Is there a cure for reactive hypoglycemia? The way some health professionals talk, if you struggle with the problem, it’ll be a monkey on your back for life.
It was on mine, for a long time. I “had” to eat every two to three hours to prevent my blood sugar levels from crashing. It’s the way I’ve eaten for about the past thirty-five years.
The official treatment.
I wasn’t diagnosed with reactive hypoglycemia until I was around forty years old. The chiropractor looking at my blood work handed me a sheet of paper that told me I had to eat a high-protein (animal, not plant!) meal within a half hour of awakening, cut most fruits and starches out of my life (especially the evil banana), and eat almonds in between meals – and snacks! – so that I wouldn’t get hungry.
If I let myself get hungry, “it’s too late,” the chiropractor said.
She never did tell me what it would be too late for, but it sounded ominous, so I followed the instructions to the letter.
For less than a week. Then I quit, returning to my low meat, moderate carb diet (I wasn’t a vegetarian at the time, as I am now) and eating a healthy meal or snack every two to three hours. Why?
The treatment wasn’t working. In fact, I’d never had my blood sugar crash so often, its levels get so low, as when I was following the reactive hypoglycemia protocol. I became shaky and irritable several times a day, and at least once became nauseous.
Get this: I told the chiropractor I was done with that program, done with the Paleo diet (which she believed in), and she refused to treat me any further. Which was fine, because she’d helped me figure out my issues at the time, and chiropractic adjustments wouldn’t help them.
But…talk about unprofessional!
The latest fad treatment to heal reactive hypoglycemia.
I hesitate to use the word “fad” here, because people have legitimately healed themselves of the blood sugar problem using the protocol I’m about to mention. However, the prescribed diet goes against the way most people’s ancestors have been eating for millennia. And, though it seems to be essential for people who suffer from epilepsy and certain autoimmune diseases, for most of the world, it’s an extreme way of eating that they’re not genetically designed for.
If you start an online search for healing or curing reactive hypoglycemia, it won’t take you long to find web articles and videos (especially videos, especially in the comment sections), where people are crediting Intermittent Fasting with a Keto (extremely low-carb, and almost always meat-based) diet for healing their reactive hypoglycemia. (If you’ve read my recent posts, you know it’s not the fasting that I have a problem with.)
So, that must be the only way to do it, right? The best way? Kill animals for food and ignore fruits and starches to the extent that you have to take supplements in order not to develop nutritional deficiencies?
After all, that’s what the gurus say. And so many happy ex-hypos.
Let me go back to before I.F. and Keto became big, back a decade ago when I tried Paleo for a whopping month, then hopped off that bandwagon more quickly than I’d hopped onto it.
Along came Chris Kresser.
I don’t agree with everything Chris Kresser teaches. But around the time I was diagnosed with reactive hypoglycemia, I’d begun listening to his podcast. Into a Paleo-ish diet, he, unlike his peers, promoted a higher carb diet than most Paleo pundits. A hundred to 150 grams per day, was his recommendation.
When I began adding more carbs into my diet, the initial reason was that my bloodwork had also shown that my thyroid hormone levels were down, and Chris explained that not getting enough carbs could cause that. A quick calculation showed me that I’d been unintentionally eating a low-carb (maybe around seventy grams daily) diet for most of my adult life.
Life went on, I shortly thereafter stopped following anyone calling themselves “Paleo,” and a couple of years later I increased my carb intake even more, in the form of fruit.
Yes, that evil fruit that has so much sugar, it’s bound to make you fat and give you diabetes.
That notwithstanding, I began to notice that I could go longer and longer between meals and snacks without symptoms of hypoglycemia.
Fast forward to July 2021.
The afternoon of July 7, 2021, I said to my husband, “It’s been four hours since I finished eating, and I’m still not hungry.”
I was actually lamenting the fact. Within my seven-hour eating window, it was time to have my second meal so I could finish by the end of that window, and I wasn’t hungry. I like to be hungry when I sit down to eat.
But, then, it hit me: it had been four hours since I ate, and I still wasn’t hungry!
People with reactive hypoglycemia get hungry within three hours of finishing their last meal, generally no matter how big that last meal was.
I was wrong in this post. Reactive hypoglycemia had nothing to do with my hunger and low blood sugar struggles when I began Intermittent Fasting. It was, instead, a combo of fasting hypoglycemia (not potentially medically dangerous, as is reactive) and my underweight body screaming at me not to deprive it of its early morning calories.
So, what did it? Did intermittent fasting heal me of my blood sugar problem after only two weeks? I’ll get into the dubious supposed benefits of IF in a not-too-far-in-the-future post. But my take on it is, it had nothing to do with I.F. I believe that if, before I began I.F., I’d been having four and five hour stretches between meals, I would have found that my blood sugar levels would have remained stable.
I can’t verify this for certain because even with my previous eating schedule, I was eating no less frequently than every three hours in order to get all my calories for the day in time to finish four hours before bedtime (otherwise, I’d experience digestive problems after going to bed, including acid reflux and painful gas and bloating). However, I’d had a few times in the past few years that my eating schedule was knocked off kilter, forcing me to wait longer than three hours before eating, and my blood sugar levels didn’t crash.
Therefore, it wasn’t the intermittent fasting. It was, contrary to popular belief, eating more carbs. And not even low-sugar carbs. I’d love to be able to eat rice and potatoes without limit, but I’m sensitive to resistant starch (speaking of diet fads!), so I can only eat a half cup of one or the other at a time.
Sorry, Dr. McDougall, I don’t do starches. Sorry, all you Keto-teaching chiropractors and naturopaths who eschew all the wonderful qualities of fruit.
Sorry to break the news to you all.
And, may I say since I’m a follower of Yeshua: praise the Lord!