Functional Hypoglycaemia (Low Blood Sugar)

Hypoglycaemia is low blood sugar and ‘functional’ hypoglycaemia occurs when the body is unable to stabilise blood effectively. It often occurs after prolonged periods of stress or anxiety. Women may find that their symptoms worsen before the onset of their periods.

Main symptoms are:

  • Tiredness, vagueness, shakiness that is resolved by eating
  • Tiredness/ irritability first thing in the morning or when hungry
  • Sugar cravings
  • A feeling of being hungry all the time
  • Headaches – relieved by eating
  • Anxiety – relieved by eating
  • Waking at night feeling very hungry
headache

Tiredness and headache are common symptoms of low blood sugar

Causes:

  • Prolonged stress
  • Diet – over consumption of refined carbohydrates or high alcohol intake

Minerals:

  • Chromium and magnesium are important minerals necessary for controlling blood sugar levels.
  • Chromium is found in whole grains, nuts and cheeses.
  • Magnesium is found in green leafy vegetables, pulses, nuts, wheat germ, whole wheat and oats.
  • Zinc is also important but is only likely to be low in diets that are low in protein. High levels are found in meat, shellfish and poultry, lower levels in pulses, nuts and seeds. Dairy and eggs also contain small amounts.

Eating guidelines:

  • Eat small amounts of protein at each meal (including snacks)
  • Eat small, frequent meals (this may involve eating 6 small meals a day rather than 3 main meals and snacks)
  • Avoid all sugar, honey and dried fruit
  • Avoid fruit juices
  • Avoid stimulants such as tea, coffee, chocolate and cola drinks
  • Avoid alcohol and cigarettes
  • Eat whole grain foods – avoid refined carbohydrates such as white bread and pasta
  • ALWAYS eat breakfast

Combine foods to ensure complete proteins are eaten at meals:

  • Dairy, eggs, meat and fish are complete proteins.
  • Combine pulses with grains or nuts/ seeds
  • Combine grains with pulses or nuts/ seeds
almonds

Almonds contain a high level of magnesium and zinc whilst providing a good source of protein

Example meals:

 Breakfast

  • Yoghurt, fruit, seeds and ground nuts
  • Whole grain bread with nut butter; houmous or egg
  • Muesli with seeds and/or nuts
  • Porridge with seeds or ground nuts

Lunch

  • Meat, fish and veg
  • Sandwich with meat, fish, cheese, egg, houmous
  • Lentil/ pulse and vegetable soup with wholemeal bread

 Dinner

  • Beans and grains – e.g. stir-fry with tofu; dhal, vegetables and rice; vegetable chilli with bean and rice
  • Grains and nuts – e.g. vegetables and rice with satay sauce and peanuts; Pasta and pesto
  • Beans and seeds – e.g. falafel and houmous
  • Meat or fish with plenty of vegetables.

Snack ideas

  • Mixed seeds and nuts
  • Banana and nuts
  • Yoghurt
  • Houmous and vegetable sticks
  • Cottage cheese on wholemeal cracker

References:

Trickey, R. (2000) ‘Women, Hormones & The Menstrual Cycle’, Allen & Unwin: Sydney