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Nutritional Answers _ Blood sugar and energy levels

Nutritional Answers

  Avoiding the ups & Downs of Life

(Blood sugar and energy levels)

Many people experience a yo-yo effect in their energy levels throughout the day.

In the morning, they find it hard to get going after a restless night, but an early-morning cup of tea or coffee helps them on their way, with perhaps a piece of toast for breakfast.


By eleven o’clock their energy is flagging and, like Pooh-Bear, they are more than ready for “a little something” - Coffee and toastanother cup of coffee and perhaps a biscuit or a doughnut. After that, they feel more on top of things and can cope until lunchtime, but by then they certainly need another coffee or perhaps some cola with their white bread sandwich and chocolate snack-bar. The afternoon is increasingly difficult and tea and biscuits are essential to keep them going through the rest of the day. By evening they feel so drained that not even dinner followed by a pudding and a couple more cups of coffee can restore their energy, so they switch on TV and fall asleep, eventually stirring enough to crawl up to bed for another restless night until the new day dawns - with its need for a cup of tea or coffee to jolt them awake. Sound familiar?

Let me explain what is happening. It’s called hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar). Sugar in the blood is needed to provide energy to cells, including the brain. When sugar levels are low, you might experience fatigue, irritability, aggression, nervousness, depression, crying spells, dizziness, fear, anxiety, confusion, forgetfulness, inability to concentrate, insomnia, headaches, palpitations, sweating, muscle pains or digestive problems. But eating something sweet or drinking a stimulant like tea, coffee or cola will give you only a temporary lift, and will actually make things worse.

Imagine a graph. If you have hypoglycaemia, every time you eat sugar or refined grains like white flour or white rice, or drink stimulants like tea or coffee, the level of sugar in the blood is quickly increased and the line on the graph shoots up to a high point. If it stayed there, you would have diabetes, so a message is sent to the pancreas to release some insulin, which makes the sugar drop. That’s when you feel your worst - so you grab a cup of tea or coffee or a chocolate bar to give you a lift. The symptoms pass and you do feel better - but unfortunately not for long, because the stimulants or the sugar you have eaten will again increase your blood-sugar to a high place on the graph. So down goes the message to the pancreas once more, out comes the insulin - and so the day goes on. Energy levels and symptoms swing up and down until, by evening, it is virtually impossible to achieve a balance and you end up really exhausted. If this situation continues, eventually the pancreas becomes so weakened that it stops producing insulin and then there is no way of bringing sugar levels down. Diabetes has set in. Fortunately, this can be prevented, Vegetablesbecause hypoglycaemia can be totally reversed.

You need to change the line on the graph from peaks and troughs to a gentle, undulating curve of slight ups and downs. You do this by eating the right sort of food – good quality protein or a combination of protein with complex carbohydrates (whole grains or vegetables, raw or lightly steamed) at the right intervals. You also need to take supplements, especially Vitamin B3 and Chromium, to help the liver produce Glucose Tolerance Factor. Other nutrients will help to support the adrenal glands while things get back to normal - which they can! Here’s what happened to me.

In my thirties, with all sorts of health problems, I suffered particularly from fatigue. By late afternoon each day I was slumped in a chair, with no energy to get the family’s tea or even talk. I felt I would keel over if I even tried to move. We eventually discovered that if my husband brought some food and I sat quite still and ate it, after half-an-hour I would have just enough strength to put the children to bed. From books I had read, I suspected that I probably had hypoglycaemia.

I happened to meet a lady from Massachussetts, USA, who had been cured of hypoglycaemia in an American clinic and could tell me everything I needed to know about diet and vitamins and minerals. Very soon my sugar levels became totally balanced and the difference to my energy was amazing – and remains so, thirty years later! I just needed to learn that the food I had eaten all my life had provided appallingly low-grade fuel for my body’s machinery. Once I had become aware of the central role of nutritional status, I was only too happy to learn how to eat more healthily and correct my nutritional imbalances and deficiencies with appropriate vitamins and minerals. Compared with the appalling energy slumps I experienced as a younger woman, I really can say that now, aged 70, I’m living life to the full – and so can you!


  • Cut down (preferably avoid!) tea, coffee (including decaffeinated, which still contains other stimulants), cola, chocolate, salt, alcohol, cigarettes.
  • Avoid sugar and foods containing it (read labels!), also honey, dried fruit, very sweet fresh fruit and fruit juice. Once your blood sugar levels are well balanced so that energy levels are stable, you can reintroduce as much fresh fruit as you like, but fruit juice is best diluted 50/50 with water because otherwise it gives a heavy and immediate sugar-load. Dried fruits and honey may also be enjoyed later – but sparingly, because they have a very high natural sugar content. Sucrose (table sugar) is not needed by the body and does nothing but harm, so it really is best to continue strictly avoiding it! And don’t fall for the claim that artificial sweeteners are better – they cause chemical imbalances which in some cases lead to depression, and in any case they will keep your ‘sweet tooth’ alive and make it harder for you to stay on a healthy diet.
  • Avoid refined grains (white flour in bread, biscuits, pastry, etc., also white rice, white pasta); eat whole-grain varieties instead.
  • Eat small, frequent meals, preferably containing two parts complex carbohydrate (vegetables, salad, wholemeal bread, rye crackers, brown rice, etc.) to one part protein (chicken, fish, egg, beans, nuts, seeds, tofu, cottage cheese, yoghurt).
  • Always eat breakfast and have appropriate small snacks between meals and at bed-time. These can be protein only (e.g., half a hard-boiled egg, a slice of cold chicken, a small tub of low-fat natural yoghurt, a few nuts) or a mixture of protein and complex (unrefined) carbohydrate (e.g., a corn cracker or rice cake or Ryvita or oatcakes with cottage cheese or hummus or tinned fish or some beans with tomato puree). Never eat carbohydrate on its own without some protein.
  • Take regular exercise.
  • Do all you can to avoid stress.
  • Take a good multivitamin/mineral complex and extra supplements if necessary to ensure Chromium 200mcg daily and the following levels morning and evening: Vitamin B3 50mg, Zinc 15mg and Manganese 10mg.


Erica White Dip.ION MBANT
Nutritional Director of Nutritionhelp Ltd
Author of ‘Beat Candida Cookbook’ (Thorsons), ‘Beat Fatigue Handbook’ (White Publications) and ‘Doughnuts and Temples’ (White Publications). All her books are available from Nutritionhelp or from bookshops or Amazon.

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