Monday, April 18, 2011

Handling hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)

If you have prolonged and/or recurrent symptoms, you need to visit your doctor in order to find and treat the underlying cause of this condition. Changing to a healthier way of eating may well help ease the symptoms while you undergo tests, and will certainly do no harm. Keeping a food/symptoms journal for a week to ten days will help highlight any recurring pattern of symptoms. Be sure to track stress levels, too.

Hypoglycemia can be caused or exacerbated by; diseases of the pancreas, liver or kidneys; PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome); diabetes; pregnancy; a weakened immune system; chronic mental or physical stress; alcoholism; allergies or prolonged drug use (including antibiotics). Three types of drug having a known blood glucose lowering effect are monoamine oxidase inhibitors (used to treat depression), quinine sulphate (anti-malarials) and aspirin. However, do NOT stop taking drugs that have been prescribed for you without first checking with your doctor. See what I mean about looking for the root cause of the problem?

One thing about the symptoms of hypoglycemia is that they can very simply be eased by eating something. The symptoms will generally dissipate within ten to fifteen minutes once food is ingested (if they don't, then perhaps hypoglycemia is not the problem). So you will find symptoms easier to manage if you have more, smaller-than-usual, meals throughout the day.

If you have chronic, prolonged or recurrent symptoms of hypoglycemia, here are some suggestions:

DO plan on having something to eat every two-and-a-half to three hours, for example: breakfast at 7:00am, a snack at about 10:00am, lunch at 1:00pm, a snack at 3:30 or 4:00pm, dinner at 6:30pm and a last snack at about 9:00pm (I'm using these times as a rough guideline. Your own preferences and needs will dictate when you eat.)

DO include a little fat, a little protein and, of course, carbohydrates at each meal and snack. You cannot afford to skip or even delay a meal or snack.

DO keep your portions small - you don't want to increase the number of calories/kilojoules you consume in a day.

DO aim at reducing, or (better still) eliminating, simple and refined carbohydrates like white flour, sugar, honey, all syrups - replace these with natural whole foods. Stick with low- and moderate GI foods.

DO increase your protein intake slightly, by using eggs, nuts, seeds, fish, beans and pulses.

DO avoid caffeine, alcohol and anything with high levels of potassium e.g. bananas (potassium lowers chromium and manganese). Avoid the sweetener 'stevia', too, because it has the potential to lower blood sugar and blood pressure.

DO (and I never thought I would say this!) increase your salt intake slightly. Salt slows insulin response so helps to diminish the rapid rise and fall of blood sugar levels. It also helps to raise blood pressure.

DO come back on Wednesday for some meal and snack suggestions.

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