Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) can contribute to fatigue, headaches, fibro fog, and depression.
Numerous studies have demonstrated that depressed individuals have faulty glucose-insulin regulatory mechanisms. Other studies have clearly shown the relationship between low blood sugar and decreased mental acuity otherwise known as “fibro fog.”
Hypoglycemia is a complex set of symptoms caused by faulty carbohydrate metabolism. Normally, the body maintains blood-sugar levels within a narrow range through the coordinated effort of several glands and their hormones. If these hormones, especially glucagon (from glucose) and insulin (produced in the pancreas), are thrown out of balance, hypoglycemia can result.
This imbalance of glucose and insulin (in people not taking insulin by injection) is usually the result of consuming too many simple carbohydrates (sugars). Excessive insulin secretion then leads to glucose intolerance, and this condition is followed by decreased insulin sensitivity, elevated cholesterol levels, obesity, high-blood pressure, and type-2 diabetes or its precursor, syndrome X.
Eat breakfast. No excuses. Cortisol levels are at their highest around 8:00 a.m., and in an attempt to keep otherwise low cortisol levels elevated in the morning, you may find that you prefer not to eat breakfast. That’s because low adrenal function may cause you to feel nauseated, mentally and physically drained, jittery, and head-achy, so eating is the last thing you want to do. Eat anyway! A small healthy snack is all you need until hunger comes, usually a couple of hours later. At that time, another balanced snack should tie you over until lunch. Then, don’t skip lunch!
It’s best to eat little meals throughout the day. Don’t let your blood sugar drop too low, and avoid simple sugars. As any “sugarholic” can attest, a soda, doughnut, or pastry can provide a quick energy fix. But this rapid rise in blood sugar is followed by an equally rapid nosedive. And low blood sugar produces all the unwanted symptoms associated with mood disorders: fatigue, irritability, anxiety, mental fog, depression, and more.
If you’re diabetic, check your blood sugar regularly. Watch for drops below the normal range, and treat them as your endocrinologist recommends.
Use the glycemic index to treat hypoglycemia. The glycemic index is a measurement of how quickly a carbohydrate elevates a person’s circulating blood sugar. The lower the glycemic index, the slower the rate of absorption and the less likely the food is to contribute to hypoglycemia. If a food contains no carbohydrates (such as meat), then its glycemic index is zero.
The glycemic index is a great tool for any type-2 diabetic to learn to use, especially if you hope to control your disease by diet alone. Type-1 diabetics, through, who must always depend on injected insulin, will benefit less from the glycemic index.
Check the labels on your foods! And don’t be fooled by clever nomenclature. Look especially for what kind of sugar is in sweetened foods. Fructose has a low glycemic index, but sucrose and lactose have a high one! “Sugar,” “turbinado,” or “cane juice” listed on a label means basically the same as sucrose. Artificial sweeteners have a very low or zero index.
|Foods (Risky)||Foods (Better)||Foods (Best)|
|• sucrose, glucose,||• milk||• fructose (fruit sugar)|
|maltose, lactose||• most pastas, including||• slow-cooking oatmeal|
|• cakes, sweets||spaghetti|
|• pancakes, waffles||• some breads: sour||• barley flour|
|• muffins, croissants, scones||dough, rye, whole||• rye flour|
|grain pumpernickel, pita||• less-sweet fruits|
|• nearly all breads||(eat all of the fruit,|
|• white potatoes||• wild rice, brown rice||including the peel if|
|• white rice, rice cakes,||• noninstant oatmeal||normally edible, to|
|rice pasta||• Special K breakfast cereal||keep the index low)|
|• most breakfast cereal||• beans not listed in|
|• no-sugar-added Muesli||the moderate group|
|• corn, corn flakes,||• Un-canned lentils|
|corn meal, corn||• fruit juices||• tomatoes, tomato soup|
|chips, corn tortillas||• some beans: pinto|
|(taco shells)||beans, garbanzo||• regular ice cream|
|• most pizza||beans (chickpeas),||• yogurt|
|• wheat flour||baked beans, navy||• cream|
|• oats and oat flour||beans, peas||• nuts and seeds|
|• rolled oats, oat bran||• canned lentils||• nearly all vegetables|
|• gnocchi pasta|
|• macaroni and cheese|
|• low-fat ice cream|
|• dried fruits, such as|
|raisins and apricots|
|• sweeter fruits, such|
|as banana, pineapple,|
“Wheat flour,” “bleached flour,” “white flour,” “white wheat flour” and “enriched flour” all means the same thing: high index! “Whole-wheat flour” or “whole-grain flour” is somewhat lower on the index, though still moderate to high.
If you just must eat a high-index food like a bagel, muffin, or pizza, make it from whole-wheat flour and use fructose to sweeten it. And don’t eat the high-index food by itself! Add some high-fiber vegetables or unpeeled fruit to the mix to lower the index of your total meal.
You can sometimes find lower-index versions of baked goods at stores: look for “whole-grain” or “whole-wheat” on the label, and shoot for no more than one or two grams of sugar per serving. However be warned most gluten containing foods, especially baked flour/bread goods will drive your sugar up rather quickly. For my patients, I ask that they abstain from all gluten, wheat products for 2-4 weeks as part of an elimination diet. This diet helps uncover any hidden food sensitivities-for 4 weeks eliminate dairy, wheat, sugar, nightshades, and corn. After 4 weeks add back one food group at a time, waiting 4 day in between each reintroduction to see if you’ll have a negative reaction.
To look up a particular food on the glycemic index, visit www.glycemicindex.com.