Hypoglycemia is one of those conditions that can make you as though you’re losing your mind. It occurs when there’s an abnormally low blood sugar (glucose) content in your blood, which can be caused by an excess of insulin produced by the body, when your body uses glucose too quickly, or when glucose is released into the blood stream too slowly.
And it can leave you feeling lost, confused and alone. Not only do you feel like a hypochondriac, people treat you like one, too. Your moods can fluctuate between laughter and crying jags faster than a toddler’s and those around you never know if you’re coming or going. Not only is it frustrating and inconvenient, it’s also very dangerous to your long-term health if not kept under control.
There are two types of hypoglycemia: Fasting and Reactive, which is the most common form. It’s identified by a drop in your blood sugar anywhere from an hour to several hours after a meal. Unlike diabetes, testing for hypoglycemia can be unreliable and in many cases, the most effective diagnosis tool is a simple questionnaire to assess symptoms. For those of us who suffer from this condition, we should feel grateful that we have but one remedy to our situation: diet and exercise. Without the option of medications, by default we end up with the healthiest form of treatment available provided by the person best qualified to understand our bodies – ourselves.
When I was first learned I was hypoglycemic, I felt angry and resentful because I was told I would have to give up my favorite foods. The only tool at my disposal was my good doctor telling me to avoid fruits and carbohydrates. He had very good intentions, but he wasn’t educated in nutrition. Years later, scientists developed the Glycemic Index. Finally, there was a table that those with blood sugar issues could easily check to see if we could actually consume a food without creating an imbalance in our blood sugar. How wonderful! But so many healthful foods had to be eliminated due to their high score.
Foods such as watermelon are extremely high on the Glycemic Index. It ranks at approximately 80, while pure glucose ranks at 100 (the highest possible score). The problem with this number, however, is that you’d have to eat an entire watermelon to consume that much sugar. And unfortunately, for so many years, people had been advised to avoid wonderfully healthy fruits, vegetables and grains based on this index. The truth of the matter is that when you look at an actual serving of a food, its sugar content may not be as high. This is where the Glycemic Load comes into play.
Having realized the pitfalls of the Glycemic Index, experts created a more realistic table indicating the sugars per serving. For example, a serving of watermelon (about 120g) only has a Glycemic Load of four to five, which is considered low. Finally we can eat without depriving ourselves, and we can do so without having our blood sugar rise and then drop to dangerous levels. And let’s face it – watermelon is awesomely refreshing, and variety is essential to a healthy balanced diet.
Just remember that food combining is still very important when it comes to stabilizing our blood sugar. Even when we consume fruits or carbohydrates with a low Glycemic Load, we should still be combining them with proteins, fats or fiber. These slow the rate of digestion and ease the burden on the pancreas to regulate the rate of insulin release.
The other huge factor in regulating blood sugar that so many of us forget is exercise. Why is it so helpful? Because by exercising, our cells’ insulin receptors become more sensitive and can more readily accept the insulin the pancreas has worked so hard to produce.
One of the biggest risk factors of having hypoglycemia is developing Type II Diabetes. This can happen in one of two ways. In the first, the pancreas is so overworked by the constant demand for insulin that it becomes too ‘tired’ to continue producing it. In the second, our cells become desensitized to the insulin and stop accepting it. Either way this is bad news. The sugar remains in our blood steam and we’ve now created high blood sugar levels, also known as diabetes. So by exercising we can help that blood sugar get to where it needs to be – and out of our blood stream.
There are many risks to not maintaining a healthy blood sugar level, and as a person with hypoglycemia I can attest to how easy it can be to ignore the symptoms. But by ignoring them, things can become far more serious. The result can be diabetes, and the risks associated with it are far greater and can even potentially be life-threatening. Hypoglycemia doesn’t have to be a life sentence. It can, in fact, be a wonderful wake-up call to take our health seriously and to be kind to our bodies. If someone you loved had it, you’d want him or her to take better care of themselves. Why not do the same for yourself?