“Hypo” means low. “Glycemia” refers to the concentration of glucose in the blood. Put the two together and “hypoglycemia” simply means low blood sugar.
Nearly all of the carbohydrates we eat are converted to glucose, the simple sugar that circulates in our blood. Both the brain and the muscles rely on a constant supply of glucose, which is delivered to virtually every cell in the body to provide energy.
The exact opposite of this condition is called “hyperglycemia, otherwise known as diabetes.
You’ve heard of athletes “hitting the wall,” running out of steam. This occurs when there is not enough glucose in the blood to supply the demands of the muscles. The brain, too, is reliant on a constant supply of this energy source.
But what happens when the brain does not receive a sufficient supply of glucose?
There can be a variety of “mental” symptoms. Medicine seems divided on this subject, although much has been written about it.
In two books — “Body Mind and Sugar,” by E.M Abrahamson and A.W. Pezet, and Carlton Fredrick’s “New Low Blood Sugar and You,” along with online information at webmd.com, a few reported symptoms of hypoglycemia are:
Uncertainty of memory.
Inability to concentrate.
Incoordination for fine movements.
So, think about it, have you ever experienced any of these symptoms? Most of us certainly have at one time or another. But the question is how often and how severe.
Some people suffer more than others because we are all different structurally and biochemically.
Conversely to what you might think, eating more sugar is not the answer, nor is drinking coffee or cola beverages. Both can make the condition worse.
Before we go any further, let’s talk about coffee. Even if taken black, coffee stimulates the liver to release stored glucose (glycogen). It has been estimated that a cup of coffee will give you a release of glucose similar to eating one to two candy bars
The scenario goes like this:
When the blood sugar level gets too low, you get a craving. It can be for food or more specifically for something sweet, or for coffee or cola.
When you yield to the craving and eat a sweet or something caffeinated, the sugar level in the blood goes up but often too rapidly. The human body is not designed to handle so much sugar so fast, so it reacts by releasing too much insulin.
Insulin’s normal job is bring down the blood level of sugar. But when there is too much insulin released, it often drives down the blood sugar too low and you get the cravings again. Like the ups and downs on roller-coaster, you suffer from fluctuating hypo- and hyperglycemia.
To get off this roller-coaster, sugars and caffeine must be stopped and replaced by complex carbohydrates (starches) and protein. The best bet is to try a different dietary approach. Carry some nuts or seeds or whole grain crackers, cheese or even hard-boiled eggs to eat when you feel the symptoms. And above all, no sugary things.
The symptoms should subside in a matter of minutes. If they are severe, you might even consider eating snacks between meals. If you do this, however, you must not increase your total caloric intake or you will surely gain weight.
One final point: If you wake up in the morning in a state of hypoglycemia — such as needing a cup of coffee to get going or feeling depressed or nervous — it’s wise to have a glucose tolerance test to determine if you might have a more serious problem.
A test that will give you a most accurate picture would be one taken over six hours, with blood samples taken at the beginning and again every half hour.
Retired chiropractic doctor Francis Trapani’s background includes active practice for 41 years; investigative reporting for many years on stations KTRG and KPOI on Hawaii radio and exercise/fitness yoga TV broadcasts on channel KHVH, also in Hawaii. For more information, go to drftrapani.com.