hungry and hyperglycemic

A “citation needed” sticker makes a nice addition to any meter display.

If you’ve ever gotten the munchies when you’ve been high (blood sugar-wise, of course), you know how annoying it can be.

Doesn’t it always seem to feel like you can count on hunger to coincide with hyperglycemia, while low blood sugars seem to love sneaking up on you when you’re completely stuffed?

A recent discussion on /r/diabetes, the diabetes community of Reddit, focused on this topic and I was compelled to reply since I’ve come to know that there are certainly very real reasons for this occurrence, despite it just seeming like the ultimate practical joke of a metabolism.

My understanding is that a hyperglycemic — “hyper” referring to increased and “glycemic” relating to presence of sugar in the blood– episode screws with hormones which would normally function to signal hunger and fullness.

For example, when blood sugars are elevated it would likely contribute to a surge of cortisol. This steroid hormone, produced by the adrenal glands, would be released due to the stress being put on our organs to cope with the excess glucose. [See further information here, here, and here.]

It is likely that ghrelin and leptin level are also affected; however, from the bit of research I’ve seen, ghrelin actually spikes with hyperglycemia which should encourage feeling satisfied. (That would make the most sense in a non-diabetic body, since presence of glucose means — almost exclusively — that fuel has been obtained through the stomach obtaining contents.)

Here’s the kicker in the hormonal equation: insulin.

When we correct with insulin to lower the sugar, that will be able to contribute to us feeling hungry!

And, as you are well aware, the higher the bloogar — yes, that is a portmanteau for “blood sugar”– the higher the dose of corrective insulin. This means an increased message to our brains that we are in a state of hunger. Cute.

At this point in the conversation, it became time to get practical. So, what can we do while feeling so stupidly hungry while waiting for the insulin to kick in?

  • Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate.

You’re high, damn it. You’re dehydrating!

You need water to flush out the glucose, as well as to tell your brain that your stomach has some contents.

Drink Water, Crystal Light, bai5, diet/zero/stevia sodas to feel fuller due to the carbonation, unsweetened tea (some are supposed to assist appetite suppression, such as green tea), some type of sugar-free drink mix (I highly recommend the stevia-sweetened Vita-Squenchers Acai Lemonade variety), et cetera.

  • Stick with a “basal test” menu if you need to munch on something (while you keep hydrating).

Ah, yes, the fabled “free” foods of diabetes lore. Free as in carbohydrate exchanges; sadly, it is not to say it is absent of caloric value or price.

As a vegan, I find that many of these foods tend not to be too relevant to my preferences. So, instead of cheese slices,  cold cuts from your deli, and Jell-o, Vegabetic suggests alternatives. Try a small serving of Daiya cheese wedges, LightLife Smart Deli slices of “meat”, and non-gelatin xylitol-sweetened fruit gels as a starting place.

Also, try a serving of peanut butter — or better yet, PB2 or similar powdered form,  sunflower seeds, sugar-free gum, celery, lettuce/spinach/kale, or some seaweed snacks.

Not doing it for you? Vegetable broth and similar light soups work if you need something warm to fill you up.

While I certainly do not claim to be a medical professional, I think that understanding the potential impact of hormones on our hunger in relation to our blood sugar levels is tremendously helpful.
If you are still interested, see these sources for some more information and supporting data:


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