Well, since my last post, my diet has been all over the place as I struggled to keep weight on (due to massive stress at work which is now finally gone). When my weight drops to the numbers it dropped to, I am more prone to anxiety/panic attacks. I actually believe I have an official panic disorder that has been caused by my hypoglycemia, according to a website with symptoms I found. Since Wednesday morning, I’ve been back to a whole foods, high carb, low fat vegan diet (a la Dr. John McDougall, Dr. Neal Barnard, and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn) and once again feeling better. On Tuesday night, after eating meat and eggs (BLECH) for a few days, I had a fattier meal…and sure enough…my blood sugar started swinging and I did not feel well during the evening. I had been eating a not overly high fat diet despite the meat and eggs prior to that dinner. It confirmed for me, that at least in my body, a high fat diet clearly negatively affects my blood sugar regulation.
But I’ve also had another epiphany. As someone who used to travel the world alone with no fear, who now feels anxious driving up to Santa Fe (one hour drive), I’m sick and tired of the ongoing panic/anxiety issues that my hypoglycemia has caused. Because I had many really, really bad low blood sugar attacks when my endocrine system first blew…and for the following couple of years with the first year being the worst…I became petrified that I’d have an attack on an ongoing basis. My main triggers for a panic attack are: traffic jams, where I feel trapped in my car so that I can’t get to food/help – remote, in the middle of nowhere, locations where I feel too far from hospitals or food (even though I always have some emergency food with me) – movie theaters, for some odd reason – being away from my “safe” home (yes, I was starting to become agoraphobic but have mostly beaten that) – any closed in/claustrophobic places – etc. I would also have totally random panic attacks while at home though, too, even when relaxed and seemingly not stressed about anything…usually in the evenings. Although I’ve lived alone most of my life, at one point I didn’t think I could continue to keep living alone and thought about selling my house. I got so afraid I’d have a low blood sugar attack and pass out and die before anyone ever found me. As bad as hypoglycemia is, I have to say, the panic/anxiety disorder has become worse than my actual blood sugar issue. I ended up in an ER in late January, where I was given Ativan (OMG that drug is awesome and I’m not at all a fan of pharmaceuticals in general. It should be marketed as a sleep aid.) and an anti nausea medication. Ativan worked within a very short period of time and I was able to get much needed sleep before a job interview I really needed to go to.
Out-of-the-blue, days later, the thought popped into my head that my general mood…and not “just” my blood sugar control…was better when I was strictly eating a whole foods, low fat, high carb vegan diet. My underlying anxiety, which St. John’s Wort had helped some, but not totally, was noticeably better on LOTS of carbs. I had this “safe” feeling. When I ate a higher fat diet or less carbs, I didn’t feel as stable emotionally or blood sugar-wise. Antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds basically work by increasing your brain’s serotonin levels, which is what carbohydrates do! When I mentioned this realization to my sister, she said, “Potatoes not Prozac”. I remembered the name of that book from years ago but had totally forgotten about it! I just got it yesterday from the Albuquerque library and started reading it last night. It’s a book that, so far, is very anti sugar and processed food, and pro quality protein and natural carbohydrates…tying blood sugar to mood and alcoholism. I’ve always heard that most alcoholics have diabetes or hypoglycemia and that the reason they are drawn to alcohol is because of a sugar craving. If you’ve ever seen an AA meeting, there is ALWAYS lots of sweets for people to snack on…and plenty of caffeine.
Although I do have an appointment to meet with a psychologist to address my anxiety disorder and probably get medication, I really think I’m onto something diet-wise. I’m HOPING I can cure myself with food and not meds. I may be able to kill two birds with one stone and greatly improve my hypoglycemia and anxiety with a natural, whole foods, high carbohydrate diet.