weakness, headache, sweating, shakiness, confusion. While
these may be symptoms of watching the presidential debates,
they are most commonly associated with a condition called
hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar.
(blood sugar derived from the digestion of food) is a vital
source of energy for our bodies, especially for our brains.
Deprived of glucose, brain cells short circuit and die.
bodies work best when the glucose in our blood is at a normal
level, not too high or too low. One hormone that helps this
happen is insulin. Insulin helps deliver glucose from our
blood into our cells. When insulin is absent (a condition
called type 1 diabetes) or is resisted by body cells (type 2
diabetes), glucose accumulates to dangerous levels in the
blood…what doctors call hyperglycemia or high blood sugar.
or low blood sugar is the other extreme. For various reasons,
if too much insulin enters the blood stream, glucose leaves
the blood too quickly. That’s when symptoms such as
weakness, sweating and confusion happen.
people with diabetes, hypoglycemia can happen if a person
takes too much insulin or certain types of diabetes
medications, exercises excessively or skips a meal. A blood
sugar level less than 70 mg/ml is generally defined as
hypoglycemia, according to the National Institute of Diabetes
and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).
type of low blood sugar called "reactive
hypoglycemia" can occur in people who do not have
diabetes. For one reason or the other, these folks excrete too
much insulin after eating, especially when they eat foods high
in sugar or other refined carbohydrates. They too, get
symptoms of weakness, sweating and shakiness. People who are
overweight or who have had gastric surgery for weight loss
seem to be especially vulnerable to this type of low blood
the best diet to avoid reactive hypoglycemia is similar to the
eating pattern advised for people with diabetes. That includes
regular meals (or a snack if a meal is going to be delayed)
and a source of protein with meals such as eggs, meat, fish,
poultry, nuts, cheese, soy or milk products. Highly
concentrated sources of sugar such as soft drinks should be
avoided. Alcohol is only advised if your doc says it’s OK
and never, never drink alcohol on an empty stomach.
if you are having symptoms that feel like low blood sugar?
Tell your medical provider who can help you sort out the
cause. Physicians may also refer you to a dietitian and/or
diabetes educator to fine tune a diet plan best suited to your
particular medical condition. One resource is the Diabetes and
Nutrition Therapy Program at Community Hospital of the
Monterey Peninsula. Call (831) 236-4964 for information.