Can anyone explain the mechanism by which low blood sugar leads to weight gain? And, is a low-carb paleo diet appropriate for regulating low blood sugar? Thanks.
Great question. I think this is a poorly understood phenomenon. Post-prandially, if blood sugar drops, a strong signal is somehow sent to the body to raise the blood sugar level ASAP. This could take the form of a sugary treat, which itself will further spike an insulin increase. The insulin release can propagate inappropriate (hormonal) hunger, and the person can wind up over eating.
Basically, an overcompensation to remedy the hypoglycemia can further screw up hunger signals and cause a person to take inappropriate amounts of food.
As I write this, I wonder if this is what happens with artificial sweetners. Ie sucralose is taken in, Insulin is triggered by taste rather than glucose, and drives glucose into cells inappropriately lowering blood sugar. Then inappropriate compensation occurs (as above), and a person who ate an artifical sweetner winds up taking excessive amounts of food.
Just a theory - what do you guys think?
If you eat a high glycemic meal such as a large Dairy Queen Blizzard, your blood sugar will spike to a high level (over 110). Your pancreas will then secrete a large amount of insulin to get the sugar out of your blood. After 2 - 4 hours, blood glucose may drop to a low level (below 70). You will subsequently feel irritable, tired, and hungry because of the blood glucose drop, and likely reach for more food even though you may not actually need more calories to maintain your weight. If you eat a sensible Paleo diet, practice intermittent fasting, and avoid high glycemic sugar bombs, you should be able to maintain healthy fasting and post-prandial blood glucose levels between 70 - 100. There will be no reactive hypoglycemia, and you should not feel hungry or irritable when fasting for 16 - 24 hours.
This is answering the second part of the question, relating to regulation of blood sugar.
Everyone reacts to foods differently, so if you have a serious problem the only sure way to regulate blood sugar is to use a blood glucose meter. The meter lets you test your reaction to meals of specific foods and also your reaction to overall higher or lower carbohydrate (or protein) levels in your diet.
It's also important to remember that the body can react to fast drops in blood glucose, even if blood glucose has not gone down to a level that's low in absolute terms. In some people, blood sugar never really gets low, because as soon as the sharp drop is detected, their liver secretes glucose to bring the levels up. (This is triggered by a stress response in the brain and adrenals, including cortisol). But in the meantime, we get the feeling of low blood sugar (including craving sweet things). Once insulin kicks in to deal with the sugar, hunger follows and the cycle of eating sweet things starts again.
The blood glucose meter is handy in detecting whether you really have low blood glucose, or whether your body is overreacting to a drop in glucose levels.
Eating a low carb diet (test/experiment with how much this is for you) with adequate protein and enough natural fats to meet energy needs might keep blood glucose more stable than eating high carb - it does for me.
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