and adrenal glands can also be adversely affected by low blood sugar episodes, which can result in further metabolic imbalances in the body. The adrenal glands, which are located near the kidneys, produce several important hormones (epinephrine, cortisol, and hydrocortisone). These hormones are also known as stress hormones as they prepare the body to fight under stressful conditions. But when the adrenal glands continually produce these hormones, which happens during episodes of low blood sugar, and are exhausted and no longer produce, for example, enough cortisone to protect the body from inflammation, one of the negative results of this can be a condition known as rheumatoid arthritis.

Studies have shown that "reactive" hypoglycemia can usually be accompanied by a personality disorder. Oftentimes, a diagnosis is based on these psychological disturbances, which are caused by hypoglycemic episodes. Treatment then involves administering such medications as antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications, when actually all that is needed is a change in diet (that is, avoidance of refined sugars and refined carbohydrates).

And because the above symptoms may be attributed to stress, a person is then labeled a "neurotic personality." But when blood sugar levels are restored to a normal level, these symptoms will usually disappear. This is why hypoglycemia is difficult to diagnose, and sometimes the condition is ignored by medical practitioners. This imbalance in metabolism that results in low blood sugar is caused by the insufficient levels of glucose and can be treated through proper diet.

Diabetics who take in more insulin than needed will suffer low blood sugar symptoms, as the insulin will drive down the levels of sugar. This state is referred to as hyperinsulinism, meaning that a high level of insulin is traveling through the body.

What To Eat

A diet that is high in refined sugars and refined carbohydrates will cause, produce, and aggravate the condition of hypoglycemia. Someone who suffers from hypoglycemia may, after eating a meal high in sugars or carbohydrates, suffer from what is known as reactionary hypoglycemia where the body produces a high amount of insulin in order to lower the sudden high level of sugar that has just been taken into the body. This happens because the body quickly absorbs and metabolizes these refined sugars and refined carbohydrates more so than it would proteins or complex carbohydrates.

The best treatment for preventing low blood sugar is not to eat more sugar, and this is why all refined sugars as well as refined carbohydrates should be avoided when undergoing treatment for hypoglycemia. Even caffeine is not recommended for anyone suffering from low blood sugar because caffeine releases stored sugars and in turn will react the same way as refined sugars in the body. Nicotine (smoking) should also be avoided as this can also affect blood sugar levels. Plus, hypoglycemics will feel even more so the adverse effects of smoking on the body.

By ingesting complex carbohydrates and proteins and basically incorporating a high complex, high fiber diet, one can alleviate many of the symptoms of low blood sugar. This happens because these types of foods are metabolized much more slowly in the body and consequently will not cause that downward spiral of blood sugar levels.

Alcohol (i.e., wines and liquor) is high in sugar content, and hypoglycemics should avoid ingesting anything that contains alcohol as this will cause a low blood sugar reaction. Many treatments even prohibit using artificial sweeteners mainly because although they may be safe for diabetics, they may still cause an insulin response, which in turn will lower blood sugar levels.

The main treatment for this disorder is to eat small and frequent meals during the day, which will help stabilize the blood sugar level without producing excess amounts of sugar in the blood stream that will "spike" an insulin reaction and cause the glucose level instead to plummet. The suggested diet for a hypoglycemic is similar to a diabetic diet, which is not to eat refined sugars and refined carbohydrates.

A high protein, low carbohydrate diet plan is recommended for "spontaneous" or "reactionary" hypoglycemia. One particular diet is divided into three stages. During Stage 1 (the length can be a week or more), food selections must be limited. Most of what is allowed are eggs (poached, scrambled, fried, etc.); cheeses, except whey cheese; all meats, fish, and poultry; and most vegetables (except corn, peas, beans such as lima beans or baked beans, parsnips, white potatoes, sweet potatoes, and yams.). Also allowed are soups such as broths and bouillon and consomme soups; artificially sweetened jelly and sugar substitutes; and fats, such as butter, margarine, cream salad dressings, oil, and shortening.



Artificially sweetened carbonated drinks and vegetable-based juices are allowed. Fruit juices are allowed in limited amounts, and most condiments are allowed as long as there is no sugar in the ingredients.

Foods to avoid are whey cheeses, vegetable protein, canned fruits that have sugar in the syrup, pancakes, waffles, sugar cereals, pastries, molasses, candy, and alcohol. Basically, anything incorporating sugars in any form in the ingredients should be avoided.

Supplements for Hypoglycemics

Please consult with your doctor before beginning any supplement program.

Chromium is important in helping control blood sugar. Chromium works with insulin in helping glucose get into cells. Blood sugar levels can rise without this substance. Adding chromium to the diet can help lower body weight and increase lean body mass. Recommended dosage is 200 to 400 micrograms of chromium picolinate or any chromium-enriched yeast product such as Brewer's Yeast.

Vitamin A: Recommended dosage 5,000 IU

Vitamin C: Important in order to maintain a strong immune system

Vitamin D: 100 IU

Niacin (B3) and Niacinamide: Assists in the uptake of glucose and has proven its importance in the treatment of hypoglycemia as well as diabetes

Folic Acid: Recommended dosage 400-1,000 micrograms

Pyridoxine (B6): Deficiency in this vitamin has resulted in glucose intolerance, and it is important to include this in a hypoglycemic supplement plan. Recommended dose is 50 to 100 mg a day.

Vitamin B12: Deficiency can cause mental confusion, depression, and/or anemia. Recommended dosage is 1,000 to 3,000 micrograms per day.

Vitamin E: Protects body from diabetes and hypoglycemia; recommended dosage is 400 to 600 international units per day.

Manganese: Important in glucose metabolism; recommended dosage is 30 milligrams per day.

Magnesium: Also important in glucose metabolism; recommended dosage of 300-350 milligrams per day.

Potassium: This supplement affects insulin sensitivity, responsiveness, and secretion, not to mention reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer. It is recommended to follow a high-potassium diet rather than take a potassium supplement, which should then be discussed with a physician.

Generally, a hypoglycemic should take a good multi-vitamin that provides calcium, iodine, iron, molybdenum, selenium, silica, vanadium, and zinc.

Exercise

Although exercise is very beneficial, it may be necessary to limit the duration of exercise to one hour a day until the body's reaction to sugars improves. Prolonged periods of activity may bring on or aggravate hypoglycemic symptoms. It is advised to participate in an aerobic exercise program to elevate the heart rate to 60% of maximum three times a week.

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