WHY AM I HAVING CRAZY LOW BLOOD SUGAR CRASHES? AND WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT IT?
We hear a lot about problems related to high blood sugar: diabetes, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, even cancer. And to be sure, this is a very prevalent problem in industrial societies.
But what about low blood sugar? Well, low blood sugar is incredibly common in chronic illness - especially with things like chronic infections, autoimmunity and leaky gut. But it gets picked up and addressed way less by industrial medicine.
Our body likes to keep blood sugar cycling in a nice narrow range between 82-88 mg/dL or 4.55-4.88 mmol/L. Sure, it’ll go up after we eat a meal with carbs but it should come down nicely and cycle in that range. Industrial medicine has a much wider range but any lower or higher than this is associated with illness.
We lower our blood sugar using insulin, a hormone that helps get glucose out of the blood stream and inside of cells.
So what causes low blood sugar? We have quite a few systems in place to keep our blood sugar high enough; glucagon, growth hormone, cortisol and, when all else fails, adrenaline, are all hormones we use to make sure blood sugar doesn’t dip too low.
When it comes to low blood sugar that’s tied to digestive problems, a little known hormone called GLP-1 is often at play. GLP-1 is secreted in the small intestine when we eat and basically asks the stomach to slow down its emptying so that the small intestine can process what it has.
It also plays a big role in lowering blood sugar, by increasing insulin, insulin sensitivity and lowering glucagon.
So if GLP-1 lowers blood sugar when we eat, what increases GLP-1? A few things are:
- fast transit time. The stomach, maybe when it’s inflamed, is sending food to the small intestine too quickly so that it puts out more GLP-1 to ask it to slow down.
- IL-6, which is a potent inflammatory cytokine that we make when we have an infection or injury.
- And leaky gut - lipopolysaccharides (LPS) are bacterial markers that trigger GLP-1 when they leave the gut and go into our body.
Like with most complex, chronic issues, there are multiple causes. Rather than take shots in the dark, trying one thing then the next or a scatter gun approach, what can be extremely helpful is a systematic approach, where you address your systems step by step, and in order.