Paleo Diet and Hypoglycemia

Paleo Diet and Hypoglycemia Overview

paleo diet and hypoglycemia
A 2009 study, reported in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that consumption of a paleolothic type diet improves glucose tolerance, increases insulin sensitivity and decreases insulin secretion. While many people advocate the diet for reactive hypoglycemia, it’s probably going to make your condition worse, not better. And here’s why.

Paleo Diet and Hypoglycemia: Types of Hypoglycemia

If you’ve read the article What is Hypoglycemia?, you’ll know that there are different types of hypoglycemia. The two most common types (other than diabetic hypoglycemia caused by medications) are:

  • Pre-diabetic reactive hypoglycemia, caused by insulin resistance
  • Reactive hypoglycemia caused by insulin sensitivity

More reactive hypoglycemia causes.
If you’ve had the hyperglucidic breakfast test, you’ll know whether your cells are insulin resistant or insulin sensitive. However, although the HBT is the “gold standard” for reactive hypoglycemia testing, not many doctors are aware of the test and they’ll likely order a glucose tolerance test — which won’t be able to tell you the cause of your reactive hypoglycemia.

Paleo Diet and Hypoglycemia: A Good idea?

So, let’s suppose you know you are reactive hypoglycemic and you try the paleo diet as a reactive hypoglycemia diet option to see if it helps. An important factor to consider is that the diet increases insulin sensitivity. While this could be helpful if you are pre-diabetic, you won’t lost weight on the diet (something that you probably need to do if you’re pre-diabetic). However, if you have reactive hypoglycemia caused by insulin sensitivity (the vast majority of non-diabetic reactive hypoglycemia cases), then the diet will increase your sensitivity even more and will make you feel even worse.
On the upside, a diet that’s based on lean protein, fruits, vegetables and nuts is certainly healthy start. But the addition of legumes, grains, eggs and dairy to your diet (eliminating sugars and processed carbs) is a better choice if you are reactive hypoglycemic (pre-diabetic or other).

Reference: Metabolic and physiologic improvements from consuming a paleolithic, hunter-gatherer type diet.

5 thoughts on “Paleo Diet and Hypoglycemia

  1. Sarah

    The paleo diet fixes a lot of things for a lot of people, often things you wouldn’t have guessed had anything to do with food (i.e. — from my own experience — acne, asthma, crappy fingernails and cavity-prone teeth, and whacky insomnia/sleep issues which I later learned were a result of reactive hypoglycemia). I was eating a healthy diet (at least according to American’s notion of common sense) before, too, and ate often during the day (just because I always seemed to be hungry, not because I’d ever connected the dots with hypoglycemia symptoms).

    After being a die-hard nightowl all my life (high cortisol at night, I later learned) who woke with night sweats, clenched teeth, and, when things got worse, a racing heart and other panic-attack type symptoms, I now sleep like a baby, sacking out around 10pm and waking up before my alarm at 6 every day. I eat three meals a day and rarely snack (I would if I was hungry, but I’m not because I eat much more fat than I used to, especially coconut oil, ghee, and avocados). I’m on the low carb side overall, but seem to do fine now with a daily dessert — dark chocolate (I get the kind that is more fat and fiber and not straight sugar) or some of the “raw vegan” deserts that use a lot of coconut oil and not a ton of sugar. The only time I’ll get some of my old symptoms is if I go crazy (by low-carb standards) and have something like a Jamba Juice smoothie after a bike ride (an insane amount of grams of sugar in those things, natural or not!), and even then it’s nothing like it used to be (I went to the ER room a couple of nights over those panic attacks). I’m crossing my fingers that my body is recovering and even a sinful treat down the road won’t matter, in moderation of course.

    So, for those wondering if paleo diet would help, I’d suggest simply trying it for a month if they’re open to it. I personally got the most out of doing the high-fat/low-carb version you can find detailed on the Bulletproof Executive site. Possible gluten/dairy/soy intolerances aside (which, by default paleo diet avoids), I suspect the macronutrient ratio is a big part of it. High fat, moderate protein, and low carb might matter more than whether one is vegan or paleo. Coconut oil, in particular, did wonderful things for balancing my mood and reducing the likelihood that I’d stress about things in general. It’s the MCTs, presumably, which are brain food, of course.

    Anyway, just some food for thought!

    1. Steph

      Sarah,

      I appreciate you leaving thoughts about your experiences. I’ve had people suggest everything from Atkins to Paleo as a “cure” for RH, but I’ve been as careful as I can be on the site not to recommend any fad diets. A simple, healthy diet full of veggies and with minute amounts of processed foods (i.e. bread, pasta, cereal) worked for us. But, knowing how devastating this disease can be, I’m very glad you found something that worked for you.

      Best,
      Stephanie

  2. Matthew Mitchell

    The increased insulin sensitivity surely isn’t a problem if you are eating a low-carb diet? So a paleo diet with minimal starchy vegetables and fruits would likely cause no problems? The only issue is the occasion when you have little choice but to eat a carb-rich meal, in which case you could suffer more, but as long as you stick to low-carb paleo consistently I’m guessing there will be no problem?

    Also eggs are allowed by most versions of the paleo diet and diary is sometimes (but often not) included too.

    1. Steph

      Matthew,

      It might help, but the Paleo diet isn’t recommended by most professionals (including the Mayo Clinic). It’s considered a “fad” diet.

      Best,
      Stephanie

      1. Matthew Mitchell

        Well the paleo diet seems to differ from conventional wisdom is three main ways (There are other controversial areas such as dairy, with a lot of disagreement).

        1. Fat isn’t bad, inc. saturated fat.
        2. Grains are bad.
        3. Legumes are bad.

        The first two seem to have most of the evidence supporting it, and so I agree. But I’m not so certain that legumes should be avoided entirely. I don’t think having a few peas and beans every now and then is going to severely harm health.

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