Managing Hypoglycemia, Food Addiction & Travel – Dr. Lisa Ortigara Crego

Managing Hypoglycemia, Food Addiction & Travel

Weight Control


I’m on a Zen-like getaway in the township of Mt. Morris, hovering next to Wautoma in Wisconsin, taking in the quiet sounds of nature, writing in total serenity. The smells of pine trees and wild flowers fill the air while tree frogs call out after each other, making a banjo competition with  birds singing and the  cool summer breeze, all blending into a perfect recipe for Zen.

Life is good.

And then, crunch…crunch, CRUNCH…I’m not alone! I look up abruptly, expecting a big black grizzly bear, as it’s known they’re out here. But, to my delight it’s a deer sporting an impressive rack. Our eyes lock. Nobody moves. Looking deep into his golden brown eyes, we connect for what seemed like forever. We were so close; I could almost feel his breath.

Darn, no phone to capture our moment. Slowly, I rise to snatch my phone from indoors, in a blink of the eye he’s gone. Graceful, picking each step he slips into the forest. 

Only yesterday, at Ft. Lauderdale Airport, I was trying to look inconspicuous, balancing my large food bag, carry-on luggage, and a ginormous gold bag, hoping to pass it off as my purse. Before getting too far, an elderly TSA agent, coal black eyes,  peered up over his glasses, arm extended, palm up (only thing missing was a whistle) blocked me and sternly said, “Mam, you have three bags, only two allowed.” I gulped, flushed red, as my food bag tumbled off my shoulder, wobbling to balance my over sized purse and luggage. Quickly, regrouping without hesitation, I told him the third bag was food, that I have hypoglycemia. Instantly, he softened into a grandfatherly type of fella, warmly smiled waving me on to the next step, the conveyor belt, to scan luggage before passing to my gate.

I’m a food addict in recovery and suffer with hypoglycemia, so packing food essentials is critical. Steering clear of sugar, flour and wheat keeps food addiction behavior at bay. But, these amazing “cheap” tickets required only one personal and one carry-on. Not three bags—the third would house my food. I took it anyway. Fear engulfed me, thinking they’d make me put one back to the side or check it in, neither of which I wanted to do.

Okay, so you say, what’s the big deal of checking my bag? Big deal is I’m on a split travel and need to grab my bags quick to make my connection in 20 minutes. Yes, tight for sure. I feared one of the bags would get left behind. I purchased the most amazing tickets, but it came with this challenge. A large checked-in suitcase houses all my essentials, including food. Not so with a carry-on bag—the maximum dimensions are 9” by 14” by 22”, including handles and wheels.

So what’s the issue? I have hypoglycemia, also known as low blood sugar—where blood sugar decreases to below normal levels which can lead to a wide variety of symptoms including: clumsiness, trouble talking, confusion, loss of consciousness, seizures and even death. A feeling of hunger, sweating, shakiness and weakness may also be present.

To avoid all that discomfort, I travel with foods in my luggage and in my lunch bag, but this time, I’m loaded down with clothes and toiletries for six days, including an outfit for my class reunion, leaving no space.

It’s essential to bring all foods. When my blood symptoms come on quickly, there’s no turning back. It’s an awful feeling I ward off by eating in regular intervals, avoiding hunger or long periods without food.

Hypoglycemia can be caused by medications to treat diabetes mellitus, kidney failures, certain tumors, such as insulinoma, liver disease, hypothyroidism, starvation, inborn error of metabolism, severe infections, reactive hypoglycemia and a number of drugs, including alcohol.

Low blood sugar can occur in otherwise healthy persons who have not eaten in several hours, which is my case. A quick treatment is eating foods high in simple sugars. With low blood, clean foods at hand to avoid the dip are crucial. One time, I was told I couldn’t bring my food bag as I had too many bags. I left my food behind; a few hours into my flight I felt nausea, confused, irritable and lethargic, needing attendance. Lesson learned. Now I know I need to say my food is for medicinal purposes. And I’m good to go.

I’ve learned long ago, my priority must be my food; money, ID, phone, and laptop, everything else can be ditched.

Symptoms include:

  • Tiredness
  • Increased appetite
  • Cloudy thinking
  • Blurry Vision
  • An Inability to Concentrate
  • Pale Facial Complexion
  • Sweating

It’s almost an “out of body “ experience. I begin to slip away, really quiet…and quite moody. The most common treatment is glucose tablets but food addicts do not eat sugar Glucose tablets, which are a chalky white dry tablet that work within minutes to restore blood levels. As a food addict, sugar is not an option. I prefer natural treatment—real food.

Real Food Treatment for Low Blood Sugar & Food Addiction:

  1. Food: never leave it to chance. Vigilance, preparing your food in advance to avoid being left without your foods is a first step.
  2. Eat at Regular Intervals: Not only carrying your food is essential to stopping the symptoms of low blood sugar but eating at regular intervals is also key. Eating every four to five hours works for me but for you it might be every three hours.
  3. All-natural peanut butter: Real peanut butter with no added sugar is easy to tote, eat, and provides quick relief. Stores such as Whole Foods or those sporting organic foods often carry small pre-measured packets of peanut butter making it easier to transport during your travels or outings.
  4. Dry Fruits: Raisins, pineapple, mango, and dates are a few very sweet fruits that will instantly pull you out of the funk before it gets out of hand. Make sure to check ingredients as some companies pack it with sugar. Only ingredient on the label is the fruit itself. As a backup to store in your purse or bag. Instead of white chalky sugar tablets, go natural it will keep for weeks and great to have on hand.
  5. Applesauce: Fresh applesauce either homemade or store bought is another easy doable food. Again, some company’s package individual sized sauce making it easier to take with you. Or, homemade is always a guarantee it’s natural without sugar.
  6. Fresh Fruits: Banana is the first that comes to mind. You can find a banana at just about any store, gas station or fresh market. It’s affordable and easy to put in your purse/ bag. Grapes and pineapple are sweet fruits that can put a quick stop to the symptoms once they start.
  7. Grapes: Red or green grapes are a simple fix and easy to tote. Pop a few in your mouth and your good to go.
  8. Pineapple: Fresh pineapple is one of the sweetest fruits surely to bounce you back.
  9. Fruit Juice: Grape juice, orange juice, pineapple juice are a few very sweet juices that will bounce you back to normal in minutes.
  10. Eat Regular Intervals: It’s worth repeating—you can avoid the slump and needing any of the above real food fixes if you eat at regular four to five hour intervals.

Get to know your body and your symptom to offset before it hits. Eating every four hours—at most five, slows or stops it from coming on.

Food addiction is real—and recovery is possible if you are vigilant. I’m vigilant…and clean for the past 20 years, but there were times in my earlier years of recovery I took the chance and left my “treatments” behind thinking all would be well—it’s not, if you get caught in an unforeseeable situation—like stuck in traffic for hours, a plane, train or any other obstacle.

Stay true to yourself, practice self-love and self-care and you will sail through your low blood sugar and food addiction without a miss.

Dr. Lisa’s Personal Quick-Fix Self-love, Self-care Formula:

  1. Let go of sugar, flour and wheat
  2. Exercise daily or close to it
  3. Drink water
  4. Meditate
  5. Pray
  6. Laugh
  7. Smile
  8. Breathe
  9. Food: Never leave it to chance
  10. Vitamins

In the stillness, writing away, only sounds are birds chatting back and forth at different octaves, crickets and an occasional snap of a branch—all my family asleep after a long previous day. My reunion was one of my highlights this trip—seeing friends, sharing memories and life’s journeys over the past forty-five years. Wrapping up my thoughts feeling eyes on me, this time only raising my eyes we stare, once again speaking in silence—my buck friend and I.

So, in a few days I’ll be at the airport once again waiting to pass through the TSA; and again I will have so much luggage it’s spilling out of my “personal” bag. The outcome might be a repeat where I’m told no. It’s important to speak up—vigilant and proactive to avoid issues.

And if you are still thinking, hey just pack less and you’ll avoid this problem, I agree. I’d like to say lesson learned this time but I bought a hand full of things to bring home in an already impossibly full bag. Next time…less stuff…I hope.

Do you have hypoglycemia—low blood sugar? What are your remedies. If your not a food addict your information is valuable too. If I missed the mark please do not hesitate to correct or add your version—your thoughts matter.

Hugs to you…I care.

Dr. Lisa

About the Author Lisa Ortigara Crego

Speaker, writer, licensed clinical psychotherapist, PhD in addiction psychology, eating disorder professional, hypnotherapist changing the view about compulsive eating one addict at a time.

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