The fundamental problem of diabetes is a disruption in the way the body uses carbohydrates - the starches and sugars in the food we eat that turn into blood sugar, or glucose. Too little insulin – the hormone that regulates glucose – is secreted. As a result, glucose piles up in the bloodstream, never reaching the muscles and other cells that require it.
Hypoglycemia, on the other hand, is marked by periods of low blood sugar. The most common symptoms is fatigue – a ”burned out” feeling – especially in the morning or late afternoon. Headaches, particularly the migraine type, are also common. This type of hypoglycemia is medically known as ”functional” or ”reactive,” to distinguish it from the type of hypoglycemia that results from a disease.
To test for either diabetes or hypoglycemia, doctors usually give a glucose tolerance test. After you drink a flavored solution of sugar and water, the lab technician takes periodic samples of your blood over period of six hours to measure your glucose levels.
If glucose soars too high or plummets too low, you presumably have a blood sugar problem that calls for adjustment of your carbohydrate intake. Treatments for functional hypoglycemia and diabetes are essentially the same: a diet which evenly distributes moderate amounts of carbohydrate over six meals.
And the diet emphasizes high protein foods – chicken, turkey, eggs, milk, cheese and so forth. Sugar, alcohol, coffee, tea and cola beverages are forbidden because they raise blood sugar levels by overstimulating the release of insulin. A small group of doctors feel that this diet may be ineffective, and that food allergy plays an unrecognized role in blood sugar problems.
”The typical assumption is that diabetes is a disease of carbohydrate metabolism, but we believe that it is a result of carbohydrate metabolism being interfered with,” says Thomas L. Stone, M.D., of Rolling Meadows, Illinois. ”And allergy is just one of many things that can disturb carbohydrate metabolism.
Yet the so called diabetic diet contains the very foods that can raise blood glucose if you’re allergic to them – milk, eggs, chicken. ”Our approach to diabetes is somewhat different. I measure people’s blood glucose after individual food test. They avoid a food for four or five days, then eat it and I measure blood glucose 30 minutes to an hour later.
In some people, blood sugar reaches as much as 375 (considered very high). When the foods that raise glucose are removed from the diet, the need for insulin goes down. We have yet to see someone who fails to improve with this approach.
”As for hypoglycemia, there is a lot of confusion because most doctors rely on the conventional glucose tolerance test to diagnose it,” continues Dr. Stone. ”The glucose tolerance test evaluates your blood sugar’s reaction to one food only – corn sugar – when in fact many foods can cause or aggravate blood sugar problems.
But reactions from those other food won’t show up on the glucose tolerance test. Not only is the test faulty; so is the diet. Many of my patients with hypoglycemia would get dramatically better then within three months on a standard high protein diet, but their symptoms would tend to return, even if they conscientiously stuck to the diet.
So I felt a different approach was needed. ”As with diabetes, I measured glucose levels after individual food test,” says Dr. Stones. ”As a result, each person has a unique set of foods he or she and cannot eat to control their blood sugar. No one leaves here on the same diet.
”I don't want to amply that blood sugar problems are simple. They're not. The body is very complicated,” says Dr. Stone. ”Blood sugar is only one aspect of a total problem, and allergy is just one thing that can disturb carbohydrate metabolism. But I’ve treated thousand of people with this approach. Even people who are quite sick get better in a couple week.”
To locate a doctor in your area who is familiar with the link between allergy and blood sugar problems, write to the Society for Clinical Ecology, c/o Del Stigler, 2005 Franklin Street, Suite 490, Denver, CO 80205.