It has taken me a while to understand hypoglycemia. Many people, myself included, often confused this with diabetes, and these are two very different conditions.
When you have diabetes, as I am understanding it, the pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin (insulin is a hormone that helps your body process the glucose), so there is too much sugar in your blood.
Hypoglycemia occurs when the pancreas is making too much insulin, and there is not enough sugar in your blood, and you can experience a sudden system crash.
Several years ago Donald developed reactive hypoglycemia, rather suddenly: he started ‘falling asleep’ on the couch right after eating dinner, especially if we had pasta, or potatoes, or other starchy foods (carbohydrates). After much research, I found that his symptoms fit perfectly as reactive hypoglycemia. But there wasn’t much guidance out there on how to manage it at the time.
It wasn’t until Donald got a diagnosis of Lyme disease this past March (after eight years of lots of other distressing symptoms), in particular neuro-Lyme, that we found out Lyme disease can create hypoglycemia in its host.
We also found out last March that Donald had developed gluten-intolerance, which is another thing that Lyme disease will create for its host. The lab that did the test wrote on the report that Donald should not ever consume anything that contains gluten for the rest of his life.
For someone who has Italian blood (on his father’s side) this is very upsetting. Donald loves pasta, and bread, and misses the taste of these foods. Gluten-free pastas, breads, crackers, etc., do not yet have the satisfying taste of wheat flour, and are unconscionably expensive.
Regarding hypoglycemia, there is not a lot of information out there, on the Internet or from doctors, to help people cope with this very frightening condition. Donald’s neurologist casually said, “Just eat several smaller meals during the day.”
Donald’s Lyme-Literate doctor didn’t have any suggestions on how to manage or control the reactive hypoglycemia. And his primary care doctor just goes, “Um hmmm….” when we mention it to him.
As Donald goes through the various treatment protocols for eradicating Lyme disease from his body, the herxes are quite strong (herxes are the body’s reaction to the toxins released by the bacteria as they die off, the symptoms worsen as the toxins migrate through and out of the body), and the hypoglycemic crashes can be very severe and can come on very suddenly.
One of the disconcerting things about reactive hypoglycemia is that you can’t always tell when you are crashing. You feel tired, and naturally you just want to take a few minutes and take a nap, and can’t understand why your loved one is bugging you, asking if you are crashing and need some food. But once you eat something, in Donald’s case protein and/or high-fat foods, and you recover, you realize that it was indeed a low-blood sugar crash coming on, and you are extremely grateful to your wife for noticing and addressing it (!)
I have, after much trial and error, found several things that can bring Donald back, fairly quickly. Since he is gluten-intolerant, carbohydrates are out of the question. I give him only protein and fat-rich foods. For example, I keep lots of whole milk ricotta cheese in the refrigerator, and when I feel him beginning a low-blood sugar crash, I put a couple tablespoons or so of ricotta in a bowl, drizzle extra-virgin olive oil and sea salt onto it.
Since Donald is concentrating his time and energy, every single day, engaged in a comprehensive program for his full and complete recovery from Lyme disease, consisting of prayer, meditation, qigong systems and strenuous exercises I am devoting myself to the proper continual care, feeding and maintenance of Donald.
During the time we were traveling and teaching (the last few years), it could be challenging to keep Donald’s blood-sugar in balance to prevent crashes. I didn’t always have access to the proper foods, a kitchen to prepare home-cooked meals, or we made do with restaurant food.
Now that we have been blessed with a place of our own once again, I am finding my way, and keeping Donald’s blood sugar as even as possible throughout the day. Along with all the other things I do to support his recovery!
According to Naburo Muramoto’s excellent book, “Healing Ourselves,” (Mr. Muramoto was one of Donald’s healing arts teachers in San Francisco, in the 1970’s) diabetes and hypoglycemia results ‘from the organism’s inability to maintain a constant and proper blood-sugar level.’ I’ve recently returned to this book, and found the following suggestions to control diabetes and hypoglycemia:
- Eat very little sugar
- Whole grains – brown rice, buckwheat, etc.
- Vegetables: onions, carrots, squash
- Adzuki bean soup (for breakfast)
- Miso soup (for breakfast, along with the adzuki soup)
Here’s some food suggestions for small meals that I found have worked for us:
- Lentil soup (prepared from scratch)
- Tuna fish salad
- Toasted Brown Rice porridge (known as jook, or congee in Chinese)
- Caprese salad (fresh mozzarella, fresh basil and tomatoes
- Chicken Salad (from leftovers from dinners)
- Small portions of meat (beef and chicken) and sautéed vegetables (for the evening meal)
I had been preparing green smoothies for us, for a couple of months, with fresh and frozen fruit and fresh kale and protein powder, every morning, but I stopped about a week ago, to gauge whether they were adding too much sugar to Donald’s daily food intake.
We are having more and more success, each day, in keeping homeostasis for our bodies, minds and spirits, and all of these modifications, while life-saving for Donald, are also benefiting me!