Hypoglcemia literally means "low blood glucose level". There are two general categories of this disorder: fasting (or spontaneous) and reactive.
In fasting hypoglycemia, serum glucose levels are low in the fasting state (for example, before breakfast). This form of hypoglycemia is relatively uncommon and is not what most people generally refer to when they claim to have "hypoglycemic symptoms".
In reactive hypoglycemia, fasting glucose levels are normal. They become abnormally low only in reaction to the increased serum levels of glucose which follow the ingestion of a meal.
Patients are generally diagnosed as having reactive hypoglycemia when the following are present:
1. Symptoms occur several hours after consuming a set amount of glucose
2. Serum glucose levels become abnormally low after a meal
3. The same symptoms occur regularly a few hours eating
4. The symptoms are relieved for a brief period of time within ten or twenty minutes after eating
Conventional diagnosis may require the occurrence of all of these factors in combination. There has been, however, considerable difficulty in linking people's "hypoglycemic symptoms" with these diagnostic criteria. Many people with no symptoms will have low or even very low postprandial glucose levels. Moreover, the symptoms do not necessarily correlate with low serum levels of glucose meaning the patient is not necessarily literally hypoglycemic.
Even giving the same test to the same patient at intervals will not necessarily produce the same results. It had been suggested the problem might deal more with insulin secretion than glucose levels per say, but not all patients have abnormal insulin levels nor do they all have delayed insulin secretion.
It also has been suggested the rate of fall in serum glucose rather than the absolute nadir (lowest glucose level) could aid in diagnosing, in accordance with symptoms. However, the rate of fall has not correlated with the release of counterregulatory hormones as expected, nor has the rate of fall proved useful diagnostically. To further complicate the picture, symptoms of reactive hypoglycemia are fairly nonspecific.
Some researchers have shown that patients with reactive hypoglycemic symptoms will demonstrate symptoms after ingesting a placebo instead of sugar, implying the disease is essentially imaginary for some people. To support this theory, symptomatic patients have been found to be high on the hypochondriasis and "hysteria" scales of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), with confirmation of abnormal MMPI scores coming from other workers. As a result, some factions of the medical community have chosen to lable symptoms of "reactive hypoglycemia" as the "undisease" or as "non-hypoglycemia".
Clearly, if the symptoms cannot be tied to indices of glucose metabolism and do not necessarily reflect low blood glucose, the name "hypoglycemia" is inappropriate in many cases. Recently, relabeling the condition "idiopathic postprandial syndrome" (literally, "symptoms which follow a meal and are not understood"), a group of researchers has been able to find a biochemical basis for the problems experienced by so many people.
Chalew et.al., discovered a link between the symptoms and elevations in epinephrine levels. By using continuous intravenous monitoring of serum glucose levels, the researchers were able to determine the moment at which glucose levels were at their lowest - something not routinely done in a doctor's office nor even in most research settings. The true low point or nadir corresponded with both symptoms and with high levels of the hormone epinephrine. This is particularly meaningful because many "hypoglycemic" symptoms are normally associated with elevated levels of epinephrine. If this work can be duplicated, the riddle of "reactive hypoglycemia" may finally be solved in part.
There are many subcategories of hypoglycemia; some types of fasting hypoglycemia can be quite serious, reflecting liver disease or pancreatic tumors. These possibilities need to be ruled out by a physician.
The primary cause of hypoglycemia varies depending upon the form of the disease. In reactive hypoglycemia, the primary cause remains unkown. In rare instances it is due to a drug reaction, a pancreatic tumor, or one of several metabolic disorders which inhibit hepatic glucose output. Among diabetics a hypoglycemic reaction can be triggered in a diabetic by an overdose of insulin.
Although used in the treatment of hypoglycemia, little research has been done on nutrition as a predisposing factor in that disease. Lack of a clear definition of "hypoglycemia" may possibly have hindered research into the area of predisposing factors.
Signs & Symptoms
Symptoms of hypoglycemia are similar to an anxiety attack. Misdiagnosis is a common problem. The most common symptoms include the following:
Fatigue Dizziness "Light-headedness" Hunger pangs Accelerated heartbeat Nervousness Apprehension Restlessness
Anxiety Concentration difficulties Confusion Convulsions Blackouts Fainting Coma
Symptoms of fasting hypoglycemia include:
Fasting blood sugar below 40 mg/D1
Symptoms develop in early morning, after a missed meal, and/or after heavy exercise
When symptoms are present, they include: blurred vision, headache, slurred speech, feelings of detachment and weakness.
Symptoms of Reactive hypoglycemia include:
Normal fasting blood sugar levels
Symptoms develop only when blood sugar levels become abnormally low (less than 60 mg/D1), and are relieved within ten to twenty minutes after eating
Symptoms include: chronic fatigue, anxiety, irritability, weakness, poor concentration, decreased libido, headaches and trembling.
Structure & Function:
Immune System Support &
Adult Child/Adolescent Chromium 100 - 300 mcg 50 - 200 mcg Manganese 5 - 20 mg 2 - 10 mg Vitamin C 500 - 2,000 mg 200 - 1,000 mg Zinc 10 - 30 mg 10 - 20 mg Luteolin*
The administration of chromium, a trace element involved in glucose tolerance, has reduced both hypoglycemic symptoms and the occurrence of abnormally low glucose levels following a glucose challenge in double-blind studies.
Chromium supplementation has been shown to increase the binding of insulin to cells. The adult dose commonly used is approximately 1.3 micrograms per pound of body weight.
Fiber appears to be beneficial whether blood pressure is high, or low, hence fiber needs to be included in the diet, or as a supplement e.g. guar gum or glucomannan.
Note: All amounts are in addition to those supplements having a Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA). Due to individual needs, one must always be aware of a possible undetermined effect when taking nutritional supplements. If any disturbances from the use of a particular supplement should occur, stop its use immediately and seek the care of a qualified health care professional.
A Carbohydrate Intolerance Diet is traditionally recommended for functional hypoglycemia. This diet avoids a substantial rise in blood sugar by prescribing fats and protein over carbohydrates. This is necessary because fats are more slowly digested, and slower to be converted to glucose. Sugary foods, such as desserts, are omitted from the diet; starchy foods, such as bread, are limited. Milk is avoided in all forms due to its lactose content. Ethanol and caffeinated beverages, such as coffee, are omitted because they lower blood sugar.
Some leading nutritionally-oriented practitioners have reported good clinical results from placing hypoglycemic patients on a diet high in complex carbohydrates and with little or no sugar.
Four to six small meals rather than three large meals should be consumed to avoid dramatic swings in serum glucose levels. Generous amounts of proteins, such as meat and eggs, are recommended. Cheese, soda crackers or nuts, are the usual between-meals snack.
Ethanol, with and without sugar, has been found to induce reactive hypoglycemia. A clinical trial to determine if an alcohol-free diet decreases symptoms of hypoglycemia in sufferers would certainly be justifiable and without risk.
Palpitations, tremor and headache have all been listed as possible hypoglycemic symptoms. They have also been shown to be side effects of caffeine ingestion. While there is only anecdotal support of the therapeutic effect of coffee elimination, a coffee-free trail would also be in order, keeping in mind that elimination of coffee may lead to headaches for the first few days after withdrawal.
A reduction of sugar in the diet has decreased the symptoms in a group of hypoglycemic patients in an open study and has been advocated on the basis of clinical results by others. Cutting back on sweets, "junk food" in general, and fruit juices (which contain relatively high amounts of sugar without the fiber in whole fruit) is good nutritional advice for the general population. This practice may be of special benefit for hypoglycemic individuals.
Diets high in protein and low in carbohydrate have been advocated by some practitioners. The glucose absorbed from carbohydrates stimulates insulin secretion which, in turn, reduces serum glucose levels and creates the potential for hypoglycemia. However, protein itself will increase insulin secretion and high protein intake has been found to reduce serum glucose levels. Moreover, a high protein-low carbohydrate diet impaired glucose tolerance in a small group of hypoglycemics.
The high fiber diet takes into account several of the approaches listed above. The patient may wish to increase the number and reduce the size of meals.
1.* Calcarea carbonica - 30C
2. Argentum nitricum tinct. - 30C
3.* Natrum Muriaticum - 30C
Doses cited are to be administered on a 3X daily schedule, unless otherwise indicated. Dose usually continued for 2 weeks. Liquid preparations usually use 8-10 drops per dose. Solid preps are usually 3 pellets per dose. Children use 1/2 dose.
X = 1 to 10 dilution - weak (triturition)
C = 1 to 100 dilution - weak (potency)
M = 1 to 1 million dilution (very strong)
X or C underlined means it is most useful potency
Asterisk (*) = Primary remedy. Means most necessary remedy. There may be more than one remedy - if so, use all of them.
Boericke, D.E., 1988. Homeopathic Materia Medica.
Coulter, C.R., 1986. Portraits of Homeopathic Medicines.
Kent, J.T., 1989. Repertory of the Homeopathic Materia Medica.
Koehler, G., 1989. Handbook of Homeopathy.
Shingale, J.N., 1992. Bedside Prescriber.
Smith, Trevor, 1989. Homeopathic Medicine.
Ullman, Dana, 1991. The One Minute (or so) Healer.
Devil's Claw Contra-indicated in diabetics Elecampane Hyperglycaemic Figwort Contra-indicated in diabetics (like Devil's Claw) Ginseng, Panax Hyperglycemic Gotu Kola Hyperglycaemic, human Licorice Reduced K aggravates glucose tolerance
Note: The misdirected use of an herb can produce severely adverse effects, especially in combination with prescription drugs. This Herbal information is for educational purposes and is not intended as a replacement for medical advice.
This disease is the antithesis of diabetes. Hyperglycemic herbs may give a boost to blood sugar levels, while herbs recommended for diabetics should be avoided, as they may further depress blood sugar levels. These include:
Herb Effect Alfalfa Hypoglycemic, manganese, human Aloes/ Aloe vera Hypoglycemic, in vivo Burdock Hypoglycenmic, in vivo Celery Hypoglycemic, in vivo Cornsilk Hypoglycemic, in vivo Damiana Hypoglycemic Elecampane Hypoglycemic Eucalyptus Hypoglycemic, in vivo Fenugreek Hypoglycemic, human Garlic Plant Hypoglycemic, in vivo, human Ginger Hypoglycemic, in vivo Ginseng, Panax Hypoglycemic Juniper Hypoglycemic in vivo Marshmallow Hypoglycemic Myrrh Hypoglycemic Nettle Hypoglycemic Sage Hypoglycemic, in vivo Tansy Hypoglycemic, in vivo
Bilberries also have a blood sugar slowering effect.
Allen, FM: BLueberry leaf extract: physiologic and clincal properties in relation to carbohydrate metabolism. JAMA. 1927, 89:1,577-1,581.
Bever, B & Zahnd, G: Plants with oral hypoglycemic action. Q J Crude Drug Res. 1979, 17:139-196.
Newall CA, Anderson LA, Phillipson JD. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-care Professionals. London: The Pharmaceutical Press, 1996.
Aromatherapy - Essential Oils
Related Health Conditions
Addison's disease Alcoholism Anxiety Cancer Diabetes mellitus Fatigue Fever Hypothyroidism Nervousness Pregnancy Stress
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