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:
- Lethargy or tiredness
- Memory impairment, or poor concentration
- 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.
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.