by Kendra Gaffney, RD, LDN
Jenny’s breakfast was wearing off and the thought of lunch was further than she knew. She could feel her hunger pangs coming on strong. On short notice, she was called into a lunch meeting with no lunch; this is when she accepted the fact she wouldn’t eat till home. What she didn’t realize is her body was at risk for hypoglycemia, also known as low blood sugar. Hypoglycemia occurs when your blood sugar is used up too quickly, it is released into the bloodstream too slowly, or too much insulin is released into the bloodstream. In Jenny’s case, she had already used her glucose (blood sugar) from breakfast and was unable to refuel her body.
On Jenny’s ride home from work she could feel her body shaking and her head pounding. With her hunger pangs growing intensely, she knew that missing lunch was not the best choice. Skipping meals is a huge contributor to low blood sugar levels and overeating. Some symptoms of low blood sugar include blurred vision, feelings of nervousness, headaches, unclear thinking, but most of all feelings of aggression.
As Jenny walked in from her long day at work all she could think about was food. She headed straight for the kitchen to eat. Her husband tried to welcome her and she lashed out at him for leaving his shoes by the door. Her children tried to hug her but all she could do was yell at them for not working on their homework. After eating, her feelings of anxiety and shaky hands started to subside. She sat down next to her husband on the couch. She recapped what happened in the short period of time she had been home, and realized how angry and aggressive she was towards her family for an unknown reason.
Hypoglycemia can come on very rapidly or gradually depending on your body, medical conditions, and meal patterns. Skipping meals, waiting to eat your meal, exercising more, and drinking alcohol can contribute to low blood sugar levels. To avoid hypoglycemia, and avoid hunger wars altogether, we must develop a healthy pattern of eating.
Healthy eating patterns may consist of 3 small to medium meals along with a few daily snacks to avoid low blood sugar. Try not to go more than 3-5 hours between meals and snacks. Everyone is unique, so pay close attention to your body’s signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia. Carbohydrates are our main energy source and are found in whole grains/cereal/bread/pasta, starchy vegetables/dried beans, fruit, and dairy products. Carbohydrates help improve our blood sugar levels while proteins and fats help stabilize blood sugar in the body. Eating a variety of foods is very important to maintain a healthy diet.
Next time you feel anxious or cranky, take a step back and ask yourself, “Am I really angry or am I just hungry”?
1. American Diabetes Association. Standards of medical care in diabetes—2011.
2. Hypoglycemia. (2011). Retrieved September 2011, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001423/