Low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia)

Low Blood Sugar (LBS) is responsible for so much illness in our society; yet doctors are not trained to recognise it, nor is there a clear-cut test to diagnose it. Most of us suffer from it in one way or another; but what does it actually mean, and what can we do to cure ourselves?

LBS is essentially abnormal sugar level fluctuations in the blood. It can be due to inheritance and a historical family problem with sugar metabolism. Often, however, inheritance plays a smaller part in the cause for LBS than many years of bodily abuse through bad eating habits, high levels of stress and an unhealthy lifestyle.

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How can you tell if you are an LBS sufferer? See if you recognise some of these symptoms: tiredness, energy fluctuations, irritability, anxiety, depression, poor sleep, fainting or a feeling of about-to-faint, mental confusion, temper outbursts, crying spells, negative thoughts and attitudes, craving for sweets, desperate need to eat at certain intervals, mood swings, waking up tired and feeling best after 7pm. For many these symptoms will ring a bell. For most, however, the underlying problem would not be diagnosed as LBS.

Low blood sugar is a bit of a misleading name, so let me explain what it really means. A healthy person with normal blood sugar levels metabolises sugar gradually, coming down from a “sugar high” slowly but surely. An LBS sufferer, on the other hand, metabolises sugar in a much more erratic way. He enjoys the high brought about by sugar, but then pretty quickly hits a low, which he will seek to relieve by ingesting even more sugar. The rapid rise in blood sugar levels followed by a ‘low’ is typical of the roller-coaster ride hypoglycaemics take daily. It is nicknamed ‘the sugar blues’, because it was shown to have strong emotional and mental effects in addition to physical symptoms.

Sugar is a hard drug; it’s just socially acceptable

This unhealthy ‘sugar blues’ see-saw is all too often the result of years of abuse of the body. If we lived a more natural life, any food we would consume would consist of complex molecules that would take time to break down in the body. This would ensure a ‘slow burning’ process providing long lasting energy between meals, much like a thick log burning slowly in the fireplace. If, however, the body is supplied with simple, fibreless molecules (such as refined sugar and flour and everything containing them), it’s like paper burning in the fireplace – it gives plenty of heat for a very short time, only to die out very quickly.

When these simple, refined carbs are fed routinely into the body, often right from very early childhood, the body is forced to learn to adapt to functioning with this quick burning source of energy. As soon as refined food reaches the small intestine (the main site of absorption), the pancreas knows from previous experience that the blood is going to be flooded with simple sugars in a short while, so it secretes excess amounts of insulin to deal with it. The liver, for its part, has to work twice as hard to store this excess glucose. Over time, both the pancreas and liver, having been so regularly abused, cease to function normally. They are simply not given the chance.

So far so good, that’s the physical side explained. But where does the mental connection come in? Glucose is the brain’s only nutrient; it is the only form of fuel the brain recognises. Under normal circumstances, the brain has a steady flow of glucose to work with. Under ‘sugared’ or ‘refined’ circumstances, it gets into panic an hour after a ‘paper meal’ (say, a jam sandwich or chocolate bar), thinking “wow, I’m going to run out of fuel any minute now!”. The brain goes into a state of stress, just as it would in a ‘fight or flight’ situation. It quickly sends a message to the liver to release some of its stored glucose – ‘quickly, please!’

The liver meanwhile hasn’t got a great store of glucose, because the paper burnt out too quickly in the fireplace, so it signals to us – “I need food”. And what does it get? More paper food, thank you very much. The brain becomes manic, because it can never be guaranteed a secure source of energy, so it starts behaving in all kinds of funny ways – from being hyperactive to being slow and confused, with many variants in between. And so it goes on forever, till diabetes develops.

Low blood sugar always brings with it incomplete body cleansing (detoxing). Why? Because it’s the liver – our biochemical HQ and the filter of our system – which regulates the body’s detoxing. And if the liver is always under pressure and doesn’t work well, detoxification won’t be complete, and the toxins will necessarily accumulate in the body. The more toxic the body, the lower the vitality, the lower the energy, the more dense and heavy we become. Health is all about fluidity and movement. This is hardly the way hypoglycaemics feel.

LBS also overburdens the adrenal glands as they struggle to keep up with the roller-coaster ride of the drastically fluctuating blood sugar levels. Any outside stress you put on the body, any challenge, contributes to the burden on these glands and on the body as a whole. Stress can be literally anything, but some obvious examples are challenging foods; sustained pressure at work; excessive travelling; prolonged negative emotions; lack of rest and relaxation; lack of sleep; pollution; lack of light; a feeling of being trapped in whatever situation one does not like etc. So it’s not just the food you eating or don’t eat. It’s the whole lifestyle and life situation that can challenge your body to the extreme.

So what can a good diet achieve? Ideally a diet should provide nourishment whilst allowing for detoxing at the same time. A good diet reduces stress on the body considerably; allows for healthier, more balanced functioning of the organs; and unlocks plenty of energy.

This is why it is so essential to have a close look at one’s way of eating. If you have been eating the typical Western diet for years, complete with its abundance of junk and processed food; sugar in everything and a free hand with alcohol, then the likelihood is your diet has been burdening your body daily for years. Such a diet does not allow for good cleansing, and robs you of energy on a continual basis. The spark of life – energy – is not there, so you may be putting it in forcefully and artificially via foods that give you a temporary pick-me-up feeling, but then send you even further down (which is why you desire more and more of them). Sugar is as addictive as a hard drug; it is just more socially acceptable.

The good news is, LBS can be reversed through carefully managed changes of diet and life style. It may take some patience and dedication to recover the energy, motivation and creativity you enjoyed as a young person, but it is possible. The miraculous ability of our body to restore itself ensures that with some tender, loving care we can be rebalanced and recharged.

© Vardit Kohn, January 2005.  No part of this article may be copied or reproduced without prior written consent.

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