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This phenomenon, despite how common it is, is not normal, nor is it healthy. It’s the classic sign of what is known as reactive hypoglycemia and an early symptom of the prediabetes-related condition known as insulin resistance.
Refined carbs can cause wild mood swings
If you eat a meal loaded with sugar and refined carbs, you will experience wild swings in blood sugar that make you feel tired, anxious, irritable, and hungry for more quickly absorbed sugars. When you repeat this process day in and day out, eating a diet full of empty calories, refined carbohydrates (bread, pasta, rice, potatoes), sugars, and sweetened beverages (sodas, juices, sports drinks), your cells start to become resistant or numb to insulin. You end up needing more and more insulin to keep your blood sugars down. This is insulin resistance, a pre-diabetic condition that has become an epidemic.
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What is reactive hypoglycemia?
Reactive hypoglycemia is characterized by low blood sugar symptoms like fatigue, weakness, tiredness, dizziness, sweating, shakiness, palpitations, anxiety, nausea, a sensation of hunger, and difficulty with concentration which occur after eating an abundance of sugar or refined carbs. These reactive hypoglycemia symptoms occur in the early stages of insulin resistance.
Take a typical breakfast these days: swigging a large sweetened coffee drink and grabbing something from the Starbucks pastry case will give you a big energy surge as your sugar and insulin levels spike. What follows, however, are inevitable sugar crash symptoms as your blood sugar plummets. With this comes the low blood sugar fatigue.
Insulin levels may be the first sign that something is wrong
While reactive hypoglycemia is typically the first symptom, the first sign your doctor could see, if he or she checked, would be high insulin levels. High insulin causes your body to create more belly fat, more inflammation, and more oxidative stress while you lose muscle. The downstream effects of this, besides an expanding waistline and fatigue, are scary. High insulin levels and insulin resistance are linked to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, low HDL, low sex drive, infertility, depression, heart disease, stroke, dementia, cancer—all the common diseases of aging.
Hypoglycemia vs diabetes
Does hypoglycemia lead to diabetes? You cross the line to diabetes when your cells eventually become so resistant to insulin that it can’t do its job. This causes your blood sugar to stay up and your pancreas to go into overdrive trying to produce enough insulin to fight against your high blood sugar and resistant cells. But given that insulin resistance itself is linked to all the above-mentioned problems, it’s foolish to wait until you receive a diagnosis of diabetes to start breaking the cycle.
How to stop the cycle
You can start today. You don’t need a pill to help stop symptoms of reactive hypoglycemia, lower your insulin, and reverse insulin resistance and prediabetes. Cut the white flour, sugar, and corn syrup out of your diet. Replace these empty calories with nutrient-packed whole grains, lean proteins, beans, nuts, fruits, veggies, and healthy fats, and see what a difference this makes in terms of your energy levels and your low blood sugar symptoms.
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This post originally appeared in 2012 and has been updated.