x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Don't act like a child, see a doctor about blood sugar

Low blood sugar levels are often used an excuse for grown adults to misbehave and throw tantrums.

Afew years ago, while attending a lecture about progress and developments in health care, I watched a colleague regress from adulthood to infancy. At the mercy of her own metabolism, the woman I knew began to dissolve and, like a five year-old, seemed one juice box away from a public meltdown. "I'm serious. I need to eat or I'm going to pass out," she hissed, and although she is a very nice person, it was the first time I had ever wanted to throw a bag of peanuts at someone's head. Instead, at intermission, I dragged the world's tallest kindergartner to Burger King.

All humans are susceptible to low blood sugar levels, and that's one reason we all require love in the form of tolerance. Like ADD and the deviated septum, "low blood sugar" is a term prone to casual self-diagnosis and a free pass for temporary insanity. Hallmark could make a killing: "Sorry I freaked out - my blood sugar was crashing!" Well, sorry if I seem unsympathetic: eat a granola bar.

Mornings can be particularly mercurial when managing these differences. Some people are predictably morose before their oatmeal or eggs or until the coffee kicks in, while others seem to naturally wake up sunshine-bright and require no fuel at all before CrossFit. These people are not to be hated, envied, or burnt at the stake, but rather, treasured for being the endangered species that they are.

Personal chemistries differ, affecting our appetites and our conduct. Insight into how specific people handle their hunger is a shortcut to understanding - and occasionally excusing - their behaviour. And I can attest that an argument fraught with someone's brain-starved logic is less constructive and more annoying than making that someone a sandwich.

I've often found the effects of low blood sugar on behaviour and mood to be profound and a little unnerving. I think babies are kind of profound and unnerving, too, and so it's helped me to realise that an irritable infant is almost always a hungry one. This awareness made it impossible to hold a crying child's wails against it, but most adults should be better at taking care of themselves than children are. Get to know your body and its needs, so that those needs don't become an imposition. Hunger is a real problem, and if it isn't one of yours, you're blessed. But you've got other problems that need your attention - I'm sure of it - and you're not going to solve many of them if you can't see past your next meal.

Fasting increases the likelihood of a hypoglycaemic episode, so don't be alarmed if, during Ramadan, fasting people seem worn out, indecisive, sensitive or confused. It's a legitimate chemical reaction and, if someone as unforgiving as me can figure that out, then anyone can. As with fainting, hypoglycaemia is an indicator of a problem, rather than a problem itself. If you're diabetic or potentially pre-diabetic and you're having hypoglycaemic episodes, see a doctor.

I don't get cranky when I haven't eaten, although I do get stupid. That, too, is a symptom of low blood sugar, and perhaps as equally frustrating as grumpiness; I'm not one to say. Confusion, blurred vision, palpitations, tremors, anxiety, sweating and emotional breakdowns are other non-specific signs; a romantic date and an intense game of chess can produce the same reaction.