Hypoglycemia is a condition where the blood sugar drops below the point needed to sustain healthy brain function and energy for normal activities. Low blood sugar can result in feelings of fatigue, chill, mental confusion, irritability, moodiness and difficulty concentrating.
When the blood sugar drops, people often crave (and turn to) sugary snacks and caffeine, but this only makes the problem worse. Refined sugar and caffeinated beverages jack the sugar up too high and the body has to bring it down again. This results in constant fluctuations in energy levels and mood throughout the day.
The problem stems from the interaction of two pancreatic hormones, insulin and glucagon. These hormones form a hormonal axis (sort of like a tetter-totter). As levels of one hormone go up it suppresses levels of the other.
Insulin is released when blood sugar levels get too high. It moves sugars out of the blood and into storage as glycogen or fat. Glucagon is released when blood sugar levels get too low. It mobilizes sugars in storage to raise blood sugar levels back to normal.
When a person eats a lot of simple carbohydrates (refined sugar, high fructose corn syrup, white flour or even fruit juices) it causes insulin levels to spike. As blood sugar levels fall off, glucagon production is suppressed causing the blood sugar level to fall too low. This blood sugar “roller coaster” is what causes hypoglycemia.
Hypoglycemia is “cured” by avoiding these simple carbohydrates in favor of more fresh vegetables, whole grains and some whole fruit. It is also helped by eating small, but regular meals that contain both fat and protein (such as nuts, cheese, avocado, etc.).
Herbs can also be used to stabilize the blood sugar and reduce sugar cravings. Many years ago, nutritionist Paavo Airola formulated a simple blend of herbs called HY-A to help create more stable blood sugar levels. HY-A supports the adrenal glands, pancreas and liver to help regulate blood sugar.
HY-A also aids digestion and has been used to treat fatigue and restlessness. The herbs in this formula are rich in chromium, a mineral that balances blood sugar levels.
Here is what each of the herbs in HY-A is for.
Licorice has a natural sweetness due to the presence of glycyrrhizin, a compound 50 times sweeter than sugar. This compound affects the hormone cortisol from the adrenal glands, which results in mobilization of sugar into the blood stream. Thus, licorice root has a stabilizing effect on blood sugar levels and helps reduce cravings for sugar and caffeine.
Licorice is also anti-inflammatory due to it’s effect on cortisol. Very large doses can cause fluid retention and increased blood pressure, but this would not happen with the small amount in this formula.
Licorice soothes the digestive tract and has been used to treat ulcers. It is also used for soothing coughs and throat irritations. It has hormonal effects and acts to increase estrogen and decrease testosterone.
Best known for the oil derived from its seeds, safflower herb is a digestive aid that improves assimilation of protein. Safflower aids liver function and has been used for treating jaundice. The liver works with the pancreas and adrenals to help maintain stable blood sugar levels. Safflower also helps reduce lactic acid build-up in muscles after exercise.
The root of the common dandelion has a long history of medicinal use. Dandelion is a bitter which helps the body detoxify. It aids both the liver and kidney function.
Dandelion supplies inulin, a fructo-oligo-saccharide that promotes the growth of friendly bacteria in the digestive tract. Inulin helps balance blood sugar levels.
This spicy herb is a wonderful digestive aid. It stimulates the stomach to produce hydrochloric acid to aid in the digestion and assimilation of protein. The sulphur compounds in horseradish also aid protein metabolism and can aid people who have a hard time digesting and assimilating protein. This is important because protein helps stimulate the release of glucagon, a pancreatic hormone that helps keep blood sugar levels stable.
Horseradish is also a decongestant and helps break up mucus in the respiratory passages. This makes it useful for coughs and respiratory congestion.
To help maintain stable blood sugar levels and promote better digestion and utilization of protein, take two HY-A with each meal.
The Energetics of Western Herbs by Peter Holmes
The Healing Herbs by Michael Castleman
Herbs That Heal by Michael A. Weiner
Nutritional Herbology: A Reference Guide to Herbs by Mark Pedersen The Wild Rose Scientific Herbal by Terry Willard