Diana 60, is a well-known blues singer who has performed in BC nightclubs and local music festivals for decades. Very conscious of her stage appearance, she works out regularly at a gym and has a slim, admirable figure, especially for her age.
During her early career, she often experienced trembling, racing heartbeat and dizziness before a performance and during intermissions, and sometimes got headaches and heavy mood swings after a night’s physically-demanding work. She thought that these were normal since she felt anxious before going on stage, and had a few drinks with guests after she finished, staying up late and usually not having time to eat dinner. These symptoms persisted for years and then disappeared so she thought she’d gotten used to the lifestyle.
Lately she’d begun to have difficulty concentrating and got blurry vision so went to her doctor, thinking he would tell her to get her eyes checked. Instead, he sent for blood glucose tests that showed she had probably been battling hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) for many years, and her blood levels were now bordering on “metabolic syndrome” that is linked to prediabetes.
Diana was shocked. How could she be at risk of getting diabetes? She wasn’t overweight, and didn’t eat sugar or processed foods! And the symptoms she used to get that pointed to low blood sugar were no longer a problem.
Doing some research, Diana found out that if you often have hypoglycemia (when blood glucose decreases to 60 mg/dL or less), you can stop experiencing symptoms because your body “gives up” sending messages that something is wrong (medically called “hypoglycemia unawareness”).
Despite her admirable figure, Diana’s eating habits were irregular. She often just ate a salad without protein for lunch, an energy bar before going on stage, and a plate of fries afterward at the nightclub. She also drinks too much alcohol, which can increase blood sugar surges and drops a few hours later. (Drinking large amounts of alcohol can also cause the liver to stop releasing stored glucose into the bloodstream.)
She learned that hypoglycemia is linked to an overactive pancreas when it cannot regulate insulin well, and comes from having too much insulin in the blood, leading to low blood glucose levels. This can eventually lead to further imbalances and even the opposite, hyperglycemia (high levels of glucose in blood) and can then cause several illnesses including diabetes.
Diana’s To-Do List
Diana learned more about nutrition, and started carrying small portable meals and snacks with her to eat every 3 to 4 hours throughout the day. This included eating right after gym workouts and before and after performances.
She eats more protein (from lean meat and legumes), good fats like avocado and nut butter, and complex carbs including whole-grain bread in addition to her vegetable salad.
A naturopath told her that the herb Ashwagandha might help blood sugar imbalances, and B Vitamins and Magnesium are supposed to create healthy insulin levels.
She is trying to reduce her alcohol and caffeine intake (caffeine can exacerbate blood sugar issues if you’re sensitive to it).
She is also getting counselling because she read in a psychology blog that pancreatic imbalances have been shown to occur after emotional or physical trauma (recent or long past), and may be signs of feeling overwhelmed. Her outbursts during mood swings are one of the symptoms of hypoglycemia, but she also realized that they may be signaling deeper issues.