Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) is the “hangry” or “you don’t like me when I’m hungry” syndrome. It is a common dysfunction that involves primarily the pancreas, adrenal glands and liver.
When blood sugar drops too low, the adrenal glands and pancreas send hormones to the liver which signals it to convert glycogen into glucose. If the adrenals are weak, glycogen stores are low, or the liver is overworked, the increase in blood sugar does not happen in time and ill effects occur. Allergies are also common provokers of a hypoglycemic response.
Eating concentrated sugars or sweets causes blood sugar levels to rise rapidly, as can the intake of caffeine, tobacco, alcohol and other drugs because they overstimulate the liver and adrenals, causing glycogen stores in the liver to convert to glucose.
When blood sugar rises, the pancreas responds by producing insulin to bring blood glucose levels back to normal. Insulin takes sugar out of the blood, across the cell membrane, and into the cells.
There are two types of hypoglycemia:
- Reactive hypoglycemia – with reactive hypoglycemia, the pancreas overreacts and sends more insulin than necessary, causing blood sugar levels to plummet and depends on “what” is eaten.
- Passive hypoglycemia – with passive hypoglycemia, it takes several hours for blood glucose levels to decrease and mainly depends on “when” one eats. Passive hypoglycemia can also be caused from heavy exercise or unusual stress.
Both forms of hypoglycemia, however, are due to exhausted adrenal glands and a sluggish liver.
Symptoms of hypoglycemia include:
- Sweating, chills, cold hands/feet
- Cravings for sweets, caffeine, alcohol, or tobacco
- Asthma attacks
- Rapid heartbeat
- Hunger and nausea
- Wake and can’t get back to sleep
- Blurred/impaired vision
- Tingling/numbness in lips/tongue
- Lack of coordination
- Nightmares/crying out during sleep
The brain and central nervous system constitute only 2% of body weight but require over 20% of the body’s glucose. It’s for this reason that agitation, mood changes, hyperactivity, brain fog and/or nervousness are experienced when blood sugar drops too low. Low blood sugar also causes oxygen depletion in tissues, making cells vulnerable to viruses.
Hypoglycemia often leads to addiction. To avoid the negative symptoms of low blood sugar, many people get their “fix” from sugar, caffeine, alcohol, or tobacco. The fix is however temporary and only drives the problem deeper due to the constant stress it puts on the adrenal glands.
People with hypoglycemia need to eliminate all offending foods, alcohol, and tobacco, go on a hypoglycemic diet and provide ample liver and adrenal support. Please contact your local holistic nutrition consultant for more info.
Remember in order to stay productive we need to stay active and healthy.
By Janice Buckler, BSc, RHN and Owner of Natural Legends Nutritional Consulting