Hypoglycemia is a general term used to describe a mixed bag of symptoms that are due to a derangement of glucose metabolism. Under the strict medical definition, hypoglycemia mainly refers to a drop in fasting blood sugar below 50mg% (normal range 70-90mg%). This drop can be associated with differing symptoms depending on the rate at which the blood sugar falls.
This is a common condition of an abnormally low level of sugar in the blood. Sugar levels frequently change throughout the day and may be normal sometimes and abnormal at others.
Causes and Development
The causes of functional or reactive hypoglycemia
(not absolute or fasting hypoglycemia) can be divided into 3 categories:
- High sugar / refined carbohydrate diet leading to hyperinsulinism
- Hypoadrenalism-stress leading to adrenal exhaustion
- Alimentary or gastric surgery leading to rapid stomach emptying or "dumping syndrome."
Two factors can lead to sugar overload: An over-consumption of sugar and a problem with sugar metabolism. Over-consumption of sugar begins at an early age – just check out the sugar levels in the most popular children's cereals. You will find that many contain almost 50% of their calories as sugar. And sugar is addictive – and difficult to combat because sugar is added to almost every packaged food sold today.
Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms include weakness, shakiness, excess hunger, anxiety
, outbursts, faintness, headaches, passing out, delirium, coma, hallucinations
, excess sweating, the appearance of intoxication, marked personality changes, irritability, negativism, mood swings, depression
, crying spells, and a panorama of similar mental symptoms.
Diagnosis and Tests
Tolerance Test (ideally lasting 5-6 hours) can confirm a diagnosis, but more alternative doctors are forgoing the inconvenience and shock to the system because symptoms alone are reliable enough. Central nervous system
hormone output and detoxification (what the body tries to do when it is not busy digesting food) also contribute to the overall symptom picture.
There are different interpretations given to different patterns seen on glucose
tolerance testing. One such system describes three types of curves:Type 1 (Neuroglycopenic)
This type results in a rapid rise in blood glucose within the first hour followed by a pronounced or precipitous drop in blood glucose in the second hour. Symptoms of this type of response are rapid mood swings, volatile personality, erratic behavior before and after eating. Possible cause of this response is gastric dumping
, too large an insulin
problems) and glucose tolerance factor
problems).Type 2 (Adrenergic Type)
After ingestion of glucose the blood sugar rises for the first three hours followed by a hypoglycemic rebound at 4 to 6 hours. Symptoms associated with this type of response are tiredness 2 hours after eating, allergic responses or food intolerances, and shakiness before meals. When blood sugar falls rapidly, the early symptoms are those brought on by a compensating secretion of adrenalin; these include sweating, weakness, hunger, racing pulse and an "inner trembling
". This response can be due to adrenal cortical insufficiency or thyroid
deficiency.Type 3 (The Flat Curve Response)
In this case the blood glucose does not deviate more than +/- 15% from fasting level through the whole test. Symptoms that may appear are fatigue
, apathy or hypotonia
(poor muscle tone). These symptoms are due to poor digestion and absorption of nutrients.
Treatment and Prevention
The term "hypoglycemia
" may be better named "carbohydrate
intolerance syndrome" and treated accordingly.
Patients with hypoglycemia
of varying causes appear to show similar personality patterns, suggesting hypoglycemia can cause personality disorders.