Hypoglycemia is a condition that occurs when the amount of glucose or sugar in the blood is lower than it should be normally. The body takes in food and then digests it. The food nutrients are then broken down into substances such as amino acids and glucose. These substances are then used by the body for different functions. Glucose is used for energy. It provides the fuel that the body needs to perform its daily functions.
The process that glucose is used by the body normally works in this manner. Food is eaten and then digested in the stomach and intestines. It then is broken down into glucose and other nutrients that the body can use. The body then sends a signal to the pancreas that releases insulin that will break down any excess glucose in the bloodstream at that time. If too much insulin is produced, the blood glucose levels will fall to abnormally low levels. When this happens, a hypoglycemic episode occurs.
Once this takes place, the body recognizes the need for action and sends a signal to the adrenal glands to produce adrenaline. Adrenaline is the substance that gives us that fight or flight feeling. It causes us to have the feelings of hunger, apprehension, headache, sweating, feeling faint and a rapid heart rate. Once adrenaline is produced in the body glycogen that has been stored in the tissues then is converted to glucose to try to correct the deficiency that has been detected.
There are several conditions that can cause hypoglycemic episodes to occur. This type of hypoglycemia is called organic hypoglycemia. It is seen with liver disease and with certain types of tumors. Other types of hypoglycemia include reactive hypoglycemia. This type occurs when the body does not react properly or digest the food that it has been given correctly. It overreacts and causes rapid swings or highs and lows in the blood glucose levels. This type of hypoglycemia is usually seen anywhere from one to three hours after eating a meal.
Research has shown that the best way to control reactive hypoglycemia is to have a steady stream of glucose entering the body during the waking hours. This is accomplished by changing a person’s dietary habits. There is a lot of controversy as to what exactly should be included on a hypoglycemic diet however most dieticians and experts alike agree on several points. These points are that simple carbohydrates should be avoided or limited in the hypoglycemic diet. These types of foods include white sugar, flour, desserts such as cakes, pies, candy, soft drinks, jams, jellies, honey, corn syrup, cookies and ice cream. These foods raise the blood sugar very quickly after being ingested and then cause the blood glucose to fall off really quickly as well. They also contribute to hypoglycemic episodes so they should be avoided in the diet.
Proteins and complex carbohydrates should be focused on in the hypoglycemic diet. These foods are energy sources and are very important parts of the diet. Complex carbohydrates take longer to break down than their counterparts above. This helps to keep blood glucose levels consistent and do not cause rapid changes like simple carbohydrates do. Examples of complex carbohydrates include pastas, whole grains, potatoes, cereals, rice, vegetables and legumes.
Proteins are used by the body to grow, build muscle mass and for all over general health. Protein can be broken down for an energy source if there is not enough glucose in the body to suffice. Examples of proteins are beef, pork, chicken, turkey, eggs, cheese, legumes, nuts, and some seeds. Eating these foods will help keep the blood glucose within normal limits.
High fiber foods should be added to the diet. Water soluble fiber slows down the digestive tract and when combined with water turns into a gel like substance that causes the stomach to empty slower as well. It causes a slower rate of absorption of glucose in the stomach and intestines. Foods that are high in fiber include whole grains, cereals, fruits, vegetables, legumes, oats and oat products.
One of the main issues with hypoglycemia is to keep a steady stream of glucose in the body during the waking hours of the day. This can be accomplished by eating three meals a day. In addition to the meals adding a mid morning and mid afternoon snack. A late snack is added to this diet as well. Other experts recommend eating five to six small meals per day to keep the glucose levels more consistent at all times during the day.
Foods that are fatty or high in fat content should be avoided in the diet. Caffeine should be avoided or limited as well. Caffeine causes a similar response in the body as the release of adrenaline. For this reason, it should be limited. Alcohol and tobacco should be avoided as well. Fruits should be eaten fresh or canned in their own juices and no sugar added. Fruit juices should be limited as they are full of sugar. If a person is overweight then an effort should be made to lose the extra weight as research has shown that excess weight can cause problems with the bodies response to regulate glucose.
Each individual will need to tailor their diet to their own needs. A diet diary should be kept when starting on a hypoglycemic diet to mark any reaction to foods in the diet. A consultation with a medical professional can then be done with the diary to help make the diet tailored for that person.