Let’s talk about nitrates in vegetables versus meat. Are the nitrates in vegetables Vs meat bad for you? Or are these nitrates good for you?
Is there a difference to how our bodies treat and interact with the nitrates in vegetables Vs nitrates in meat? Which of these nitrates is safer to eat? is it better to eat vegetables because of the nitrates and should we avoid meat because of the nitrates in meat?
I will endeavour to answer all of these questions in this article.
There has always been this debate about nitrates in food. We are all too concerned about our health these days and for good reason too. I’d like to know if what I am eating, especially on a regular basis, is good for my health. Or is it possible I’m unwittingly damaging my health.
Time for “travelling in the dark” is far gone. The first thing to note is that; there are nitrates in both plant produce and animal products.
I should say this upfront. I eat a plant-based diet.
But that is not to say, I don’t eat meat. I eat meat, fish and plants but I limit how much meat I eat. So, this article is not written with a vegan bias or anything like that because I am a full-blown flexitarian.
What’s the deal with these Nitrates and Nitrites in our food?
Nitrates are naturally occurring in plant food produce but in animal foods, they are artificially added to preserve these foods.
Nitrates are relatively harmless on their own. It is when they get converted to their subunits that the potential to cause harm arises.
Nitrates have 3 oxygen molecules attached to the Nitrogen atom.
However, nitrates become bioactive when one of the oxygen atoms is removed leaving 2 oxygen atoms attached to the Nitrogen atom. A Nitrogen atom with 2 oxygen molecules instead of 3 becomes a Nitrite.
So, the bioactive form of Nitrate is the Nitrite.
This conversion from Nitrate to Nitrite is trigerred by bacteria, fermentation, acid in the gut and ensuing enzymatic activity.
Why Nitrates are good for you?
This breakdown of Nitrate does not stop at the Nitrite step.
If you have ever pondered the question: are nitrates in vegetables bad for you? Well, you are going to love this analysis below because; it explains why nitrates in vegetables are not bad for you. It will encourage you to eat more vegetables, if anything.
Here it is: The Nitrite from the nitrate is further broken down to 2 other potential compounds – Nitric Oxide and Nitrosamines (N-Nitroso compounds also called NOCs).
The first piece of good news is; nitrates in vegetables tend to get converted to Nitric oxide more by default. Nitrates in meat on the other hand, have more potential to get converted to N-nitroso compounds for reasons I will explain later on.
You should celebrate Nitric Oxide because you want and need it. Plenty of it. Nitric Oxide optimizes our health in leaps and bounds.
Nitric oxide is beneficial to our health immensely. What’s weird is that, nitric oxide is actually a free radical but a nice free radical.
Usually free radicals are a ‘nasty piece of work’ as far as health is concerned, but Nitric oxide is one free radical that you don’t want to get rid of. You want it. Why?
…because Nitric oxide is a biological signalling molecule that enhances the function of the lining of our blood vessel walls. Not only that, Nitric oxide also protects the organelle in every cell of our body called the mitochondria.
Mitochondria is where energy production takes place. Every cell needs to make its own energy to function. That production factory is called mitochondria.
As it happens, Nitric oxide made from nitrates protects these tiny mitochondria organelles. This guarantees continuous efficient energy production.
The job of the Nitric oxide is to make the blood vessels walls pliable and more compliant. This enhances unhindered blood flow inside our blood vessels. Meaning oxygen and nutrients are carried to our tissues much more readily.
This allows for optimal health because this function of Nitric oxide lowers your global blood pressure – a recipe for control of high blood pressure.
Now you know why we advice you to eat beets, spinach, kale, celery, collard greens to lower high blood pressure or maintain a normal blood pressure. Nitric oxide supplied from the nitrates in these vegetables is the reason why.
Talking about optimal health, nitric oxide from nitrates in vegetables also prevents the stickiness of blood because it prevents what we call platelet aggregation. This activity thins your blood and helps prevents strokes and blood clots.
Why nitrates may be bad for you?
Nitrates can be a double-edged sword. They can swing either way.
As I said earlier, nitrates when broken down to nitrites could either become nitric oxide which we love and covet or become N-nitroso componds (NOCs) which you don’t want to touch with a barge pole.
These Nitrosamines (N-Nitroso compounds also called NOCs) are not really health-friendly. If you ever wondered about nitrates in food side effects, it is these N-nitroso compounds that are to blame. And I will talk about these nitrates in food side effects shortly.
Nitrosamines are bad news for your health.
The good news is that the nitrates in vegetables don’t appear to form the dreaded N-nitroso compounds. It is the nitrates from meat that tend to form these nasty N-nitroso compounds (NOCs).
Straightaway that’s the essential difference between nitrates in vegetables vs nitrates in meat. I shall explain later why the nitrates in vegetables behave differently to the nitrates in meat.
There’s plenty of evidence to support the notion that nitrates in meat are harmful.
Here is one. This analysis done by the World Cancer Research Fund found that eating just 1.8 ounces of processed meat per day — about one sausage or two to three slices of bacon — raised your likelihood of bowel cancer by 20%.
Are environmental Nitrates harmful?
From the epidemiological standpoint, nitrates are seen as harmful to human health. That is the reason there are regulations as to how much nitrate can be allowed in our drinking water. The amount of nitrate allowed in drinking water should not exceed 50 mg/l.
Because there is a risk of blue baby syndrome or what in medical parlance is called Methemoglobinemia. Young babies especially under 6 months of age are not able to deal with a large nitrate load. That environmental nitrate regulation is therefore essential.
The amount of nitrates in the soil is also subject to regulation. Why is this?
Excess nitrate in the soil will lead to a huge concentration of nitrates in our fruits and vegetables. We want some nitrates in our vegetables but we do not want excess nitrates in these plant produce.
More evidence to support the difference in Nitrates in Vegetables Vs Meat?
Well, the truth of the matter is research seems to tell us that there is a difference between nitrates in vegetables Vs meat.
The most studied vegetable is beetroot. There’s plenty of research evidence to support the beneficial effects of beetroot. This study even went further to look at the dose-dependent response of athletes to beetroot juice. It looked at cardiovascular health enhancement of beetroot juice and exercise performance.
The evidence seems to support the view that nitrates from vegetables like beet, celery, spinach, kale etc are safe and actually good for you.
Gunter Kuhnle, a professor of food and nutritional sciences at the University of Reading in the UK says:
“The nitrates in vegetables may be beneficial. When you eat nitrates, they are converted to nitrites by bacteria in your mouth”
Nitrates from animal sources however are not really naturally occurring. Nitrates in meat are added as preservatives.
The most commonly used nitrate in animal products is Sodium Nitrate. This and other nitrites are added to the meat to stop the growth of deadly bacteria. That way, you can eat your meat safely without the risk of food poisoning.
The nitrates and nitrites in meat also enhance the flavour of the processed meat whilst conferring on it a red or pinkish colour. What kind of meat are we talking about?
We are talking about hot dogs, bacon, chorizo, pepperoni, ham, bacon, sausages, pastrami and salami. These processed meats contain artificial nitrates or nitrites in them. The nitrates in these processed meat are thought to be harmful to health.
This study examined the association of red meat, processed meat, and poultry consumption with the risk of early death in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC).
The study conclusion:
“The results of our analysis support a moderate positive association between processed meat consumption and mortality, in particular due to cardiovascular diseases, but also to cancer”
Why are the nitrates in vegetables like beet, celery, kale, spinach, arugula not harmful and the nitrates in meat harmful?
This question is not a very straightforward one but I shall do my best to clear the muddy waters.
For a start, it doesn’t matter the source of the nitrates. Whether you get your nitrates from vegetables or from meat, the increase in the amount of nitrates or nitrites absorbed into the circulation is essentially the same.
So, something else must be going on for this differential outcome between plant nitrates and meat nitrates.
Here’s what’s going on:
About 12 g of proteinacous material is offloaded into the large intestine every day. 50% of that is from dietary sources. This amount might vary a little bit depending on how much dietary protein is consumed and the physical form of the food consumed.
A careful breakdown of all of this consumed protein load takes place by bacterial action leading to deamination, decarboxylation and fermentation.
This process is dynamic, hence a higher concentration of amine byproducts are found in the tail end of the gut – the colorectal region compared to the earlier aspects of the intestines.
These amine substances react with nitrosating compounds leading to formation of N-nitroso compounds(NOCs) which are basically nitrosamines. These nitrosamines are not nice.
Nitrosamines (N-nitroso compounds) have been implicated in mutations and hence carcinogenicity.
This explains why the damage by these toxic substances is a lot more serious. For instance, cancers in the colorectal region. Mainly because the large intestines is a very fertile site for nitrosation and formation of nitrosamines, phenols and cresols.
But why does the nitrate in meat cause harm to health and nitrate in vegetables not lead to harm?
A scholarly explanation for nitrates in meat causing cancer has to do with the presence of heme-iron in meat as opposed to presence of non-heme iron in vegetables like celery, spinach, beet, kale, arugula.
Here’s what I mean.
We’ve already agreed that bacterial action in the large intestine acting on nitrates and nitrites leads to formation of toxic compounds like nitrosamines, phenols, cresols etc through fermentation.
Obviously this fermentation foisted by bacterial action applies to both meat and vegetable foods, right?
But the essential difference is the heme factor.
It would appear that the heme in the meat products up-regulates the formation of these potentially carcinogenic substances. You end up with more of these toxic mutagenic substances that are harmful to health when you consume meat.
Plus meat has saturated fat which may play a contributory role too.
Here’s what Professor Kuhnle had to say on the subject:
“What makes processed meats so ideal for forming N-nitroso compounds is that they have a combination of nitrite and proteins from the meat. And the meat’s heme seems to help convert them into N-nitroso compounds”
In contrast, plant foods like beet, celery, spinach, kale, collard greens (even though have nitrates) have non-heme iron and no saturated fats, so you have lower levels of these potentially harmful substances being formed. The levels do not reach a threshold that could induce colorectal cancer.
In addition to that; plants have hundreds of micro-nutrients that meats do not possess and these extra micronutrients in vegetables may offer our bodies a protective effect against cancer.
For instance, vegetables have Vitamin C and polyphenols that make it a harder task for nitrosamines to form. Meat hasn’t got Vitamin C nor does meat have polyphenols. This point should not be underestimated.
Hence, in the nitrates in vegetables vs meat debate, vegetable nitrates are safer for the human body to deal with. Meat nitrates on the other hand are potentially carcinogenic.
What can you do to make your meat safer?
See video below. You can make your bacon safer by using that preparation technique in the video below for your bacon.
Frying your bacon, baking it, broiling it or cooking in a baconer produces the most nitrosamines. The method in that video according to research produced the least amount of nitrosamines, hence it is recommended.
You may also use nitrate-free bacon, nitrate-free sausages, nitrate-free ham, nitrate-free hot dog. Use any of those, if you are someone who cannot do without processed meat in your diet.
Well, it’s easy when you know how. Being a doctor and working in a hospital environment as a result, I am always in close contact with the flu virus, if you like.
Being in contact with something contagious and at the same time trying to avoid catching it can be a challenging sport.
A sport I have been playing for over 3 decades. Sometimes I succeed. Other times I fail miserably.
The usual advice we get offered as medical personnel is to get the flu vaccine. Even the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the CDC recommends an annual flu vaccine as the “first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses“. The CDC also says:
“Flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits, and missed work and school due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations”
Great advice. Except that using the flu vaccine to prevent a flu attack is a bit ‘hit or miss’.
What do I mean by that? Let me illustrate with a short story.
I have a female friend who used to work in a Call Center. Let’s call her Lisa. You know how Call Centers can be really busy with Incoming Calls. At least working in a Call Center dominated by Incoming Calls is way better than handling Outgoing Calls.
You know, the ones who always seem to interrupt you at home when you are right in the middle of something important. Like when you are having a nice hearty meal and the blinking phone rings because some folk somewehere wants to sell you Life Insurance that you don’t need.
Those are the unfortunate folks made to undertake Outgoing Calls. Not an attractive proposition. 99.8% rejection.
Anyway, because of the busy nature of the Call Center, anyone working in Lisa’s office needed permission to leave their desk…even if you needed to visit the bathroom. Because the phones have to be answered as they were very keen to cut down on Caller’s Waiting Time.
Decent strategy for great customer service. Not so great, if you are one of those manning the phones.
You pushed a button if you needed to exit your desk for any reason. Your boss received the signal and hopefully he gives you the green light to go.
Sadly, according to Lisa, if you needed to visit the bathroom, you have to cross your legs because this “kind boss” nearly always ignores your shout out. Yep, 9 out of 10 times, he simply ignored your request.
Makes you ask the question: what’s the point of such a policy if the boss just ignored your request. How bizarre!
Well, the flu vaccine is like that. The flu virus simply ignored my flu vaccine protection. Every year I had the flu vaccine, I still had a flu attack.
Makes you wonder: what’s the point of receiving the flu vaccine, if I still get sick every year.
That’s why I have not had the flu vaccine for the last 5 years and have not had the flu over that period. Now I am not saying you should not use the flu vaccine as a means to protect yourself.
You can still go get the vaccine route but there are other ways you can prevent the flu virus from attacking you with or without receiving the flu shot. Natural flu prevention.
This is what this piece is about. It’s about how you can actually prevent a flu attack naturally. Yes, there are natural means of keeping the flu virus away from you easily.
So, how can you prevent the flu naturally?
Tip #1 Wash Your Hands More Often or Use Hand Sanitisers
This is the most obvious advice regarding natural flu prevention. Yes, the flu virus may be an airborne one but most of the spread of the flu virus is by hand from one person to the next.
Simple as this advice is, this is one of the most skipped advice ever. People just don’t wash their hands often enough. I don’t know why, but it’s just the case.
Even hospital workers who are dealing with sick people don’t wash their hands between handling patients. One of the commonest causes of bacterial spread in hospitals believe it or not is staff not washing their hands.
If staff are spreading bacterial infections, how much more a viral one.
The good news is that; things are changing. Campaigns by Infection Control Departments of hospitals have paid off. Hospital staff now wash their hands more than they used to years ago.
Well, this simple rule does not apply to hospital staff alone. The general public need to take this life-saving measure seriously too.
Just wash your hands more often please, especially during the flu season.
And do use soap as well please. Not just plain running water.
To make life even easier for folks, now you can buy hand sanitisers off your supermarket shelf. Small plastic containers of hand sanitisers are now readily available for individuals who would rather rather use this option.
Hand sanitisers usually contain active ingredients (like alcohol and other germicides) that are capable of killing bacteria and viruses. You simply squeeze a little out and rub on your hands as you see in the video below. No hand washing is required.
Hand sanitisers are a nice substitute to hand washing. Particularly ideal in scenarios where there’s no running water available or hand-washing is not practical to carry out.
Have a bottle of these innocuous liquids in your pocket, your handbag, your purse, your car’s glove box, at home, on your desk in the office etc.
Just rub on and go…
Tip #2 Slow Down On The Booze
Well, you may love your alcohol and alcohol may be a good past time for you. But alcohol is not a good mix for an impending cold nor does it offer any protection against the flu virus.
Alcohol, for a start, actually dehydrates you. I’m sure you know that already. When you drink and you happen not to be drunk (in which case you will have fallen asleep), you will agree that you tend to feel thirsty just that little bit more.
That’s because alcohol is a diuretic sending your kidneys into overdrive to make more urine.
Peeing more will leave you dehydrated. Your body cells need to be well hydrated to function optimally.
That’s not all, alcohol is not good for your immune system. Alcohol has a habit of dampening your immune system. Here’s what Dr Stephen Pruett, from the College of Veterinary Medicine at Mississippi State University in the US has to say about alcohol being bad for our immune system:
“Drinking large amounts of alcohol in a short time inhibits the production of signalling molecules that are vital to the immune system. The proteins, known as pro-inflammatory cytokines, have a host of functions that are supposed to kick in when the body is under attack. They include maturing, activating and increasing numbers of immune cells which target invaders such as bacteria and viruses”
How else does alcohol affect our immune system badly? Well, let’s hear it via the next tip below…
Tip #3 Get Adequate Sleep
I was talking about how alcohol negatively affects our immune system in the last natural flu prevention tip. Well, the way alcohol does that is the negative impact booze has on our sleep.
Yes, the relationship between alcohol and sleep is sort of complex but the long and short of it all is that alcohol is not good for sleep. Not at all.
Do not let anyone tell you otherwise. Yes, alcohol will make you fall asleep pretty quickly. You know that already, don’t you?
And that’s where the misconception comes from. Because alcohol makes us fall asleep when we consume it, the belief is that alcohol is good for sleep.
No, it isn’t. Alcohol is bad for sleep. The quality of the sleep is badly affected.
Anyway the point here is; you need adequate sleep to keep your immune system ticking nicely. Poor sleep will wreak havoc to your immune system.
How much sleep are we talking about? How much sleep do we need to prevent a flu attack?
If you can help it, get a minimum of 8 hours sleep every night. I know it’s hard with so much distraction around us but 8 hours sleep a night is protective of your immune system. This is not some conjecture. It has been proven by science that sleep is good for our immune system.
I am living proof of that because every time I have had a flu attack, there’s always been a link to lack of sleep. Not because of alcohol, I should add, but because of working night shifts as a doctor.
Research has shown that sleep and circardian rythm do impact our immune system without doubt. When you get a good amount of sleep, the T-Cells in the body are made much more readily available and these T-cells are also widely redistributed to lymph nodes.
This simple action is similar to sending these protective soldiers to sentinel posts and positions ready to fight any oncoming flu virus or any other virus for that matter.
See your T- cells as your soldiers…because that’s what they are, really.
You need a good supply of Vitamin C to keep your T-cells and other germ fighting cells in top form. Not surprising therefore that lots of people take Vitamin C supplements.
The problem is that a lot of the regular Vitamin C supplements in circulation are simply not effective. This is mainly because of absorption issues. Most regular Vitamin C supplements are poorly absorbed.
Enter Liposomal Vitamin C.
Liposomal Vitamin C are superior to regular Vitamin C because liposomal VItamin C are more readily absorbed from the gut and are therefore more bioavailable for your body cells to use.
My advice is: if you want to give yourself the Vitamin C cellular protection against the flu naturally, then use liposomal Vitamin C. Liposomal Vitamin C is better absorbed and you get the natural protection against the flu virus that your body deserves.
Well, ideally I should say; a nice way to prevent flu naturally is to get adequate Vitamin D. However, not all of us are lucky enough to be living in places where there’s adequate sunshine all year round.
Because the best way to get your supply of Vitamin D is to get it for free. Through the sun’s ultraviolet B band rays. All you need is 20 minutes exposure to those ultraviolet rays 3 times a week and you are done. I should be so lucky.
If you are like me who lives in a part of the world with very little sunshine, then the easiest option to get your Vitamin D flu protection is via supplements.
Not only do olive leaf extract provide you with natural protection against flu attack all year round, these supplements also offer a cardioprotection and anti-oxidant properties. Not a bad investment for your health, if you ask me.
Can you eat your way out of Alzheimer’s disease? Turns out, we can. In a preventative way, that is.
What you will be receiving in exchange for your time spent on this page is a nice overview of Alzheimer disease prevention diet and some other Alzheimer preventative strategies that you can employ starting today.
The incidence of Alzheimer’s disease is on the increase especially in the Western world. Alzheimer’s disease is probably more prevalent now because we are living longer.
By the time we hit age 85, the number affected be in the region of 1 in 2 in that age group, if current predictions come true. It is thought that by 2050, 13.8 million Americans will be affected. Those are some scary stats.
The point here is you don’t have to run away from fats in general. You only have to eat the right fats. Eat lots of them at that. Because that study says a high intake of unsaturated fats and unhydrogenated fats helps prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
In fact, a more recent study published in Neurology journal, it was demonstrated that eating a Mediterranean-style diet was associated with a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Study participants were aged between 30 – 60 years and were followed up for 3 years with MRI Scan imaging.
The idea was to see how adherence to the Mediterranean diet influenced development of Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers. Needless to say, the study participants were Alzheimer’s disease-free at the start of the study.
The participants were classified as having either low adherence to the Mediterranean diet or high adherence to the diet.
This recent study showed that lower Mediterranean diet adherence was associated with progressive Alzheimer’s disease biomarker abnormalities in these middle-aged adults.
In effect a Mediterranean-style diet was actually protective of Alzheimer’s disease and is one of the things you can do to avoid Alzheimer’s disease.
Eat a Plant-based diet I know carnivores would be screaming, what the… expletives, at their computer screens or smart phones whilst reading this.
Well, there is no need to scream at your device, because as you just saw from that recent study, the Mediterranean-style diet does lower your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
What constitutes a Mediterranean diet?
It’s fruits, legumes, and vegetables plus healthy plant-derived fats.
When I say Legumes, people always ask what I mean. Well, for avoidance of doubt, legumes refer to beans, peas and lentils. Some of the loveliest, most nutritious foods on the planet.
If the results from that study are anything to go by, then it is clear that animal products don’t do much to stave off Alzheimer’s disease.
You can eat as much animal products as you like, so long as you understand the risks.
Okay, on a practical note, I am not saying you have to go Vegan. Nope.
What you can do is reduce your consumption of animal products inclusive of dairy.
You don’t have to cut them out altogether. Just reduce your consumption of them. You are more likely to find joy with that than a total ban. Makes sense?
Eat more plants!
Do Physical and Mental Exercise This goes without saying. I am not the first to mention this. You would have heard it elsewhere and everywhere. Exercise is good for you.
I know this piece was supposed to be about Alzheimer’s disease diet which means the focus should be about diet.
But it will be remiss of me of not to talk about exercise, if we are talking about Alzheimer’s disease prevention.
Exercise has many ramifications. You get immediate benefits from getting yourself cardiovascularly fit, fat burn and muscle toning. But you also get long term benefits.
Long term benefits of exercise include Alzheimer’s disease prevention. It is recommended that you get about 150 minutes of exercise a week as a means to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
And it doesn’t matter whether, it is cardio exercise or resistance training. Any exercise will do.
Here’s a summary of what you can do to prevent or avoid Alzheimer’s disease:
1. Keep your intake of saturated fats low, really low.
2. Eat more unsaturated fats. You can get these from nuts, seeds, avocados and oils sympathetically extracted from these.
3. Avoid trans-fats foods. These foods will include commercially available fried foods and pastries. Something to mention though. If you see on the food label “partially hydrogenated oils”, that should qualify as trans-fat. Avoid.
4. Reduce your consumption of dairy
5. Eat more plants – fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains
6. Reduce your meat consumption, in particular red meat
7. Meet your daily requirements for Vitamin E. I am not suggesting taking Vitamin E supplement. That has been found to be disappointing. Get your vitamin E from your food – nuts, seeds, dark leafy greens, whole grains. You need to eat about 15 mg of Vitamin E daily.
8. Avoid Vitamin supplements with Iron and Copper. You should be looking to get your iron and copper from your food. If you are iron deficient, do not self-treat. The instructions to take iron should come from your doctor, not you or anyone else. Excess iron is just as bad as lack of it.
9. Reduce exposure to aluminium. I know it’s all around us, aluminium. There’s some link between aluminium and Alzheimer’s disease, so it will be prudent at this point to reduce your exposure to it. Choose your cooking pots carefully. Be careful with products like baking powder, and over-the-counter antacids. Some of them contain aluminium. Avoid.
10. Take your vitamin B12 daily, if you are a vegan. Your recommended daily dose should be 2.4 micrograms.
11. Get as much sleep as possible each night. Shift workers may find it difficult to adhere to this but you should look to get as much sleep as possible when you are off duty. 7 – 8 hours’ sleep a night is what you should be aiming for.
Sleep is important for forming new memories. If you liken sleep to an email account and liken new memories to the ‘Inbox’, lack of sleep will mean new memories will bounce back just like an email will bounce if the address in incorrect. Instead of having new memories received or stored, they will bounce if you are sleep-deprived.
Also, sleep period is the time the brain detoxes itself. Getting rid of the damage of wakefulness, recharging itself and getting rid of that toxic protein, beta amyloid. Lack of sleep means you deprive your brain of that wash-out of beta amyloid. Read more about sleep benefits from this book “Why We Sleep” at Amazon UK here.
12. Exercise your brain and your physical body. As I stated previously, 150 minutes of physical exercise a week is ideal and exercise for your brain works just as well.
Brain exercises will include activities like crosswords, puzzles, play scrabble, solve riddles and twists. Anything that exercises your brain even reading newspapers and online articles like this will help you exercise your brain and stave off Alzheimer’s disease.
13. Quit smoking cigarettes. Look for smoking cessation programs around where you live. You are probably going to find more success with that method than trying to go it alone. Of course, if you can do it yourself, go ahead and do it.
Those are your tips for preventing Alzheimer’s disease. Take them on board and start using these tips starting today.
Don’t rely on Big Pharma to rescue you in later years. There’s no guarantee they will. Why wait when you can take Alzheimer preventing steps yourself.
Can you actually stop after eating dizziness? Yes, you can. Avoiding after eating dizziness requires a few steps that most people can adopt into their daily lifestyle.
Feeling giddy after eating is never a good thing and the feedback I get from individuals with this problem tells me it is something that can actually dominate their lives.
Some of the ideas necessary to stop after eating dizziness would involve your health professional. But there are also other steps you can employ to treat dizziness after eating that do not necessarily involve a health professional too.
Of course, professional steps represent treatments that go beyond the realms of the average Joe Bloggs.
Going on the above, measures to stop after eating dizziness can be divided into 2 broad categories:
Generic Steps to Stop After Eating Dizziness
Apply these outlined tips below and you could be saying goodbye to your dizziness that happens after eating your delicious meal.
No Sugary Drinks
One of the things sugary drinks do is cause a blood sugar spike. For someone with a reactive hypoglycemia, this can be a problem. Why, because that sugar spike will be quickly followed by a drop in blood glucose (hyopoglycemia) leading to dizziness which is one of the ways low blood sugar manifests.
One solution to avoid dizziness after eating is to stay away from sugary sodas and other sugary beverages. I won’t also advise you to have the so-called diet sodas instead. They contain Aspartame which is not good for you any way. Drink water. It is safer and has no calorie value.
2. Eat Often I know this is a little tricky when you are trying to avoid after eating dizziness or light-headedness. A distressing problem that is associated with eating. I can hear you saying, heck, I feel dizzy or giddy when I eat and here you are, telling me to eat more frequently.
Wouldn’t that make the problem worse? No, it wouldn’t, if you eat the right foods.
This approach is ideal for people who have problems maintaining their blood sugar levels with long intervals between meals. If you are that type of person, then frequent meals will be the way to go.
But do bear in mind though that the food portions I am talking about have to be small and therein lies the problem.
Some people’s definition of ‘small’ could be my ‘big’. You have to apply common sense because if you eat heavy portions frequently, then obesity will be knocking on your door. Simple as that. And as you know, obesity creates all sorts of problems on its own.
What’s my definition of eating often? Well, about 6 meals a day. But remember, SMALL.
3. Eat Complex Carbs One way to stop dizziness after eating is to incorporate complex carbs into your diet. Complex carbohydrates have the unique characteristic of being digested slowly.
Why is this important?
Slow digestion means your blood glucose rises gradually instead of sharply. Your body prefers a gradual rise in blood glucose after you have eaten because such a rise is a lot more metabolically friendly.
Complex carbs are available in whole grains, beans and lentils. Eat brown rice instead of white rice, eat quinoa, eat bulgur wheat, eat oatmeal, have some chickpeas, red kidney beans, green peas etc.
Low glycemic index complex carbs will avoid the metabolic chaos that can lead to low blood sugar which ultimately can result in giddiness and light-headedness soon after you have eaten.
4. Avoid Processed Carbs Just like you can treat dizziness after eating by avoiding sugary drinks, so can you do the same by avoiding processed carbs and indeed junk foods for that matter.
Same reason as stated previously. Heavily processed carbs will cause a sugar spike a and an insulin spike correspondingly.
The result: Your blood sugar level may crash with the high insulin levels resulting in hypoglycemia. How do you feel when your blood sugar is low? You will feel light-headed, giddy, dizzy amongst other symptoms. Not nice!
5. Eat lots of vegetables You can treat dizziness after eating just by having more vegetables in your diet. Most vegetables are low calorie high nutrient foods that are actually good for your body anyway. So, your body needs them.
Vegetables contain lots of fiber. Fiber generally slows down the digestive process. Slowing down the digestive process means you release glucose from vegetables very slowly.
The idea is to prevent blood sugar spikes. Maintaining your blood glucose on an even keel stops after eating dizziness.
6. Be Careful with Exercise Exercise is good for you in all sorts of ways. That much we know and indeed we advise having 150 minutes at least of exercise every week.
Performing exercise soon after eating is not a smart move (no pun intended). Doing exercise soon after eating places a burden on your circulatory system. Not only does your heart have to pump extra blood to your intestines where digestion is taking place, it will have to supply more blood to the muscles involved in the exercise process as well.
This extraordinary demand on your heart could result in a fall in blood pressure which would lead to giddiness, dizziness or light-headedness after eating.
If you have a problem with after eating dizziness and you are keen to exercise, my advice would be wait at least 2 – 3 hours after eating before you engage in any exercise activity. That delay between eating and exercise is a good approach to avoiding feeling dizzy after eating.
7. Drink Plenty of Water Drinking plenty of water ties in with the exercise advice. If you are going to engage in vigorous exercises, then you need to properly rehydrate yourself, if you want to avoid after eating dizziness.
Some of us will advise drinking to thirst, others will say drink about 4 ounces of water every 30 minutes when doing vigorous exercise or when the weather is very hot.
Outside of exercise, it generally makes sense to drink a glass of water (about 500 mls) before you eat. Why is this? The water will get absorbed before you start your meal and would be an ideal panacea for keeping your blood pressure steady when you start eating.
This tip is very important for those folks who have after eating dizziness after first bite or those who have dizziness immediately after eating. Drink at least 500 mls or if you can handle it, a pint of water which is 750 ml about 10 – 15 minutes before you start eating.
8. Keep Food Portions Small I know I did mention about eating frequently previously but I think I need to emphasise another point leading on from that.
I am talking about food portions.
I did talk about the mechanics involved in after eating dizziness here. Go read it, if you haven’t yet. One of the things that will potentiate a significant drop in blood pressure when you eat is having a large portion of food.
Yes, food can be tasty, I know, especially fatty foods. The temptation then is to eat unusually large portions sometimes without realising you have. You are not helping yourself in that situation.
If you want to stop after eating dizziness, you will be doing yourself a huge favour to keep your food portions on the small side. You will be giving your digestive system less work to do when you adopt this method of eating.
9. Have Ginger Now I have to say, this method of stopping after dizziness after eating is not evidence-based. However, I have had reports of folks saying they were able to stop their after eating light-headedness and dizziness by drinking ginger either in its raw form or drinking ginger tea.
These guys have either drunken the ginger before eating or had the ginger with their food. Ginger does have a calming effect on the stomach. That much we know.
Well, I have included the ginger tip here even though this recommendation is not based on scientific evidence. Why? For the simple reason, that even if it doesn’t work, you lose nothing because ginger has so many other benefits.
And ginger does your body no harm. So, you lose nothing. Worth a try!
Professional Measures To Stop After Eating Dizziness
By and large, some professional help will be required to treat after eating dizziness in stubborn cases or in situations where a medical cause has been identified.
This means the treatment for the problem would be targeted at the identified cause.
If for instance, you have reactive hypoglycemia and following investigations, you are now diagnosed to have prediabetes or frank type 2 diabetes, then of course, your health professional would come into the picture. Your health professional will assist you to treat the dizziness after eating by managing your prediabetes or type 2 diabetes in that instance.
Or if you had been diagnosed to have insulinoma which is rare beta cell tumour of the pancreas, then you are probably going to have to need surgery to have the tumour excised. That’s how the dizziness after eating will stop.
If the cause of the problem is some prescription medication that you are taking, then you are going to have a chat with your doctor to have either the doses changed or the medication stopped by your doctor whilst he substitutes it for another med.
I could go on and on about the different medical scenarios but you get the drift. Identify the cause and treat the cause to treat the after eating dizziness or light-headedness.
After eating dizziness and light headedness appears to be a problem that afflicts a lot of people. So much so that I now get queries in my inbox regarding the problem of feeling giddy, dizzy or light-headed after eating a meal.
I admire people who like to make quantum leaps in searching for the truth regarding their health. These people reject the good in favour of the great. I like the camaraderie that the internet sometimes generates.
I like the fact that I can sharpen my mind about stuff that I never thought of as being popular health concerns. Draw my attention to such concerns and I have no choice but to respond to the clarion call.
As they say iron sharpens iron when you are surrounded by lovely and inquisitive folks. It’s one way to keep the golden grey matter active.
That’s how I got to put this piece together because I was prompted by some of my readers to say something about feeling giddy after eating.
The last of the queries came from Peter (not his real name) and I shall reproduce his question which skirts around the problem of after eating giddiness or dizziness and light headedness.
Here we go, Peter. Your words:
“I thought I had hypoglycemia because several medical nurses and doctors have told me I did and that I needed to eat every two hours or so to keep my blood sugar level. But, according to your article, hypoglycemic folks don’t notice the dawn phenomenon I describe below.
I get dizzy immediately after having breakfast. (too much of a blood rise?) I feel good as soon as I get out of bed, with just a hunger feeling, until I eat. Then I am very unstable. The dawn phenomenon in your article says it occurs between 2:00 AM and 8:00 AM and does not have much of an impact on hypoglycemia patients. I don’t eat breakfast until 9:00 AM. By the time I finish eating it may be 9:30 AM.
Would my dizzy disoriented feeling be considered the “dawn phenomenon”? I have never awakened easily all my life. It took me an hour or so to be alert while I was still very active and healthy. But what I am experiencing now is extremely frustrating and debilitating.
I don’t get alert anymore without the dizziness/light headedness. I can’t walk straight, can’t drive and can’t stand very long without getting faint. I have had this problem for the last four years. It came and went. (off and on the first two years, with the help of acupuncture).
Then I must have become immune to acupuncture. It stopped giving me any relief. It is now constant. When I lie down in a supine position I get relief for a short while.
Your article mentions drinking a sweet drink when the blood sugar gets low. I tried that and the dizziness got worse. It seems I am hyperglycemic rather than hypoglycemic. Each time I have had blood drawn and subjected to metabolic evaluation, after fasting, my glucose tests “normal”. My doctor sees me as pre-diabetic.
Is it possible that someone with my symptoms can progress to keto acidosis? That scares me. I hear it can be fatal.
I am confused as to whether I am hypoglycemic or hyperglycemic, neither of which show up in my blood specimens, over and over.
Am I completely headed in the wrong direction? Is there another disease of the pancreas or other parts of the body that would cause my types of symptoms?
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions and come up with any fresh suggestions or thoughts.”
A little disclaimer here. My advice here is informational and educational not diagnostic. If you are unsure of your symptoms, you may well consult your personal physician. Are we cool? Yep?
Okay, Peter’s problem actually highlights what a lot of folks suffer from (in silence I should add). These people feel giddy, dizzy or light-headed after eating a meal. Some will have a feeling of nausea after eating consistently.
Heck, you are supposed to feel good after eating, not miserable.
First of all, in addressing Peter’s problem, he raised the issue of the dawn phenomenon. Peter says “Would my dizzy disoriented feeling be considered the “dawn phenomenon”? No, Peter it isn’t. I can say your problem is definitely NOT the dawn phenomenon.
The dawn phenomenon is rare occurrence in non-diabetics. Not only that, the dawn phenomenon is not related to food in any way. The dawn phenomenon is a cortisol-related problem that occurs between 2am and 8am. It happens well before you even consider having breakfast. Besides, the dawn phenomenon refers to high blood sugar in relation to cortisol rise. Read about it here, if you may.
People who feel giddy whilst eating or feel lightheaded or dizzy after eating a meal have an issue that may be caused by 7 main culprits:
What can cause after eating dizziness, giddiness, light-headedness or nausea.
After meal low blood pressure (post-prandial hypotension)
Low blood sugar (reactive hypoglycemia)
Heart problems and hardening of blood vessels
Inner ear problems
Stress or Anxiety
Let’s tackle the causes of light-headedness or dizziness after eating one after another briefly.
Low blood pressure (Post Prandial Hypotension)
Dealing with the food you eat is hard work for your body believe it or not. When work is involved then a lot of physiological changes take place that ordinarily you are not aware of. You go on with your life and no one gets to notice. Not even you…ordinarily.
Problem occurs when those physiological adaptations begin to sing out of tune. Feeling dizzy after having your food is one of those situations.
What am I talking about?
Well, the cardiovascular system and your nervous system are called into action to help the digestive system.
To meet the demands of digestion (remember you have just loaded your gut with some grub out of hunger), your cardiovascular system needs to pump more blood into the Gastrointestinal tract. This is to aid digestion, absorption and transportation of nutrients to your body cells where they are needed.
In order for this blood diversion to occur, the other body organs have to “calm down” just a little bit with their blood supply needs. So, vessels to those other organs not directly involved with the digestive process may need to narrow themselves in preference to the widening of the vessels supplying the gut.
This also means your heart needs to beat faster to facilitate these silent events going on. This narrowing of some vessels and widening of the vessels in need of more blood is controlled by the autonomic nervous system (ANS).
We won’t get geeky and get into the nitty gritty of what the autonomic nervous system does but suffice to say, it’s a well-tuned coordination between the circulatory system and the nervous system.
Now whilst all of these events are happening, your blood pressure must stay the same regardless.
When there is poor coordination between the nervous system and the circulatory systems for whatever reason, your blood pressure will not be maintained as it should.
What I am saying here is that, the digestive process provokes a drop in your blood pressure either during the eating process or after you have eaten. This in medical parlance is called post prandial hypotension. Hypotension means low blood pressure. Post prandial hypotension means ‘after eating low blood pressure’.
This ‘after eating drop in blood pressure’ explains symptoms such as after eating dizziness or light-headedness, after eating nausea, after eating fainting episodes, after eating stomach pains and after eating chest pains.
I should add though that after eating chest pains may be due to a heart attack and that’s a lot more serious. Don’t simply assume your symptom of ‘after eating chest pain’ is due to post prandial hypotension. Seek medical help if that is you.
As far as Peter having issues with after food dizziness is concerned, I would suggest he and his medical practitioner exclude after meal low blood pressure.
In particular where Peter says “When I lie down in a supine position I get relief”. Lying down equilibrates blood pressure. The heart doesn’t have to work so hard in pumping blood to your brain when you lie down compared to when you are standing up. Makes sense?
I have also had someone write to me about having dizziness when eating first bite of food. This is likely due to this same blood pressure adaptation problem. Got to remember, the digestive process kicks in from the minute you start chewing your food in the mouth.
Dizziness when eating first bite may seem premature but it happens and it happens because of low blood pressure triggered by the food being chewed and ingested. Same principle.
Low Blood Sugar (After eating low blood sugar)
Another reason someone like Peter is having after food dizziness is low blood sugar. Surprised?
Well, it happens.
Food is supposed to raise your blood sugar but in some people, this rise in blood sugar is a temporary event that is quickly followed by a sudden drop in blood sugar levels.
We call this Reactive hypogylycemia. Searching for the cause of after meal dizziness was the reason, Peter found my website. I wrote in detail about the problem of reactive hypoglycemia here. This the article Peter read.
Essentially the food you eat triggers a huge surge of insulin. This huge surge is followed by a quick response to the very high levels of insulin circulating in the blood.
The response being that the insulin opens the doors of the cells and boom, the glucose in your blood circulation is driven into the cells very quickly. Because that’s what insulin does. It drives sugar into the cells from the blood circulation. High blood insulin means a very efficient blood glucose clear-out. Too efficient!
The net result of that event is your blood sugar plummets leading to after meal low blood sugar. A paradox…I know.
Dizziness and light-headedness are some of the symptoms of low blood sugar, hence you feel dizzy after a meal. There are various causes of reactive hypoglycemia or what I call after eating low blood sugar. You may need to be investigated for that to establish exactly why you have it.
Peter in his letter to me, says he has had blood tests done for blood glucose. This is well in order. Why?
Because one of the common cause of reactive hypoglycemia is type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes. Insulin resistance, in short.
So, Peter has done the right thing about excluding type 2 diabetes and it would appear his glucose results were “normal”. Quotation emphasis his not mine. My deduction from that is his blood glucose results were inconclusive.
If you are someone in Peter’s position, especially if you feel light-headed or dizzy after eating sugar, you need a Standard 75 gmOral Glucose Tolerance Test or a Mixed Meal Tolerance Test to properly exclude or better still confirm your metabolic status.
Those two tests are probably the best means of resolving any confusion between hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia.
Are you prediabetic? Are you frankly diabetic? Those 2 questions need to be answered properly. This is particularly important in individuals who have dizziness or light-headedness after eating sugary foods or heavily processed carbs.
Although the causes of after meal dizziness may vary, but for folks who feel dizzy or light-headed after eating sugar, the most likely cause is reactive hypoglycemia.
It may actually mean being tested more than once.
Oh yes, Peter, you may need to be tested at least twice. And I mean a full Standardised 75 gm Oral Glucose Tolerance Test, not just Random blood sugar test. Sorry about that but at least you will know where you stand metabolically speaking afterwards.
Heart problems and hardening of blood vessels
Your heart is your body’s pumping machine. It pumps blood from the heart for onward distribution to the rest of your body.
Remember, I said earlier on that your heart will need to pump faster and sometimes harder to accommodate the increased blood flow requirement needed by your intestines to digest, absorb and transport nutrients to nourish your body.
For this to happen, the heart needs to pump efficiently and obey orders from the autonomic nervous system. The blood vessels need to be pliable to enable relaxation of their walls or constriction of their walls depending on the task at hand.
If the vessels are hardened, that means they can’t relax very well. This is called atherosclerosis. This means the blood pressure changes essential for the digestive process will not occur as ought to be.
Also, if the heart cannot pump efficiently in response to these digestive needs, blood pressure will be low. Low blood pressure after eating will eventually lead to dizziness or light-headedness after eating.
Inefficiency of the heart pump or hardening of blood vessels may occur together or exclusively. Either way, both heart pumping issues and or hardening of blood vessels (atherosclerosis) can cause after meal dizziness, giddiness or light-headedness.
Inner ear problems
There is a part of the inner ear that contains what we call semi-circular canals. These canals contribute to our sense of balance.
There are 3 semi-circular canals that lead up to one central area called the vestibule. This vestibular area has a nerve called the vestibular nerve which joins another nerve called the cochlear nerve. This conjoined nerve sends signals to the brain where movements and hearing are interpreted.
The cochlear nerve is responsible for hearing, by the way and the vestibular nerve and vestibular system is responsible for balance. The vestibular system senses movements by activating the sensory nerves when you make any movements in particular moving your head in any direction.
Anything that disrupts the smooth functioning of this system will affect your sense of balance either standing up or even sitting down.
Infections of the inner ear by bacteria or a virus and meniere’s disease will cause you to feel dizzy after eating in an indirect way. Also, anything that affects a smooth blood flow to the inner ear, head injury can lead to dizziness following a meal.
Thyroid issues be it underactive or overactive thyroid problems can cause dizziness on their own in the absence of a meal challenge. The mechanism is not very clear but dizziness is a recognised symptom of hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism.
Whether one can blame a malfunction of the thyroid gland to light-headedness after eating is open to question. But I have had people say their dizziness after eating was corrected after they fixed their overactive or underactive thyroid problem.
So, if you work it from first principles, you may conclude that the after eating dizziness encountered by that individual may have been due to the thyroid problem.
Stress and Anxiety
Stress does all sorts of silly damage to our body. Prolonged stress can lead to anxiety-related mental health problems.
One thing I have noticed in my medical career is that when you have anxiety, it can lead to all sorts of symptoms. Some of those symptoms may be difficult to explain, but they happen nonetheless. So, having after eating dizziness or nausea as a result of stress does not come to me as a surprise.
It is tall order to ask people to reduce stress in their lives because stress reduction is not a push-button exercise. But if you can, then by all means do so. Going back to Peter’s situation, I suspect that even though there may be a physical cause to his giddy spells following a meal, I also think there is an anxiety aspect as well.
I say that because as you can tell from Peter’s account above, he found some relief from acupuncture but that relief was short-lasting. Acupuncture is not an evidence-based treatment for after eating dizziness. My theory is that the acupuncture provided a psychological remedy at the time, rather than a physical one. Obviously, the remedial effect faded away over a short time, sadly.
The fact that Peter responded initially to the acupuncture, makes me think there is a psychological component to his light-headedness and giddiness after eating.
Will medications make you feel light-headed after you have eaten? Of course, they can. The problem is worse when you are on a host of medications that may work synergistically together.
Any blood pressure lowering medication can cause you to become dizzy with or without food. I am referring to medications prescribed by your doctor to control hypertension of whatever cause. That’s why your doctor may need to monitor your response to your blood pressure meds both in his office and at home.
Also, prescription meds that will make you pee more often can have the same effect. Meds that enable you pass urine often (what we call diuretics) can shrink your blood volume, causing your blood pressure to drop. This drop in blood pressure can cause you get giddy after eating. Some antihistamines can make you feel dizzy as well.
Those causes listed above are the reason you may feel dizzy or light-headed after you have had your food. You may need a little adjustment to your lifestyle to control or deal with the after eating dizziness problem and of course if the cause is found, the task of solving it becomes easier…a lot easier.
Low blood sugar in non-diabetics continues to be a mystery to some people. Suffice to say low blood sugar in non diabetics is a reality. It’s not a myth.
I have written about it previously on this blog, but queries subsist. It does look like some of my readers would prefer a nuanced commentary on low blood sugar in non diabetics.
Hence, I have had to oblige. After all, I am here to serve your interests. Whatever you want me to write about, I shall see it as an assignment to be fulfilled. My homework, if you like.
Here is the thing: Low blood sugar occurs in non-diabetics. The fortunate thing is that, the phenomenon of low blood sugar in non diabetics is an uncommon event. Thank heavens for that. Let me illustrate with a live example of how non-diabetics can fall into the low blood sugar trap…easily.
I was watching Bear Grylls Mission Survive program some time ago on my Television. You know how Bear Grylls puts his survivalists through their paces. Testing their endurance, physical fitness and indeed emotional fitness to their limit.
Sometimes I’m watching that and I say to myself; I don’t think I can do those tasks that Bear Grylls sets the participants. For a start, I don’t do heights. How’s that for a start, huh. Fat chance.
Anyway, on this particular episode which was a celebrity Mission Survive, one of the contestants started behaving somewhat erratically at 3 o’clock in the morning. I shall withhold his name here for a variety of reasons, not least, privacy.
The combination of the stress of the tasks, poor sleep in the jungle and lack of decent food had edged this celebrity gentleman into the domain of low blood sugar, even though he was not a diabetic. That was a live example of a non-diabetic individual dropping his blood sugar levels given the “right” circumstances.
Watch the video below and you will see what I am talking about around minute 23. Before then see how these celebrities struggle to catch fish from very shallow waters.
For the most part, most non-diabetics will not experience any significant episode of low blood sugar unless all the ducks are lined up in a row.
The reason being that the natural mechanisms that fight you from developing low blood sugar kick in and would stop the hypoglycemic event in its tracks.
Low blood sugar in non-diabetics – Your defence mechanism
There are 2 main hormonal defence that normally would come into play. These are protective. They stop non-diabetics from sliding into hypoglycaemia. That is why it is not common for these low blood sugar events to occur.
What am I talking about?
I am talking about 3 hormones namely:
Glucagon in particular is Insulin’s enemy. Insulin lowers blood sugar. Glucagon raises blood sugar.
If for any reason your blood glucose is dropping, that’s a trigger for glucagon hormone release. And in return, insulin secretion is inhibited at the same time. Because glucagon and insulin “can’t be seen in the same room”. They detest each other. Weirdly, both insulin and glucagon are secreted by the same organ – the pancreas.
Glucagon causes release of stored glucose in particular from the liver to raise blood sugar levels. And at the same time, plummeting blood sugar levels is a stressful event for the body and your body will recognise that.
Cue, cortisol hormone and adrenaline.
Adrenaline is released preparing your body for flight or fight. If you are going to run away from a threat, you are going to need your muscles and your muscles are going to need glucose to facilitate your escape, because glucose is the preferred energy substrate.
And for that glucose to be made available for your muscles, your glucose stores will have to be raided. Adrenaline makes sure that happens. All of these is automatic and pretty rapid.
Cortisol is another stress hormone. Cortisol also helps your body fight low blood glucose by helping to breakdown glycogen – the glucose storage form. The blood glucose elevating effects of cortisol is however slow compared to the effect of adrenaline or glucagon.
The combination of these protective mechanisms is the reason low blood sugar in people without diabetes is an uncommon medical event.
What is considered low blood sugar in non-diabetics?
Low blood sugar does not distinguish between a diabetic and non-diabetic. It affects everyone the same way. Low blood sugar is low blood sugar whether you are the President or the little unknown farmer in a 3rd world country.
By definition, low blood sugar is blood glucose below 72 mg/dl (4.0 mmol/l). If a non-diabetic has a blood sugar level below this 72mg/dl (4.0 mmol/l), this is considered low.
I should state though that some non-diabetics may not have the typical symptoms of low blood glucose at this level. Some will only begin to experience symptoms at around 54 mg/dl (3.0 mmol/l).
Certainly, a critical level (I repeat, critical) to be considered low blood sugar in non-diabetics will be 45 mg/dl (2.5 mmol/l).
What causes low blood sugar in non diabetics?
The causes of low blood sugar in non-diabetics are best framed in 2 main boxes – Reactive and Non-Reactive (Fasting).
Reactive low blood sugar is a phenomenon that is tied to a meal. It is low blood glucose that occurs soon after an eating episode. And there is a time frame involved too. Reactive hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) occurs usually within 4 hours of eating a meal.
The usual culprit is a refined carbohydrate meal. The background is the food causes an insulin spike and I mean a good spike of insulin. You could call it an insulin hyper-response.
Insulin drives glucose from the blood circulation into the individual body cells where the glucose is needed. Because the level of insulin is so high, so will the glucose clearance be. The net result is that blood sugar will crash like a coconut falling off a tree.
The fall in blood glucose is a reaction to the food that was consumed, hence the term reactive hypoglycemia or reactive low blood sugar. Reactive hypoglycemia is a paradox because eating is supposed to elevate blood glucose levels but in this instance, the exact opposite is happening.
That’s not normal. Hence, if someone is experiencing reactive hypoglycemia or reactive low blow blood sugar, it should set alarm bells ringing.
Why, because reactive low blood sugar can caused by:
Type 2 diabetes
Previous surgery on the stomach which causes food to exit the stomach too quickly
Eating heavily processed carbohydrate food
If you are having symptoms suggestive of reactive hypoglycemia, then you really need to be investigated. This is because most people who have reactive low blood sugar are insulin resistant and are Type 2 diabetics waiting to be diagnosed.
What about the causes of fasting low blood sugar (non-reactive low blood sugar)
Non-reactive low blood sugar is an episode of low blood glucose that occurs independent of meal intake.
Non-reactive hypoglycemia (non-reactive low blood sugar) should raise a suspicion of a couple of medical conditions like:
Medical conditions that affect the liver and kidneys
Tumours of the pancreas that over-secret insulin (insulinoma)
Pregnancy (not exactly a medical condition but you get the drift)
Heavy alcohol consumption
Pharmaceuticals that interfere with liver function – salicylates, quinine, pentamidine, sulphonamides
Accidental overdose of insulin
Adrenal gland issues
Not least, Fasting, itself
Identifying the cause of low blood sugar will require investigations directed at the suspected cause and treating it accordingly.
How to prevent low blood sugar in non-diabetics?
The best way to deal with low blood sugar in non-diabetics is to target the identified cause of the problem.
But you can apply a couple of general principles to prevent low blood sugar in non-diabetics. It’s all about altering the way you eat and what you actually eat.
>> Introduce more vegetables to your diet, in particular leafy greens. The reason being these vegetables are unlikely going to provoke a huge insulin spike which can cause problems soon after eating.
>> Root vegetables are allowed but don’t prepare them in such a way as to imitate refinement because this will alter their glycemic index.
>> Introduce complex carbohydrates to your diet. Complex carbs are slow to digest and would not not usually cause a huge insulin response. Examples include oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, bulgur wheat, millet and triticale.
>> Add a good amount of proteins to your meals. You may go for animal proteins if you prefer but plant proteins are just as good without the burden of saturated fats to contend with. Lentils, peas and beans will fit in very well.
>> If you are going to have animal protein as a way of preventing low blood sugar, you may want to peg how much red meat you consume. I always preach having white meat over red meat any day.
>> You can of course have dairy products if you want to prevent low blood sugar as a non-diabetic, unless you are a vegan but do bear in mind the carb and fats together interplay.
>> I will not be prescriptive about whether you should have high fat meals or high carb meals. The choice would be yours. But what you mustn’t do is adopt high fat and high carbs together approach. Not good.
>> One approach to prevent low blood sugar in non diabetics is to eat frequently but in small proportions. Essentially you are being offered a license to eat as often as possible. The problem there is you have to actually eat small quantities, otherwise your weight may spiral out of control.
>> If you want to prevent low blood sugar as a non-diabetic, you may want to be very careful with dried fruits like raisins, apricots, bananas, dates and dried apples. Dried fruits tend to have a high concentration of sugar. This will result in blood sugar spikes that may precede a blood sugar crash afterwards.
>> Whatever you do as a non-diabetic who wants to deal with low blood sugar, avoid refined carbs. One of the commonest causes of this problem especially reactive hypoglycemia is heavily processed carbs. Not a great idea. Avoid.
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