Hypoglycemia happens when blood sugar levels drop so low that cells are deprived of an energy source. Different reasons may account for a sudden drop in blood sugar. Reactive hypoglycemia happens when blood sugar drops dramatically 2-3 hours after a meal, usually one of excess carbohydrates.
A meal of heavy carbohydrates will cause an upsurge of glucose in the blood as the carbohydrates are broken down into glucose. Elevated glucose levels will stimulate production and release of large amounts of insulin. Insulin would then cause an intense drip in blood glucose by starting chemical reactions that will convert glucose into glycogen. This sudden drop in glucose levels in the blood results to reactive hypoglycemia. Without adequate glucose in the blood, the brain would not be supplied with an energy source for its cells.
Symptoms of reactive hypoglycemia are similar to any other form of hypoglycemia. A person who is in danger of having reactive hypoglycemia may have problems with irregular heartbeat, usually 2 to 4 hours after a meal. He may feel breathless and tremble and be plagued with nightmares. He may also suffer from panic attacks, have memory problem and find it difficult to focus. Eventually, he feels tired almost constantly. As blood sugars continue to drop, adrenaline is also secreted to stimulate the liver to break down glycogen, the storage form of glucose, to glucose to elevate its levels in the blood. Upsurge of adrenalin will also give rise to a feeling of anxiety and nervousness. He may have trouble sleeping, suffer from persistent headaches and blurring of vision. This could make the person irritable and depressed and have problems concentrating or remembering things.
Attacks of reactive hypoglycemia are usually referred to as ‘episodes” and occur with each fluctuations in blood glucose levels. During an acute episode, a person may suddenly lose consciousness, an obvious danger when he is driving. During sleep, there is heavy dreaming and nightmares, due to changes in blood chemistry.
The only key to alleviating the symptoms of reactive hypoglycemia is to stick to a low-carbohydrate diet. It is important to be faithful to this diet to prevent the occurrence of the frightening symptoms of reactive hypoglycemia. Starchy food should be avoided because breakdown of starch will be another rich source of glucose. Therefore, in choosing vegetables or plant products for reactive hypoglycemia diet, one must choose those that do not contain much starch such as green beans, broccoli, cabbage and asparagus. Sweetened fruits should also be avoided because even fresh fruits high in sugar content can start a reactive hypoglycemia episode. Always be aware of fruits that start an attack and avoid eating them.
A person keen on keeping to his reactive hypoglycemia diet should also be a keen observer. Always read food labels so as to be aware of their carbohydrate content. Avoid foods that contain too much sweeteners such as fruit that is preserved in syrup. In choosing breads, always go for 100% whole wheat bread and be careful of those that have been cooler to make it seem they are.
Finally, be mobilized! Exercise is a good way of keeping blood glucose within favorable levels. It helps burn fat so that you don’t develop the bulge which is a common problem with post-menopausal women and a definite no-no in reactive hypoglycemia. Exercise also helps condition you mentally, making you more alert and feeling better and confident about yourself. There is just no way that you should lead your body into an overreaction to sugar by not sticking to a definite diet. It takes discipline and a total change of lifestyle, in such a way that you’ll enjoy life and keep reactive hypoglycemia symptoms under your control.