The number of individuals suffering from anxiety has been on the rise for years. Like many conditions, there are multiple reasons for anxiety and anxiety attacks to occur. From a naturopathic perspective, anxiety can stem from adrenal fatigue, food sensitivities, nutritional deficiencies, or hypoglycemia.
Hypoglycemia is a condition in which the blood sugar drops to a lower than normal level. Blood sugar rises when we eat and decreases as time lapses between meals. The symptoms of hypoglycemia are light-headedness, dizziness, shaking, sweating, irritability and nervousness. A significant symptom is uncontrollable irritability when hungry, which most people have experienced. The irritability usually goes away with food, but if it is a common or even daily occurrence (coupled with other symptoms), it may mean you are hypoglycemic.
When frequent anxiety is a patient’s primary concern, I begin with dietary questions to decipher if the anxiety is related to the occurrence of low blood sugar. Are feelings of anxiety appearing at certain times of the day? Do you eat on a regularly scheduled basis? Is your diet high in carbs and low in protein? This can mean that the drops in blood sugar are being mistaken for anxiety or simply exacerbating underlying anxiety. There is also a correlation with hypoglycemia, anxiety, and people who smoke and/or have a higher than average desire for alcohol.
To treat anxiety caused or worsened by hypoglycemia, you must begin with regularly scheduled meals and snacks. Eat breakfast every day, beginning with a protein rich meal. Schedule a protein rich snack every 2 hours between meals. Meals should be eaten every 4-5 hours with snacks every 2-3 hours in-between. Eating right for hypoglycemia does not mean consuming more calories or food. It means eating smarter for your body. Protein rich meals consist of nuts, fish, soy, eggs and or healthy, lean meats. A smoothie made with protein powder is also a filling, nutritious snack or light meal.
By eating regularly and adding adequate amounts of protein, you keep blood sugar at a stable and consistent level. It is ok to snack on a piece of fruit or a handful of carrots, but be consistent with adequate amounts of protein in your diet throughout the day so as not to cause a blood sugar crash. Caffeine and alcohol will also cause blood sugar irregularities. Drinking caffeine will ‘use up’ your blood glucose causing low blood sugar, and alcohol will cause elevated blood sugar that then crashes too low.
Nutritional supplementation may also be useful. Chromium picolinate taken at each meal can help regulate blood sugar levels. For those individuals who feel nauseous in the morning or are unable to tolerate the breakfast meal, taking chromium picolinate at bedtime may alleviate these morning symptoms. Gaba (a supplement used to induce relaxation, analgesia, and sleep) taken in regular, daily doses can help decrease feelings of anxiety. Magnesium taken at bedtime can also decrease nighttime anxiety that leads to difficulty sleeping.
Although anxiety is pervasive and affects many individuals, there are multiple naturopathic approaches that can decrease and alleviate anxious feelings. Diet and regulating blood sugar levels is a great place to start.
Dr. Shannon Sinsheimer is a licensed naturopathic doctor at Optimal Health Center in Palm Desert and can be reached at (760) 568-2598.
Dear Dr Shannon Sinsheimer,i am a 52 year old male in very good physical health[very seldom get sick] have had 3 bouts of anxiety/insomonia in last 10 years lasting in duration from 3 months to over a year[2nd was most likely triggered by divorce]current one and first one had no real emotional triggers[1st happened suddenly after hiking 8 miles,that night could not sleep,very anxious and continued 3= months and went away with no real action on my part]never have been on anti deppresents or anti anxiety though prescribed each time[well maybe a week but always just prayed and tried some supplements and such]Had a sleep study done a few months back but no serious apneas found 3 physicals done in the last year with no problems detected[low vit D]take a vit D supplement.Familly history of diabetes but blood test looked good,good blood pressure.I am not overweight 6ft 175lbs,dont adhere to a strict diet but have cut back on caffeine and refined sugar.I am at my wits end trying to heal this and would appreciate any insights you may have.I work at a wastewater treatment plant and have monitored my urine PH whitch has averaged around 6.10 for the 5 days I have been testing[conflicting theories on this] Thank you very much for letting me vent and God Bless you and your work.
Thank you, Karl!
I will pass your note onto Dr. Sinsheimer. She is on maternity leave until September so it may be a few days before she replys. Thank you for reading Desert Health!
– Lauren Del Sarto
Im so glad I found this post. In 2007 after the death of my father I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. I’ve had ups and downs with this disease and have found a correlation between my thyroid levels and anxiety.
I am 30 yrs old, non smoker, social drinker. Every few months I will have a bout of anxiety that lasts a few days to weeks. I have discovered after a recent diet cleanse that I get anxiety at certain times of day when I’m having an anxiety episode. I tend to get anxious after a large carby lunch. I am never anxious in the morning and have tested negative for prediabetes
Thank you for sharing, Christie and for reading Desert Health. I will pass this onto the author, Dr. Shannon Sinsheimer. She returns from maternity leave this month and will be delighted to see this.
Lauren Del Sarto
Dear Dr. Shannon,
I’ve been having frequent anxiety and depression attacks since about 3 months. I’ve always thought I’ve had anxiety because I worry about everything. But here’s the thing. I only get anxiety if I eat a heavy amount of carbs or sugar that day. It will affect me for about 24 hours from bloating to nervousness. Is this legit anxiety or is hypoglycemia? I’m waiting for answers because I’ve been to doctors and they all say I’m normal. But if I’m normal why do I feel like junk every time I eat food? Please help. Thanks;)
Some how your post got by me. I will forward to Dr. Sinsheimer who returns from vacation mid-August and I know she will get back to you. Again, sorry for the oversight.
Lauren Del Sarto
Yes, you can absolutely be having an emotional reaction to food or a type of reactive hypoglycemia. Sometimes all of our labs are normal, despite having an ongoing issue because we have ‘subclinical hypoglycemia or reactive hypoglycemia’. This means, we have many of the symptoms of a health condition, but our labs are not significant enough to warrant a certain diagnosis.
Hi, I’m 17 years old and for the past year I have been dealing with crazy hypoglycemia-or so everyone thinks. I have also suffered from general anxiety my whole life. During these attacks I have all of the symptoms of low blood sugar from shaking to irritability, but the blood sugar readings are never that low. I could start shaking at 83 which should be normal. I don’t have a conscious feeling of anxiety before these, they’re just random. I was just wondering if you thought this could be anxiety mimicking hypoglycemia or anxiety causing hypoglycemia and what I should do about it. It’s been almost a year and every test has come back normal so I have no leads or answers.Please let me know your opinion.
Thank you, Rachel,
Dr. Sinsheimer is on vacation this week, but I will be sure to send your message to her for response upon her return.
Lauren Del Sarto
Many times we have an issue called ‘reactive hypoglycemia’ which means your blood sugar could drop abnormally after eating. You could be experiencing symptoms from the rise then drop of your blood sugar in an abnormal time frame rather than simply having normal hypoglycemia. I have also found that people with anxiety can have symptoms of hypoglycemia even at a totally normal range of 83. We are all different and we want to look just as much at the symptoms as we do the labs to figure out how our individual body works.
I am 70 years old and for the last two years have been searching for an answer as to why I wake every morning about 4am. with the most horrid feelings of anxiety and dread. They disappear after breakfast so by mid morning I feel OK again but back they come the next morning.
I have recently read an article on hypoglycemia and wonder if this could be my problem. I also have concerns about the tablets I have been taking for the last 20 years for high blood pressure (Atenolol, Indapamide and losartan potassium) and wonder if this could also be the cause.
I would value your advice as I am fast running out of reasons as to why these felling will not leave me.
Kind regards, Jean
Yes, many people will get low blood sugar early in the morning when it is not yet time to get up and eat, yet is has been several hours since the last meal. As far as your medication, I could not comment as I am not sure the specifics of how your body works and would need to know much more about you individually.
Dear Doctor,I have been ill for the past three months.I had a 14 hour breast reconstruction surgery,was on multiple medications including doxycycline for five weeks.I started having stomach issues and was unable to eat.Last week I started forcing myself to eat after seeing a naturopath.I have a lot of nausea,no appetite.When I get up in the morning I am weak and shaky,especially if I have not slept well the night before.I know my digestive system is not working properly.Could I be hypoglycemic too ? Thank you.
It would be hard to diagnose hypoglycemia from the symptoms you have mentioned. It would be much better to start with a blood test and use those results in conjunction with your symptoms to discuss what may be the issue.
It is GREAT you are seeing a naturopathic doctor who should be able to help you with these issues and diagnose any possible hypoglycemia issues.
Thank you for your reply.All blood tests have been fine,I just had a fasting test done but do not know the results.I continue to have problems,but have started on a regular meal plan,as advised by a dietician.Unfortunately the naturopath had me on a very restricted diet which made me sicker from not getting enough nutrients and calories.How long may it take for a good meal plan to show results?
I am 44 year old male suffering with anxiety for the past 10 years. I was on treatment in the beginning for about 3 months which was tapered and stopped. I was better but now for the past 2 years I have these symptoms of anxiety with addition of hypoglycemic feeling I have kept of track of glucose levels it drops down between 80 and 70. My concern is that is my anxiety causing hypoglycemia or is it the other way round? I am betablocker 25 mg daily for the past 10 years. I feel lightheaded with shakiness when hungry and sometimes after eating too. Will appreciate your advice.
Thanks and regards
When it comes to hypoglycemia and anxiety, either issue can cause the other to worsten. Certainly, eating regular meals and snacks with protein, healthy fat, and some complex carbs can balance your blood sugar. Keeping your blood sugar balanced can help symptoms and feelings of anxiety.
Thank you so much Doctor, really appreciate your advice and will surely follow it.
Hi, I’m a 45 year old female. For years I’ve experienced many occasions of fatigue and dizziness. After expressing my concerns to my doctor, I went thru three testing rounds to check for low sugar with no confirmation. I assumed, as well as the doctor, that I was just stressed and that it would go away. This past December, while driving, I had a seizure without any warning. After 4 days in the hospital, they diagnosed me with Epilepsy. At the end of December, I experienced another seizure at home whereas the paramedic checked my sugar immediately. My sugar was down to 36. I was then diagnosed with Hypoglycemia. I have been checking my sugar regularly and eating better, according to what I can find out on the internet. I am unable to find a doctor that handles Hypoglycemia. Basically, no doctor will treat me or help me monitor my Hypoglycemia (I was told by many doctors that I would have to be diagnosed with Diabetes in order to be treated by them.) I’m just starting to learn that my condition is most likely related to stress (my husband had a stroke and my mother passed away suddenly in an accident.) Are there specific doctors that help with Hypoglycemia? Should I be looking for a Dietician instead?
Hi! I’m 15 years old and was diagnosed with hypoglycemia last August 2014 (I was 14 then). I’ve had problems with bowel movement for a week before I got hospitalized. What happened that midnight was this: my upset stomach awakened me so I decided to go to the bathroom. I did the number two and as I was going back to bed, I passed out. Mom brought me to the hospital and while we were on our way there, I was dizzy, my vision was dim and I was shaking like crazy. They did several tests to find out what was wrong and after four days, they said the reason was hypoglycemia. What got me confused is that the doctors immediately checked my blood sugar when I was brought to the hospital but it was normal. I am not doubting the results but can blood sugar really decrease rapidly and go back to normal in just a snap?
One more thing, I am also worried about my health way too much now. Last November, my friends and I were celebrating the birthday of my bestfriend’s boyfriend. We were having fun then I suddenly just stopped because I felt nervous for no reason. I ignored it, believing that it should happen to everyone once in a while.
Then it happened again. I was wrapping gifts for Christmas and suddenly stopped because, again, I felt super nervous. I then started to think lots of what if’s. But I chose to ignore it. And when Christmas came, I started to think it wasn’t normal. Starting then, it happened to me everyday. It felt like everything could kill me, because it got to the point wherein I loathed having to go outside. Even having to go outside esp during the night was dreadful. However, it doesn’t keep me from going to school bc I love being with people whom I know. Talking to my friends keep me from having racing thoughts. Being at familiar places don’t make me nervous, but being at an unfamiliar place does.
Sometimes, my friends and I would go to the mall. Then we would chat, like the usual. But there are times wherein I just feel panicky then I would just stop talking because I don’t know. There are also times wherein I’d cry because the nervous feeling just wouldn’t go away. Crying does help as well as sleeping.
Then this panicky feeling led to numb lips, nausea, dim vision when tired and even chest pains. I always end up googling my symptoms because I’m very worried about my health.
That’s what I’ve been feeling for four months already. Panicky, weird and worried about everything. I haven’t told my parents yet about this because they’d probably just tell me that I’m being a paranoia. Any advice from doctors? :( please. Please.
I’m a 47 year old women diagnosed with Reactive Hypoglycemic (lab test results 47-49 range) and Celiac Disease. I’m having anxiety attacks early bad someday I’m locked into anxiety attacks for days. I been eating protein, good fats and complex carbs. I’m seeing slight improvement, but I’m at a lost at what additional I could do at this point……any suggestion.
I have a daughter 14 years old and was diagnosed with anxiety secondary depression. She is currently taking Zoloft in the morning plus b vitamins and at night she is taking trazadone for sleep ,naltrexone and lamotrigine. and B1.
she plays competitive tennis and also takes lessons for voice. Lately we notice after warming up before a match, we would see that she’ll start getting anxious and her sugar would drop.
We are slowly trying to win her from her meds. My question is : is the blood sugar dropping related to her taking her meds.? is it also related to her diet? Should I go gluten free? Any supplements that she can use to prevent this from happening?
please let me know.
Thank you, Emily. I will forward this to Dr. Sinsheimer but she is on vacation this week. I would certainly seek a consult with a naturopathic doctor in your area.
I know Dr. Sinsheimer will get back to you upon her return.
Thank you ~
Lauren Del Sarto, Publisher
I experience major to sever anxiety the day after I drink alcohol..I am also ravenously hungry and am non stop hungry all day long after a night out. It usually takes me 2 whole days to completely recover. The second day I can barely eat anything at all but still feel very anxious:( Even the smell of coffee can trigger my anxiety during this 2 day recovery process:( Most of my friends don’t feel this way after drinking but I am in absolute agony:( Is this because of being in a hypoglycemic state after drinking alcohol? Can you help me? Thank you.
I am so sorry, but for some reason we are just seeing your question. If your condition and questions remain, please let us know and we will reach out to the doctor.
Thank you for reading Desert Health ~
Lauren Del Sarto
Your articles on anxiety and hypoglycemia are very helpful. I have Hashimoto’s, postmenopausal hormone imbalances, etc., which cause me to have bouts of anxiety. Do you provide a diet which stipulates the supplements to take, the precise food amounts so as to mitigate these problems? Also, do you prescribe Bio-identical hormones?
I am so sorry, but for some reason we are just now seeing your questions. If they are still valid, please let us know and we will reach out to the doctor.
Thank you for reading Desert Health ~
Lauren Del Sarto
In my case only a cute dog is lacking.
They certainly help, don’t they?
Thank you for reading Desert Health!
Lauren Del Sarto