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Hypoglycemia: A Forgotten Disease

By Dr George Samra, MB, BS (Sydney), FACNEM

Source: The Hypoglycemic Health Newsletter .


THE HYPOGLYCEMIC HEALTH AS­SOCIATION, of which I am a patron, aims to make the public more aware of the problems of hypoglycemia and natural health in gen­eral. In a world where we are bombarded with environmental pollution and artificially manu­factured foodstuffs, where food inspectors are being replaced by “contract inspectors” in a self-regulated food industry, where contami­nated sea waters produce unhealthy fish, where deforested lands cause unusual droughts and floods, where the world’s upper atmosphere is fouled by chemicals altering the earth’s cli­mate and where a faltering public health sys­tem remains hostage to shareholders of lucra­tive drug companies. In such a world, those people who take personal responsibility for their health may have a better chance to sur­vive.

People have indeed a choice, provided they are informed on available alternatives. Many modern doctors conscious of the limita­tions of orthodox medicine, share the philoso­phy of complementary medicine. It is possible to treat degenerative diseases with natural remedies in conjunction with traditional medi­cine. However, for this to happen we need an informed “consumer market”, a public suffi­ciently educated to converse and consult these modern doctors in the forefront of the medical revolution.

The term hypoglycemia is an unfortunate one, and many doctors would say that this condition rarely exists. The word means low blood sugar, but should really mean a condi­tion where a person’s brain does not get fed properly when they eat sugar. Most doctors know the word hypoglycemia in the context of diabetes, as for example when a patient acci­dentally overdoses on insulin. The term as used by many nutritional doctors is one that most doctors know very little or close to nothing about.

In my experience hypoglycemia is as com­mon as diabetes which means that 3-4 per cent of the general population may be suffering.

Diabetes have similar underlying prob­lems, namely an unwell pancreas that does not handle sugar properly. After consuming sugar in diabetes, the blood sugar goes up too high, whereas in hypoglycemia patients it is the opposite: they produce too much insulin. Af­ter an initial rise in blood sugar, it drops down to low levels. The brain is dependent upon the level of glucose in the blood. When the glu­cose level is low, the brain does not get nour­ished and people become easily tired and get depressed.

In my book The Hypoglycemic Connec­tion, available in most libraries, I speak of the hypoglycemic syndrome which may be diag­nosed by the presence of at least (3) of the following (4) symptoms:

  1. Depression
  2. Lethargy or tiredness
  3. Memory impairment, or poor concen­tration
  4. A history of preference for sugar or sweet foods

Hypoglycemia follows anautosomal domi­nant inheritance patterns, which means a pat­tern of inheritance in which transmission of a dominant gene can be passed on in 50 per cent of cases to the next generation. Males and females are affected with equal frequency. The prevalence of hypoglycemia in a family may help a doctor have insight into the man­agement of an unruly child as well as the symptoms of a mother who are both affected by a sugar-handling problem.

Associated conditions of hypoglycemia may show up among alcoholics and drug addicts. It usually means that starvation of the brain has driven a person to unacceptable social behaviour. Many crimes – and let us not forget that over 70 per cent of prisoners have an association of alcohol or drug abuse – are the result of hypoglycemia that has gone wrong. I am of the opinion that in most cases hypogly­cemia precedes the development of anti-so­cial behaviour, alcoholism or drug addiction. Many alcoholics and drug addicts manifest a Type 1 sugar curve following glucose toler­ance testing. This means following the rise in blood sugar, there is a very sharp fall. The body compensates the subsequent sugar star­vation by pumping adrenaline from the adre­nal glands into the blood, which then raises the sugar levels. High levels of adrenalin may cause mood swings, violent outbursts and emotional instability. People with excessive adrenalin levels may drink alcohol – a calming drug – in order to combat the adrenalin side effects. Alcohol is a legal drug an helps to calm down nerves caused by high adrenalin levels in Type 1 hypoglycemia.

Thus rehabilitation programs based exclu­sively on “psychological models” are often found to fail as they tend to ignore the meta­bolic aspect involved in behaviour. Major social issues are tied up in this condition.

An other associated condition is hyperac­tivity or what is now called ADHD or Atten­tion Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder where the brain is not fed properly when children eat sugary foods. The behaviour can go either way: the child may withdraw in a corner or it may climb on practically everything. A Glu­cose Tolerance Test usually indicates which way a child will behave as in both cases they have an underlying sugar-handling problem.

Maturity Onset Diabetes is another associ­ated condition.

People with sleeping problems or who are taking sedatives to cope with their lives may have a hypoglycemic condition.

Glucose Tolerance Test (GTT)

The hypoglycemic condition can be diag­nosed with a GTT. I usually order a 4-hour test with blood taken every half hour. These days a diabetic GTT is a 2-hour one. A patient undergoing a hypoglycemic GTT must fast from 10pm the previous night with no special carbohydrate diet. It is a valid test when a laboratory uses a Spectrophotometer as meas­urements are far more accurate than Glucometers. The glucometer may often be 1 micromol/L out. Accurate figures are required. The relationship between the readings of num­bers just half an hour apart in a GTT is very important. A drop of 2.7 mmol/L in any hour or 1.6 mmol/L in any half an hour is indicative of hypoglycemia.

Fasting levels on your sugar curves tell us a lot. People with readings of 3.2-3.6 mmol/L, usually wake up glum and tired in the morn­ing. People with higher readings of say 5.2 mmol/L and higher usually wake up bright and are often cheerful all morning. Thus you can predict more from looking at a sugar curve than just diabetes or hypoglycemia.

Definition of hypoglycemia

Relative hypoglycemia is present if the blood glucose (or sugar) falls sharply (below

3.6 mmol/L) after consuming a 75 g glucose load – usually the fall occurs after 1.5 to 2.5 hours. It is usually due to oversecretion of insulin by the pancreas, although it is recog­nised that other mechanisms may be involved. Hypoglycemia is a hormonal disease, caused mainly by insulin oversecretion often associ­ated with adrenal oversecretion. Other hor­monal conditions such as thyroid and adrenal problems do tie up with hypoglycemia.

Typical symptoms are: tiredness, moodi­ness, depression, poor concentration, irrita­bility, sugar cravings, nervousness, poor memory. The condition usually runs in fami­lies and can include diabetes, alcoholism, ADD, hyperactivity, drug abuse and behaviour disorders.

Treatment consists of keeping off the sim­ple carbohydrates such as sugar, honey, glu­cose and have six small meals everyday. The meals should be roughly equal. Minimum size of a meal should be half a sandwich with the equivalent of a boiled egg or a chicken wing. Packet of Smiths chips, plain. A protein break­fast made up of fish, chicken, mince or eggs is important to provide the necessary fuel for the brain. I usually recommend supplementation with zinc as in the Vitaglow product Zinc plus C at the dose of two tablets per day. This product also contains vitamins B3, B5, B6 as well as vitamin C.

Glucose as brain fuel

The brain is highly sensitive to the avail­ability of glucose as a source of nutrition.

Although it comprises two per cent of the body weight, the brain uses close to 50 per cent of all available glucose and more impor­tantly, cannot use other fuels such as free fatty acids, triglycerides and cholesterol. This is in contrast to the heart that can use at least 42 different fuels at any point in time. Thus when there is a hypoglycemic crash, the brain is in trouble, and this triggers the many symptoms.

The hypoglycemic disease often occurs concurrently with many illnesses such as alco­holism, drug abuse, heroine addiction, seda­tive abuse, hyperactivity, diabetes mellitus, hypothyroidism, postmenopausal hot flushes, depressive illnesses, epilepsy, schizophrenic and migraine sufferers.

One problem with nutritional treatment is that the patient has to be motivated to undergo treatment. An alcoholic who refuses to ac­knowledge he has an alcohol problem or who does not want to change will not benefit from nutritional management.

Goals of treatment

One should never lose sight of the goals of treatment. First and foremost, one wishes to alleviate all hypoglycemic and diet related symptoms. Secondly, one aims at stabilising blood glucose levels, prevent overstimulation of the pancreas with excessive insulin produc­tion and in the long term prevent diabetic complications. To ignore one’s hypoglycemic condition may result in the punishment of being diabetic with all its diabetic complica­tions.

Conclusion

Another way of looking at the problem of hypoglycemia is that one’s pancreas does not know how to fit into the 20th century, where people are eating a high sugar diet. In a world where modern foods are sugar-loaded all the time the pancreas is not equipped to handle it properly, the blood sugar keeps crashing and the brain keeps getting starved of fuel.

One might claim that hypoglycemia is not a disease, but rather a reflection of the fact that we live in a sick society where we all are made to eat a lot of sugar. Each person now con­sumes 20 times more sugar than people did 100 years ago and 100 times more per person than 200 years ago.

Hypoglycemic people do not fit into a high-sugar society and so long as such society lasts, we will have more people coming down with hypoglycemia.­


6 Responses

  1. Grace says:

    Is it allowed to ask questions here?

    I seem to be having some form of reactive hypoglycemia, but my C-Peptide levels are low (or low-normal). I do get classic hypo symptoms from time to time, I scored 71 on NBI and 21 on the Hypo Questionnaire; both results indicate metabolic disorder.

    My question is: is it possible to have Reactive Hypoglycemia with low C-Peptide levels? Is it Enzyme deficiency?

    To be more specific, my lab range for C-Peptide is 0.37-1.47.

    My levels during a 5-hour OGTT were: Fasting 0.43, then hourly – 2.43, 1.87, 0.63, 0.37, and 0.31. Blood Glucose went: Fasting 5.7mmol/L, then hourly – 6.6, 5.4, 3.8, 4.8, and 5. (I asked for a BG test at 30 and 90min, done with a glucometer, while the hourly was venous blood. My 30min result was 9.5 (showed 10.7, they subtracted 11%), while 90min was 6.6 after 11% subtraction).

    Sorry, I didn’t mean to be this lengthy, but I thought some details might be useful in evaluating the “reactiveness” with low C-Peptide levels.

    Thank you for any input.

  2. Julie Ruiz says:

    I wonder if the high sugar and processed foods of the western diet might be having an affect on what seems like an increase in pancreatic cancer. Personally, I have known or heard about at least twenty cases of pancreatic cancer in the past year. It feels like there has been an increase. I don’t have any scientific data to back this up, just a feeling. Now I see cancer centers everywhere. It has become common place and the “norm”.

  3. Jurriaan Plesman says:

    The above article states that about 3-4 per cent of the general population may be suffering from hypoglycemia (or pre-diabetes). This figure is much higher according to some studies See: http://www.hypoglycemia.asn.au/2011/research-evidence-for-hypoglycemia/#Pre.

    The average is about 35% with increasing prevalence as we age. It is perhaps no co-incidence that this statistics is similar to that or Syndrome X, or The Metabolic Syndrome. See: http://www.hypoglycemia.asn.au/2011/research-evidence-for-hypoglycemia/#MetabolicSyndrome

  4. Jurriaan Plesman says:

    Yes, hypoglycemia (pre-diabetic insulin resistance) and cancer are linked.
    “The news about insulin and pancreatic cancer appears in The Journal of the American Medical Association. The National Cancer Institute’s Rachael Stolzenberg-Solomon, PhD, and colleagues worked on the report.” WebMD (http://www.webmd.com/cancer/pancreatic-cancer/news/20051213/pancreatic-cancer-tied-to-insulin-woes).

    Also Google search “Insulin resistance AND pancreatic cancer” which confirm that the two are linked.

  5. Jen says:

    Dear Dr Samra
    I would like to congratulate you on the excellent scientific yet so user friendly information you and your team provide to us on the subject of hypoglycemia. Personally I have an overactive sympathetic system which has given me lots of problems for years such as svt tachycardia, arrythmias, mitral valve prolapse, gerd and naturally gad. My father is diabetic so Iam quite familiar with what you and your partners describe in your articles.I read thousands of info on the internet about brain chemistry and diet and syndromes and I do not consider myself a hypochondriac, but a very positive person all obstacles considered. In your website I realised that hypoglycemia may be the very first cause behind a lot of problems along with genetic predisposition and it is very interesting that you have a holistic approach which makes the difference. Once again congrats on the great work

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