Low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, to give it a proper medical term, is a disorder of blood sugar metabolism. It is a condition in which the penance produce excessive insulin, causing the blood sugar to drop. This may result in diabetes in later life.
Hypoglycemia sometimes occurs in healthy people some hours after a meal rich in carbohydrates, especially following muscular exertion. It is frequently found in the first few days of life, especially in premature infants.
Hypoglycemia is a serious disorder as the brain cannot function properly when the blood sugar level is too low. Like all other organs of the body, the brain receives its fuel from the diet. But it can use only the sugar produced by the body from the carbohydrates. Unlike many other body tissues, it cannot stores its fuel. Therefore, it must get a constant supply of sugar through the blood stream. Men tal disturbances caused by low blood sugar levels can seriously affect a personís life and repeated attacks of hypoglycemia may lead to permanent mental changes.
A craving for sweets and starches in excessive amounts between meals is the first sign of a low blood sugar level. When the blood sugar level falls much below normal , symptoms such as palpitations, excessive sweating, nervousness, irritability, fatigue, depression, disturbed vision and headache appear. Other symptoms are trembling, numbness, absent-mindedness, dizziness, and some sexual disturbances. Most patients feel hungry and eat frequently to get over the feeling of weakness and emotional irritability. They feel tense if they have to go without food for several hours. The onset is sudden and the patient may quickly become confused and clumsy . If the condition is not treated promptly, he may become unconscious or very sleepy.
Low blood sugar is usually caused by an excessive intake of refined foods, sugar and sugary foods as well as soft drinks, cola drinks and coffee. These substances cause the pancreas, the adrenal glands and the liver to lose their ability to handle the sugar properly. An attack of hypoglycemia may be precipitated by the administration of insulin or similar drugs without adequate carbohydrate coverage during the treatment of diabetes mellitus.
Other causes of low blood sugar are tumours of the islet cells of pancreas which secrete insulin, disturbed functioning of the liver, pituitary gland or adrenal glands. Stress intensifies this condition as it weakens the adrenal glands and starts a faulty pattern of glucose intolerance.
The high animal protein diet generally prescribed for hypoglycemia is not suitable for this disorder. It may help control the condition temporarily, but it is harmful in many other respects. Continuous intake of high protein diet may lead to other disease like heart trouble, arthritis, kidney problem and cancer.
The ideal diet for hypoglycemia should be based on three basic food groups, namely grains, seeds and nuts, vegetables and fruits, supplemented by milk, milk products and vegetable oils. Seeds, nuts and grains should be the main constituents of this diet. Seeds and nuts should be taken in their raw form. Grains, in the form of cereals, should be cooked. Cooked grains are digested slowly and they release the nutrients and sugar into the blood stream gradually, six to eight hours after meals. This will keep the blood sugar level normal and constant for a long period.
Persons suffering from low blood sugar should take six to eight small meals a day instead of two or three large ones. Eating raw nuts and seeds such as pumpkin or sunflower seeds or drinking milk, butter-milk or fruit juices between meals will be highly beneficial. All refined and processed foods, white sugar, white flour and their by-products should be completely eliminated from the diet. Coffee, alcohol and soft drinks should also be avoided. The consumption of salt should be reduced as an excessive intake of salt causes loss of blood potassium, which causes blood sugar to drop.
The following is the menu suggested for low blood sugar :-
Upon arising : A glass of fresh fruit juice, sweet juices should be diluted with water.
Breakfast : Nuts, seeds, fruits, cottage cheese and butter-milk.
Mid-morning : Fruit, fruit juice or tomato juice.
Lunch : Cooked cereals with oil and milk or vegetable salad with yogurt and two whole wheat chappatis and butter.
Mid-afternoon : A glass of fruit or vegetable juice or a snack consisting of nuts.
Dinner : Raw vegetable salad with a cooked vegetable from among those allowed, one or two slices of whole grain bread, cottage cheese and butter-milk.
Before retiring : A glass of milk or butter-milk.
Vegetables which can be taken in hypoglycemia are asparagus, beets, carrots, cucumbers, egg plants, peas, radishes, tomatoes, spinach, kale, lettuce, beans, baked potatoes. Fruits which can be taken are apples, apricots, berries, peaches and pineapples. Consumption of citrus fruits should be limited.
Foods rich in vitamin C, E and B -complex will be highly beneficial in the treatment of low blood sugar. Vitamin C and B increase tolerance to sugar and carbohydrates and help normalise sugar metabolism. Pantothenic acid, B6 and B complex help to build up adrenals which are generally exhausted in persons with hypoglycemia. Vitamin E improves glycogen storage in the muscles and tissues.
Proper rest is essential for those suffering from low blood sugar. A tranquil mind is of utmost importance in this condition. Nervous strain and anxiety should be relieved by simple methods of meditation and relaxation. Yogasans like vakrasan, bhujangasan, halasan,sarvagasan and shavasan will be beneficial. A prolonged neutral immersion bath will also be helpful in relieving mental tension.