Sugar sensitivity refers to a condition in which a person experiences wide fluctuations in blood sugar levels. These changes can cause many symptoms, including mood swings, weight gain, irritability, and drowsiness. Most types of sugar sensitivity can be treated through dietary changes and exercise.
Simple carbohydrates are found in foods made with refined sugars as well as in fruit. Complex carbohydrates are commonly called starches. These include breads, pasta, rice, and grains. Both types of carbohydrates affect blood sugar. Foods containing carbohydrates with whole grains and vitamins are healthier choices, and usually leave a person feeling more balanced since the sugars are metabolized over a longer period of time.
When carbohydrate-rich foods are consumed, normally the blood sugar will rise and the body will produce insulin to assist in metabolizing sugars. In hypoglycemia, this balance is disrupted and blood sugars tend to rise quickly to high levels and then fall rapidly. Early symptoms of hypoglycemia include improved mood and energy because of the high blood sugar levels. As blood sugar falls, however, nervousness, irritability, dizziness, and drowsiness may occur.
A glucose tolerance test (GTT) can confirm a diagnosis of hypoglycemia. The test requires ingestion of a high sugar solution followed by hourly checks of blood sugar levels. Treatment of hypoglycemia is mainly through diet. Limiting refined sugars, increasing dietary fiber and protein, and eating regular, small meals may help to keep blood sugar levels stable.
Chronic hyperglycemia is another term for elevated blood sugar levels consistent with a diagnosis of diabetes. This form of sugar sensitivity results from either low insulin levels or resistance to insulin within the body. Without appropriate insulin levels, the body is unable to remove excess sugar from the blood. For those with this condition, diet, exercise, and insulin may be used to regulate blood sugar, depending on the type of diabetes.
Some instances of sugar sensitivity are not as clearly defined as hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia. While not a scientifically proven disorder, sugar addiction is generally described as a condition in which a person cannot control the intake of carbohydrate-laden foods. The symptoms include cravings, binging, and withdrawal symptoms when carbohydrates are decreased. Studies are being conducted to determine whether this is truly related to a physiological process.
Regardless of the nature of the sugar sensitivity, appropriate diet and exercise are vital parts of the treatment. Limiting the amounts of sweetened beverages and refined sugars consumed can decrease rapid fluctuations in blood sugar. Increasing whole grains, nutrient rich foods, fruits, and vegetables can facilitate a slower rise and metabolism of carbohydrates, thus keeping blood sugar levels more stable.