‘Looking For Answers’
I had another test to check on whether I had a tumour, which might be producing too much insulin in my body. Part of me hoped the test would come up positive – they could operate, cut it out, and everything would be okay. Simple enough, surgery aside. But the tests came back clear.
Endocrinology then booked me in for a glucose test the following week, like they give to pregnant woman to check if pregnancy has caused gestational diabetes.
I fasted from midnight, got to the hospital in the morning, and had my blood taken. This would give them a baseline reading of my blood sugar. Then I drank a small bottle of glucose – it tasted like sweet lemonade. I worried I’d have the same reaction as I’d had with the lemon-flavoured mineral water, but nothing happened.
I sat down in the lobby, along with several pregnant women having the same test, and began to read. Half an hour later, a nurse called us up one by one to take blood. Then again, another half an hour later. By now, the pregnant women had developed a community, and they chatted about their pregnancies and various issues they had. Half an hour later, we went through another round. The nurse remarked that the next round – the two-hour mark since drinking the glucose – was the last round of blood being drawn … and then she added that wasn’t the case for me, as I was here for three hours. The pregnant women looked at me sympathetically, probably all wondering what the hell was wrong with me. Maybe they commented on me to their partners when they got home: Some poor sap had to stay another hour.
After giving blood, they were each dismissed at the two-hour mark. I gave blood twice more. By the third hour, my arms laden with needle-marks (seven of them: three in one arm, four in the other), I felt frightened, and began to shake, although I didn’t understand why – I wasn’t panicked. I’d started to look at it all with resignation. I hurried back to my car, ate a banana I’d brought, and began to feel a little better.
When I saw Dr Warren next, he had my results. The baseline blood sugar was 4.8 – normal. After drinking the glucose, my blood sugar had shot up to 8.9 – still normal. But then it progressively declined. By the third hour, it was 2.8. A normal body would’ve levelled off at a normal range and remained stable. Mine kept dropping.
Endocrinology explained I had ‘Reactive Hypoglycaemia’, which had been Dr Warren’s original speculation. Whenever I ate something, my body responded to the sugar in the food and produced too much insulin in my body, which caused my blood sugar to drop. The richer the food was in sugar, the more insulin my body produced, the sharper and quicker the drop.
The head of Endocrinology concluded it was unclear whether this is how my body would stay, or whether it would continue to deteriorate to reveal something greater (and more insidious) at work – only time would tell.
They booked me in to see a hospital dietician, who explained to me about the Glycemic Index – ratings assigned to food, which show their impact on a person’s blood sugar. Foods were broken into categories of High GI (Glycemic Index, which involved a rating of higher than 70), Intermediate GI (55–70), and Low GI (less than 55).
High GI foods gave you a quick burst of energy, but the body burned them off easily, and your blood sugar crashed. Your body took longer to digest Low GI foods, and thus your blood sugar remained stable. This is what I had to eat now, and at least every 2–3 hours, as the test showed that it was over three hours I was susceptible.
When my blood sugar dropped into the 2s, I suffered anxiety symptoms – a result of my brain being starved of nutrients. Even the times I’d seen weird things in my head must’ve been when my blood sugar was low. When I hadn’t been eating during the time of my stomach pains, I must’ve been running at chronically low blood sugar, which resulted in the anxiety and depression.
Things started to fall into place – the afternoon stabbing pains in my head had been reactive hypoglycaemic episodes. My body had responded to the pineapple juice I’d been having for breakfast. I’d drink it for breakfast, and around lunch I’d suffer symptoms of low blood sugar. The massive panic attack on New Year’s Eve had been low blood sugar because I hadn’t been eating – at some point, my body must’ve crashed through the low blood sugar barrier and stopped coping. Same with the intense episodes of light-headedness. And the times I’d eaten, but gotten panicked shortly afterward, my body had reacted to potato, which was very high GI (and had a GI rating of about 83).
This might’ve been going on all my life, and had been exacerbated now because of my dietary issues over the last year. I thought about times I’d been panicky when I was younger, particularly after going out and drinking without eating. Drinking (alcohol) also dropped blood sugar. Then there’d just been poor diet, usually eating breakfast, and not eating again until dinner.
I knew I couldn’t blame it for all my neuroses, but I became sure it had been responsible for a lot of episodes.
Finally, there were answers.
Now it was a case of what to do next.