Going paleo with reactive hypoglycemia

by 173 · May 22, 2014 at 11:41 PM

I have constant blood sugar issues which is why I would like to try a paleo diet again.

I think I have reactive hypoglycemia but I am not diagnosed. I feel hypoglycemic all the time and need to eat like every 3 hours or I will not function very well. Basically I function best with huge amounts of sugar in me. Only then I don't think about moving my body and, my mind is really active. I consider this the way I should feel because I felt like that most of my life(childhood, etc).

Without sugar I feel grumpy and don't want to do anything :( Energy is the spice of life and I'm really low on it most of the time.

Can you guys help me get healthy again and function properly without huge amounts of sugar? What should I do? How often should I eat and how much carbs should I ingest. I would be thankful for any approach to mitigate this unpleasant condition.

Maybe a paleo lifestyle could even cure this thing?

Also I'd like to know if you guys would recommend getting diagnosed by a medical doctor.

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201 · June 16, 2011 at 12:08 PM

Reactive hypoglycemia is not a diagnosis. It's like saying you have anemia: it gives you no information about the cause.  Diabetics get hypoglycemia when they inject themselves with too much insulin than is required for glucose processing. A healthy person should not have hypoglycemia. Our bodies are very well equipped with hormones (glucagon, adrenaline, cortisol, TSH) to replenish low blood sugar under normal conditions. The most common reason for reactive hypoglycemia tends to be caused by sensitivity to a high carbohydrate diet. As you know, rising blood glucose from your meal cause insulin release. Insulin helps shuttle glucose into the cells. However, insulin tends to hang around longer than glucose. Its levels remain elevated even when glucose level has already normalized. 2-4 hours later you get low blood sugar symptoms: irritability, loss of concentration, shaking, weakness, and you have something sugary/high carb to make yourself feel better. In a few hours the story repeats.  In addition, you might have hyperinsulinemia, where the pancreas pushes out too much insulin for a moderate amount of glucose.  I'm afraid the only way to get off the proverbial roller coaster is to reduce your body's dependence on insulin. Sugary junk is out, period. Some people have to also reduce/eliminate other sources of easily digestible carbs. Yes, my yam-loving paleos, even starches. Maybe temporarily, until your body regains the metabolic flexibility to utilise fatty acids for energy. Dr Eades has a good post about how to cope with reducing carbs here: http://www.proteinpower.com/drmike/ketones-and-ketosis/tips-tricks-for-starting-or-restarting-low-carb-pt-i/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+drmikenutritionblog+%28The+Blog+of+Michael+R.+Eades%2C+M.D.%29

Other less common causes exist but what you are describing sounds pretty classic. Usual disclaimer: if symptoms persist...

2029 · June 16, 2011 at 01:06 PM

I was diagnosed with hypoglycemia a few years ago and was given the standard "healthy diet" advice from my doctor, which I think made my symptoms worse. My body became conditioned to have food every 2-3 hours and if something happened that I couldn't eat when I needed to, it got UGLY!

I went low-carb paleo cold turkey, which was really hard for about a week, but in the long run I think it was easier than trying to ease into it. "Moderation" doesn't work well for me because it's too easy for me to slip back into old habits. The headaches, shakiness and fatigue were rough, but it was worth the fight.

I've been eating this way for about a month, so I don't have long-term advice, but I can tell you that I feel SO much better. I eat twice a day and my life doesn't revolve around food. The hungry bitch hasn't surfaced for about 3 weeks, and my family is much better for it!

77322 · June 16, 2011 at 02:51 PM

I suffered from hypoglycemia for 20 years. I went paleo Nov 2010 after years of eating 5+ small meals/day and panicking if I didn't have a damn granola bar with me. I had the shakes, dizziness, and sometimes I would be close to blackouts.

NOW: I eat 1-2x's/day and the symptoms are gone. I'm not obsessed about eating and like Mindi, the hungry and irritable bitch doesn't rear her ugly head. There are times I get a bit irritable if I'm not eating enough but it is nothing like it was in the past.

For me, I eat a lot of protein (eggs, meat, fish), sweet potatoes (I noticed I need at least 50 carbs/day), and veggies. I can do no more than 1/2 cup of berries/day or my insulin spikes and I get ravenous quickly. Obviously I don't eat gluten and no sugar. I also took oats out of my diet and pre-paleo, I had at least 2 cups of oats/day as a way to keep satiated. I replaced the oats with eggs, usually hardboiled and I eat the yolk.

There are some other posts about it here.

125 · June 17, 2011 at 02:46 AM

As a recovered hypoglycemic, I can attest to Paleo improving my symptoms, but I do not recommend a radical change overnight.

I would work on slowly decreasing your carbs and giving your body time to adjust. Continue eating frequently. Start with 100 g of carbs spread throughout the day for a few weeks. Then, go to 50 g of carbs per day for a couple more weeks. Then go to 25 g per day for a while. Increase your fat and protein to balance out your daily nutrition. You should start feeling like you can go longer and longer without eating. Your body will learn to use stored fat for energy instead of depending on the next sugar fix.

I agree with testing your blood sugar levels, but worry about what doctors may encourage (ex. eat more whole grains). You might also want to have your adrenals checked (via saliva testing for cortisol). When the adrenals are weak, the body tends to crave sugar and caffeine to compensate...a very destructive cycle.

678 · June 16, 2011 at 04:29 PM

I'm going to echo what others here have already said - 99% of my blood sugar issues are gone with two changes ... 1) lowish carb (50g on a reg day and 100g on a lifting day) ... 2) 16 hour fast (dinner to noon) followed by heartily eating protein, fat and a few veggies for the other 8 hours

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0 · May 22, 2014 at 11:41 PM

sometimes i have hypoglycemia and i think it worsen when i eat like 15 carbs in one sitting.am using IF 16/8 most of time,but sometimes goes to 20/4 and i really don't know what cause my hypo starts?is it long period without food or big meals or hidden carbs from organic raw almond butter.cannot find it.carring some dextrose tablets with me in case.hate it.sometimes i scare that i will not be abble to eat more vegs/starches/fruits in my life and ending with diabetes =(

0 · August 08, 2013 at 04:29 AM

I don't fully understand this concept. I am diagnosed reactive hypo and very sensitive, but I've been eating 40% carbs 30% protien 30% fats every 2-3 hrs to maintain my blood sugar which gets very low if I'm not very careful. My doctor recommended looking into the paleo diet but I'm not sure I understand how I could possibly get enough carbs eating just vegis and no legumes, rice, grains or dairy. I don't know any other carbs my body can handle than, whole milk, beans, and black rice. I react badly to fruit and get quite sick if I don't eat enough carbs. My sugar baselines at about 75 so I assume not eating many carbs will leave me with nearly 0 sugar to burn through activity etc. Am I incorrect? Any suggestions? As a side note those of you who mentioned being told to eat sugar, reactive hypoglycemia is a condition where your body reacts badly to blood sugar spikes. Doctors who know nothing about the condition tell you to eat sugar, diabetics with hypoglycemia eat sugar, yes, but when you have RH it causes your sugar to go low. My body gets incredibly worn out if I try to eat any sugar at all.

0 · August 08, 2013 at 04:04 AM

I get so sad when I read comments and posts regarding treating reactive hypoglycemia with sugar. Sugar is actually the thing that more than likely caused your condition to begin with. Hypoglycemia is a symptom of a bigger problem. Your pancreas is failing to manage your glucose levels due to being over worked by the foods you eat that weren't meant for human consumption. Your body has been conditioned from the moment you were born (formula) and possibly in the womb (your mother's diet) to use simple sugars as your bodies energy source instead of whole foods that supply the energy you need. Once the pancreas is weakened from years of abuse, it will no longer produce insulin the right way and as a result your brain suffers. That's why you experience so many issues related to the function of your brain (brain fog, lack of concentration, confusion, blurry vision, headaches, dizziness, etc.). Also, sugar contains 1/2 glucose and 1/2 fructose. Fructose is toxic. Rebuild the pancreas and change your diet.

I'm going to recommend three things:

(1) http://wwww.gethypohelp.blogspot.com

(2) Watch Sugar: A Bitter Truth on the homepage of that blog or on YouTube

(3) Select a diet that will rebuild your pancreas, adrenal glands, and eliminate ALL forms of sugar/carbs that do not come from vegetables, fruits, nuts/sprouts. Eat those those foods with a source of protein such as all natural chicken, turkey, or fish. NO packaged or processed foods. They contain sugar to mask the taste of the preservatives and chemicals needed to keep the food on the shelf longer.

People in the severe stages of reactive hypoglycemia may not be able to tolerate fruit at all in the beginning because your body is very sensitive now. I wish you all the best and please get it under control before your pancreas eventually fails completely and turns into diabetes. Hypoglycemia is not a disease and it is not diabetes. It is a symptom of an underlying problem, which can lead to diabetes if not treated. You can't treat it with sugar! If you do that, you will have a blood sugar problem for the rest of your life. Once you learn how your body metabolizes sugar and other foods, you will understand what's happening to you. There's so much more that is involved but I hope this gives you a start and a fighting chance.

0 · June 14, 2013 at 08:45 AM

Sugary food is not the best way to control Hypoglycemia. The best way to control Hypoglycemia is to remove the cause of the reaction. Eating high carb and sugary food lead to a spike and eventual fall in blood glucose levels. Therefore eating foods with low glycemic index and reactions, keep your blood glucose at consistent, constant levels. I was DIAGNOSED (yes, you can be diagnosed w/ hypoglycemia) last summer (2012). My nutrionist told me to eat high carb every few hours and carry around lifesavers (really?!). I thought it was fine until I started gaining massive weight. I knew there had to be an alternative. I went Paleo in January of 2013 ... I haven't had to test myself since February. I always carry my glucometer with me, however I never feel the need to use it.

1040 · March 10, 2013 at 05:39 AM

I thought I was reactive hypo until I switched to 16/8 feeding. I kept needing to eat every three hours. It turns out I was having a clock/Pavlov response. Every day 6, 9, & 11:30 I would get hunger pangs. It's taken a month an a half to dodge those timed responses.

0 · May 21, 2012 at 06:18 AM

Does anyone get dizzy/brain fog after eating too much protein in one setting?

10 · March 01, 2012 at 12:30 PM

very good information.

10 · January 02, 2012 at 09:04 AM

This is true that Diabetics get hypoglycemia when they inject themselves with too much insulin than is required for glucose processing. There are some very common Symptoms of hypoglycemia are anxiety, sweating, palpitations, nausea, and weakness. There natural treatment are there for hypoglycemia but diet and sugar food is the best solution to prevent hypoglycemia. How To Prevent Diabetes

10 · November 20, 2011 at 09:28 PM

I have had problems with hypoglycemia in the past as well and can now completely eliminate those desperate shaky hungry episodes by eating low glycemic foods only and absolutely no dairy. Even though some dairy is low glycemic, it triggers the release of large amounts of insulin, leading to deep sugar lows later. Nothing gets me more hypoglycemic than a glass of milk or yogurt, even more than white bread. I eat fruit in moderation and vegetables, meat, fish, poultry, and like squashes for carbs--butternut and spaghetti squash are satisfying and don't lead to sugar lows for me.

15070 · August 01, 2011 at 05:38 PM

A lot of good answers here, but I wanted to also suggest a B vitamin deficiency. B's are important co-factors in energy metabolism and often overlooked. Do you ever eat liver?

0 · August 01, 2011 at 05:30 PM

Wow so glad to have found this post! I share many of these hyperinsulenemic symptoms. I also have PCOS and have recently gone 80% paleo to try and remedy that! I no longer eat simple carbs, but still eat some dairy, Greek yogurt and Parmesan, (cheating with yams did not work well!)

I started Paleo about a month ago, and the first week was amazing! A true cleansing experience after the first two days of hell. The second week was uneventful and the third week was completely low energy and I had a headache for 48hrs. I'm now in week four and am still very drowsy and low energy in the morning. I used to be a morning runner and now I simply cannot muster the strength. I find myself turning into a night owl as I am finally feeling up for the days work around noon!

Anytime I cheat, even if its a bit of flour used to thicken a soup, I feel terrible the next day, headaches, moodiness, sadness. I am pretty sure my body now sees sugar and refined carbohydrates as poison and goes on a mini detox if I happen to ingest them! I went to Paleo cold turkey and maybe that was my mistake. I am hearing that for people with compromised metabolic function, the true benefits of Paleo can take up to 6 months. I have also read that exercise is key to starting up your engines! So I continue the quest for energy and a healthy balanced life.

Thank you!


70 · June 22, 2011 at 12:55 AM

Hi all, I may be a little late to this post but wanted to see if anyone could help me. I've been pretty strict paleo (95 percent of the time) for a year and a half. I also just eat sweet potatos when I'm going to bike for over 2 hours or long runs. Also, I eat very little fruit (berries or green apples), especially the past few months. However, I can not seem to get my blood sugar up in the mornings. I am very lethargic during morning workouts and feel like I need more food, even though I'm not hungry at all. I wake up queesy too every day for years now. Also, I should note I eat plenty. I'm 5,4 118 lbs and eat about 2000-2300 calories a day, sometime more on long workout days. My breakfast consists of half a bag of spinach, 1 tbls flax oil, 1 tbls flax seed, lemon juice, and chicken sausage from trader joes. Pretty soon after I feel like my blood sugar is really starting to drop more so I'll eat 1/2 -1 lb roasted brussel sprouts or okra with 1-2 tbls olive oil. What else can I do besides eat more or add some carbs, which I really dont want to do? Oh and last bit and sorry for the long post, but on days when I would give in to brown rice bread or sweet potatos, it didn't help a lot so I'm at a loss. Thank you so much for reading and any possible advice!

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