Back in 1994 I was doing a radio show in Monte Carlo. I spoke about food allergies, the phone went crazy, and I got asked back.

So next time I spoke about hypoglycemia—and the phone nearly blew itself off the desk, they told me! The majority of listeners had never heard of this condition, much less the effects it can have.

Well, that was quite a time ago. I’ve not shared on this topic for years, so let’s dive in now!

Hypoglycemia is posh Greek for “low blood sugar”. Everyone knows that diabetes is a dangerous condition, characterized by HIGH blood sugar. So why is it a problem having a low blood sugar? It doesn’t sound like a problem at all… but it is!

See, your brain needs fuel and although oxygen is critical, it also needs glucose. Typically that comes from the food you eat and the circulating glucose that ensues, which is a breakdown product of ordinary sugar, milk sugar, fruits and starches.

When there is not enough glucose fuel for your brain, it starts to misfire. The first I notice myself when my blood glucose drops sufficiently is that I start to pis-mronounce my words…like that! Or sustibute one word for another!

It can be quite funny, actually. Or embarrassing as hell…

But very soon the symptom of extreme fatigue will appear in various stages:

  • Frequent yawning and/or feeling sleepy
  • Fatigue or lethargy
  • Slight changes in vision
  • Tingling or feeling of muscle weakness
  • Moodiness (i.e., becoming irritable or depressed without provocation)
  • Craving carbohydrates

The craving of carbohydrates is a BIG give away. See, your brain won’t go without glucose, any more than it can go without oxygen for more than a few minutes. So urgent signals are sent out “Must have glucose!” That’s the stage where you feel you could just KILL for a candy bar, Coke or cookie.

The call is urgent. “Eat… eat NOW!”

And of course you will soon recover. Trouble is, if you used a sugary food or drink as the solution, your blood sugar will go up temporarily, but then slump AGAIN. It gets to be a vicious cycle, up, down, up, down, up, down.

Sugary foods are the WRONG answer

Eventually the blood sugar goes low and stays down. The person may swoon or just go to sleep. If he or she is forced to keep going (at work, say) he or she struggles but feels pretty bad.

What the interviewer and listeners seemed to find MOST interesting was the fact that there are characteristic times of day when hypoglycemia notoriously strikes and I describe them as follows:

  1. Mid-morning, after a sugary, starchy breakfast (or tea/coffee with spoonfuls of sugar). This one happens right around 11.00 in the morning. It’s the signal for more sweetened tea/coffee and a chocolate cookie! It solves the problem temporarily.
  2. Late afternoon, after a poor or skipped lunch. This slump is much more profound. The person often stops effective work at this point and concentrates on solutions to the fatigue.

This second slump is what lies behind the urge for cocktails, or “happy hour”. The person needs some sugar pretty quick and a sticky-sweet cocktail provides it, but again only temporarily. Even just wine or a beer will work, if enough is drunk!

The English, of course, soon learned that “Afternoon Tea” hits the spot!

  1. The third slump comes in the middle of the night. It manifests as raiding the icebox and munching left overs in the night. Yet again the hapless victim is unlikely to choose what’s left of the turkey or ham; he or she wants the custard tarts or the pound cake!

These three “windows” I identified over 40 years ago remain valid and are the major time slots in which hypoglycemia strikes. If you recognize yourself here, you need to do something about it.

The best advice is a low carb diet. In fact the keto diet or intermittent fasting are a virtual cure. You’ll never feel hungry and never get the sugar nibblies. But that’s a topic for another day.

Meanwhile, here are a few tips I found at The Balance Careers website (www.thebalancecareers.com/causes-of-afternoon-slump), and which will help clear that tired, foggy feeling:

  1. Sit in the Sun for 10 Minutes: You can reset your internal clock, reduce the amount of melatonin—a hormone whose production increases after the sun goes down and makes us sleepy—that your body produces, and boost your vitamin D.
  2. Consume Protein Rather than Carbs: Try tuna salad but skip the bread, sliced chicken instead of pasta, or a salad with an egg. Cutting out the carbs can help prevent an afternoon crash from coming on. 
  3. Drink Plenty of Water: If dehydration is a contributing factor to your afternoon fatigue, make it a habit to keep a reusable bottle of water handy and sip from it regularly.
  4. Rub Some Peppermint Oil on Your Hands: Rub your hands together and then pat your face. The scent of peppermint is known to increase energy.
  5. Eat a Square of Dark Chocolate: Dark chocolate, with its antioxidants and healthy fats, is better for you than milk chocolate. In addition to being delicious, dark chocolate contains a small hit of caffeine to give you a boost. Choose the low-sugar variants.
  6. Put a Rosemary Plant in Your Office: The scent of rosemary is known to be energizing. Whenever you need a pick-me-up, rub a sprig between your fingers to release the fragrance. You can also rub one on your hands, neck, and face.
  7. Have a Healthy Snack: Munch on something that combines fiber and complex carbohydrates—such as raw vegetables—to raise your blood sugar levels and keep them up. I often roll up a slice of ham and nibble that.
  8. Add a Bit of Variety to Your Day: Concentration declines after about an hour, and it only gets worse from there. Without a break, the tedium of a task will be mind-numbing by the time you’re 90 minutes in, and you’ll lose your productivity. When you feel your focus fading, switch to something else for 30 minutes.
  9. Stay Active: Even short bursts of activity can keep you alert and boost your fitness. If you’re in an office, instead of emailing or calling a colleague, get up and walk to their desk to ask a question face-to-face. If you’re home, take a short walk. The little bit of movement will do you good.
  10. Play a Tune: If you like music, insert your earbuds or put on your headphones and jam out to one of your favorite high-energy songs.You’ll probably move in time with the music. It will instantly invigorate you and make you feel pumped.
  11. Be Social: Organize your time so you engage with others during those peek slump times when your concentration and energy are waning. We are social animals, and interactions always rev us up. But make sure it’s an interesting interaction. Sitting in a meeting listening to someone else drone on and on may make you inclined to snooze.
  12. Engage in Mindful Meditation: Meditation requires no more than 15 to 20 minutes of sitting quietly and focusing on yourself and your breathing. Meditation will not only declutter your mind; it will also leave you energized.  

See: being knowledgeable helps you know what to do and to stay pro-active. Don’t wait till hypoglycemia strikes. Go out and lay it to rest, before it happens.

Prof. Keith Scott-Mumby

The Official Alternative Doctor

Oh, and by the way, if you are driving and go hypo suddenly, you MUST pull over, or somebody might get hurt.