Guestpost by Nancy Lonsdorf, M.D
Q. If I don’t eat every few hours, I get lightheaded and grouchy. How can I steady my blood sugar?
A. Interestingly, symptoms such as yours often occur with normal blood sugar readings and therefore are usually diagnosed as idiopathic postprandial syndrome—meaning symptoms after eating without a clearly understood cause. Semantics aside, people clearly vary in their ability to withstand fasting, and your lightheadedness and grouchy mood most likely indicate that your brain is not getting the consistent nourishment it needs to function smoothly.
The liver and pancreas mostly control and tightly regulate blood sugar levels so the brain gets a steady supply of fuel in the form of glucose. However, sensitive people may react to the more abrupt rise and fall in blood sugar that happens after eating refined sweets and other high glycemic foods. That’s because these foods can cause blood sugar levels to rise abruptly, triggering insulin release and a boomerang drop in blood sugar. Standard treatment aims to stabilize this yo-yo effect with small frequent meals during the day, a high protein diet and no refined sugar. Although these measures can help manage the condition, generally they do not cure it.
Boosting your chromium level, which supports balanced glucose–insulin interaction, may help. One small study in women found that supplementation with 200 mcg chromium daily for three months helped reduce symptoms of low blood sugar.
According to Ayurveda, standard dietary treatment only helps partially because you’re not addressing the underlying metabolic cause. To balance blood sugar we first need to balance agni, our digestive “fire,” particularly in the stomach and small intestine, and also in the liver. To balance your agni, shift your diet to whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, and fresh whole fruits and vegetables, all of which absorb more slowly and help eliminate peaks and drops in blood sugar levels. Be sure to eat on a regular schedule with your main meal at noon and a lighter vegetarian evening meal by 7 p.m. In addition, include digestion-enhancing herbs and spices like coriander, cumin, fennel, cilantro, basil, rosemary, and turmeric in your daily diet.
The accumulation of metabolic impurities (called ama) that can impair cellular function and eventually lead to more serious conditions such as diabetes could also factor in your condition. Cardinal signs of ama include chronic tiredness, coated tongue, aches and pains, trouble losing weight, and feeling heavy after eating.
To help cleanse out ama, drink 1/8 to 1/4 cup of pure, boiled springwater every half hour during the day for two months. Frequent intake of hot water strengthens digestion, cuts cravings, and can even help normalize appetite, hunger, and weight. And what’s more, by eliminating ama, you also eliminate what ayurveda describes as the major cause of a multitude of chronic diseases.
Nancy Lonsdorf, M.D
Named “one of the nation’s most prominent Ayurvedic doctors” by the Chicago Tribune, Nancy Lonsdorf, M.D. is an author, teacher and Ayurvedic specialist in women’s health issues. Dr. Lonsdorf is board-certified in integrative medicine by the American Board of Integrative, Holistic Medicine (ABIHM), has a private practice in Fairfield, Iowa, and teaches Clinical Ayurveda training courses for medical doctors at the Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine in La Jolla, California.
Nancy Lonsdorf, M.D. received her medical degree from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and did her residency training in psychiatry at Stanford University. She trained in Ayurveda with leading Ayurvedic physicians and scholars in India, Europe and the United States.
Dr. Lonsdorf has served as the medical director of The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa, an award-winning Ayurvedic treatment center, and The Maharishi Ayurveda Medical Center in Washington D.C., the first Ayurvedic medical clinic in the nation’s capital.
Dr. Lonsdorf has special expertise in women’s health and is author of The Ageless Woman: Natural Health and Beauty After Forty with Maharishi Ayurveda (MCD Century, May 2004), and co-author of a best-selling Ayurvedic health guide for women of all ages entitled A Woman’s Best Medicine: Health, Happiness and Long Life through Maharishi Ayur-Veda, published in 1995 by Tarcher/Putnam of New York.
Dr. Lonsdorf is the recipient of the Atreya Award for excellence in Ayurvedic practice given by the Association of Ayurvedic Pracitioners of North America. She has served as a consultant and grant reviewer in complementary and alternative medicine for the National Institutes of Health and currently serves on the editorial board of Natural Medicine Journal. She has lectured at leading medical schools including Johns Hopkins, Columbia-Presbyterian, NIH and the CDC, is a frequently quoted expert on Ayurveda and natural health in the lay press, and has been featured in numerous local and national TV and radio shows as well as the print media. She blogs on http://www.ayurveda-ayurvedic.net