Main Index > Reactive Hypoglycemia Diet
A reactive hypoglycemia diet is not a diabetic or hypoglycemic diet. A tailored diet, specific for the blood sugar highs and lows is necessary for a Reactive Hypoglycemia Diet. Often, diabetic cookbooks will recommend a larger meal at lunchtime, a skimpy meal at dinner, and no evening snack. This is blood sugar doom for reactive hypoglycemics; A diet like this will not alleviate your symptoms.
Reactive Hypoglycemia Diet: Contents.
What should be in a reactive hypoglycemic diet?
What should I do if my blood sugar drops?
Top 10 Foods to Avoid on a Reactive Hypoglycemia Diet.
Breakfast tips for a Reactive Hypoglycemia Diet.
A typical day of a reactive hypoglycemia diet.
Another day of a reactive hypoglycemia diet.
And yet Another day of a reactive hypoglycemia diet!
Notes on Saturated Fats and The Atkin’s diet.
The Truth About Cinnamon in the Reactive Hypoglycemia Diet.
The lowdown on diets: DASH diet, Mayo Clinic Diet, Paleo Diet, Southbeach Diet, Atkin’s diet.
What should be in a Reactive Hypoglycemia Diet?
Some characteristics of a hypoglycemic diet are also applicable to a reactive hypoglycemic diet: a high-fiber, restricted-simple sugar diet full of fruits and vegetables is a must. In other words, skip the Big Mac and have a Southwestern Salad instead. Load on all the veggies at Subway, choose the wholewheat bread and skip the chips and soda (yes, even the baked chips).
Do not restrict carbs from your reactive hypoglycemia diet. Your body needs carbs to regulate blood sugar. You may see some sites recommend things like “55% of energy as carbohydrate” in a diet or “try a low carb, high protein diet” or “less than x grams of simple carbohydrate daily.” That’s easy for a dietician to plan, but who really has time to plan meals like that? Additionally, do you follow the high carb, or the low GI diet? As well as being confusing, in the meantime, your blood sugar is up and down like a yoyo, and who feels like cooking then? The simple answer is to follow a few easy steps, and gradually make changes in your diet.
Swap white bread and noodles for whole grains.
Complex carbohydrates like whole grain crackers, bagels, and cereal deliver glucose over a longer period of time, resulting in a slower sugar response. Choose cereals carefully. Shop in a health food store if you can, as you are more likely to find “hidden” ingredients in cereal like High Fructose Corn Syrup or Sugar. Did you know that the first ingredient in Apple Jacks is sugar? I only found that out after my son, Leo, consumed a large bowl and hours later was in a bad mood thanks to a blood sugar drop. I look for low-carb, no sugar cereals like Kamut Flakes or Kashi Whole Grain Puffs. Ezekiel 4:9 bread is Low GI, and full of protein. We use that instead of regular bread, but you can try another (no sugar) whole grain product.
Drink water or non-caffeinated tea instead of soda
Buy spritzer water or lime-flavored sparkling water. Avoid anything with sweeteners: Even artificial sweeteners. You may be able to tolerate caffeine on a reactive hypoglycemia diet. I learned to restrict coffee to one, very small cup in the morning. any more precipitates a blood sugar crash.
Eat every two hours
Only you can determine how often you need to eat on a reactive hypoglycemia diet. That’s why it’s a good idea to check your blood sugar using a home blood glucose monitoring device: see How to Get Diagnosed for Reactive Hypoglycemia for more info). The two hour rule works for most people to avoid a crash on a reactive hypoglycemia diet. That equates for me to eight meals a day, starting at 8 a.m. and finishing at 10 p.m. Instead of a breakfast of cereal and toast, I eat the cereal at 8 and the toast at 10. I do the same for lunch, and divide what I would normally eat into two meals (i.e. a sandwich and fruit).
Read Your Labels
I shop at a local health food store, because I became so frustrated at buying products at local grocery stores. Food manufacturers sneak sugar and High Fructose Corn Syrup into everything! For example, I bought home two jars of Planter’s Dry Roasted Peanuts. I was dismayed to find out later on that they put sugar on them as a coating. Even small amounts of sugar spike my blood sugar and cause a crash so I absolutely have to avoid it if I am to maintain and even blood sugar level! I had a similar problem buying yogurt, bread, and just about every product you can think of. Organic products, and vegan products (i.e. soy yoghurt instead of regular) tend to be sweetened with evaporated cane syrup. Evaporated can syrup does not cause blood sugar spikes like sugar and high fructose corn syrup.
Learn to Love Fruit and Veggies
A reactive hypoglycemia diet took some getting used to, but we purged our cupboards of snack foods except for whole grain crackers, vegan cream cheese, and fruits/veggies. We eat stir frys, soups, salads, vegan chili, and other dishes bursting with vegetables. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is a must for a Reactive Hypoglycemia Diet.
Drink and Eat Before You Exercise
Exercise lowers your blood sugar, which is great for diabetics, but not so great for the reactive hypoglycemic. I have to drink fruit juice and eat half an energy bar before I exercise, and fruit juice plus the other half of the bar afterward. Otherwise I cannot exercise without feeling sick.
What do I do if my Blood Sugar Drops if I’m on a reactive hypoglycemia diet?
When blood glucose drops, high carb foods can bring it back up to normal; At the first sign of low blood sugar (shakes, sweaty hands, churning stomach or another symptom which may be specific to you), you must eat a a meal or a snack. Diabetics will often consume sugar, candy, or soda to raise blood sugar quickly. This is a bad idea for reactive hypoglycemics, and is unnecessary. If you learn to eat at the first sign of symptoms, you will ward off a hypoglycemic attack. In an emergency, choose glucose tablets (available in the diabetic section of your local pharmacy) followed by nuts or a wholegrain bagel, or fruit juice over candy or cola, which will quickly spike your blood sugar and encourage it to fall rapidly.
Carry a Snack Everywhere You Go
Packs of nuts, a piece of fruit, a healthy drink (i.e. s small carton of apple juice). Carry something so that at the first sign of something amiss…you can eat.
If you have reactive hypoglycemia, many studies have shown that you’re more likely to have hypoglycemic episodes in the morning. This may be because your body has been starved overnight — depleted of glucose levels. A breakfast that’s a typical modern-day breakfast (orange juice, coffee and toast or cereal), can spike your blood sugar levels and lead to a mid-morning crash. The problem can become even worse if you wait until later in the morning or lunchtime to eat.
Eating a nutritious breakfast that’s high in protein (like scrambled eggs with cheese) can help to restore your blood sugar levels effectively, without the risk of a mid-morning crash. Proteins are especially important for reactive hypoglycemia, because they are absorbed more slowly into the body than carbohydrates. They can therefore help your glucose levels stay more stable than say, orange juice, which will give you an immediate spike immediately after drinking it but it doesn’t maintain levels in the same way protein does.
- Eat a protein source along with a fat source to stabilize your blood sugar. As well as eggs and cheese, you could also opt for scrambled eggs and buttered whole wheat toast, nuts, a vegetable and cheese omelet, a high-bran cereal with milk, or a protein-rich shake made with whole or 2 percent milk.
- Avoid sugar at breakfast. This includes fruits high in natural sugars like orange juice, pineapple juice or apple juice. Sugars increase the insulin response in the body and will almost certainly make your hypoglycemia worse.
- Eat a source of fibersuch as whole wheat toast, beans, nuts or bran cereal. Fiber is slow to digest and helps to slow digestion of other foods. Slow digestion will help keep your blood sugar stable.
- Avoid caffeine. Stick to decaf coffee or tea in the mornings. Excessive caffeine intake can make your blood sugar symptoms worse
- Eat a nutritious snack mid-morning, with a high protein content such as a low-sugar health food bar or cheese and berries (berries are high in fiber).
If you are reactive hypoglycemic, chances are it will take you some time to tweak your diet and figure out which foods cause your blood sugar to go haywire. Some people, for example, can use the sweetener Stevia, while others are sensitive to it and experience a drop in blood sugar. Start with making the changes recommended above. To aid you with making changes in your diet, I have compiled a list of “musts” that reactive hypoglycemics should avoid.
A general list of foods to avoid on a Reactive Hypoglycemia Diet
- white bread, bagels, pizza, burger buns, or other “white” bread products: substitute whole grain products instead
- white spaghetti noodles: substitute whole grain products
- most breakfast cereals: substitute no-sugar whole grain varieties, or oatmeal
- anything that has “sugar” or “high fructose corn syrup” as an ingredient
- caffeinated beverages
- pastries, muffins, cakes, and other “treats”: check health food stores for treats that are low GI and/or whole grain
- restaurant meals: unless you are 100% certain that sugar is not one of the ingredients. This is such a problem that we rarely eat at restaurants any more!
- white potatoes, including baked potatoes and fries: except in small amounts, in a soup for example: substitute a small portion of sweet potato fries
- high fat meats: substitute low-calorie, nutrient dense products like Quorn, vegan burger crumbles, tofu, bean burgers, or other meat subtitutes
- potato and tortilla chips: substitute baked, whole grain tortilla chips (available at most grocery stores in the health food section)
Daniel, over at the Yahoo Group for Reactive Hypoglycemia, sent me an email last week, asking me to post a sample menu for a reactive hypoglycemia diet.
“Since you seem to be so good at keeping Leo’s and your hypoglycemia at bay, I was wondering if you could post about few typical menus that would prevent reactive hypoglycemia episodes in predisposed people.”
Absolutely! It’s currently 10:20 a.m. and I have finished my Arrowhead Mills Kamut Flakes with Soy Milk. Kamut Flakes are one of the few cereals I can tolerate on a reactive hypoglycemia diet; It’s whole grain, high fiber, and sweetened with fruit juice instead of sugar.
Here’s what I ate yesterday (Leo had a sleepover at a friend’s house, so I’m not sure what he ate ).
- 8 a.m. 1 cup decaffeinated coffee with 2T Silk Vanilla creamer. 1 slice of Ezekiel 4:9 sprouted grain toast with 1T peanut butter.
- 10 a.m. 1 cup Arrowhead Mills Kamut Flakes with 1 cup (unsweetened) soy milk.
- 12 noon. 1 cup Amy’s Organic Lentil Vegetable Soup, 1/2 sandwich: whole grain bread, vegenaise, lettuce, tomato, tofurkey, vegan cheese.
- 2 p.m. 1/2 banana, 12 peanuts.
- 4 p.m. 15 wholegrain, baked tortilla chips with 1/4 cup fresh salsa and 4T Queso cheese.
- 6 p.m. stuffed green pepper (lentils, brown rice) with a garden salad (home grown tomatoes!) and curried chickpeas. (Note, I make a big batch of the peppers and garbanzos so all I have to do is remove it from the freezer and microwave).
- 8 p.m. 8 mini sourdough crackers, 2 slices cheese, mustard pickle relish.
- 10 p.m. handful (1/8 cup) of mixed nuts.
The hardest thing for me when I started this reactive hypoglycemia diet was to try and remember to eat exactly every two hours. The first few weeks I forgot, but then it became a habit. You can find the recipes for the stuffed pepper and chickpea curry in my Reactive Hypoglycemia Diet Cookbook.
I’ve received a couple of emails asking me to post more of what reactive hypoglycemia diet I follow to combat my hypoglycemia. A brief piece of background info if you’ve just found the site: I haven’t had a reactive hypoglycemic spell in months, and I feel great! Before I switched my diet to vegetarian, my life was often miserable for many hours a week.
My Reactive Hypoglycemia Diet Plan
Anyone who has had the misery of low blood sugar and the accompanying shakes, sweats, mood swings, blurred vision and nausea knows how truly debilitating a disorder it is. But it is treatable in the most cases by dietary change, and that’s what I decided to do. At first i started on a very restrictive vegan diet but gradually added foods. I feel so great on this reactive hypoglycemia diet that I actually forgot to buy glucose tabs and ran out two weeks ago. To my surprise, I haven’t needed the tablets lately.
Food for a Reactive Hypoglycemia Diet
Here’s what I ate and drank back in June 2009 (my blood sugar stayed at normal levels, around 80-120 all day):
- 8 a.m. cup of 1/2 caffeinated coffee with 3T Silk (soy) vanilla creamer
- 8:30 a.m. 1 slice Ezekiel 4:9 toast, 1T Earth Balance buttery spread, 2T all fruit blackberry preserve (no sugar, just fruit).
- 10:30 a.m. 1 banana, 1/4 cup cashews, 10 oz water mixed with 2 oz cranberry juice.
- 12:30 p.m. Chickpea curry with cauliflower and broccoli (Indian curry with cumin, garam masala, chili pepper, cilantro, green chili), 1/6 cup brown rice, 1/6 cup wild rice
- 2:40 p.m. About 14 baked, blue corn tortilla chips and 1/4 cup salsa.
- 4:40 p.m. 10 oz water mixed with 2 oz cranberry juice.
- 5:00 p.m. mixed herb salad, carrots, onion, clover sprouts, tomato. Topped with 1/4 cup Quorn stir fried in 2T peanut oil and a peanut/ginger sauce (pre-made in a jar from the grocery store–no added sugars), handful of cashews and 1/6 cup grated soy cheese.
- 6:30 p.m. (before a 20 min swim): 5 oz water mixed with 1 oz cranberry juice and 1/2 a chocolate peppermint Luna bar.
- 7:30 p.m. (after swim): 5 oz water mixed with 1 oz cranberry juice and 1/2 a chocolate peppermint Luna bar.
- 8:30 p.m. cup of herbal lemon tea
- 9:30 p.m. 2 oz white wine mixed with 2 oz soda water. About 6 baby carrots and 3T hummus. 4 Triscuits.
In addition I drank about 16 oz of water
I do not count calories for many reasons, including the fact that I have better things to worry about than calories (like not having a hypoglycemic episode!). I can tell how much I should be eating and if weight creeps on I just make an effort to exercise more or eat slightly less. I don’t typically count anything, when it comes down to it. I’m a fairly good cook and I seem to intuitively know how to cook a balanced meal. For example, the curry and Quorn both have splashes of fat, adequate protein and lots of vegetables (fiber, vitamins etc.). I think it’s important with reactive hypoglycemia to eat both fat and carbs–although I do get the majority of carbs from veggies!
I’ll post more of these kinds of menus again soon.
I’ve had a few emails now from readers who say that they’ve found my articles on diet to be really helpful, especially where I itemize everything I eat for a day. Thanks to me being very careful about what I eat, I am no longer shaky after eating — which for me, was possibly the worst symptom of RH. One or two hours after eating, I would start to get the shakes, which was soon followed by chills, lethargy, and sometimes fainting. I’m learning to love food again!
If you are shaky after eating and you suspect your shakiness is caused by reactive hypoglycemia, changing your diet can’t do any harm. The daily suggestions I make suit my palate, so you’ll probably want to switch out items to suit your tastes. I don’t count calories, but I’m very aware of calories — meaning I rarely, if ever, eat nutrient poor foods like sweets, cakes or soda. So this list is everything I put in my body yesterday (except for water!).
Not that this isn’t a diet to lose weight! It’s a diet to keep low blood sugar from happening. That’s why the meals are small and spaced out. Please also note that I’m 6′ tall and 185 pounds, so my calorie requirements are a bit higher than average. That’s why I’ve tried not to focus on portion sizes — it’s the food itself that matters, not how much I ate of it.
Rise (8 a.m.): 2 cups of decaf coffee with 2 T Silk Vanilla creamer
Breakfast (9 a.m.): Handful of dry roasted peanuts and a small apple
Brunch (11 a.m.): 1 egg white with a little grated cheese, onions, red peppers and tomatoes. 1 slice of gluten free toast with vegan margarine. Cup of black tea with rice milk as creamer.
Lunch: Bowl of home made Thai peanut soup. You can probably have any type of soup (as long as it has sufficient protein), but I make home made soups to avoid unwanted ingredients and carb-overload. Thai peanut soup is one of my favorites and it’s 30% protein, which is about right.
Afternoon snack: Hummus with baby carrots. Black tea with rice milk creamer.
Dinner: Home made vegetable curry with brown rice.
Evening snack: A few organic whole-grain tortilla chips, topped with a little grated cheese and salsa. Two glasses of wine.
Close to bedtime: A hunk of cheese.
I pretty much avoid processed food. I make my own soups, curries, pies and pasta dishes. Every week I get a bag of organic veggies delivered to my door and I base my week’s dishes on that. I’ve heard people say that they don’t have “time” to cook — but when my RH was sever, it was eating up hours of my day — I’d feel sick and lethargic most of the time. Now I feel great. Sure, I cook for a couple of hours a day, but when I compare that to feeling GREAT and full of energy for the remaining 22 hours of the day (minus sleep!) the investment in cooking my own food, so I know what I’m eating, is worth it.
You might also notice a lack of condiments in the list I wrote. As a general rule, I make flavorful meals with fresh ingredients so no ketchup, mustard or pickle relish is required. These are all places where high fructose corn syrup and sugars can hide, so as a general rule I avoid them.
I came across an odd article this week. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic devised a diet for 23 heart patients that was high in saturated fat. Patients (eight of whom were reactive hypoglycemic) ate “forbidden” saturated fats for a year and lost 20% of their body weight following the prescribed reactive hypoglycemia diet. The interesting point about this article for reactive hypoglycemics is that we typically have trouble losing weight (because of the excess availability of carbs in our bodies), and yet the reactive hypoglycemics in this study–all of whom were obese–had no trouble dropping the weight!
Why Atkins Shouldn’t be Part of Your Reactive Hypoglycemic Diet Plan
A diet high in saturated fats was prescribed for the patients (saturated fats in my diet come from eggs, vegetable oils and tropical oils). However, unlike the Atkin’s diet, where carbs are restricted, fruits and non-starchy vegetables were allowed in prescribed amounts at each meal (while portions were recommended, the patients didn’t keep to a specified amount of these). The only other rule the patients had to follow was no starch (no rice, wheat, potatoes etc.).
Although the patients only ate an average of 3 meals a day (600 calories each), they all reported feeling full. After one year, patients with reactive hypoglycemia lost around 20 percent of their body weight–this is despite eating both saturated fats and carbs!
The lesson to be learned? This research is just one piece of evidence to suggest a low-carb (not carb-restricted, like the Atkins, which puts your body into starvation mode) balanced diet that includes saturated fats and carbs is the way to go for losing weight and controlling reactive hypoglycemia.
Hays, J. et. al. Effect of a High Saturated Fat and No-Starch Diet on Serum Lipid Subfractions in Patients With Documented
Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease. Mayo Clinic Proceedings November 2003 vol. 78 no. 11 pp. 1331-1336
Last week, my best friend told me that cinnamon can help stabilize blood sugar levels when added to the Reactive Hypoglycemia Diet. A quick search on Google revealed pages of claims that backed up her statement, claims like: “Cinnamon spice produces healthier blood!” and “Cinnamon Extract Spices Up Sugar Metabolism!” But before you charge out and start sprinkling cinnamon on your cereal, consider these facts.
A couple of major studies have found cinnamon to be beneficial to type II diabetics: a 2006 Swedish study and a 2003 Pakistani study. The first study demonstrated a reduction in postprandial blood glucose due to a slight slow down in the stomach’s emptying rate. If the contents of the stomach empty more slowly, that could benefit reactive hypoglycemics. The findings of the second study suggested a small amount (1,3,or 6g of cinnamon per day) reduces blood glucose levels as well.
Unfortunately, several other studies have failed to reproduce the same promising results. One 2006 study from the Netherlands was published in the Journal of Nutrition under the heading “Cinnamon supplementation does not improve glycemic control in postmenopausal type 2 diabetes patients.”
Scientists at the Department of Agriculture are considering patenting their research on cinnamon extracts, which make cells more sensitive to insulin. This could be great news for diabetics, but consider this: while diabetes is caused by insulin resistance, reactive hypoglycemia can be caused by high insulin sensitivity…the exact opposite. Imagine already being insulin sensitive, and then taking a compound that magnifies your hypoglycemia issues!
Should cinnamon be part of the Reactive Hypoglycemia Diet? As of 2012, The Mayo Clinic’s stance is that cinnamon is an unlikely candidate for having any future promise in the stabilization of blood sugar. I don’t to take a chance that my hard earned blood sugar stabilization with go down in a cloud of cinnamon dust. So for right now, I think I’ll spend my hard earned cash on some good ol’ fresh vegetables.
If you are looking for a reactive hypoglycemia diet, you’ll find a lot of “quick fixes” on the internet. From the Paleo diet to the Atkin’s diet and beyond. But which diets actually work as a reactive hypoglycemia diet? I researched the effectiveness of some of the most popular diets for reactive hypoglycemia so you don’t have to:
DASH Diet: Originally touted as a diet to treat hypertension (high blood pressure), the DASH diet has shown promise for preventing diabetes (i.e. in controlling reactive hypoglycemia). The diet is almost identical to the approach I take in my Reactive Hypoglycemia Cookbook — a focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy (I’m not a low-fat dairy fan…I think it’s a bit tasteless). For purposes of a reactive hypoglycemia diet, I don’t think it matters what dairy items you choose unless you want to lose weight) while sweets and red meat are discouraged.
Mayo Clinic Diet: While the diet is certainly healthful, it may not be the best diet for a reactive hypoglycemia diet with its 21 percent protein recommendation. My endocrinologist recommends 30 percent protein at meals.
South Beach Diet:Although it can help with weight loss, the diet isn’t geared towards controlling reactive hypoglycemia. Despite a high-protein/low-carb plan, no reasonable evidence exists to support that the South Beach diet can either control reactive hypoglycemia or prevent diabetes.
Vegan Diet: A strictly vegan diet has received high marks as an anti-diabetes diet. However, it can be time-consuming and restrictive. It can also be challenging to receive all of the right amounts of nutrients.
Atkin’s Diet: The Atkin’s is popular for short-term weight loss. However, many experts (including the Mayo Clinic) has questioned the diet’s performance in nutrition, safety and heart health. Therefore it seems very unsuitable as a reactive hypoglycemia diet option.
Paleo Diet: There is no evidence to suggest that a Paleo diet is beneficial as a reactive hypoglycemia diet.
The overall results? Skip time-consuming and expensive diets. You’re better off eating a well-balanced, moderate protein diet, rich in vegetables, fruits and whole-grains.