When I was ruminating about how to manage some new symptoms, I stumbled upon the benefits of unsweetened bitter herbs in balancing blood sugars. This discovery has helped manage some wild fluctuations but it is not a fail-proof strategy. I still bottomed out yesterday with seizure attacks at the kitchen table about an hour after following this new sequence. My beloved had to feed me while I shook, leaning precariously on our glass dining room table. It hurt. This situation is still hell.
It’s clearer more now than ever before that the swinging of my blood glucose levels is contributing to seizure attack episodes and the difficulty managing both of them. The endoscopy ultrasound (EUS) this past week found a particular type of pancreatic cyst, pre-cancerous but one in which surgery is not currently recommended. So while I grasp the magnitude of what a 6-month surveillance program looks like for the potentially deadliest of cancers, I am dealing with yet another new diagnosis: pre-diabetes. Say what? Tis much to bear right now.
I’ve spent most of my adult life managing “borderline hypoglycemia” with diet. This means no concentrated sweets, higher fiber foods, protein-rich snacks between meals and only low-sugar fruits with the baseline concerns of dairy-free, gluten-free, low-medium oxalate, largely organic/non-GMO, and lower in the categories of red meat and night shades. Whew. It’s a miracle that I have found anything to eat at all! Or that I have not gained a ton of weight when battling serious illness these past 8 years. Food is fuel and there are now more specialized products on the market from which to choose. Thank you Lord! “They say” that hypoglycemia can turn into diabetes sometime in a person’s life. I also understand that pre-D can be reversible with lifestyle changes. O.k., so let’s go for that option.
Still I have come to the end of my ability to figure out what to do now. The Docs say that the pancreatic cyst, even though it’s in the organ that manages blood sugar for the body via insulin and glucagon, has little to do with blood sugar difficulties per se. Full blown diabetes is associated with a greater risk of cancer when you have a pancreatic cyst. What about pre-diabetes? “I can refer you to a dietitian if you like,” said the Nurse Practitioner in the gastroenterology oncology department. Why sure! What else have you got that I haven’t tried already folks? Exogenous ketone supplements without the sweeteners? I’m on it, however even the ketogenic diet under the direction of a hospital dietitian didn’t help me two years ago. Too much fat these days triggers belly pain anyways. Tough challenge for sure. Referral is now pending.
Call me cynical because I am. I am in shock. Thankfully there are Facebook and online support systems, even apps for these diagnoses so I will avail myself to them. The isolation of being home alone dealing with all of this is crushing however. I tried leaving the house the day before the EUS procedure to get some errands done and came home really messed up. I always carry a lunch bag of special foods and water with me when I leave the house. And now it’s just not enough. I’ve reached out to my Doctors at Mayo Clinic to see if there is more expertise out there on these matters, particularly in connection to the seizure-like episodes. I cannot get into see an endocrinologist locally until JANUARY!
I just don’t know what I don’t know right now. Are you working Your plans somehow through all of this my precious Lord? Help me Lord! JJ
P.S. My new favorite snack is Hippeas Himalayan Happiness
This is going to be a bit of a brain dump: loosey-goosey around the edges, without footnotes, and incomplete in research to back it up. For now, that is. The bottom line is that I am more hopeful than scared that later this morning, I will undergo an endoscopy ultrasound (with fine needle biopsy) in a local cancer center with a top specialist in the Midwest. Because for me, blood sugar issues may have been festering if not causing my worst symptom in this 8 years battling serious illness: daily convulsive episodes. The episodes are worse when my blood sugar has peaked too high or too low. I am more vulnerable to a plethora of triggers when I am hungry; it is possible that I may not have even been aware when it was low blood sugar and maybe not hunger that was the underlying issue. And just 2 days ago, I figured out a way to manage it despite the cyst in my pancreas wreaking havoc on the normal order of things. No, not insulin. No, not glucose tablets or the like. So what can you do to quickly lower blood sugar without drugs?
Drink unsweetened bitters after eating!
Here are the three biggest discoveries that have helped make this strategy successful for me this past week, even when very sick.
The tongue and gut both have taste receptors. These receptors recognize sweet, salty, bitter, and sour tastes when the food touches one’s tongue during eating. It is the work of Dr. Jason Fung, alerted to me by my chiropractor, Dr. Lee Nagel, that showed how the body reacts to the taste of sugar as soon as the sensation is detected. The body then stimulates an insulin response right way, beginning a cascade of events that goes well in folks with normal metabolisms -or- triggering various disease responses in folks with hyperglycemia/diabetes or even hypoglycemia. This finding about taste receptivity changes everything we knew about managing blood sugar through diet: from being about TASTE in addition to CONSUMPTION. Dr. Fung advocates an extremely low carb diet, advancing to the ketogenic diet if possible. (I have tried both with marginal success for my worst symptom, yet continue with the former anyways.)
Bitter food receptors can initiate its own cascade of events. The literature shows how bitter foods and supplements can be used to help manage respiratory diseases. Incredible. Those of us familiar with various detoxification protocols know the value of bitters in the forms of liposomals and tinctures to stimulate bile flow. They are also used to support the kidney. But what does this have to do with blood sugar? Enter here the finding that the bitter taste may in fact be THE DIRECT OPPOSITE of the sweet taste! How is that possible if the tongue divides taste receptors into 4 equal quadrants? Maybe check your Bible to see how the Lord used bitters and sweet tastes as opposites like dark-and-light in Isaiah 5:20. Twenty-five hundred historical facts have never been refuted in the Bible since it was written over 2,000 years ago. Seems plausible to me that this metaphor, given to make a point about good-and-evil, might know something about the way our bodies were crafted as well, enough to use bitters and sweet tastes in an analogy that has a timeless uses for us, for me today.
Stimulating the liver with a bitter herb may very well play a role in balancing the effects of the pancreas secreting insulin. We know that the liver stores and releases glucose. This gets triggered with the release of glucagon from the pancreas (opposite of its release of insulin) and a complex sequence of events that I need to research further. In the middle of a waking seizure attack a couple of nights ago, I had a choice to make. A) Take a bit of honey to raise my blood sugar that I assume was low and hold on while nausea followed, knowing that a) I could not tolerate anti-nausea medication and b) would have to convince my exhausted husband to bring me a complex carb/protein snack to prevent a crash thereafter. It was after 1:00 a.m. In a moment of inspiration, I thought about the liver and kidney detox products that I have used and the relationship of the liver to the pancreas in diabetes. I was just diagnosed as prediabetic! What if I B) used bitter tastes to stimulate the liver? Would stimulating the liver to produce bile flow also somehow release glucose without triggering a merry-go-round that happens when taking oral glucose? What if it’s the swinging of blood sugar levels and not the high or low endpoints are what triggers this hell?
Drink a hot cup of plain, roasted dandelion tea, even if you need assistance and a straw. Result: within 90 seconds, a 30-MINUTE CONVULSIVE EPISODE, after a series of prior episodes, STOPPED AND NEVER RE-STARTED. Holy cow. Praise the Lord!!!!!!!!
Alright now. Was this bitter tea thingy just another rescue remedy to add to the list? Prednisone tops the list from multiple ER visits as often stopping the worst episodes. But doesn’t Prednisone raise blood sugar? Maybe it’s no wonder then that taking it didn’t always work for me. Maybe it was helping with some kind of inflammation somewhere . . . I usually took Prednisone with a couple of crackers which is a simple carb. Sometimes the episode stopped and then restarted again. When it did stop, I was usually ravenously hungry. While I still can’t track everything with direct cause-and-effect, it has been becoming clearer the last few days that fluctuations in blood sugar plays a significant role in this mysterious illness that has stumped dozens of medical, chiropractic, genetic, orthopedic, alternative, dental, functional medicine doctors and professionals and me too. Suddenly I had something new with which to experiment.
I tested out the use of bitter tastes to bring down blood sugar after a meal, even in the presence of a wild card: a pancreatic cyst. I found that if the bitter taste was taken WITH a meal, it made no difference. I found that if the bitter taste was mixed with a sweet taste, even an artificially sweet taste like glycerin, it made no difference. (I read that persons who are diabetic and in a hypoglycemic crisis are instructed to take glucose every 15 minutes, checking their blood sugars, until their meter reading come back into a safe range as determined by their doctor.) I found that taking a certain amount of an unsweetened bitter taste, 15 minutes after a meal CORRECTED THE BLOOD SUGAR SPIKE. My blood sugar came back into a normal range and the shift began as soon as I could taste the flavor on my tongue. The pre-tic symptoms of a convulsive episode would not completely stop with just a taste; I needed to consume the amount of the bitter product that worked for me, within a minute, and re-test my blood sugar 15-20 minute later. The results were sustained until I became hungry again 3-4 hours later. Barely a tic zip squeezed through for the next 2 days.
So an unsweetened bitter solution brought down elevated glucose quickly for me, even in the presence of a pancreatic cyst, without insulin. Holy cow! But what about the role of the pancreatic cyst? Later today, Lord willing, we will find out more about what it is and if it is playing a role in my health. Is it an insulinoma even though I do not meet all of the lab criteria? Is it a neuroendocrine tumor that is pre-cancerous or cancerous despite the fact that it hasn’t changed in size over the past 10 months? Is it a pancreatic pseudocyst that can have either no impact or a myriad of impacts on the function of the pancreas depending upon its location? And most importantly for me, will the fabulous gastroenterology specialist, renowned for introducing new procedures here in the Midwest and specifically at our new, local cancer center, be able TO REMOVE IT TODAY? Of course, I want it outta here!
In the meantime, a lunch bag with a low-carb meal and cup of roasted dandelion root tea will be waiting for me when I wake up from my procedure aka chemically-induced nap. Thereafter we shall praise the Lord for a simple tool that helped me and my beloved hubby, Steve, cope with the last grueling days of waiting for this moment to come. Thank you Lord for your sustaining grace these past 8 years. I pray that your hand works through the skilled doctor today to heal me. Thy will be done for Your glory my precious Lord. JJ