Note: This article was written on July 10, 2010, while I was still in recovery from Lyme disease. However, the information is still relevant today.
I used to think that low blood sugar was just one of those annoying little side effects of having Lyme disease. I never paid attention to the problem much in myself, thinking that things would improve as soon as I got rid of all of my infections. Besides, it seemed I had bigger battles to fight in my quest for healing.
But low blood sugar can be a big deal. I was reminded of that today, as my doctor looked at me with concerned eyes and told me that my blood sugar levels were critically-no, dangerously low. Not good.
Glucose is important for the functioning of all of the body’s cells, and when the cells can’t get the food that they need, they become damaged or die. It’s no small matter to not have enough sugar! Fatigue, memory loss, an inability to concentrate, tremors, sweating, dizziness and irritability are just some of the symptoms of hypoglycemia, or, low blood sugar. I don’t know about you, but knowing this makes me wonder how many of my “Lyme” symptoms are directly related to blood sugar problems.
I have always known that my blood sugar levels are low, but today’s lab report was the worst I have received in my six years of fighting chronic illness. I was surprised, because I have made great strides in my healing. And I already eat a low-carbohydrate diet! What else could I do? I admit, my mind raced to thoughts of becoming diabetic and losing a limb, and for a few hours, the fear got radically out of control.
Fortunately, I prayed with a friend when I got home tonight, and God reminded me that it wouldn’t help me to play the “what if” game and go down unprofitable rabbit trails.
So I took my nervous energy and did some research, and was reminded that low blood sugar doesn’t solely happen as a result of stress and a poor diet. In Lyme disease, metabolic dysfunction can cause low blood sugar, especially when there are imbalances in the adrenal and thyroid hormones. Correcting these can help to ameliorate symptoms.
Balancing hormones isn’t a simple task, but looking for ways to pamper the adrenals can be helpful for balancing blood sugar levels, since some of the adrenal hormones, namely, epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol, help the liver convert glycogen (stored glucose) into active blood glucose. They also facilitate the conversion of fats, proteins and carbohydrates into glucose (gluconeogenesis). (You can find some tips on how to heal the adrenals by doing a search on this blog under “adrenal fatigue”).
Other reasons for low blood sugar in people with Lyme disease include:
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1) Low levels of Vitamin B6. This vitamin is strongly involved in gluconeogenesis, or the creation of glucose from proteins. While many people with Lyme disease have vitamin deficiencies, these are exacerbated by long-term use of antibiotics. These drugs are especially good at depleting the body of B-vitamins, so ensuring an adequate intake of nutrients is important while taking certain antibiotic medications.
2) Not having enough intracellular magnesium in the cells. Insulin, the hormone that unlocks the cell door so that it can receive glucose, works more effectively when the cells have sufficient magnesium. Taking magnesium glycinate or another readily absorbable form of magnesium may help to increase blood sugar levels, as the cells are made more sensitive to insulin, and thus, to receiving the sugar they need. But avoid taking too much calcium, as this can exacerbate the problem.
3) Having kidneys that are stressed by disease or too many medications. The kidneys release hormones that are also involved in blood sugar regulation, so taking care of the kidneys, by drinking lots of water, and taking herbal teas or homeopathic remedies to keep them functioning well while on antibiotics or other antimicrobials can have a beneficial impact upon blood sugar levels.
4)PH imbalances. When the body is too acidic or too alkaline, blood sugar levels are negatively impacted. Taking steps to restore pH levels to normal, by making smart dietary choices, may also be helpful.
5)Taking Mepron or certain types of anti-depressants. Mepron causes “abnormally low blood sugar” in 11% of those who take it (My experience has been that drug companies tend to underestimate the percentage of people who experience side effects from medications, so I wouldn’t be surprised if this percentage were even higher).
6) Having a yeast infection. Certain yeasts produce arabinose, which is a yeast metabolite. The arabinose binds to L-lysine, which is important for effective action of (among others) vitamin B6. Treating candida and other yeast problems with natural substances such as grapefruit seed extract and tea tree oil, or with drugs such as Nystatin, is important.
7) Having mineral imbalances. Minerals are strongly involved in regulating the body’s pH, and thus, blood sugar levels. Ensuring an adequate intake of trace minerals, as well as macro-minerals, is vital for proper pH and blood sugar regulation.
Finally, natural substances, such as alpha-lipoic acid and chromium, can help to balance blood sugar, but until you know the direct cause of yours, it may be unwise to take supplements. Certain foods, such as avocados, can also be helpful. In any case, eating a diet rich in fats and protein and low in carbohydrates is essential.
Exercise is also helpful for balancing blood sugar levels. Even if it means just taking a twenty-minute walk per day!
And as for me? Well, I discovered that I have had a lot of things working against me. Taking two drugs that are known for lowering blood sugar, getting lazy about taking my vitamins and minerals, having low epenephrine levels, along with kidneys that are unhappy about all the meds that I’ve fed them, has probably created a recipe for disaster. But I am relieved that there are yet steps I can take to bring my blood sugar back to low-normal. Knowledge is power! I pray this information will serve you, as well!
Connie Strasheim is the author or co-author of 11 wellness books, including the recently released New Paradigms in Lyme Disease Treatment: 10 Top Doctors Real Healing Strategies that Work. (October, 2016) and Beyond a Glass of Milk and a Hot Bath: Advanced Sleep Solutions for People with Chronic Insomnia. (March, 2017). She is also a medical copywriter and an editor at ProHealth.com, as well as Editor of the Alternative Cancer Research Institute (ACRI). Her passion is to help people with complex chronic illnesses find freedom from disease and soul-spirit sickness using whole body medicine, and she collaborates with some of the world’s best integrative doctors to do this. In addition to Lyme disease and insomnia, Connie’s books focus on cancer, nutrition, detoxification and spiritual healing. To learn more about her work, see: www.ConnieStrasheim.org.