Low Blood Sugar – Could it be Causing Your Anxiety and Weight Gain?

by Joan Haynes, ND

Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) is one of our most commonly encountered nutritional disorders and accounts for a variety of symptoms.  A thorough dietary history and lab work can be useful in determining the diagnosis.  Treatment always begins with dietary modifications but factors beyond food may be involved.

When blood glucose levels fall too rapidly, two things can happen:

    1. The body compensates by releasing adrenaline (epinephrine). Symptoms of “fight or flight” develop:
      • Anxiety
      • Panic
      • Irritability
      • Hunger (also lack of hunger or even nausea)
      • Rapid heart rate and palpitations
      • Tremor
      • Sweating
      • Weakness
      • Abdominal pain
    2. If the blood glucose level is not corrected, symptoms of inadequate cerebral glucose levels develop:
      • Headache
      • Fatigue
      • Blurred vision
      • Mental confusion
      • Impaired memory
      • Seizures
      • Unconsciousness

Causes of Hypoglycemia

Most low blood sugar problems are caused by a diet too high in simple carbohydrates and going too long between meals.  But there are other factors as well.  Hormones may also be playing a role; patients with an under-functioning thyroid or with impaired adrenal function are much more susceptible to blood sugar swings.  Low blood sugar is also more common in patients with malabsorption problems, food sensitivities, and nutritional deficiencies.

To Correct the Problem

Dietary intervention is the most important aspect to recovery.  Patients with reactive hypoglycemia frequently crave refined sugar or other refined carbohydrates.  Eating these foods may provide transient symptom relief, but can also trigger additional episodes of rebound hypoglycemia and more carbohydrate cravings.  This repetitive cycle may lead to overeating and obesity.  Several nutritional supplements have been shown to help including chromium, magnesium, and l-carnitine.  Lab tests such as blood glucose, thyroid and adrenal studies may also provide additional information needed for full recovery.

Consider coming to Boise Natural Health Clinic for lab work, dietary interventions, nutritional supplements, and hormonal therapies that can help you get your symptoms under control.

(Thank you Alan Gaby, MD for your useful book, Nutritional Medicine 2011.)