Let's eat!

It surprised me to learn that many fibromyalgics suffer from the symptom of chronic hypoglycemia.

 Better known as Reactive Hypoglycemia (or Post-Prandial Hypoglycemia), this is a form of hypoglycemia that mainly crops up after eating, and is more likely to occur when simple carbohydrates are consumed.

 For me, the symptoms are chronic, almost daily, and I had no idea it was happening. A typical scenario occurs to me at work, after I've eaten lunch. For me, being a semi-vegetarian, and preferring to not eat animal products, the choices on take-out menus are few. I tend to go for the carbs, by default. A typical meal is a small "grinder" (that's a submarine sandwich for those who don't live in New England!), usually vegetarian with cheese on white submarine roll, and a small bag of potato chips. Afterwards, I like to have something sweet, just a little piece of chocolate or something. Also, at work, during the warmer weather, I tend to drink iced coffee.

 This carbohydrate-intensive, caffiene-boosted meal causes a hypoglycemic reaction about two hours after eating. First, I become exquisitely tired. Next, the skin on the back of my neck and shoulders is hot to the touch, and my face gets flushed and itchy and red. For the longest time, I thought these were lupus flare-ups.

 I was totally convinced that I had lupus because my face would get itchy and red. My neck and shoulders begin to ache intensely. My extremities become numb and tingly, and my ears start ringing, I get dizzy and my vision goes blurry. I sometimes end up with a migraine, pelvic cramps, needing to go to the bathroom urgently, and having difficulty walking because it feels like I am "tilting".

 Thanks to a helpful bunch of women on my Yahoo group, I started delving into researching Meniere's disease/syndrome because we were all convinced that my symptoms sounded like an inner-ear problem. Somehow, my internet searches led to Reactive Hypoglycemia, and that was when I realized, with dread, how long this symptom of fibromyalgia had been going on, and how I had caused it, repeatedly, by continuing to eat white breads, pasta, potato chips, chocolate, donuts, muffins and coffee.

 Things go from bad to worse when I get my period. For over 30 years, I have had "attacks" in the middle of the night on day number one of my period. No doctor (I've been to at least a dozen) has been able to find anything wrong with me.

 I've been tested for endometriosis, polycystic ovaries, neurological problems such as MS and seizure disorders, digestive problems by ultrasound or clinical discussions with my doctors. Every one comes up with nothing. Routine tests of my blood sugar come out normal.

 For people who have chronic Reactive Hypoglycemia, blood sugar tests often come back normal. This is because one would have to have blood drawn during a Reactive Hypoglycemia "attack" (described above, the symptoms that occur a few hours after eating).

 Since most of us aren't going to run into the hospital during an episode of hypoglycemia and have our blood drawn, the problem goes undetected. Unfortunately, Reactive Hypoglycemia can sometimes lead to eventual type-II diabetes. If there's a family history of diabetes, this risk is greater. The trick is to "eat right". Ugh, how many times have we heard that? Aren't you sick of it? I know I am. But I also know that I've been suffering with these attacks for almost my whole life. I can remember them going back to ten years old.

 More recently, in 2004 through present, these attacks happen almost every single day. In 2004 it was so bad that I would just go home in the middle of the day and go to sleep. I was unaware that what I was eating was causing these attacks. I didn't know I had fibromyalgia at the time (although I suspected it), and I had no idea what hypoglycemia was.

 Eating "right" is easy, intellectually, but difficult to apply. We all know we should eat as nature intended. Go back to "caveman" days. Humans ate meat, nuts probably, berries, and perhaps some leafy greens or grasses. Cave-dwellers drank water. Our bodies were designed to eat this way. There was no such thing as bread or pasta, chocolate bars or candy, cheese or milk. I'm oversimplifying on purpose, and of course being an herbivore more than a carnivore, my choices are automatically going to be different from most people's.

 The point is, to eat as many natural foods as possible, and avoid processed foods, or curtail them substantially. An easy guideline to follow is when grocery shopping, always shop on the "perimeter" of the store. This is where the natural products are found: meats, vegetables, fruits, dairy products. Stay out of the inner aisles as much as possible. When you do go down those aisles, choose whole-grain products and those which are as un-processed as possible. Eat three small meals a day, and two snacks. Snacks should consist of things like nuts or fruit, trying to get a little protein and a little complex carbohydrates (like an apple, or some whole-grain crackers). If you are intolerant of any other type of food (wheat, dairy, etc.) try to cut back on those, or eliminate them altogether with doctor's guidance (don't ever eliminate a food group altogether without seeking the help of a professional!) The three small meals should also consist of a little protein (eggs, fish, meat, poultry, beans, dairy), and a large serving of high-fiber vegetables, and a tiny little bit of carboyhydrate. Complex carbs whenever possible.

 I am by no means "cured" of my hypoglycemia. In fact, I write this in the very earliest days of my discovery that I am having Reactive Hypoglycemic episodes. It will be a difficult road for me, complicated by the fact that my semi-vegetarian choices are limited to begin with, but I'm going to try because I know it'll make me feel better. How wonderful it will be to not shake, feel dizzy, have bowel problems and get migraines after eating!