Bittersweet: Living With Chronic Pain And Hypoglycemia

I’m hypoglycemic. Hypoglycemia is “a condition characterized by an abnormally low level of blood sugar (glucose),” in your body. Blood sugar/glucose is your body’s main energy source, and low levels can cause some big problems. Think extreme sugar crashes that cause you to get “the shakes” and cold sweats, and in extreme cases pass out. This is not a good thing when you’re a chronic pain sufferer. Being in pain all the time makes it hard to follow a regular schedule for meals because intense pain makes it difficult to move, which means preparing something to eat isn’t always easy. The high doses of pain medication don’t help either. If my appetite isn’t dampened by unbearable pain, I often don’t eat because I’m too groggy to focus or stay awake, or I can’t remember the last time I ate something.

I was diagnosed as hypoglycemic about two decades ago. The doctors, who diagnosed me, were never able to give a specific cause for this condition in my body. I saw multiple endocrinologists who are doctors that specialize in diagnosing diseases related to the glands and treating “people who suffer from hormonal imbalances, typically from glands in the endocrine system.” For an endocrinologist, “the overall goal of treatment is to restore the normal balance of hormones found in a patient’s body.” In my case, not only was my blood sugar dangerously low, but my insulin levels were ridiculously high too. This was significant because insulin is the hormone in the body that keeps your blood sugar level from becoming too high (hyperglycemia) or dropping too low (hypoglycemia). Insulin does this by allowing “your body to use sugar (glucose) from carbohydrates in the food that you eat for energy or to store glucose for future use.”

Unfortunately, I didn’t know that this process hadn’t worked properly in my body for a long time. What I thought was just exhaustion from overwork was actually my body getting close to shutting down. Following my diagnosis, I underwent a barrage of tests to figure out the best treatment(s) for me. Each endocrinologist I met with had different theories about why these imbalances existed in my body. More surprisingly, each one had a vastly different treatment approach he wanted to use to restore my blood sugar/glucose and insulin to normal levels. The most extreme was an endocrinologist who wanted me to undergo surgery so he could manually massage my pancreas on the off chance I might have a microscopic pancreatic tumor. I opted not to do that because the CT scans I had before seeing him showed no sign that any such tumor or other growth(s) existed.

Bittersweet - Blood Glucose Monitor

What finally helped me to re-establish normal blood sugar/glucose and insulin levels wasn’t surgery or medications. It was changing the way I eat. I did not go on a diet. However, I had to eliminate some foods (processed carbohydrates with added sugars) and add more of others (high protein), and I had to eat more often throughout the day – what some people refer to as grazing. I also had to start using a blood glucose monitor to check my blood sugar levels daily. It took a long time to get used to these changes, but I felt a definite improvement in my health and had fewer and fewer low blood sugar episodes, which was a relief because passing out is never fun.

Over the years, whenever I’ve strayed from my proven formula of a specific balance in my meals and eating frequently throughout each day, I feel a change within my body. I start to feel sluggish, weakened, and off balance and I have had episodes of fainting without much warning. I’ve been feeling some of those symptoms more and more over the last three years. Sadly, a few weeks ago I had to start monitoring my blood sugar levels on a daily basis again. It hasn’t reached dangerously low levels, but it’s been low enough on a few occasions that I have to be vigilant about eating more and more often. As I stated before, eating as I should, because of my pain, is not easy now but my experience with hypoglycemia reminds me that the alternative is a lot worse.

 

The Archies – Sugar, Sugar

 

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2 thoughts on “Bittersweet: Living With Chronic Pain And Hypoglycemia

  1. Ugh im hypogly too. I always always have food with me, anywhere i go, just in case. It creeps up on me and then bang, sweating, shaking, vision impairment, anxiety..its not a good time !!!!

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