sugar rush
July 8, 2007 7:03 AM   Subscribe

I have been having bad reactions to candy and soda. Give me advice while I wait for my doctor's appointment!

In the past few weeks, I've experienced an intense sugar rush whenever I ate anything really sweet - candy, soda, etc. I've had difficulty with concentrating and short-term memory, felt dizzy, had my heart rush, and felt generally disoriented and high. This will last about an hour, then I'll crash, get a headache, and get really moody. The inability to concentrate will stay with me.

This intense reaction has only been happening in the past couple of weeks, but there are a few other bits of information that might be relevant. I have been vegetarian for the past 15 months. I've developed some pretty wicked flatulence in the past 6 months, but I blew that off as a side-effect of the diet. I've also experienced headaches after drinking cola for the last four or five months, but none of the other symptoms from above. I am now much more sensitive to alcohol than in the past, recently I have experienced a heavy buzz partway through my first beer; I was not a lightweight a year ago.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'm only saying this because you already have a doctor's appointment scheduled - so don't cancel!

I complained to my doctor that sugar seemed to be affecting me much more than it ever had before - the rush, the headaches, etc. He tested my blood sugar to be safe but essentially said that bodies continually change, and maybe I should just avoid refined sugar if I didn't want the headache.
posted by ferociouskitty at 7:21 AM on July 8, 2007

I'm not sure why it would suddenly come up, but it sounds to me like hypoglycemia...your blood sugar is naturally low, so eating sugar makes it spike and then crash (IANAD but I am hypoglycemic). Is it better if you eat with the sugar? I avoid pop and have a glass of milk with any dessert, that seems to work. Ask your doctor to check your fasting blood glucose and insulin, and for fun, your HbA1C. You may want to get your thyroid levels checked out as well, based on the symptoms.

Oh, and you can have reactive blood sugar without testing positive for hypoglycemia per se, but the treatment is the same: avoid sugar, or combine it with starch/protein.
posted by sarahkeebs at 7:43 AM on July 8, 2007

You might also want to have your B12 level checked?
posted by arimathea at 7:56 AM on July 8, 2007

I have a pretty similar reaction to sugar nowadays. My doc said it was just getting older, change in diet, etc. My basic plan if there's something tasty that I don't want to forego is make sure I'm eating it on a reasonably full stomach or have sugary stuff along with something with decent proteins/fats. The beer issuse may be related since there's a lot of starches in beer that convert to sugars.

I made a few changes that seemed to help, all along the "avoid what makes you feel bad" direction

- stopped drinking coffee with sugar in it. I found it was a great way to totally screw up my morning was having a cup or two of coffee with milk and a spoonful of sugar. I assumed it was caffeine or lack of breakfast, but really it was mostly the sugar.
- Switched to diet soda, including in mixed drinks. Went really easy on the beer unless I was also eating.
- looked at the sugar content of everything and started paring down on things like breakfast cereals and fruit juices as being places where I didn't expect but often found sugar.
- limited really sugary stuff to an after-meal dessert, never ate a candy bar or ice cream on an empty stomach.

Don't get me wrong, I like sweet stuff and I don't have a "sugar is poison" perspective, but I found that it was easier to enjoy it if I followed a few pretty basic guidelines. There's a good chance nothing is wrong with you, though it's always a good idea to get checked out at the doc.
posted by jessamyn at 8:03 AM on July 8, 2007

Same thing happened to me. The doctor tested my blood sugar reaction and didn't think I was heading for diabetes. Don't skip your appointment though.

I was also a vegetarian. Afterwards I quit, though I probably could have adjusted the diet. Carbs are not the best way to stabilize blood sugar, even whole wheat. I eat a lot of protein now and unless I drink sugary coffee or overload on sugar, I don't have a problem.

I was also having problems with alcohol, but I find that if I eat protein before, I don't feel like I'm about to die after a glass of wine.

P.S. Soy is the worst gas offender. Peanut butter and eggs are a little nicer to the digestive system.
posted by melissam at 8:15 AM on July 8, 2007

The same thing happened to me as well, though it took me a long time to pin sugar as the culprit. I used to be able to eat massive amounts of sugar with no immediate ill effects on my body. A year or two ago I noticed myself becoming incredibly lethargic, disoriented, headache, and generally very blah in the afternoon. I chalked it up to stress, etc. About two months ago I started following eating guidelines where I avoid the worst of refined sugars (candy bars, cake, cookies, etc). The problem went away almost immediately. I guess that Snickers bar in the afternoon isn't such a good idea after all. :-)
posted by sherlockt at 9:56 AM on July 8, 2007

I get sick when I eat too much sugar or white flour.

I know a woman whose husband went on a two-year Mormon mission to a part of the world where he had no processed foods. When he came back to the US, he got violently ill and it took him a long time to get used to the American diet. I think large quantities of sugars and simple carbs are things our digestive systems have to adjust to, and some people are just better equipped to handle them than others.

My issues with simple carbohydrates started after I spent three months mostly cooking for myself and mostly eating whole grains. Then I went out for a decadent dinner, culminating in a very fancy dessert. I felt like crap for days. Since then, I've discovered similar lesser results when I eat smaller quantities of stuff.

I deal by not eating much sugar or white flour-containing products. It takes a little awareness, but after that it's pretty easy. Whole grains taste good, and coffee's better for you than Coke anyhow.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 10:24 AM on July 8, 2007

The glycemic index is a measure of how fast carbs break down into sugar. You might try to eat foods with a low GI. My general impression is that it has to do with how much fiber is in them. Carrot juice is high, but a carrot is low, e.g.

(Maybe this is new because meat digests more slowly, so the vegetarian diet is letting the food hit your system faster? Total speculation here.)
posted by salvia at 1:55 PM on July 8, 2007

Until a couple of years ago, I ate whatever pleased me (which included tons of candy and baking). Passing thirty, and toeing the boarder of obesity, I began to notice sugar sensitivity; not unlike the issue raised in an old question - Mysterious hunger bouts. 50lbs lighter, and with a healthy home cooked diet (still containing a bit too many sugars and carbs, and way too much cheese - if that isn't an oxymoron), I'm still noticing the sugar sensitivity, but it has reduced a lot. Looking back, I was probably experiencing sugar sensitivity problems through most of my twenties, but sometimes it takes a kick in the ass..

My impression is that this is very common for people who don't eat properly, as they pass through their thirties.

You might try to eat foods with a low GI. My general impression is that it has to do with how much fiber is in them.

From my answer to the old question:
The speaker pointed out that glycemic index doesn't always follow conventional intuition. Pasta has a lower GI than you would expect from its flower content, and potato salad has much lower GI than the same potatoes eaten immediately after cooking. He suggested a rule of thumb way to tweak the intuition, if it dissolves very easily in water like a piece of bread, it should be high, if it holds together like pasta, it won't be as high.

So I searched and found this table of GI's, which doesn't list potato salad, but does show that the macaroni in Kraft Dinner is much higher than regular macaroni from a bag (Primo, or whatever). I've noticed that they cook very differently, and it is cool to see that in this case the rule of thumb works.
posted by Chuckles at 3:12 PM on July 8, 2007

Well I can tell you one thing:
the flatulence is almost for sure the meatless diet.

also, eat more protein (nuts, beans, soy) and fiber, and less refined carbs. This should help a bit.
(IANAD, duh.)
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 3:33 PM on July 8, 2007

I've had hypoglycemia for 10 years, and what your explaining sounds exactly how I felt before I was diagnosed. I was sent to a nutritionist and changed the way I ate (eat small meals every 2-3 hours, only 10-15 grams of sugar at a time, avoid simple carbs,etc.) As far as the alcohol, beer has simple carbs so you'll get "drunk" from the carbs turning into sugar in your body. I am able to eat simple carbs now, but in moderation and can feel when I've started to have too much. With time you'll get to know your own body and what it reacts to.
posted by creedling at 8:45 PM on July 8, 2007

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