We’ve all been there: It’s the middle of the day and suddenly energy crashes. The cause? Low blood sugar, also known as hypoglycemia. When the body does not get ample glucose, or blood sugar, an important energy source for your organs, you can become fatigued, headachy, nauseous, dizzy, and anxious. Over time, it can even lead to serious health problems including obesity and diabetes. Luckily, you can regulate glucose with simple dietary improvements, including key herbs and supplements. Here, three experts explain how to pick energy up fast and improve long-term health.
Choose good carbs.
Your body converts carbohydrates into energy to fuel your muscles and brain. If you don’t eat enough carbs, your body takes from its own insufficient glucose supply and cannot produce enough energy to keep up with daily activities and especially intense exercise. Good carb choices include legumes; fruits such as bananas, mangos, grapes, and blueberries; and whole grains like brown rice and steel-cut oats.
Eat balanced meals.
Be sure all meals and snacks include proteins, fiber, and healthy fats like the essential fatty acids in flaxseed meal, tofu, eggs, and fish and the monounsaturated fats in olive oil, canola oil, and nuts. Healthy fats slow the digestive process, providing sustainable energy throughout the day. Stir almond butter into hot buckwheat for breakfast, eat black-bean soup (made with a healthy oil like olive) with whole-grain bread for lunch, and incorporate grains like teff instead of rice at dinner.
Supplement when necessary.
If you have low blood sugar, your cells get the signal your body needs fuel, which leads your liver to release more glucose into the bloodstream. This increases blood glucose levels, triggering the pancreas to produce insulin so cells can use the sugar. If blood sugar increases too much, the pancreas releases excess insulin. Supplementing with vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, vitamin D, calcium, omega-3s, and B vitamins, can combat low blood sugar symptoms by helping with cell metabolism and cell sensitivity to insulin.
–Lisa Lanzano, MS, RD, Boulder, Colorado
Be aware of cravings.
People with low blood sugar often do not eat healthily or frequently and crave sugary and unhealthy foods. These cravings lead to overeating. Eating lean protein from vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, and fruits can help you avoid cravings by helping you feel full longer.
These herbal substances help the body adapt to physical and emotional stress and combat symptoms of low blood sugar, like fatigue and anxiety.Take herbs such as Asian ginseng, which helps balance blood sugar levels; astragalus; and regular root licoricedaily. If your symptoms do not significantly improve after several weeks, see a health professional.
See an acupuncturist.
An acupuncturist can use herbs and other strategies to balance the body, including blood sugar. He or she can prescribe Chinese herbs like adrenal cortex extract, which should only be taken under professional supervision, to help with low blood sugar and low adrenal function.
–Andrew Gaeddert, herbalist, Oakland, California
Functional medicine physician
Eliminate white flour.
Choose whole-grain, fiber-rich foods, such as whole-grain bread, pasta, and bran muffins. White-flour products, including bread, cakes, cookies, and white rice, cause blood sugar to rise very quickly. Over time, they can stress your insulin-hormone system and potentially cause diabetes.
Eat several small meals a day.
If you get hypoglycemia frequently, you’ll want to eat more often than three times a day. Instead, eat small meals every three to four hours, and stop eating at least two hours before bed. Eat a midafternoon snack, and if the time between breakfast and lunch is more than four hours, eat a midmorning snack as well.
Get enough protein.
Slow the rise in blood sugar by eating protein—maybe chicken, soy, or lentils—with every meal or snack. For example, choose protein- and nutrient-rich nuts instead of white-flour pretzels, which are high in sodium and nutritionally empty.
–Susan Blum, MD, MPH, Rye Brook, New York