Have you ever experienced low blood sugar? Some people are afflicted with a condition called hypoglycemia. Literally, hypoglycemia means “low blood sugar.” This happens when the sugar level in the blood drops below the point where it can fuel the body’s activity. It usually occurs after eating large meals or high-glycemic index foods: blood sugar rises, insulin surges, and then – very rapidly – blood sugar levels decline. The hypoglycemia is caused by an “undershoot” where blood sugar levels fall below the level that existed before you ate. This reaction, known as reactive hypoglycemia, invariably occurs in response to eating the wrong kinds of foods.
A healthy diet keeps blood sugar levels more or less constant, increasing it at times when you need more energy, and letting it wane when you need less – but usually not to the point where it causes a negative reaction. Of course, almost none of us do that. Think about it: have you ever eaten a huge meal? Have you ever ordered consumed a rich dessert, often in an oversized serving, in a fine restaurant? Have you ever gotten home late at night, tired but not sleepy, and had a comforting bowl of ice cream? Have you ever quenched your afternoon carb craving with a bag of potato chips or a candy bar? All of these actions spiked your blood sugar.
When blood sugar drops rapidly, symptoms come on strong. You feel hungry (already!), sleepy, tired, and fatigued; your heart rate picks up and sweating increases. All you want to do is take a nap, which is the worst thing you can do – your metabolism slows to a crawl. But you probably can’t sleep anyway, even though you feel sleepy; with your heart pounding and the extra sweating, you feel irritated, jazzed, and annoyed. Eating carbohydrates makes brain serotonin levels surge. Serotonin calms you and makes you sleepy, slowing your metabolism. This, of course, leads to weight gain, and creates a vicious circle.
We all have these symptoms from time to time. We all like to eat, and we don’t always eat what’s good for us. What we can do is fight the appetite and the urge to sleep: we can take a walk, engage in some physical activity. We can do something to maintain or raise our metabolism and level out our blood sugar. Endocrinologists treat people with reactive hypoglycemia by having them eat low glycemic index carbohydrates spread out in multiple small meals throughout the day. This type of eating reduces blood glucose surges and the insulin spikes that follow. You can combat low blood sugar with my free eBook “Get Lean and Healthy for Life.”