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Nutritional Support for Hypoglycemia, Diabetes, & Weight Loss
Glucose is the exclusive fuel of the human nervous system and the primary fuel of most of the rest of the systems in the body. Glucose is a type of sugar (a monosaccharide) that is derived from the breakdown of complex carbohydrates and proteins.
A healthy level of glucose in the blood is therefore essential to life and health. If the glucose level is too low, the nervous system and muscular system is starved for fuel and begins to malfunction. The first symptoms include weakness, low energy, irritability, being excessively emotional, impaired ability to reason, etc. A blood sugar level below normal is called hypoglycemia. A blood sugar level above normal is called hyperglycemia. Hyperglycemia is harmful to all internal organs and tissues and accelerates the aging process by facilitating the formation of chemical bonds between glucose and the proteins found in the body. A clinical condition resulting in hyperglycemia is called diabetes.
There are two major types of diabetes: type 1 diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus and type 2 diabetes or non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. The primary defect in type 1 diabetes resides in the pancreas, resulting in insulin deficiency and the resulting failure to metabolize glucose. In contrast, type 2 diabetes is predominantly attributable to the inability of the available insulin to work properly and this type of diabetes involves multiple organ systems, including abnormalities of insulin secretion, peripheral (muscle and adipose tissue) and hepatic insulin resistance. Most individuals with type 2 diabetes also suffer from excess body weight or obesity. Obesity often precedes type 2 diabetes and is now recognized as a major risk factor for the development of type 2 diabetes which constitutes more than 90% of all cases of diabetes mellitus. Some estimates suggest that there are about 16 million Americans suffering from diabetes, over 90% of them being type 2.
With type 2 diabetes, insulin is generally present but the ability of the cells to respond to insulin and take glucose from the blood is impaired. This situation comes about because of the wear and tear and abuse of the insulin / sugar regulating process. One strategy of correcting this situation is to restore the cellular insulin sensitivity. Another strategy is to remove or reduce the sugar / insulin stress.
Hypoglycemia or reactive hypoglycemia is a state of low blood sugar that results from a reaction to rapid absorption of sugar. Sugar in and of itself is not a bad thing, it occurs naturally in many foodstuffs. The body evolved over many generations to process the sugar consumed from natural sources. Sugar from natural sources is absorbed slowly and is metabolized as it is being released. Sugar from refined sources is concentrated, causing higher quantities to be consumed in a short time and without the associated fiber and other nutrients to slow down the absorption and release process.
When excess sugar goes into the blood, the pancreas reacts instantly by releasing a large quantity of insulin into the blood. Since this is an "emergency" release, the insulin is generally in excess of what is required to maintain a steady state level and too much sugar is removed from the blood. When the blood sugar level swings below the threshold level, a different panic response is triggered because a low blood sugar level is a serious crisis in the body. This response causes the adrenal glands to release glucocorticoid hormones which cause the conversion of glycogen in the liver and muscle tissue into glucose. This causes the glucose level to rise again and, since this was a panic response, the glucose level will likely exceed its base level triggering yet another insulin release. This swing from high glucose levels to low glucose levels and back again may continue as a dampened oscillation for several hours.
This is exactly what is observed in a glucose tolerance test. In a glucose tolerance test, the patient fasts for 12 hours, has a blood sample taken to determine their base line, then swallows 100 grams of glucose. The blood sugar level is taken at one half hour to one hour intervals for the next several hours. In an individual demonstrating the reactive hypoglycemia response, the glucose level will rise sharply within one half hour. This rise is followed by a sharp drop and in the one to two hour interval the blood sugar will be sharply lower. At this point women become irrational and hysterical, men become agressive and abusive and sweet old ladies curse like sailors. When the blood sugar level rises the mood and behavior return to normal. The same response occurs when large amounts of refined sugar are consumed, although it is usually not as extreme. The amount of sugar consumed may not be as large as the 100 gram hit of glucose, and other food which releases glucose slower is usually consumed with the sugar. When the insulin level is high, a lot of glucose is removed from the blood quickly, more quickly than it can be metabolized. This glucose is converted into fat in the cells. In addition, the individual craves food, especially sweets, when the blood sugar is low, causing excess food consumption.
This pattern of blood sugar swings contributes to the development of obesity and cumulative stress on the pancreas, adrenal glands and liver. The prolonged stress of compensating for the blood sugar swings contributes to the development of diabetes.
There is, however, more to this story than just sugar consumption. All proteins and carbohydrates can be digested and broken down into glucose. They are not converted into glucose at the same rate, however. Complex carbohydrates like the longer chain starches take longer to digest and convert into glucose than simple sugars. Proteins take even longer. Fats are not converted into glucose but can be metabolized by different pathways to produce energy. Most foods have been rated according to their rate of conversion into glucose by measuring the process in the human body itself. They are rated on a scale of 0-100 where pure glucose is 100. It is interesting to observe that some foods like rice, potatoes and carrots have a higher index than refined sugar and therefore produce a high degree of insulin stress when eaten as whole foods. Other whole foods have a much lower index and release glucose much more slowly giving a sustained, steady release of energy with minimal metabolic stress. By designing your personal diet to emphasize carbohydrates with a low glycemic index, you can loose weight, increase your general well being, and reduce your chances of developing diabetes.
The glycemic index tables appy to carbohydrates but one does not live on carbohydrates alone. In fact, to maintain a healthy diet, a balance of carbohydrates, fats and proteins is absolutely required. The maintenance of a steady state of energy and a stable blood sugar level require a balance of fats and proteins since both fats and proteins are converted to energy at a much slower rate than even the most complex of carbohydrates.
Restoring insulin sensitivity in conjunction with dietary adjustments and exercise can help an individual lose weight and improve their health. Once you have established dietary habits that give your body a steady supply of glucose and relief from the stress of reactive hypoglycemia, your body may benefit from specific nutritional supplements intended to help re-establish insulin sensitivity.
Warning: Using these supplements can increase your insulin sensitivity. If you are taking insulin, your dose may have to be adjusted accordingly.
Where to Get Nutritional Supplements for Hypoglycemia, Diabetes and Sugar Handling Stress
The following supplements are suggested for assistance in maintaining normal blood glucose levels:
To read the protocol on Hypoglycemia from the Life Extension Foundation, Go Here.
Hyperglycemia Safety Caveats
If you are diabetic and using medications, talk to your physician immediately if you are experiencing hypoglycemic symptoms. You may need your medication adjusted.
An aggressive program of dietary supplementation should not be launched without the supervision of a qualified physician. Several of the nutrients suggested in this protocol may have adverse effects. These include: