In This Article
Have you ever felt your blood sugar crash? Do you desperately need a nap, crave sweets, or long for a strong cup of coffee? These may be signs of low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, which is extremely common and often misdiagnosed.
When I ask patients about their blood sugar, they often tell me they have low blood sugar with a sense of relief that they have dodged the ill-fated diagnosis of diabetes. Yes, low blood sugar still within the normal range can be a good thing, as long as it does not drop too low into the hypoglycemic range. The fear and concern of high blood sugar or type 2 diabetes has caused doctors to underdiagnose or not address issues related to low blood sugar.
Most people don’t realize that hypoglycemia is a precursor to hyperglycemia and type 2 diabetes. So addressing low blood sugar early is key to preventing insulin resistance.
How Do You Know if Your Blood Sugar is Too Low?
The symptoms of low blood sugar or hypoglycemia are:1
- Fasting Glucose below 70 mg/dL
- Energy drop
- Fast heartbeat
- Pale skin
- Blurred vision
- Feeling faint or passing out
Note: Nondiabetic hypoglycemia is a medical condition. If you regularly experience any of the symptoms listed above, please seek medical advice for a complete medical diagnosis, which would include a glucose tolerance test and bloodwork.
Many folks who are not medically diagnosed with hypoglycemia live with low blood sugar. Low blood sugar can manifest by being hungry all the time, needing to eat small meals frequently, getting sleepy after a meal, becoming lightheaded after eating or standing or even full-blown energy crashes. It is also common to get shaky and anxious if you don’t eat. Most folks work around this by just eating more frequent meals with protein without addressing the underlying concerns.
Why is Low Blood Sugar Dangerous?
After a meal, insulin will rise to transport glucose (sugar) into the muscles and brain for energy. After years of a highly refined carbohydrate diet, where the glucose surges into the bloodstream faster than it can be processed, the body’s ability to handle sugar eventually breaks down.
Over time, with a high carbohydrate diet year in and year out, the body and its gut microbes become exceptionally good at delivering carbs (glucose) into the blood.4 This can cause large surges of insulin from the pancreas into the blood, which forces massive amounts of sugar into the muscles and brain. This is why sugar gives you a quick burst of energy: a sugar high followed by a low blood sugar crash. Glucose burns quickly, like gas on a fire.
Once the carb or sugar-rich meal has flamed out and the blood sugar crashes, appetite hormones like leptin trigger hunger hormones like ghrelin and hunger surges again. To the extent that the blood sugar was low from the previous high-sugar meal is the extent that the brain will crave food with a higher glycemic footprint: more refined carbs, stimulants, or sugar.
The higher the glycemic load of the meal, the more insulin is secreted and the more sugar surges into the muscles and brain, which results in a blood sugar low. Too many of these bouts of low blood sugar are precursors to high blood sugar.
Over time, the muscle cells become oversaturated with glucose (energy) that they cannot use fast enough, predisposing the body to something called insulin resistance. The excess glucose blocked from entering the muscles lingers in the blood, raising blood sugar. The body grabs this extra fuel and simply stores it as fat (a fuel reserve). This results in slow but steady weight gain around your belly, hips, legs, and arms. Glucose can also store within the muscles, marbleizing the muscle with fat, making you weak and frail as you age.
Insulin resistance can start with hypoglycemia and silently become something called prediabetes (when the fasting blood sugar rises above 95 or 100–125 mg/dL) or type 2 diabetes (when the fasting blood sugar rises above 126 mg/dL).2
Type 3 Diabetes
Remember, insulin, much like estrogen, is a building anabolic hormone that is trying to boost energy and grow things. Too much insulin from eating too many carbohydrates and sweets is appropriately blamed for our obesity crisis.3
As the blood sugar rises into prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, the third type of diabetes has been identified called type 3 diabetes, which is linked to dementia due to too much sugar in the brain.5
The Solution to Hypoglycemia
The key to solving this problem is to help the body be less dependent on glucose as its primary fuel supply. This can only happen if we do two things:
- Reduce Carbohydrates (especially refined carbs)
- Stop eating so much and so frequently
The only way to accomplish these two tasks is to help the body use its stored fat as fuel. In nature, this happens every spring when the harvest is austere and the season of famine and fasting is upon us. The summer and fall, on the other hand, are feasting times. Today we live in the endless summer of eating, where we feast 365 days per year.
To remedy this Ayurvedically, I publish a free seasonal monthly grocery and recipe list for every month of the year. Every spring the fare is light and every fall the fare is rich. Learn more about seasonal eating here.
One way to break the pattern of low blood sugar turning into high blood sugar is to follow a pattern of time-restricted eating—something I wrote about in my 3-Season Diet book many years ago.
The Weight Balancing eBook
More detail of my time-restricted eating plan can be found in my free Weight Balancing eBook. Here you will find worksheets to guide you through this process and access to the study we published on the time-restricted Ayurvedic eating plan.
Summary of My Weight Balancing Plan
- Eat three meals per day with no snacks. Make lunch bigger and relax when you eat.
- Once this is accomplished and easy, make supper a smaller meal like a soup or salad.
- Once this is accomplished and easy, make supper earlier (before 6 p.m.), creating at least 13 hours between supper and breakfast.
- Final step: Continue to make lunch the largest meal of the day and 3–7 nights a week, skip supper altogether. Drink plenty of water from lunch to breakfast the next day. Continue this for 2–4 weeks, working on as many no supper days as possible and comfortable.
Good luck balancing your blood sugar! You may miss the initial hit that a cup of coffee or candy bar gives you, but you will have newfound sustained energy and clarity of mind. Balancing our blood sugar, whether it is too high or too low, is one of the most important things we can do for our health and longevity.