What happens in hypoglycemia can be blamed on the pancreas a gland that no one gives much thought to unless he or she happens to be diabetic. (I learned a lot more about my pancreas from what turned out to be an informative, albeit painful, illness. I will tell you all about that in a later chapter.)
The pancreas is the gland that produces insulin. Diabetes is the disease that comes from an underproduction of insulin by that gland, but in hypoglycemia the pancreas overreacts and produces too much insulin. This is called hyperinsulinism. I quote Dr. Fredericks:
A piece of candy or a glass of orange juice (IB percent sugar) will rescue the diabetic from insulin shock. Will it help the person with an overactive pancreas? No for a very simple reason. The pancreas works because sugar has been eaten. (If it didn’t, you would be diabetic.) If the pancreas is overactive, sugar isn’t going to quiet it down, it will stimulate the gland still more. So it is that the person with low blood sugar makes himself worse by eating sugar, and the ironic feature of the disorder is the craving of sweets that accompanies it.
And, I might add, never once in my life’s history of low blood sugar did any physician suggest I take a glucose tolerance test. An unpleasant experience, but, then, aren’t all diagnostic tests? And the glucose tolerance test is simple. Simple for the doctor. For the hypoglycemic patient, it can produce some terrible headaches and lots of shakes, thanks to the dropping blood sugar. But it also produces answers.
So you can understand, then, my reluctance ever to have tried any diet which excluded sugar. Not under my own care, in any case. Which was lucky.
I’d been suffering from shaky spells all my life sudden dizzying drops where I felt faint and weak and never could understand why. I could understand, though, that tea with cream and sugar could stop the shakes, though I didn’t have any idea what the real problem was. Once, when an attack struck while I was at my doctor’s, I was finally told, “That’s a drop in blood sugar; here, have a honey drop.” Knowing what I now know, the thought makes me reel. Repeat: the worst thing one can do for low blood sugar is to eat sugar! Sure, it ups that sugar and stops those shakes all right, but two minutes later, your blood sugar has dropped even lower and you’re shakier than ever.
At any rate, I’d gone through a lifetime believing that, with low blood sugar, I couldn’t possibly go on any diet that eliminates sugar entirely. And that is exactly what the low-carbohydrate diet does. (Dr. Atkins prefers to call his diet “low carbohydrate” rather than “high protein” face it, high protein is advisable on virtually any kind of diet!)
However, I decided that Dr. Atkins must know his stuff on the blood sugar level and so I set off on the first of what was to be many, many appointments with Dr. Atkins, the fat doctor.
I was told to arrive without breakfast (and no breakfast is a shaky experience for a hypoglycemic) and to prepare to spend my morning with them, for I was to have, for the first time in my life, that glucose tolerance test. This is routine testing for all Atkins patients. The doctor believes in being careful, which is why I have faith in him.
Now, don’t think for a moment that I didn’t take full advantage of the knowledge that very soon I was going to have someone to “watch over me” or my figure. As it happened, my appointment was for the Monday after Thanksgiving.
You can bet I gorged. I ate everything in sight Thanksgiving turkey-and-dressing right on through to the pumpkin pie. I was like a condemned woman on her way to who knows where. For, with a lifetime of dieting facing me, why not get as fat as possible? Just to give the doctor something to go on. I am not a big eater, but that weekend I ate for all the rest of my life. The morning of the appointment with Dr. Atkins arrived.
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