Monday, December 10, 2018

Prepping for Hypoglycemia

Most preppers assume that when the apocalypse happens, they will be fighting zombies, killing aliens, and fending off invasions of leather-clad bikers that seem to have endless supplies of motorcycle parts for when things break.

While they’re doing that, though, some of them will have to face unfortunate health problems that make it somewhat more difficult to keep stabbing bikers all day long or wading into zombie hordes and cleaving skulls with a broadsword. In my case, I am speaking of hypoglycemia.

What It Is
Hypoglycemia, at its root, is the condition of not having enough sugar in my blood. Hypoglycemics have to make sure that they maintain the minimum level of sugar in their blood needed for their brain, nerves, and various organs to continue normal operation.

People who know about hypoglycemia will think that symptoms are limited to low energy and irritability. This is true, but there's more to it than that; I know several people who actually went blind due to their lack of blood sugar (thankfully for them it was temporary, but very disconcerting). Worse, a hypoglycemic will often have trouble thinking when their blood sugar get low, in part because they literally do not have the fuel needed for their brain to think properly, often making it hard for them to realize they need to fix the problem. If it can sneak up on a person in daily life, think how much more common it would be during a disaster and how difficult it would be to fix.

How It Happens
There can be several reasons that a person might be hypoglycemic, ranging from an under-active pancreas to a problematic reaction to medicine such as metformin, a common diabetes medication. I also know at least one person who had a hypoglycemic reaction after having an allergic reaction. Hypoglycemia can be caused by all sorts of things, so please keep that in mind.

There are different triggers for the condition, with the most common one being not eating a regular diet and overexerting yourself. Untreated, it can lead to all sorts of things, including coma and death. Thankfully, whatever the cause, it has the same treatment.

Treatment: The Stack
When you're treating a hypoglycemic, remember the stack. Incidentally, this is also useful when working with pregnant women who have trouble keeping food down but still need the full range of nutrition provided by normal foods.
  1. At the bottom of the stack you have simple carbohydrates. These are things like hard candy, sugary drinks, crackers, and bread. They are the easiest to break down in your body and are the least likely to be rejected by an upset stomach. This is the first thing that you want to give to a hypoglycemic, since it will allow their body to function correctly until you can put more substantial food into them.
  2. Once some of that simple sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream, you can put slightly more complex carbohydrates -- fruit, whole wheat bread, Snickers bars, and most commercial Nutri-Grain type bars (not a lot of protein, typically has a fruit filling) -- into the body without as great a fear of rejection.
  3. After that, add protein like beef jerky, protein bars, and steak. These take a little longer for your body to break down, but they allow it to continue having energy for longer.
  4. Finally, and if you have the opportunity, add fats for ongoing energy, usually in the form of cooked food. I'm a fan of saturated fats like coconut oil or most animal fats like butter or lard, but I know people who stick to primarily vegetable fats for things like this.
  5. Whatever you choose, keep in mind that if someone has low blood sugar, they will have a harder time absorbing whatever you feed them, so it is best to give them a little bit of food that they can digest, and then something bigger.
I actually like using trail mix for the beginning of the stack, followed by a protein bar and beef jerky. They're easy to carry, take up little space, and keep well in all climates.

Whatever you choose, even if it's just commercially prepared glucose tablets, please make sure that if you are prepared to check on the medical needs of the members of your group. A little bit of preparedness now can save a lot of grief later.

Good luck, and don’t forget to eat something.

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