During mid-morning or mid-afternoon, an individual may experience an energy slump, accompanied by hunger pangs, craving for food, light-headedness, trembling, anxiety, irritability, sweating, an intense heartbeat and an inability to concentrate. These symptoms are typical of postprandial hypoglycaemia – a marked decline in blood-sugar (glucose) levels occurring within 2-4 hours after a meal.
Postprandial hypoglycaemia often results from an individual’s approach to eating. A person who misses breakfast and snacks on sweet foods such as cakes, chocolate and biscuits may become caught up in a self-perpetuating ‘sugar trap’. This begins when she temporarily satisfies a craving for food with a sugary snack; her blood-sugar level rises quickly as the sugar reaches the bloodstream, but within as little as 30 minutes, her blood-sugar level plummets to below its original level, triggering another craving for a sugary snack.
The grazing approach can be useful in combating post-prandial hypoglycaemia. Small, frequent snacks based on complex carbohydrates with a low to moderate glycaemic rating, provide the individual with a slow, steady supply of glucose. Refined carbohydrates, natural and refined sweeteners and convenience foods can all cause sudden increases in blood-sugar levels and should be avoided.
It is important to be aware that some symptoms that resemble those of post-prandial hypoglycaemia may be due to more serious disorders, so the individual should consult her doctor to rule these out.