Hypoglycemia – How to Understand and Treat this Serious Problem by Dr. Randy Martin, OMD

Too often a patient comes into to see me with a list of various problems that their physician has no solution for. Sometimes the underlying problem is the real cause, and sometimes this underlying problem involves faulty blood sugar metabolism.

Hypoglycemia is defined as blood sugar dropping below the normal range. And while many people also have blood sugar within this normal range, their blood sugar may also swing too quickly from high to low or from low to high. Either imbalance shares the same symptoms: foggy thinking, headaches, blurred vision, muscle aches and pains, hypersensitivity, overly emotional, hypersensitive to noise or smells or light, anxiety, sweating, nervousness, faintness, palpitations, and the brain simply not working right.

The causes are sometimes genetic, or sometimes related to stress, over exercise, not eating well, or what we call in Traditional Chinese medicine, stagnant liver chi or weak spleen meridian. Dietary causes can be a history of eating too much sweets, refined carbohydrates, such as white bread or pasta, or drinking too much alcohol or cold sweet drinks, such as soda.

The Traditional Chinese medical diagnosis for hypoglycemia can be complex. There are quite a few types of diagnosis that could be associated by hypoglycemia. According to E. Douglas Kihn, OMD, LAc, in an article published in The California Journal of Oriental Medicine (Vol 16, No 2, Fall 2005,) Liver yang rising with liver wind affecting the qui and blood of the head, is one of the primary causes of hypoglycemia. There are other possible causes, however, including kidney yin weakness, disturbed shen and weak genetic qi. My book, Optimal Health, How to Get It, How to Keep It, has a more extensive discussion of all these Chinese syndromes.

According to Dr. Kihn, the underlying reason for hypoglycemia is excessive heat caused by too much movement or friction. As a result, the liver overheats, causing Liver Rising, thus generating Liver wind. Wind scatters and confuses the qi and blood in the head leading to dizziness, headaches, confusion, and the like.

The simple explanation or cause for this excessive heat is that at some point, we all experience stress and may become overworked. In our culture, most of us are trying to accomplish way too much and don’t rest enough. We worry and are constantly busy at trying to respond to stressful situations or trying to accomplish something.

Many people in our culture have what we call in Traditional Chinese medicine stagnant liver chi. If you have gone to a Traditional Chinese medical doctor, you may have been told that you have this imbalance. My patients always ask me what I mean when I tell them they have stagnant liver chi.

While Traditional Chinese medicine does use the name of the traditional organ system to describe the problem, Chinese medicine has a lot more to say about the organ. In Chinese medicine, the term liver includes the actual organ, the meridian and the functions. The meridian, or invisible energy pathway, travels from the foot, up the inner leg, and into the groin area, ending in the chest cavity area. Any problem along that meridian would be reason to treat the Liver meridian.

Hypoglycemia includes the classic symptoms of liver chi stagnation: dizziness, headaches, sugar cravings, poor digestion, unstable blood sugar, mood swings, PMS and other hormonal imbalances.

From the Western perspective, our fast-paced lifestyle causes the adrenal glands to pump out too much epinephrine. This hormone stimulates insulin production from the pancreas. When the body is in this constant “flight or flight” mode, there is too much epinephrine being secreted and thus too much insulin production as well. The net result is lowered blood sugar, or hypoglycemia.

Western treatment for this is to eat more frequently, in order to keep the blood sugar at a more normal level. Although this works in the short run, it doesn’t solve the problem from a traditional Chinese perspective. In fact, overloading the body with food, when a person is not hungry, actually places a heavy load on the liver. Even though this technique will relieve the current symptoms of hypoglycemia, it will actually worsen the problem in the long run by creating further liver heat and stagnation.

The long-term danger of maintaining the hypoglycemic diet is that may lead to exhaustion of the pancreas. Every time you eat, the pancreas must secrete insulin. But over time, the pancreas may become exhausted, and lose its ability to function properly. This will end in diabetes type II. In the end, from the Chinese medical perspective, eating too frequently causes even more liver heat and stagnation, thus exacerbating the original problem.

Traditional Chinese medicine offers a solution by eliminating the heat, strengthening and supporting the liver and spleen. The method of treatment is to detoxify and support the liver with herbal formula such as Xiao Yao Wan and Relaxed Wanderer. Acupuncture points such as Spleen 4, 6, Liver 2, 3, 14, CV 4, Du 14, LI 4, 11. For relaxation and stress, Pc 6 and Ht 7, and ear Shen Men.

Relaxation exercises, meditation techniques, hypnotherapy, psychotherapy and daily exercise are also very important.

The Problem with Low Blood Sugar – by Dr. Randy Martin
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