Neurotic - Or Hypoglycemic?

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Neurotic -- Or Hypoglycemic?

Do you have chronic low or fluctuating energy? Moodiness and irritability? Confusion? Dizziness?

Do you suffer from palpitations, tremors and sweats? Rapid heart beat? Hunger that cannot be satisfied? Anxiety and nervousness, fasting headaches and craving for sweets?

If so, you could be labeled fatigued or maybe even neurotic. But maybe you are simply hypoglycemic!

"Hypo" means low and "glycemia" is Latin for sweet. There are two types of hypoglycemia: clinical or subclinical. Clinical hypoglycemia (true hypoglycemia) is diagnosed by a fasting glucose of less than 50 mg/dl or by an impaired glucose tolerance test. Subclinical hypoglycemia (hypoglycemia which is not lab diagnosed but where the patient is commonly labeled as low energy or neurotic) is diagnosed based on symptoms experienced two to five hours after eating when a measurable low blood sugar is not found. It is the latter which is most often misdiagnosed.

Hypoglycemia is a disorder occurring only in civilized societies consuming sugar and refined flour. It is unheard of in underdeveloped countries. The average North American diet, with sugar, white bread, coffee, and soda, virtually guarantees hypoglycemia. In fact, in one year the typical North American consumer eats 20 gallons of ice cream, 100 pounds of refined sugar, 300 cans of soda pop, 200 sticks of gum, 63 dozen donuts, 50 pounds of cakes and biscuits, 12 pounds of potato chips, corn chips, popcorn and pretzels, and 18 pounds of sweets and candy. (I don't know about you but someone else is eating my share!)

To truly understand hypoglycemia a certain amount of knowledge in body physiology is necessary.

The body needs a steady supply of energy to function. This energy is derived primarily from carbohydrates which are converted through digestion into their simplest form: glucose. Glucose is essential for all body functions, especially for the brain and nervous system. Insulin controls the flow of glucose from the blood into the cells.

The pancreas contains certain cells called beta cells that produce insulin. Insulin along with oxygen and chromium move sugar from the blood into the cells. When sugar or flour products are consumed the body quickly digests them and floods, the bloodstream with glucose. The body then reacts by secreting insulin into the bloodstream allowing glucose to go from the bloodstream into the cells and thereby lowering blood glucose levels.

Sugar Blues

Excess sugar enters the liver and muscles where it is stored in the form of glycogen. Or it is stored as fat. When a lot of insulin is needed following a simple carbohydrate meal, there is essentially less energy for the brain (insulin will bring the sugar into the other cells), which may account for fatigue and lethargy after meals. If the body must constantly send out a lot of insulin to balance the effect of a meal of simple carbohydrates, the pancreas begins to falter. The glucose balancing load then falls on other organs (adrenals, pituitary, thyroid, liver) which in turn will begin to falter.

The brain uses up to 80 per cent of available glucose and is very sensitive to glucose levels. A severe drop in blood glucose levels could be a life threatening event called insulin shock. A severe drop in glucose levels stimulates the release of hormones such as adrenaline, glucagon, cortisol and growth hormone which increase blood sugar levels to protect against insulin shock. The pituitary releases growth hormone causing the adrenals to release cortisol, in turn telling the liver to produce more sugar and telling body cells to decrease the consumption of sugar. The thyroid gland increases the metabolic rate to help the liver make more sugar quickly.

Adrenaline produces the physical symptoms of hypoglycemia such as sweating, tremors, anxiety, increased heart rate and hunger. If the hypoglycemic reaction is gradual, symptoms such as dizziness, headache, blunted cognitive functions, emotional instability, confusion and abnormal behavior arise. It has been established that psychiatric patients do have a higher incidence of hypoglycemia than the general population.

In the treatment of hypoglycemia one should eat a diet high in complex carbohydrates in order to balance blood sugar. When complex carbohydrates (long chains of sugar molecules) are consumed the digestive tract can only break off the complex carbohydrate at a slow rate ensuring gradually rising and stable blood sugar values.

Eating Principles:

- eat four to five small meals throughout the day

- snack on nuts and sour apples

- follow a high fibre diet

- follow a high complex carbohydrate diet

Therapeutic Foods:

Whole grains, Chinese sweet rice, brown rice, yams, potatoes, walnuts, tofu, soybeans, corn, vegetables, black beans, nuts, kelp, dulse, Swiss chard, turnip greens, egg yolks, wheat germ, cod roe, lecithin, sesame seed butter, seed and nuts, and goat's milk.

Avoid:

Sugars, honey, simple carbohydrates, white flour, fructose, syrups, sweet and dried fruits, fatty foods, fried foods, fruit juices and alcohol.

I have found chromium to have the most noted therapeutic effect on rectifying hypoglycemia. I have used 400 mcg up to 2,400 mcg per day on my patients with good results. In a few cases I have used vitamins C and B-complex to support the thyroid, pituitary and adrenals.

Most people in our society suffer from hypoglycemia and don't even know it. A further 3,000,000 Canadians have progressed from hypoglycemia to diabetes. Hypoglycemia is a warning signal and the first step towards diabetes. The good news is that hypoglycemia is reversible and therefore diabetes is preventable.

Back in the 60s medical doctors, in their infinite wisdom, dismissed the seriousness of hypoglycemia by prescribing candy bar therapy. That is, when a patient felt weak from hypoglycemia he/she was recommended to eat candy! This therapy would give short term relief of the symptoms only to further worsen the disorder.

In my practice I use diet therapy, vitamin and mineral supplements and stress management techniques to effectively treat my hypoglycemic patients. With some of the above recommendations individuals may easily help themselves. However, self-help can prove to be costly and time consuming, leaving you with an inaccurate idea of how effective natural therapeutics can be. If you want successful long lasting results and want them quickly I suggest you consult your local doctor of naturopathy. He or she is highly trained to diagnose your condition and to set up an individualized therapeutic regimen prescribing the appropriate therapies.

Recommended Reading:

Hypoglycemia

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by P. Airola (sc) 191pp $11.95

Diabetes and Hypoglycemia

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by M. Murray (sc) 182pp $11.95

Dr. Crook Discusses hypoglycemia

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by W. Crook (bklt) 32pp $4.50

Canadian Health Reform Products Ltd.

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By Michael A. Prytula

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