Dr.Thalia Farshchian of Discover Health shares some of the common causes for low blood sugar, how it can effect our overall health and shares suggestions for small changes we can make in our diet to avoid the often exhausting ups and downs of the blood sugar roller coaster ride.
Do people describe you as grumpy when you have not eaten? Do you find that you need to eat every two hours to keep your energy up? Do you reach for sugar when your energy bottoms out?
You may be experiencing hypoglycemia, commonly considered low blood sugar.
Signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia include:
- Low energy
- Sugar cravings
- Pale skin
- Heart pounding
This sensation can be very uncomfortable, but is easily avoided by simple dietary habits.
First, eat as often as you feel necessary and for most people, this is every two hours during the course of the day. Some choose to eat mini-meals often and others choose to continue to have three square meals with small snacks interspersed between.
Second, swap out your simple carbohydrates for complex carbohydrates. Simple carbs and sugar are just that – easy for your body to assimilate, digest, and utilize. Unfortunately, this ease creates a fast blood sugar spike only to be followed by a sudden drop. This fluctuation contributes to many of the above symptoms.
A few examples of foods with SIMPLE carbohydrates and sugars include:
- Certain “energy” bars
- High-sugar fruits like pineapples, mangos, bananas, melons, and skinless fruits
- White rice, pasta, and white bread
- White potatoes
Complex carbohydrates contain more fiber than simple carbohydrates. The fiber slows down the digestion of the food, so the sugar is slowly released into the blood stream. This creates a steady flow of energy for your body and brain. When looking at labels, always take note of its fiber content.
A few examples of foods with COMPLEX carbohydrates and sugars include:
- Whole grains – brown rice, whole wheat and sprouted breads, quinoa
- Fruits and vegetables with their skins intact
- Yams or sweet potatoes
Lastly, the combination of foods can prevent hypoglycemic episodes. When eating foods with higher carbohydrates or sugar, I recommend teaming it up with fat or protein. Fat and protein take more time to digest, so by combining your carbohydrates with these you will slow down the digestion of the carbohydrates as well. You will experience more balanced energy. For example, if you eat a banana and add a small dollop of nut butter, you will slow down the digestion of the sugars in the banana to avoid a blood sugar spike.
It is very important to address the sensation of low blood sugar, but I often see this reaction as a component of a bigger issue that most busy professionals experience at one point or another in their career.
Our adrenal glands manage our stress responses by modulating a few different systems including blood sugar. The mnemonic we used in medical school to understand their function was, “salt, sugar, sex… the deeper you go the sweeter it gets.” The adrenal glands manage blood pressure by fine-tuning salt regulation, blood sugar for energy, and produces the precursors for hormones like estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. The primal function of this gland is to allow you to escape stressful situations like a predator attack.
Unfortunately, biological evolution has not caught up to our modern day pace where predators like deadlines, commitments, and bills are constantly looming over our heads. This constant stimulation can eventually lead to burn out.
If you notice fatigue in the middle of the day, difficulty waking, low exercise tolerance, lightheadedness when standing, low blood pressure, a second wind of energy in the evening, changes in libido, your low blood sugar could be a part of a condition called adrenal fatigue.
Conventional medical doctors do not typically diagnose adrenal fatigue as it is not an overt disease on its own. Stress is considered a major factor that leads to diseases down the road making it a centerpiece of treatment for my patients. Adrenal fatigue responds well to changes in lifestyle, diet, and nutrients that enhance energy and natural stress coping mechanisms.