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Anxiety or Hypoglycemia? Help!


Posted by Katherine B.

I've been suffering from anxiety for several years. Throughout these years I've always thought I also suffered from low blood sugar. The low blood sugar was never a problem. I made sure I ate often enough and was fine. I never gained weight because I exercised a lot.

 

However, recently my anxiety has increased to an almost unmanageable level. It started when I began having stomach pain and nausea - about a month ago. I thought it was just anxiety, but now I've convinced myself it is worsening hypoglycemia, because about 2 hours after eating my stomach hurts so bad and feels so hungry. It's all gurgling and feels empty, with a painful gnawing hunger feeling in the back of my stomach. Then I start to get shaky, sweaty, hot,  nervous, dizzy, and my heart races. and start to have an anxiety attack. The problem is I don't know if these episodes are anxiety or low blood sugar. I've gained about 5 pounds because I'm eating all the time and stopped exercising because my stomach would feel so hungry while exercising that I would panic, think I was going to pass out from low blood sugar, and stop. So I'm feeling anxiety about gaining the weight, as well. 

 

I also wake up several times during the night with stomach pain and feelings of hunger. Then I start to get panicky that it's my blood sugar and I eat a granola bar or something. And mornings are terrible. As soon as I wake up my heart starts to race and I feel sick. So I jump up and eat something. Then the rest of the day is like this.

 

These episodes are also getting in the way of my normal life. I don't do any of the activities I used to because I'm so worried about my blood sugar dropping and passing out or something. And my stomach hurts so bad I feel like I can't do anything. All I do is sit around all day eating and freaking out about my blood sugar. Plus, I'm not really hungry, because when I try to eat I want to gag and it takes me about an hour to eat a sandwich. I'm also really bloated and gassy (sorry!).

 

Do you think this is hypoglycemia or anxiety? Also, can anxiety make my stomach hurt and be nauseous all the time? 

 

This is driving me mad! It's so frustrating. Any help is greatly appreciated. Thank you!

 
Answers (10)
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Ian Health Maven
No, Katherine, I don't believe it is hypoglycemia. You may have a gastro intestinal problem and this needs to be checked.

An anxiety-hypoglycemia link was the subject of much debate in the late 1980s/early 1990s, but was soon disproved, though there are still authors such as Shirley Trickett promoting this.

Anxiety is a definite possibility. The gut is controlled by a mini brain, the enteric nervous system which is linked to the brain via the vagus nerve. Anxiety can directly affect the gut and produce all the symptoms you've listed, and more. Interestingly, the biggest concentration of serotonin, the neurotransmitter linked to anxiety and depression isn't found in the brain, that only has about 2%, but the gut, with over 80%. The vagus nerve has recently become an anxiety (and depression) treatment target using nerve stimulators.

Best wishes


Ian



Thanks a lot for the quick response! So, do you think that when I feel the hunger pain in my stomach my anxiety kicks in and causes all the symptoms of hypoglycemia? Then I start to panic, etc. and it makes it worse? What can I do about this? I'm afraid to not eat, because when I don't I got into an anxiety attack. When I eat, the anxiety and stomach pain go away.

In my head I don't believe it's hypoglycemia, because I'm so hungry like an hour after I eat, and I know that's just not possible - my body can't need that much food. But at the same time, the anxiety takes control of my mind when I feel hungry...

Thanks a lot for any help!

Ian Health Maven

I believe you need to see your doctor to rule out potential physical causes for your symptoms, Katherine. I suspect there won't be, but they should always be checked for first.

You haven't stated whether you are being treated for your anxiety. If not, then your doctor will be able to advise you on the treatment options. Alternatively, if you are taking medications for anxiety it seems they are no longer effective and either the dose needs to be adjusted, or the medication changed.

Best wishes

Ian


Thanks. I hate doing to the doctor! But I think I will be going...
Ian Health Maven

Unfortunately, whether the symptoms are physically or psychologically based, they are unlikely to simply go away, Katherine. Indeed, the longer they are left the more likely they are to consolidate and become more difficult to treat.

Best wishes


Ian



Katherine,

I am in the same exact boat. I have anxiety disorder and hypoglycemia. I find that the use of a blood glucose meter helps. You don't need aprescription to buy one and it will go a long way to aleviate the stress. Everytime you feel you might be having a hypoglycemic event take your blood sugar. this will rule out one or the other immediatly then you will start to learn how your body reacts after a while. This helps me greatly. soem days are worse than others but it does get better. See your doctor! There are medical option to treat hypoglycemia if the diet is not helping. 

 

I am hypoglycemic and getting worse,too. I tried taking my blood sugar levels with my meter when I felt like my sugar must be very low, only to see that it wasn't most of the time. I don't really find that this helps at all, because, whether or not my sugar is low or normal readings, I am still feeling bad,dizzy,shaking, and hungry, and the only thing that helps is animal protein! I am full of anxiety and I don't believe anyone who says it doesn't counter with being hypoglycemic. I eat my 4 to 6 meals a day. I eat high fiber, lean meats, and whole grains. I rarely indulge myself with any thing sweet other than a few Graham crackers. I drink caffeine free teas, coffee, and coke- and not a lot of either. Whey, soy or any other protein, other than animal, does very little to bring my sugar levels back up.If they do it is for an hour or less, than I am back eating, which has caused me weight gain. I am depressed, and my docotor offers no hope of getting better. I tried Weight Watcher's, lost 16 pounds, but was starving on the small 20 points. I still count points on my own, hoping that journaling what I eat will help, but I constantly go over my points limit and am bored with eating the same old things. I don't like fish, or liver. I get so tired of chicken,beef,chicken,beef, and sometimes I eat shrimp, fixed pretty much the same way- no pasta, no breads, brown rice only, small if any potatoes. Also, too much fiber makes me gassy and have terrible stomach pain. Anything that is sugar free ( with sugar alcohol) really does a number on me. And, I can't carry a piece of chicken or beef in my purse. A bag of nuts- usually I keep a small 3 WW point bag of almonds in my purse and car. This will get me by until I can get my meat. But, of course, when I am out that means  stopping for a grilled chicken buger is the only lean option that I have found that is quick and cheap enough ( thank you Chick-Fil-A!!. Who can afford to go into a restaurant every time you are out and order a full meal of vegetables and a grilled or broiled meat?. I stay depressed and it is getting worse- all of it. I am wondering if it is worth living like this.
Ian Health Maven

Are you being treated for anxiety and/or depression, Sandra?

If not, then IMHO, this needs to be addressed. I do not believe that most of your symptoms are related to hypoglycemia, but are psychological.

Please discuss this with your physician asap. Just print off what you've written here and give it to him/her.

Best wishes

Ian



Have you had a doctor check you for insulin resistance or metabolic syndrome? I found out I have insulin resistance which is why my blood sugar drops so far, and so fast. I'm learning to exercise more and eat better foods. I've been on the new diet a couple weeks and I notice a slight improvement. So I hope it keeps getting better! 

Also, you said when you feel hypo you test and your blood sugar is not low. Often times a big drop (from high blood sugar) can cause that feeling. So your body thinks the blood sugar is low, when in fact it isn't. 

 

I'd have a doctor screen you for insulin resitance, metabolic syndrome and diabetes, if you haven't already.

 

I know how frustrating this is!! I feel like I can't go out anymore and enjoy life because I have to constantly be checking my blood sugar and eating!  

I have no answer for you Katherine, but appreciate your question.  I have the exact same problems.  I am hypoglycemic, and I also have anxiety attacks.  When/if you get a concise diagnosis, please share.  Thanks so much.
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