Blood Sugar 911
By Dennis Pollock
Author of Overcoming Runaway Blood Sugar
CBN.com After experiencing periods of increased jittery nerves, violent trembling, and fainting – all signs of severely low blood sugar – author Dennis Pollock was on a mission to change his diet.
It should have been a pleasant night. It was the Christmas season, and we had just returned from our annual Christmas trip to Grandma’s house. We were sitting in our living room, watching a videotape that was one of my sons’ Christmas presents.
I wasn’t having fun. It was happening again. Less than three hours after we had eaten supper I could feel that cold chill on my arms and those jittery telltale indicators that my blood-sugar levels were falling way too low. I quietly slipped out of the room and went into the bathroom to check my blood sugar with my glucometer—a device I had been totally ignorant of a year earlier but was now all too familiar with.
As I suspected, my blood-sugar level was dangerously low, so low I knew I needed to take action fast. Grabbing a can of Coke, I drank the entire contents in under a minute. Now my blood sugar went the other way. Another test revealed the level had gone from 40 mg/dl to about 170 in a very short time. 1 (The normal range is 80 to 120.) My body began to tremble violently. I tried to go back into the living room and watch the movie, hoping no one would notice the trembling, but I realized the shaking wasn’t going to go away very soon. I slipped into the bedroom, put on a music CD, and got under the covers. As I trembled and shook, I could only think, What in the world is wrong with me?
The Christmas scare was not my first encounter with blood-sugar problems. As I look back over my life now, I realize I have had blood-sugar issues going back to the mid-1980s. In the early days I could not have identified them as such; I just knew that when I ate a large pancake breakfast with lots of syrup on Saturday mornings, I felt a little jittery by late morning. It didn’t stop me from eating the pancakes, and I just assumed it was “one of those things.”
Many times I noticed that when I would go several hours without food I would get that “nervous feeling.” My handwriting, already pretty bad, would deteriorate to the point where it was hardly legible. I knew these things were related to food, but I wasn’t sure just how it all worked or what, if anything, I could do about it.
When I reached the age of 40 things started getting pretty serious. I went through a period where I would feel like I was about to faint if I ate something extremely sugary. Once, at a grocery store I had to run to the car for fear I would pass out on the floor. I sat in the car and waited for my body to return to normal. I began to wonder if I had, or was in the process of getting, diabetes.
I immediately took some steps to try to fix the problem. I cut out nearly all sweets from my diet and began to take jogging more seriously. I soon got better—and after a while went back to my old habits.
During all this time I was very much ignorant of the nature of blood-sugar problems, as well as of why they occurred and what could be done about them. My attempts at reducing sugar in my diet and jogging were certainly steps in the right direction, but they were more intuitive than from a basis of knowledge. Because I didn’t know what was going on with my body, it was hard to continue with the changes I had begun.
A Real Danger Signal
It took about eight years for my body to finally get to the point where I became desperate to find some answers. The shakiness that had been a sporadic problem for the previous 20 years or so returned again, and this time with a vengeance. I finally had the breakdown that got my attention and convinced me I had a real problem. I was in church when it happened. Attempting to quietly slip out of the sanctuary just before the service ended, I stumbled and twisted my ankle. In pain I hobbled out of the auditorium and made my way to the wall. I felt that strange sensation that tells you you are losing control of your body. I put my back against the wall and slid down to the floor.
The next thing I knew, several people were hovering over me. I had fainted. The paramedics had been called, and there was nothing to do but wait for them. When they arrived I told them this might be a blood-sugar problem. They immediately asked if I was a diabetic, and I told them I wasn’t but I had had low blood sugar at times.
They quickly produced a glucometer and checked me. The device hardly registered! I asked for some food, and I began to eat everything they could find for me. Orange juice, animal cookies from the nursery—it didn’t matter.
After a few minutes the paramedics checked my blood sugar again. This time it read 76. This was still pretty low, considering what I had just eaten, but at least was in the safe range. They tried to get me to go to the hospital, but I refused—and after the humiliating experience of being taken out to my car in a wheelchair, I sat in the passenger side, confused and shaken, as my wife drove me home.
I should have gone to a doctor at this point, but I didn’t. (Here I urge you not to follow my example. Good background knowledge is important and motivating, but if you suspect you have bloodsugar problems, it’s very important to be under a doctor’s care) Instead I went to the Internet. I did all kinds of searches, using such words as “low blood sugar,” “diabetes,” “reversing diabetes,” and so forth. There had to be something I could do!
One of the first sources of information I found nearly did me in. I began to read of a program that was supposed to “reverse diabetes” through exercise and a high carbohydrate diet. I wasn’t sure I had diabetes, but I knew I either had it or was on the verge of getting this dreaded disease. The program’s developer was the head of a diabetes institute that held seminars all over the country and touted a high-carb, nearly vegetarian diet. He gave impressive statistics about people he had been able to help, and he wrote very authoritatively.
Convinced this must be the way to go, I immediately began a radical change of diet. I eliminated almost all meat and began to limit my foods to mostly carbs, supplemented by a few vegetables. Beans on bread, bean soups, bean burgers, rice, spaghetti (no meat added to the sauce)—these became my “manna.” (It was a “carb, carb here, and a carb, carb there—here a carb, there a carb, everywhere a carb, carb”…)
My blood-sugar problems immediately multiplied. By this point I had a glucometer and was testing myself. I found my blood-sugar level dropping precipitously at times. I was getting to the point where I was eating constantly just to keep the bottom from dropping out of my levels. I began having very strange physical sensations throughout the day. I wasn’t sure just what was going on, but I knew things were definitely not right.
During this time the fear of diabetes was constantly with me, a voice that whispered I was heading for a life of misery and early death. My mother, who had passed away by then, had suffered from diabetes the last 25 years of her life. She had had both legs amputated and had experienced all kinds of physical maladies in her later years. I seemed to be going in the same direction, only getting an earlier start. It was not a pleasant prospect.
Starting to Find Answers
Finally I broke down and went to a doctor. Not being a diabetes specialist, she was not able to give me the answers I needed. She did tell me that at this time, my fasting blood sugar was not at diabetic levels, and she advised me to add some protein to my diet to help stabilize my blood sugar. I began to add some meat to my diet, and sure enough, I had fewer episodes of falling blood sugar. Still, my readings were all over the place, sometimes well above normal, other times well below—even dangerously low.
Things began to change when I happened to notice a magazine that had come to our office, produced by the doctor whose high-carb solution to diabetic symptoms had about killed me. I noticed in it a number of outrageous claims, such as a report that someone in Texas had found a cure for cancer. Red flags began to go up. This and other claims and promises convinced me that this guy was the medical establishment’s equivalent to the National Enquirer. I decided it was time to do some more research.
I had a very simple way to test the various theories I encountered. My trusty glucometer could tell me how my body felt about the foods and lifestyles I was imposing upon it. As I did more tests, I began to figure out that my blood sugar would typically peak about an hour after I had finished a meal. That seemed to be the natural time to take a reading, as it would tell me just how acutely my body was reacting to a particular meal.
On one of my ministry trips, I determined to check my blood sugar after nearly every meal. A lunch consisting of a large hamburger (with a large bun) and several handfuls of Fritos led to a reading of 180—much too high. About an hour later the reading was in the normal range, indicating that my pancreas was still putting out insulin, but that my body was slow in dealing with the carbs that turn into sugars.
Another meal I had on that trip was a chef salad with chicken strips. About an hour later I found that my blood-sugar level had hardly risen; it was well within the normal range. As I thought over the difference between my readings after those two meals, I began to feel a sense of hope. Apparently the food that I put into my body had a dramatic effect. Now this is no great revelation to those who study diabetes and hypoglycemia. It is very much common knowledge. But for me it was a wonderful enlightenment. It was empowering to think I could make decisions that affected blood sugar. Some of the mystery was being removed.
Since that time, having taken countless blood-sugar readings and read extensively on the issues of blood-sugar problems and diabetes, I have found some keys that have worked incredibly in my own life. The rest of this book is devoted to sharing those keys with you, which will give you the knowledge you need to literally change your physical destiny.
An Answer to Prayer
Because I am a Christian I had been praying for healing during the health struggles I’m telling you about. Knowing that God could instantly heal me, I figured that would be the best way for Him to answer my prayers. One quick zap—and I could go back to eating as I always had and forget about the whole miserable business. The zap did not come. (I still believe in “zaps,” but God is not our bellboy. He heals in His time and in His way.)
A View Down the Road
If you are reading this book, it is likely you have some form of blood-sugar problems. These can range from slight jittery feelings when you eat sugary foods and then go too long without eating again, to having a severely elevated blood-sugar level that is destroying your health and will eventually take your life. The remedy should be in keeping with the need.
What are some of the things you can expect to find in the coming chapters of this book? And what are the kinds of changes you will want—or need—to consider to bring your blood-sugar problems under control?
For the Mildest Cases
If your problems are in the “mild” category, you may not want to get as radical as others who are in a more severe situation. People who fit in this category have normal fasting blood-sugar levels (80 to 100) and never see their blood-sugar level rise above 145 or so. Avoiding most desserts, cutting back on potatoes, and limiting your bread to whole-wheat may be sufficient. (The South Beach diet is an excellent guideline to follow.)
Let a glucometer be your guide. Remember, though, that blood-sugar woes are progressive. People do not go from normal to raging diabetics overnight. Those shaky feelings you get when you go too long without eating are a warning sign to you. They would not be happening if your blood-sugar mechanisms were running like a well-oiled machine. Things are starting to break down. The tricky part of this is, the rate of breakdown can be very different for different individuals. Some people’s systems can degenerate very slowly, and they can stay in the mild range for decades. Others find themselves on a slippery slope, which could lead rapidly to a disastrous diabetic condition.
The one thing that helps is knowing that when you move toward a low-carb lifestyle you are simply doing what you should have been doing all along. Stuffing your mouth with french fries, downing enormous amounts of Coke, and constantly grazing on doughnuts and jelly rolls is not a natural condition. (Even the high-carb, lowmeat guys will admit that much.) So why take a chance and try to live as close to the edge as possible, hoping that diabetes will not strike? Bring those appetites under control and let moderation be your watchword.
I would include myself in the medium-case category (although my personal diet is more radical than I am here recommending). With medium blood-sugar problems you may or may not have an elevated fasting blood-sugar level, but your body does not react well to large doses of sugar or carbs of other kinds. Your pancreas is probably still doing its job, but your body just doesn’t process the insulin it produces very well. And so, without dietary changes your pancreas will be vastly overworked. Unless you make changes, you have high chances to become a diabetic. Although you don’t realize it, your body is filled with insulin nearly all the time, trying vainly to keep up with the demands you are placing on your worn-out blood-sugar system. All that insulin isn’t doing your heart any good, either!
If you are in such a position, start consulting with your doctor if you haven’t already. It would be good for you to get a glucose tolerance test, which will most likely confirm what you already suspect—you don’t tolerate glucose well. Even small amounts raise your blood-sugar level, and large amounts send it into the stratosphere.
You will need to do more than merely cut out desserts and eat smaller portions of the high-carb foods. For the rest of your life you will need to be consciously and continually aware of the carb potential of each meal. You must determine that white-fl our products and sugary foods are a thing of the past. You will need to be careful even with the “good” carb foods, such as beans, brown rice, and whole-wheat bread. Sure, you can spoil yourself once in a while with a small helping of a rice dish, or a bowl of beans, or half a portion of fruit. But there’s no getting around it—your diet, for the rest of your life, is going to have to be different from other people’s (until our society gets up to speed in its knowledge of low-carb eating).
The severe cases are the full-fledged diabetics, those who require medication or insulin shots to keep their sugar levels somewhere close to normal. First of all, I cannot emphasize enough that you should see a doctor. Diabetes is nothing to play around with—your life is on the line. Find a doctor you are comfortable with—hopefully one who will encourage a lifestyle change along with the medication he or she prescribes. As you make dietary and other changes, you will need to be very careful to stay on top of what these are doing to your blood-sugar levels.
You need to make some fairly radical changes in your diet if you are to achieve the kind of stability that will enable you to live without the kinds of diabetic complications that can absolutely ruin your life. Many otherwise great foods, such as potatoes, certain fruits,
whole-wheat breads, cereals, and so forth, are going to need to be greatly reduced for the sake of your health.2
Let me add that, for type 2 diabetics on medication, there is still an excellent chance you may be able to get off the medication and control your blood sugar through diet and exercise. Don’t do this automatically! Keep a close check on your blood-sugar levels, and keep in close contact with a doctor. But you will never know whether you can be free of your medication if you don’t give a low-carb diet a chance. And even if you still need medication, it is almost certain you will be able to go to a lower dosage, which will be a great boon to your health and your chances for longevity.
I have written this book primarily for those who are actual or potential type 2 diabetics, but let me say a word to my type 1 friends: One thing you must not do is simply take your insulin and eat however you will. You must take control of your diet! It is pure deception to think your insulin shots make dietary control unnecessary. The worse your diet, the more insulin you will need—and the more insulin you put into your body, the more you will eventually damage it. There is simply no way you can maintain control of your blood sugar when you are constantly ingesting pancakes, jelly rolls, baked potatoes, biscuits and gravy, cakes, pies, and the like.3 Your goal is not to eat high-carb meals and then quickly bring your levels down with a shot, but to eat low-carb meals and then supplement your body’s insulin deficiency through medication to keep your blood sugar in a healthy range all day long.
Two Types of Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes (or insulin-dependent diabetes) occurs when the pancreas is unable to produce insulin. It is caused by the destruction of the beta cells in the pancreas by the body’s immune system. It usually develops in childhood or adolescence but may appear at any age.
Type 2 diabetes (or non-insulin-dependent diabetes) occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin to meet the body’s needs or the insulin is not metabolized effectively. Type 2 diabetes is usually treated through diet and exercise, although some people must also take oral medications or insulin.
The Past, the Present—and a Hopeful Future
The simple truth is, our bodies do not work as well as we reach middle age. As youths we could polish off a meal of pancakes with lots of syrup, have a large glass of orange juice, and then eat a candy bar for “dessert.” Our pancreas would squirt out a little insulin, and our cells, bursting with the power of youth, would deal quickly and effi ciently with the large doses of sugar and carbs we had ingested. We gave no thought to the fact that 40 years of mistreating our bodies in this way would eventually produce major health issues. We were young, life was good, and all was well with the world. However, he that would dance the dance must pay the fiddler. After devouring literally thousands of pounds of sugar, white flour, candy bars, ice cream, pies, cakes, and the rest, our bodies gradually lost the efficient metabolism we enjoyed in youth. Now, with our sedentary lifestyles and with carrying more weight than we should, the problem is made worse. We begin to notice “sinking feelings,” sugar highs, jittery nerves, and other physical
manifestations. We are well on the road to major health crises, which can include hypoglycemia, diabetes, heart disease, clogged arteries, and numerous other maladies. The fiddler must be paid.
There is good news, though. The effects of much of the damage you have inflicted upon yourself can be reversed, or at least greatly lessened. There is hope for you! Stability is the goal. Soaring highs and plunging lows in blood sugar are the enemy that must be overcome.
You don’t have to accept diabetes as inevitable just because one or both of your parents had it. You don’t have to live with blood-sugar fluctuations that make your life miserable. There are steps you can take. Diabetes and blood-sugar extremes are not some divine plan sent to you from heaven. As you cooperate with certain basic physical laws, you will be amazed at how your body responds. You can alter your future!
1 Mg/dl = milligrams per deciliter, the standard measuring unit for blood-sugar level. (A deciliter is one-tenth of a liter.)
2 For type 1 diabetics (whose pancreas is producing no or almost no insulin) I would strongly recommend you purchase, read, and reread Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution by Dr. Richard Bernstein. This is a great testimony by a man who should have died years ago of his diabetes, but instead has lived to a ripe old age and has found the keys to good health despite producing virtually no insulin on his own.
3 It is possible to even end up as a “double diabetic.” By this I mean that you not only are diabetic in the sense of your pancreas producing little or no insulin, but your body is also becoming highly insulin resistant, resulting in the need for higher and higher doses of insulin to maintain normal blood-sugar levels. Eventually normal levels can become impossible, even with huge doses of insulin.
Taken from Overcoming Runaway Blood Sugar by Dennis Pollock; Copyright © 2006 by Dennis Pollock; Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, OR; Used by Permission.
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