Have you or someone you know been diagnosed with hypoglycemia? Here’s a special edition HypoAware blog from a 21-year-old who has recently been diagnosed with the condition. She gives you some tips to remember during the diet and lifestyle adjustment period.
I was diagnosed with reactive hypoglycemia about three months ago at the age of 21. Before the diagnosis, I had no idea what hypoglycemia was or had even had heard of it. I had experience symptoms ranging from tiredness to passing out in the mornings from about the age of 17. I had gone to doctors with my concerns, but they had always dismissed my symptoms as iron or magnesium deficiency. While I think part of me knew there was something else going on, I mostly ignored my symptoms and continued to eat sugary foods to counteract my afternoon sugar crashes. While the diagnosis was overwhelming (as there is no cure), it was mostly a relief as I finally knew the source of my symptoms.
After finding out I had hypoglycemia, all I could do was research and learn as much as I could. From this process, I realized that hypoglycemia is a condition that remains largely undiagnosed and suffers still remain confused. Information is often conflicting and just plain puzzling- what should I eat? Are there effective medications? What should I do if I start to experience symptoms?
From personal experience, I have come to realise five things:
- Protein, protein, protein. Eating protein is essential at EVERY meal. Having a protein shake in the morning, eating nuts and seeds in between meals and incorporating lots of veggies into my diet has made a huge difference. I have found that protein bars often make me feel clouded and sick (probably due to their highly processed nature) even though my doctor recommended them. This leads me to realisation number two…
- Hypoglycemia diets need to be customized. Everyone’s symptoms and experience of hypoglycemia is different. What works for some (like protein bars) won’t work for others. You need to listen to your body and understand your symptoms. Hidden food allergies are often linked to hypoglycemia and make hypoglycemic symptoms more pronounced. As such, you should get yourself tested for food allergies. Common allergies include wheat, soy, dairy and foods containing chemical food additives. I have found that a diet similar to the paleo diet free from dairy and wheat has worked the best for me, but I’m still figuring it out.
- Caffeine is the devil. Since being diagnosed, I have quit my coffee and have feel a lot better. While I miss my daily caffeine hit ALOT, I’ve since realized that the crashes I used to have in the afternoon were caused by my coffee consumption. After the initial post-latte high, I would become tired and cranky.
- Exercise! While you have to be careful about working out when you have hypoglycemia (see the post below “Exercise and Hypoglycemia”) it has made a big difference to my energy levels and the endorphins don’t suck either. Exercise is important in a hypoglycemia health plan, but know your limits. I only exercise for 30 minutes because after that I start to notice symptoms, including shakiness, dizziness and paleness.
- It’s hard for people to understand what you’re going through. I am fortunate enough to have amazingly supportive family and friends (after my diagnosis my lovely mother actually followed my new diet with me) and all of them are very sympathetic. However, you’ll come across some people who just don’t understand or dismiss your symptoms as a case of hypochondria. I had many people thinking I was changing my diet to loose weight and didn’t understand why I couldn’t eat sugary food. This skepticism combined with difficult process of dealing with daily symptoms (tiredness, mood swings, lack of concentration, etc) may cause you to come down with a case of “why me?!” syndrome. While you’ll have bad days, it’s important to remember that hypoglycemia is manageable. You can get symptoms under control through a process of trial and error and live an energetic, happy life.