Bring me my granulated sugar, sugar mama
And try to ease my misery
- John Lee Hooker
I guess you could say I got the blues - the sugar blues. I have realized that, like most Westerners, I eat too much of the sweet stuff. I have always prided myself on eating in moderation, but sometimes, we fool ourselves. In my case, my body has begun to give me signals that all is not moderate. Since pregnancy 5 years ago, I have been experiencing bouts of hypoglycemia. Recently, I've amped up my exercise routine, and have noticed these lows occurring more frequently. If you've ever experienced a sugar low, it can creep up very quickly; a pang of hunger becomes a desperate plea for immediate energy. Without it, your body will start to sweat, shake, and become agitated.
So, I went for a yearly checkup at the doctor, and mentioned my sugar lows to her. Generally, they happen every couple of weeks, and mainly if I have not been eating regularly, or exercising a lot. My doctor felt I could self-manage, but did suggest that I would benefit from a low glycemic index diet. By eating low glycemic foods, she felt I could stabilize my blood sugar overall, and avoid these lows. I was relieved, feeling that at least this was not becoming something more serious, like the onset of diabetes. However, it certainly is a wakeup call to realize just what I am exactly putting into this body of mine.
We tend to think of sugar as white crystals, and as long as we are not piling it into our foods, then we are OK. However, the reality is that many carbohydrates, not only the refined ones, can spike your blood sugar quite suddenly. This is more problematic if you are hypoglycemic, as the body will release more insulin than necessary, resulting in low blood sugar. When your blood sugar is low, adrenaline kicks in, causing you to sweat and tremble with a racing heart. At this point, you must eat sugar immediately, or symptoms may become more serious. In a low blood sugar state, your brain is not getting the glucose it needs to keep it going. You know you are in serious trouble when you become confused, delirious, or start to convulse. At this point, low blood sugar is life threatening. If you have hypoglycemia, you should always carry something that can provide an immediate sugar release, in case a low occurs.
Phew. Scary. But, life is also about managing risk, so I'm up to task. I have been exploring several G. I. diets, and realize that ultimately, I don't need to change much. Foods I love are abundant in this plan; fresh vegetables, whole grain breads, beans, nuts, meats, cheeses, and milk. The tweaking really comes in the form of those carbs I fool myself into thinking I'm eating 'in moderation', such as potato chips, instant rice, mashed potatoes, bagels, crackers, and cereals like Cheerios. The good news is, there are plenty of alternate choices available.
Although I live to eat, I also realize you need to eat to live. Intellectually, this is a 'no-brainer', but sometimes it's the physical reality that causes us to make different choices. I'm looking forward to this new food challenge, where most of the sweetness will be in good health.
"Blood sugar baby - she's magik" - The Red Hot Chili Peppers