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What is hypoglycemia?

Hypoglycemia if translated from Latin means “low bloodsugar” and is referred to as a lower amount of glucose in the blood than itshould be. This is a pathological (abnormal) state that can produce varioussymptoms and effects. The chief problem with hypoglycemia is inadequate supplyof glucose as fuel to the brain, which is very energy-hungry organ. This leadsto impairment of brain function, or neuroglycopenia. Lack of fuel to the brainmay result only in symptoms such as feeling bad and drowsy, to seriousconditions such as coma. In rare cases, neuroglycopenia can even have a deadlyoutcome. Hypoglycemia can be caused by many conditions, and can occur at anyage and affect anybody.

There are two types of hypoglycemia, the reactivehypoglycemia and the functional hypoglycemia. Reactive hypoglycemia is causedby external influences, such as diet and use of certain medications. This formof hypoglycemia is fairly easy to treat, control or cure. Functionalhypoglycemia is caused by a metabolic malfunction and is much harder to manage.Typical causes of functional hypoglycemia include excess production of insulin,or improper functioning of the body's system that manages insulin – insulinresistance. If there is no physical cause for the drop of blood sugar level,then hypoglycemia is deemed as idiopathic.

As the brain depends on blood sugar as its primary source ofenergy, hypoglycemia will limit with the brain's ability to function properly.In other words, hypoglycemia causes dizziness, headache, blurred vision, andmakes concentrating difficult. It can even lead to much more seriousneurological symptoms. The body produces excess quantities of epinephrine, norepinephrine and other body hormones when there is a low level of sugar in theblood, as these hormones help to raise level of glucose in the blood. Excessamount of these hormones causes tremor, sweating, rapid heartbeat, anxiety andhunger.

The amount of glucose in the blood is mostly controlled bytwo hormones, insulin and glucagon. Lack or excess amount of one of thesecauses either a rapid fall of blood sugar level (hypoglycemia) or a sudden riseof it (hyperglycemia). Both these hormones are produced by the gland in theupper part of the abdomen, known as the pancreas. When the level of blood sugarrises, say, after a meal, the pancreas secretes insulin, which helps glucose toenter into cells, where it will be converted to glycogen, better suited forstorage. When a drop in the glucose level of the blood is below normal, ittriggers secretion of glucagon, which signals the liver to release the storedglycogen and convert it to ready-to-use glucose. This returns the level ofblood sugar to normal.

How to fight hypoglycemia?

A good way to get rid of reactive hypoglycemia is to use ahigh-carbohydrate, high-fiber, restricted-simple sugar diet. High-protein,low-carbohydrate diets are more likely to cause hypoglycemic attacks. What mostpeople do when they feel symptoms of hypoglycemia is to eat a carbohydrate richmeal or a snack, something on the line of eating a candy bar or drinking a colabeverage. This just causes sugar level in blood to rise quickly and thenplunge. It is to better to eat food with complex carbohydrates such as wholegrain crackers, bagels, soft pretzel, breads or cereal, which deliver glucoseover a longer period of time.

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