When I saw the doctor and had my blood tested, the test results showed I had a condition called “hypoglycemia.”
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, hypoglycemia is a term that means “low blood sugar.” It is a condition in which a person’s blood sugar level drops below the normal levels, either because their body has difficulty processing food, or because the person has missed too many meals that day and their blood sugar levels are imbalanced.
Therefore, hypoglycemia can be caused by both a genetic predisposition, or by a person’s eating habits (4).
When I had this tested, I found out that for me, this is a genetic predisposition because hypoglycemia runs in my family. However, for some people, their blood sugar levels might be low simply because they have missed too many meals, or they often eat foods that cause a blood sugar spike, such as desserts and junk food on a regular basis.
It doesn’t matter if a person has an imbalance in blood sugar levels due to family history or due to irregular eating habits, as it is crucial to seek treatment either way and start managing this condition if you want to start to feel well again.
Some symptoms of hypoglycemia are:
__Nervousness or anxiety __Irritability or impatience __Depression; anxiety __Poor concentration __Confusion, including delirium __Anger, stubbornness, or sadness
__Nightmares or crying out during sleep
__Dizziness __Lack of coordination __Blurred vision __Trembling __Slurred speech
__Feeling shaky; trembling hands __Weakness or fatigue __Lightheadedness or dizziness __Hunger and nausea __Tingling or numbness in the lips or tongue __Sleepiness
__Excessive sweating, chills and clamminess __Pounding heart; racing pulse; heart palpitations __Headaches __Pale skin __Seizures __Passing out __Coma (in extreme cases)
More information on symptoms and treatment of hypoglycemia: (1,3,4,5)
Your doctor might put you on a specialized diet, give you certain foods to eat and avoid, and also check to see if something else (such as a hormonal imbalance, diabetes, or another condition), could be causing your symptoms. That’s why it is very important to seek help from a professional, because he or she will be able to check if anything else could be wrong, and will also be able to give professional advice on your specific medical condition.
So how does hypoglycemia affect mental health?
If your blood sugar is constantly falling below the normal levels, it can cause you to feel moody, sad, and anxious at times.
For me, I found that, even when things in my life were going well, I still had low moods often. I later learned it was because my blood sugar levels were way below the healthy range, and this was causing my moods to dip so low.
Also, new research is starting to emerge about the link between depression and hypoglycemia. A recent study, which was published in BMJ Open Research and Diabetes Care, found a strong link between poor glycemic control and poor mental health. This study suggested that the two conditions: irregular blood sugar and depression, are highly correlated based on a study of 4,218 participants. (6)
If a blood sugar imbalance can affect one’s mood so drastically, how can this be managed on a daily basis?
I’m glad you asked! The following information is a tailor-made combination of eating habits that I have developed to balance my blood sugar. I can personally attest to the validity of these habits because changing my diet and following these basic guidelines has made a world of difference for me.
(*As with any new diet plan, make sure you consult your physician if you have any dietary concerns or questions.)
Let’s get started! Here are the 4 simple habits that I use to balance my blood sugar:
1.) Every time you eat, make sure to include a good source of protein, fat, and carbs with every snack or meal.
You need all three of these for each meal or snack because including a protein, fat, and carb will ensure that your blood sugar won’t spike when you eat all three together. This will allow you to keep a steady blood sugar level, as well as a steady mood, throughout the course of a day.
For meal time, here are healthy options for each:
Protein — Chicken, eggs, seafood, pork, tofu, beans, nuts and legumes, steak, hamburger meat, yogurt, etc.
Fat — Avocados, a small slice of cheese, a tablespoon of olive oil or coconut oil, (nuts also have a healthy amount of fat and can count for both protein and fat), a small square of butter used in cooking, yogurt, etc.
Carbs — Any fruit, vegetable, or whole grain such a brown rice, quinoa, rolled oats, whole-grain toast and crackers, etc.
For snack time, here are some ideas:
Yogurt with nuts and fruit, a pear with a slice of turkey on the side, celery with peanut butter, and an avocado with whole-wheat crackers and a slice of lunch meat or tofu.
(Some things, such as yogurt and nuts, have both a good source of fat and protein, so you can use one for both categories for snacks.)
*A good tip that I use for snacks, that also saves money, is to serve yourself a normal size lunch and dinner, then only eat about ¾ of each. Save the other ¼ of the meals for your snack afterward. That way, you won’t get too full during your main meals, and you’ll also have a cheap, easy snack for later.
2.) You absolutely must eat breakfast within 30 minutes of waking up, or you’re going to have a bad day.
Since your body has been fasting throughout the night, it is imperative that you eat as soon as possible after waking up, but at the latest, no more than 30 minutes after your alarm clock rings. If you wait any longer than this, since your blood sugar is already low from fasting throughout the night, it will drop even more if you don’t eat breakfast.
3.) Water! Drink water, and then drink some more!
We all know this one, but it’s good to repeat it: make sure your get your eight glasses of water each day, and drink more if you are exercising or spending a lot of time outside. Water not only helps your body function properly, it is also what your brain needs to function well. If you are unsure about your recommended daily intake of water, check out this handy calculator:
Ok, these are the foods I like to call Blood Sugar Bullies because they do just that- they push your blood sugar levels around and leave you feeling lethargic and down after you eat them.
These foods include anything that is highly processed or contains a lot of sugar. An example of Blood Sugar Bullies are:
– Processed grains such as crackers, white bread, and pretzels
– Junk food such as chips, pizza, french fries
– Any high-sugar soda, juice, or energy drink
If you have questions about what could be considered a Blood Sugar Bully, there is a handy index you can check out called the “glycemic index.” This shows you how quickly food is turned into sugar in your body. (The closer a number is to 0, the better it is for you. As the numbers get closer to 100, these types of foods will cause your blood sugar to spike and leave you feeling lethargic. I’d say only eat foods above 70 on special occasions, and make sure you include healthy, low glycemic foods with your meals.)
(1) Dansinger, M., MD. (2016, January 9). Hypoglycemia Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment. Retrieved August 24, 2016, from http://www.webmd.com/diabetes/guide/diabetes-hypoglycemia
(2) Ehrlich, S. D., NMD. (2014, April 8). Hypoglycemia. Retrieved August 24, 2016, from http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/condition/hypoglycemia
(3) Glucose Tests. (2015, December/January). Retrieved August 24, 2016, from https://labtestsonline.org/understanding/analytes/glucose/tab/test/
(4) Hypoglycemia. (2008, October 1). Retrieved November 30, 2015, from http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/Diabetes/hypoglycemia/Pages/index.aspx
(5) Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Glucose). (2015, July 1). Retrieved August 24, 2016, from http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/blood-glucose-control/hypoglycemia-low-blood.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/
(6) Wood, K. (2015, July 7). Severe depression linked to severe hypoglycemia, research suggests. Retrieved November 30, 2015, from http://www.diabetes.co.uk/news/2015/jul/severe-depression-linked-to-severe-hypoglycemia,-research-suggests-91728232.html