Paavo Airola - Let's Live - May 1977PrevNextIndex
Causes Of Hypoglycemia
IN THE PREVIOUS two articles,
I described the basic physiology and the mechanics, as well as the most common
symptoms, of hypoglycemia, and pointed out that faulty sugar metabolism is
the main cause of functional hypoglycemia. Barring pathological conditions,
such as pancreatic tumor, diseased liver, adrenal malfunction, or brain tumor
- to name just a few of the most common medical problems
that can be involved in hyperinsulinism, or low blood
sugar - faulty eating and living habits
are at the bottom of most cases of hypoglycemia.
The primary dietary indiscretion that
contributes to the development of hypoglycemia is a diet too high in refined
starches (such as white flour and polished white rice) and refined white sugar.
Americans consume almost 125
pounds of sugar per capita per year. We
also consume an equal amount of white
flour in various forms.
This is completely incredible nutritional folly - nothing
less than an act of unintentional
An excess of sugar and refined carbohydrates in our diet
is not only responsible for most of our hypoglycemia
epidemic, but it is also a major contributing factor in an epidemic growth of
most of our other degenerative diseases,
such as diabetes, heart disease, tooth
decay, periodontal disease, osteoporosis, and even cancer. 1 2 3
It is no
wonder that white flour and white
sugar are referred to by concerned scientists as the "white poisons" and the
"white plague" of the civilized world.
No lesser experts than John Yudkin, M.D.,
E.M. Abrahamson, M.D., E. Cheraskin, M.D., Weston Price, D.D.S., and,
J.I. Rodale, to name a few - have indicated excessive consumption of refined
carbohydrates not only as the major
cause of our physical degeneration, but
also as a major contributing factor in
the increased rate of crime and drug addiction,
and in the epidemic deterioration of our mental and moral health.
Far-fetched? See what Drs. Cheraskin
and Ringsdorf, of Alabama University,
say: "The sugar-laden American diet
has led to a national epidemic of hypoglycemia, an ailment characterized by
irrational behavior, emotional instability, distorted judgement,
and nasty personality defects." 2
Much of today's irrational and anti-social behavior, on an
individual as well as collective basis,
can be traced to our denatured, chemicalized, nutritionless, sugar-laden diet.
White flour and white sugar are more
devastating to a person's health on an
individual level, and to the physical,
mental, and social health of the whole
human society, than any other single
There is a growing awareness among
the general public today that "too much
sugar is not good for you." Many housewives tell me "I don't use much sugar,
and we only eat brown bread." How little they realize that almost everything
that they buy at the supermarket today
is loaded with sugar and/or white flour.
Soft drinks and ice cream are the
worst of all, especially in view of the
fact that they are consumed by children
of all ages in astronomical quantities.
Virtually all commercially produced
bread, even so~called brown bread, not
only contains added white flour, but
also plenty of sugar. Candies, cookies,
doughnuts, pies, cakes, frozen, canned,
or prepared desserts, baby foods, dry
breakfast cereals - all contain sugar,
white flour, or both. The only really effective way to eliminate these two
health destroyers in our diet is to stop
using any and all man-made foods and
drinks, and to prepare your own food
from scratch - from fresh vegetables,
fruits, milks, cheese, nuts, and grains - even begin to bake your own bread,
which is not as difficult or bothersome
as you may think.
Why Sugar Is "Bad"
White sugar and white flour are not
whole, natural foods. They are refined,
fragmented, adulterated, and denatured. Sugar cane and sugar beet
are whole natural foods. White sugar
made from them has been completely
stripped of all nutrition present in the
original food. All minerals, all vitamins,
all trace elements, enzymes, fatty acids,
and amino acids (proteins) have been
removed in the process of refining the
sugar. The final result is a pure, crystallized
form of sucrose, a white, pharmaceutically pure chemical.
Everything I said about white sugar
applies more or less to white flour.
Although the whole grain is rich in complex nutrition,
in the process of refining
flour, virtually all the vital nutrients
have been destroyed or removed, leaving a nutritionless white powder, which
is mostly a pure starch. If that is not bad
enough, in order to destroy the last traces of life
and make it snow white, the processors treat the flour with toxic
chemical bleaches and conditioners.
Eating white sugar and white flour
presents three problems:
- Eating such denatured, devitalized.
demineralized, and de-vitamized foods
will inevitably lead to nutritional deficiencies.
- Since our bodies are genetically and
physiologically equipped to effectively
metabolize only natural whole foods
(the genetic ability being determined by
millions of years of use and adaptation); eating fragmented, refined foods,
from which essential synergistic and
complexed elements have been
removed, will lead to metabolic disorders and biochemical imbalances.
For example: white sugar is not only an
empty-calorie food, stripped of all the
vitamins and minerals, but in order to
digest and process (metabolize) it, the
body must use its own supplies of minerals and vitamins, which may lead to
both deficiencies and imbalances in the
body's own stores of vital nutrients.
- Since our bodies are not equipped to
process refined, concentrated foods,
continuous ingestion of them will exert
a great strain on many organs and
glands. The continuous strain and
abuse of these organs can damage them
and cause their paralysis and malfunction.
This will bring us to hypoglycemia,
which is, more than by any other factor,
caused by malfunctioning glandular
and metabolic systems, especially by
the malfunction of such organs as the
pancreas, the liver, the adrenals, and
other endocrine glands. And, the excess
of refined carbohydrates in the diet,
especially of white sugar and white
flour in all forms, as well as the excess
of other concentrated forms of carbohydrates, such as alcoholic beverages,
sweetened juices, and soft drinks, is the
prime contributing factor to the continuous stress on these vital organs and
glands which leads to their malfunction
How Sugar Contributes To Hypoglycemia
Whole, complex, carbohydrate foods,
such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, are digested slowly and changed
into forms of sugar that the body can
use for energy and for its various vital
functions. But refined starches and concentrated refined sugar
are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream,
thus raising the blood sugar to dangerous levels.
This triggers an emergency action on
the part of the insulin-producing pancreas. The normal variations in the
blood sugar levels, which occur when
meals of natural, whole foods are eaten,
do not trigger any abnormal reactions
from the pancreas. But when refined,
concentrated sugar is consumed and
the blood sugar level rises quickly, the
"panicked" pancreas overreacts and
dumps an excessive amount of insulin
into the bloodstream to counteract the
dangerously high sugar level, The excessive insulin not only brings the sugar
level down, but does two things that are
responsible for a long list of unpleasant
symptoms and personality changes:
When sugar drops too low, and especially if it does it rapidly, several of the
body functions are severely impaired,
Heart and muscle action are weakened.
Brain and nerve activity are deranged.
Energy and endurance levels are lowered. Emotional stability and control
are lost. This is why the hypoglycemic
in this state craves a quick pick-up,
preferably sweets, coffee, caffeine-containing soft drinks, alcohol, or certain
drugs, which rapidly remedies the unpleasant symptoms by bringing the
blood sugar level up.
- It lowers the sugar far below normal
(normal being the fasting level in each
- Drops the sugar level too fast.
Too low, too fast!
Since these artificial stimulants with
their swift, drug-like effect, raise the
sugar level too high, the pancreas is
again forced to over-react and counteract the dangerous
situation by over-producing insulin. This creates the typical
vicious cycle of the hypoglycemic: hyperactive, happy,
and energetic for a short time when the sugar level is high;
and totally exhausted, and ready to
jump out the window a few hours later.
The studies demonstrate that coffee
raises the blood sugar level in diabetics,
but drastically lowers the blood sugar
level in victims of hypoglycemia. This is
not as contradictory as it may seem.
Sugar does the same: it raises the sugar
level in diabetics and lowers it in hypoglycemics because of the
hypoglycemic's over-reacting pancreas. Dr. E.M.
Abrahamson tells of patients whose hypoglycemia was controlled by proper
diet, but who had violent blood sugar
reactions when they took as little as one
cup of coffee. 4
Coffee has a stimulating effect on the adrenal glands, which
in turn, encourages the liver to release
more sugar into the blood.
The combination of coffee and sugar
is particularly harmful. Sugar enters the
bloodstream quickly and directly, while
coffee adds to the total sugar level by
acting through the adrenals, brain, and
Considering how popular coffee is in
America, and how much of it is consumed daily, coffee very well may be
one of the major contributing factors to
our hypoglycemia epidemic.
Caffeine-Containing Beverages And Drugs
Cola drinks are even worse than coffee.
In addition to a high caffeine content,
they are loaded with an incredible
amount of sugar, plus dangerous phosphoric acid - a perfect combination to
keep your dentist busy!
You may not be aware that, besides
coffee and cola drinks, some commonly
used over-the counter drugs can add
considerably to your total daily ingestion of caffeine. 5
Look at this list:
|Brewed coffee, cup||100-150 mg. caffeine|
|Tea, cup||60-75 mg. caffeine|
|Coladrinks, glass||40-60 mg. caffeine|
|Aspirin, BromoSeltzer tablet||32 mg. caffeine|
|Excedrin, tablet||60 mg. caffeine|
Excessive caffeine ingestion, either
from coffee, or caffeine-containing beverages and drugs, produces a long line
of typical hypoglycemic symptoms:
anxiety, light-headedness, heart palpitations, nervousness,
agitation, irritability, trembling hands and muscle
twitches and insomnia, All symptoms
usually disappear as soon as the patient stops drinking coffee
or caffeine-containing beverages.
Most experts agree that there is such a
condition as alcohol-induced hypoglycemia.
Dr, John W. Tintera, who made
an extensive study of the alcohol-hypoglycemia link,
says that the crux of the
alcoholic problem can be traced to low
blood sugar. 6
Dr. Robert Atkins says
in his Diet Revolution: "Experience
shows that when an alcoholic succeeds
in getting off alcohol, he usually substitutes sweets.
This is because almost all
alcoholics are hypoglycemic, and sugar
provides the same temporary lift that
alcohol once did. 7
For a non-alcoholic, an occasional
drinker, a night of heavy drinking may
produce low blood sugar the "morning
after", with all the classic symptoms of
hypoglycemia, In fact, the symptoms of
a hangover are nothing but symptoms
of hypoglycemia. But, for the alcoholic,
low blood sugar can become a chronic
condition. According to Dr. S.J. Roberts,
alcohol reduces the output of glucose
by the liver, which may precipitate or
exaggerate low blood sugar. 8
The relationship is reciprocal. Chronic drinking, just like excessive sugar in
the diet, contributes to the development
of hypoglycemia; and, a person with hypoglycemia is a potential candidate for
alcoholism. When he finds that alcohol
produces the same effect as sugar, he
becomes a compulsive drinker.
A dangerous vicious cycle ensues: alcohol improves his sense of well-being only
temporarily, so it becomes necessary for
him to drink most of the time in order to
feel comfortable and symptom-free. He
has become a chronic drinker, an alcoholic.
It has been shown in actual human
studies that smoking causes a rapid
blood sugar rise with just as rapid a
drop in blood sugar level shortly after
the cigarette or cigar is put out. A
Swedish study reported in a prestigious
British medical journal, Lancet, showed
that in some study subjects, the rise of
blood sugar was as high as 36 percent.
Nicotine in tobacco was isolated as the
culprit, since a comparable test with de-nicotinized cigarettes did not produce
the same effect as regular cigarettes.
The Swedish researcher concluded:
"The rapid fall of the blood sugar level
after the smoking throws further light
on the habit of chain smoking - the
craving for another pick-me-up..." 9
An American study, by M.G. Barr.
M.D,, showed that a group of heavy
smokers who all suffered from typical
symptoms of hypoglycemia - emotional instability, apprehension,
insecurity - and whose glucose tolerance tests
showed similar curves to those of functional hypoglycemics, did not respond
to the low blood sugar diet. Only a total
halt of smoking led to the disappearance of symptoms as well as to a normalization of blood sugar levels.
Of course, the reader must be aware
that hypoglycemia is not the only - or
even the worst - problem that can be
caused by smoking. The relationship of
smoking and cancer is well known and
well documented. 10
Excessive salt intake also contributes to
hypoglycemia by causing a loss of
blood potassium which leads to a drop
in blood sugar. Potassium is necessary
to rectify sugar metabolism abnormalities. Again, as is almost always the case
with hypoglycemia, the reverse relationship can be established even in regard
to salt. Excessive salt intake causes potassium losses,
which results in a drop
in the blood sugar level - the low
blood sugar level triggers the onset of
stress, causing much potassium to be
lost in the urine and causing sodium as
well as water, to be retained in the system
(this is known as edema or water retention). The administration of
potassium chloride in such cases quickly
raises the blood sugar level and eliminates the unpleasant
symptoms of hypoglycemia. 11 Sometimes, potassium
tablets can be useful for hypoglycemics,
especially those who are prone to blackouts.
The inordinate desire for salt experienced by some hypoglycemics, can be a
symptom of possible adrenal failure.
Malfunctioning adrenals, by permitting
abnormal salt excretion, encourage
heavy salt consumption. And, as I mentioned earlier,
the inefficiency or malfunctioning of the adrenal glands
is almost always causatively involved with
the development of hypoglycemia. The
adrenal glands do need some salt for
normal functioning; therefore, total abstinence
from salt is not advisable The
hypoglycemic should use a moderate
amount of salt, but only from natural
sources such as whole sea salt, kelp, or
It has been known for a long time that
hypoglycemia may initiate or aggravate
allergies. Now, it is also clear that allergies may cause hypoglycemia.
Persons who suffer from food allergies can,
after an initial rise,
experience a significant drop in blood sugar level
when exposed to allergens - as much as from
normal levels all the way down to 80.
This is low enough to cause severe symptoms. 12
The causative relationship between
food allergies and hypoglycemia is not
difficult to understand. The allergic
person's body regards allergens (substances to
which it is allergic) to be poisons, and treats them accordingly, by
making an heroic effort to neutralize,
excrete, destroy, or combat them: Thus,
allergens cause a severe stress on the
system. And all stress, especially on a
continuous basis, may contribute to low
blood sugar, mostly by straining the
adrenal glands and causing adrenal exhaustion.
Allergies other than those to food,
such as allergies to automobile exhaust,
pesticides, dust, any of the household
chemicals and detergents, food additives,
and even such "small" things as
vapors from a marking pen, or specific
brands of cosmetics or perfume, can
trigger the body's defensive mechanisms,
and cause the consequent drop in blood sugar level.
Emotional stress can cause hypoglycemia as any stress can.
And, certainly, hypoglycemia can be a cause of much
emotional stress. One type of hypoglycemia in particular
is linked causatively with emotional stress. It is the kind
that is characterized by a "flat glucose-tolerance curve".
Flat-curve hypoglycemia is a type of
low blood sugar that is not dramatic or
extreme, but it nevertheless has a devastating effect on a person's life and
his functions as a human being. It is
caused by what Dr. Sydney A. Portis
calls "pernicious inertia." 13 This is a
disturbance in sugar metabolism that is
usually found in patients whose life is
as flat as their test curve: uninteresting,
without zest, without challenge. Often,
they are forced into occupations or life
situations that offer no excitement or
challenge. They react with "apathy.
loss of zest, a general let-down feeling
of aimlessness, a revulsion against the
routine of everyday life, be it occupational activity or household duties", as
eloquently defined by Dr. Portis.
When a person finds no challenge
and no sense of accomplishment in pursuing his unpleasant and inescapable
duties, his body responds to the deficit
in mental and emotional challenge with
equal apathy and inertia: there is poor,
uncoordinated, weak action of the two
organs that deal with mental and physical challenges,
the adrenals (which elevate blood sugar) and the pancreas
(which lowers it). The result is a chronic
low-grade cerebral starvation. As an:
other psychiatrist put it, "A condition
of emotional letdown, based upon the
disruption of the patient's goal structure, influences the vegetative balance
and manifests itself in a disturbance of
the regulatory mechanisms controlling
the sugar concentration of the blood. 14
The flat-curve hypoglycemic is usually
feeling "half alive", complaining of
constant fatigue, existing in a twilight
zone where apathy, exhaustion, disinterest,
lack of motivation and boredom are typical symptoms.
His sugar levels do not dip low enough to cause
blackouts or other dramatic symptoms,
nor do they rise high enough to permit
efficient functioning or to bring some
zest into his life.
Our American way of life creates
plenty of prospective candidates for
flat-curve hypoglycemia: the housewife,
stuck with monotonous, unrewarding,
tedious, repetitive duties; the business
executive who sees no prospects of promotion
and has resigned himself to performing his duties routinely; the car
washer, the cashier, the bookkeeper,
the assembly line worker - all performing dull, repetitive chores without a
sense of achievement; all living the lives
of what Thoreau described as "quiet
desperation." No wonder physicians
find more and more cases of this undramatic form of hypoglycemia. And
the only reason they do not encounter it
even more is because the condition is
not severe or dramatic enough to warrant a worried call to a doctor.
People just continue enduring their uneventful,
dull, boring, and zest-less lives.
I dwelled extensively on this specific
type of hypoglycemia because:
- It is only seldom correctly diagnosed.
In part, because the person suffering
from it does not recognize that he is
sick; and in part, because physicians
are not sufficiently trained to read the
GTT charts and often miss the existence of the condition.
- If left untreated, flat-curve hypoglycemia may
develop either into full-fledged hypoglycemia or into diabetes.
- This condition can be remedied by a
combination of dietary therapy with
psychological counseling that can motivate the patient to a
change of life-style
Since the major cause of hypoglycemia
is the derangement, malfunction, or
breakdown of sugar metabolism regulating mechanisms, consisting largely
of the pancreas, the liver, the adrenals, thyroid, and pituitary gland,
it stands to reason that anything that can contribute
to the damage of these glands and organs
can be looked upon as causative
factors in hypoglycemia. Nutritional deficiencies can either cause or aggravate
almost any ailment, and hypoglycemia
is no exception.
There are several specific nutrients
that are involved in sugar metabolism.
Deficiencies (or sometimes excesses) of
these nutrients can disrupt the normal
metabolic processes or contribute to the
breakdown or malfunction of organs involved with sugar metabolism.
mention some of these:
Chromium. Chromium is one of the
trace elements needed for proper sugar
metabolism in the body. It has been
shown by a growing amount of research
that the lack of chromium can cause the
impairment of the blood sugar regulating machinery which
is controlled by insulin. According to Dr. Walter Mertz,
a physician-nutritionist, of the US. Agricultural Research Service, chromium
is required by the body to manufacture
the Glucose Tolerance Factor (GTF),
which regulates blood sugar. When an
individual is not getting enough chromium,
he suffers from impaired glucose
tolerance. This is of specific importance
in diabetes, but chromium deficiency
can also have an unfavorable effect on
the victims of low blood sugar.
The University of Colorado Medical Center
studies found that Americans of all ages
are suffering from chromium deficiency. 15
Brewer's yeast is one of the best supplements for the hypoglycemic.
In addition to supplying a wealth of nutrients,
it is one of the few excellent food sources of chromium. In addition, brewer's
yeast also contains the Glucose Tolerance Factor, which seems to make the
chromium more available to the body.
Dr. Doisy of State University of New
York Upstate Medical Center, has
found that by giving yeast to patients
who had disorders in glucose tolerance,
he was able to stabilize their blood
sugar levels within a month. He also
found that brewer's yeast could prevent
attacks of low blood sugar.
Vitamins B and C. Both of these vitamins increase
the body's tolerance to
sugars and carbohydrates and help to
normalize sugar metabolism. The deficiency of these vitamins is widespread
in the United States,
especially the deficiency of B vitamins,
which are removed or destroyed in the proCessing
and refining of grains. Brewer's yeast is
an excellent source of all B-complex vitamins.
Pantothenic Acid. The deficiency of
pantothenic acid has been specifically
singled out by extensive research as a
major contributing factor both in hypoglycemia and in adrenal exhaustion.
It has been found in studies with diabetics
that if pantothenic acid is undersupplied in the diet, the blood sugar drops
so quickly after insulin is given that the
danger of insulin shock, or a blackout,
is tremendously increased. 16 17 This
is of extreme importance to the hypoglycemic, since the rapidity of the drop
of sugar is the most dangerous aspect of
the hypoglycemic glucose tolerance
It is not how low, but how fast, sugar
drops that is significant. The body can
tolerate reasonably well a gradual drop
in sugar level, but cannot quickly adjust
to a sudden drop. When the brain and
other vital organs and muscles are suddenly left without sufficient glucose
and the oxygen it carries, they react
with most unpleasant symptoms.
Key Nutrient: Pantothenic Acid
If a deficiency in pantothenic acid can
contribute to or accelerate the rapid
drop in blood sugar level, it would seem
that the hypoglycemic should make
sure that he never allows a risk of undersupplying
his body with this important nutrient.
Brewer's yeast, is, again, an excellent
source of natural pantothenic acid. The
other good sources are wheat germ,
wheat bran, whole grain breads and
cereals, beans, peas, nuts, liver, egg
yolk, green vegetables, and royal jelly.
Of course, to make sure that this
all-important vitamin is always supplied in
abundance, hypoglycemics or those
who are predisposed to hypoglycemia
and wish to avoid it, should take supplementary pantothenic acid in tablet
form. It is available in all health food
stores. The usual dose is 100-200 mg. per day.
Magnesium, potassium, vitamin E, and
vitamin B6 are other nutritive substances the deficiency of which has
been linked with hypoglycemia. 18 19
Disease of Civilization
As this article shows, the causes of hypoglycemia are tied to our faulty eating
and living habits. Devitalized diet of denatured, over-refined, chemicalized
foods together with our competitive lifestyle, with its mental and emotional
stresses, breaks down the body's defensive
mechanism - specifically the adrenal system and sugar metabolism
mechanism - and leads to the development of hypoglycemia.
Thus, hypoglycemia, like cancer, is a "disease of
civilization" - a condition that is almost
non-existent in countries with more
natural diets and stress-free lifestyles.
It is not by chance, therefore, that in
our cola-culture, with its jet pace, sugar
and caffeine-drugged life style and
denatured, nutritionless, plastic foods,
hypoglycemia has reached epidemic
proportions to become the newest jet-age plague.
- Adams, Ruth and Murray, Frank, Is Low blood Sugar Making You A Nutritional Cripple?, Introduction by Robert C. Atkins, M.D., P.C., Larchmont Books, N.Y.,N.Y., 1975,p. 5.
- Cheraskin, E. Ringsdorf, W.M., and Brecher, Arline, Psychodietetics: Food as the Key to Emotional Health, Stein and Day. N.Y., N.Y., 1974.
. Lancet, October 30, 1965.
- Yudkin, John, Sweet and Dangerous, Peter H. Wyden, N.Y., N.Y., 1972.
- Abrahamson, E.M., and Pezet, A.W., Body, Mind and Sugar, Pyramid Books, N.Y., 1971.
- Altman, Lawrence K., The New York Times, March 15, 1975.
- Tintera, John W., Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, February 1966.
- Atkins, Robert C., Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution, Bantam Books, Inc., N.Y., 1972.
- Roberts, S. J., Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, June 1966.
- Lancet, October 30, 1965.
- Airola, Paavo, Cancer: Causes, Prevention and Treatment - The Total Approach, Health Plus Publishers, P.O, BOX 22001, Phoenix, AZ, 1972.
- Egeli, E.S., et al, American Heart Journal, Vol 59, page 527, 1960.
- Fredericks, Carlton, "Allergy Causes Hypoglycemia", Prevention, October, 1974. page 59.
- Portis, Sydney A., "Life Situations, Emotions, and Hyperinsulinism", Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 142: 1281-1286,1950.
- Alexander, Franz, "Psychosomatic Medicine", in Proceedings of the Psychotherapy Council, Vol. 2: 41-60, January, 1944.
- Medical World News, Oct. 11, 1974.
- Ershoff, B.H., El. al., Journal of Nutrition, Vol. 50, page 299,1953.
- Hodges, R.E., et al, Journal of Clinical Investigation, Vol. 38, page 1421, 1959.
- Airola, Paavo, How To Get Well, Health Plus Publishers, PO. Box 22001, Phoenix, AZ, 1974.
- Davis, Adelle, Let's Get Well, New American Library, Signet paper back, N.Y., 1972, p. 311.