In previous articles in this series, blood sugar dysregulation and the signs and symptoms of hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia were discussed. Most are aware of the dangers of hyperglycemia and the potential progression to diabetes when left uncontrolled. Much less discussion is often had about the effects of hypoglycemia on the body. This is particularly an important topic for those who purposefully skip meals or cut their calories to extremes in order to achieve weight loss.
Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, can result from multiple mechanisms, the first being a lack of intake or an eating disorder. In those who consume a high amount of refined sugars, blood sugar may spike causing an insulin surge. This may result in acute hypoglycemia due to the rapid intake of sugar into cells, causing a “sugar crash”. In addition, poor stress management may lead to blood sugar fluctuations. Stress, or the anticipation of stress, triggers the release of “fight or flight” hormones—epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol—to be released from the adrenal glands. These hormones send signals to certain cells to generate glucose to raise blood sugar. In addition, insulin release is also triggered by stress because the body’s demand for energy is increased. If the body can not meet the demands for glucose, hypoglycemia may occur.
A condition called adrenal fatigue often goes hand-in-hand with hypoglycemia. In those with adrenal fatigue, the body’s stress hormone levels are lower, resulting in the inability to regulate blood sugar. Hypoglycemia is common due to low stress hormones in combination with high levels of insulin. Without enough energy, the processes of cells slow dramatically. This often triggers craving of something sweet (refined sugar), which may allow for temporary relief for about 45-90 minutes. This is often a rollercoaster ride of sugar highs and lows, which may sound familiar in those who crave something sweet or caffeinated around 10 AM, 2 PM, and 4 PM (Wilson, n.d.)