Hypo means low. Glycemia means sugar in the blood. Put the words together and it simply means low blood sugar.
Let’s continue where my last column on this subject ended. To review briefly:
Both the brain and the muscles need a constant supply of energy. In humans that energy food is the simple sugar glucose.
No matter what form of carbohydrate you eat, it will be converted by your body into this simple sugar.
Glucose is carried by the blood to virtually every cell, supplying the brain and muscles with needed energy.
Knowing this, it stands to reason that low blood sugar can affect mental and muscular function.
Aside from muscle fatigue, the most important symptoms are mental and arise from the brain being starved for glucose. Mental symptoms include headache, depression irritability, fatigue, anxiety, uncertainty of memory, melancholia, inability to concentrate, incoordination for fine movements, crying spells, suicidal thoughts.
Remember, these symptoms will last only until the next meal or until something is done to bring the blood sugar level back up again.
So, think about it, have you experienced any of these symptoms?
Most of us certainly have at one time or another. But how many and how often?
Now let’s hold these symptoms in our mind and try to determine just how they can affect our lives.
Consider depression and irritability. In marriage, for example, imagine the possibilities if only one spouse frequently exhibits these symptoms. Now imagine both having them simultaneously? This might be a recipe for disaster, and if it happens often enough — maybe even divorce.
What to do? Before an argument gets heated, try offering the spouse experiencing the symptoms a glass of orange juice or milk or any reasonable complex carbohydrate or protein. Take a brief break, about 15 minutes, and then try to solve the issue.
Yes, it really works. Remember, your brain is running short of its energy source and these symptoms are the way it is expressed.
Inability to concentrate? If you are a student, never go into a test in a state of hypoglycemia. Have a handful of nuts or seeds or a dish of yogurt or a slice of whole wheat bread with peanut butter before leaving home. These combos will sustain your blood sugar without a later letdown.
OK, now let’s get very serious: How about auto crashes? Consider fatigue, irritability, fine movement incoordination, inability to concentrate.
Might these symptoms contribute to collisions?
Imagine you’re driving home in heavy traffic and your last coffee break at work was around 4 p.m. The coffee exacerbates the hypoglycemia and by 5 p.m. your blood sugar is already dropping.
Someone cuts you off. It irritates you very much. You swing around to get in front of him (incoordination for fine movements). You inadvertently cut back into your lane too soon. Crash!
The data published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about times of day when most fatal crashes occur is very instructive. It also explains, in part, why commuters have higher insurance rates. It is likely no surprise that the six-hour block during the day in which most crashes occurred in 2010, the last year for which data was available, was 3 to 9 p.m. The highest percentage of those crashes occurred between 6 and 9 p.m. — the evening rush hour in most big cities. Does it relate to hypoglycemia? You be the judge.
Although I don’t have the statistics I would bet that road rage incidents fall into the same time range.
Finally, my mind goes back to a young college professor who complained of spontaneously breaking into tears while lecturing. When I corrected his diet away from sweets, the problem ceased. Just to be clear, this was a very unusual case.
We can’t go into all of the potential scenarios, but are you beginning to get the picture?
To get off this hypoglycemic roller-coaster, sugars, sweets and caffeine must be stopped and replaced by complex carbohydrates (starches) and/or protein.
If you suffer from any of these problems your best bet would be to try a different approach. Carry some nuts or seeds or whole grain crackers, cheese or even hard boiled eggs to eat when you begin to feel the symptoms — just nothing sweet. The symptoms should subside in a matter of minutes.
If your symptoms are severe, you might even consider between-meal snacks. If you do this, however, ensure you do not increase your total daily caloric intake or you will surely gain weight.
Retired chiropractic doctor Francis Trapani’s background includes 41 years of practice plus doing investigative reporting and fitness programs for broadcast media in Hawaii. He has written three books and is working on a yoga self-help manual “The Doctor Prescribes Yoga.” For more information, go to drftrapani.com.