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Is There A Connection Between Hypoglycemia and Thyroid Conditions?

Hypoglycemia is a common condition where the blood sugar levels are low.  Reactive hypoglycemia is due to the excessive secretion of insulin, usually after someone eats a meal.  On the other hand, spontaneous or functional hypoglycemia usually occurs in between meals, and both types of hypoglycemia can develop due to insulin resistance, hypothyroidism, weak adrenals, as well as other conditions.  On blood tests, someone is typically diagnosed with hypoglycemia when their levels are below 70 mg/dl, although sometimes the blood tests will fall within the normal reference range even when someone has the symptoms of hypoglycemia.  Hypoglycemia can occur in diabetics when they take too much insulin or skip meals.  And of course people with thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions commonly have blood sugar imbalances, which could lead to hypoglycemia.

As for some of the symptoms of hypoglycemia, these include rapid heartbeat, headaches, sometimes double vision, shaking or convulsions, a constant feeling of hunger, and there are numerous other symptoms.  These symptoms usually improve upon eating.  Of course some of these symptoms I just mentioned are common with people who have hyperthyroidism, and so if someone with hyperthyroidism or Graves’ Disease has the excessive secretion of thyroid hormone under control though the use of antithyroid medication, or an herb such as Bugleweed, but if they have low blood sugar levels, then they still might experience symptoms such as an elevated pulse, palpitations, and or shaking, along with an increased appetite.  This is one reason why it is also a good idea to look at the blood sugar levels of people with thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions, and sometimes it might be necessary to do a glucose tolerance test to help determine the presence of hypoglycemia .

But once again, while looking at the blood tests can be valuable, some people have the symptoms of reactive hypoglcyemia even though they have normal blood tests.  And many times people with hypoglycemic symptoms who have normal blood tests will respond well to the same dietary changes and nutritional supplements as those who have positive blood tests for hypoglycemia.

Poor Diet and Nutritional Deficiencies Can Cause Hypoglycemia

Not surprisingly, one’s diet plays a big role in hypoglycemia, as if someone frequently eats refined foods and sugars, then this obviously will affect the blood sugar levels.  When someone eats a refined food, this causes a surge in the hormone insulin, which causes the blood sugar levels to spike up.  Cortisol then comes into play, as it’s secreted by the adrenal glands, and causes the blood sugar levels to come crashing down.  If someone constantly eats this way then this will put a lot of strain on both the adrenal glands and pancreas, and can eventually lead to a hypoglycemic state.  As mentioned before, skipping meals will also affect the blood sugar levels.  So for example, if someone is accustomed to skipping breakfast, then this too can lead to hypoglycemia.

A deficiency in the mineral chromium can also lead to hypoglycemia.  Chromium helps the body to utilize insulin properly.  This mineral is also important in breaking down carbohydrates, fats, and protein.  Many people are deficient in this mineral, which will affect the way insulin is utilized, and also will impact the breakdown of carbs, fats, and proteins.  So if someone has hypoglycemia due to a chromium deficiency, then obviously this deficiency needs to be corrected.  Eating chromium-rich foods can help, but if someone has a moderate to severe deficiency then supplementation is usually necessary.

Hypoglycemia Is More Common In Hypothyroid Conditions

Poor diet and nutritional deficiencies not only can cause hypoglycemia, but these also can be a factor in the development of many thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions.  This is one reason why I’m constantly talking about how one needs to eat mostly whole foods and minimize the refined foods and sugars from their diet.  Although people with hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease can develop hypoglycemia, it does seem to be more common in people with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.  The reason for this is because thyroid hormone helps to stimulate gluconeogenesis, and so when there is a deficiency of thyroid hormone then this will be affected.

The adrenals play a big role in balancing the blood sugar levels due to the hormones cortisol and epinephrine, and so when someone has weak adrenal glands, this not only can lead to hypoglycemia, but can also slow down the thyroid gland.  Of course many people with hyperthyroid conditions also have weak adrenal glands too.  Another potential reason why hypoglycemia is more common in people with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is because thyroid hormone impacts the liver, and a compromised liver can lead to the development of hypoglycemia.  Excess glucose is stored in the liver, and so if the liver isn’t functioning properly then the storage of glucose might be affected.   In addition, the excess consumption of alcohol can prevent the liver from releasing the stored glucose, and this also can lead to hypoglycemia.

How To Correct Hypoglycemia

In order to correct a condition such as hypoglycemia, one of course needs to find out what is causing this problem.  Sometimes this can be challenging, but it usually comes down to making dietary changes.  So if someone has hypoglycemia and eats a lot of refined foods and sugars, then they need to minimize their consumption of such foods, and eat mostly whole foods.  If they have a chromium deficiency, then besides eating chromium-rich foods it might be necessary to supplement with chromium.  If the person with hypoglycemia consumes a lot of alcohol, then this also needs to be avoided.  This doesn’t mean they will need to avoid alcoholic beverages on a permanent basis, but until the hypoglycemic condition is corrected it’s probably best to completely avoid the consumption of alcohol.

While making dietary changes frequently will correct a hypoglycemic state, sometimes other factors need to be addressed.  For example, if someone has weak adrenal glands, then this needs to be corrected.  Sometimes just making dietary and lifestyle changes will help to restore the health of the adrenals, but other times additional adrenal support will be necessary.  For example, if someone has depressed cortisol levels and/or a low DHEA, then it might be necessary to take some herbs such as licorice and rehmannia .  And even though I try to avoid giving bioidentical hormones if at all possible, every now and then taking a low dose of bioidentical DHEA will be helpful.

If the person has a compromised liver that is causing problems with the storage of glucose, and/or the release of glucose, then this needs to be addressed.  Sometimes doing a liver detoxification will help greatly.  If someone has a condition such as hepatitis then some additional support might be required.

The good news is that when someone has both hypoglycemia and a thyroid or autoimmune thyroid condition, there is a great deal of overlap in restoring one’s health back to normal.  Frequently changing one’s diet, managing the stress, and correcting nutritional deficiencies will balance the blood sugar levels and restore someone’s thyroid health.  Sometimes it can be more challenging to accomplish this, but either way, with both hypoglycemia and hypothyroid/hyperthyroid conditions, the key to correcting these disorders is to detect and then correct the underlying cause of the problem.