Column: A Hospital Visit – Hidden Sugar In Certain Foods?

By: Forrest R. Church, Publisher

Those in my immediate circle know that I have battled through some health issues over the past few decades. I have joked about having more surgeries and procedures done than those twice my age, which really is more factual data than comedy. The good news is that as I enter my mid 40’s I am about as healthy as I have ever been in my adult life.

Note – Clearly, I should not have typed this two weeks ago.

Above was the beginning paragraph of this column typed before I had First Responders and EMTs pick me up off the living room floor last week due to low blood sugar glucose in the mid 30’s.

For the moment, I’ll return back to my original column which was to address hidden sugar in our food but I will now include my personal glucose experience as well. I will then circle back around to last week’s unplanned activities momentarily. Confused yet? Me too. Welcome to my life…

I have battled being overweight since the late 1990’s as high school athletics and weightlifting turned into a life of desk work and little activity. This is a story that a lot of Americans face. I have battled this issue for over two decades personally.

Being overweight messed with my back, knees and most concerning heart as high blood pressure readings often hovered around stroke levels. Some of my surgeries over the years were direct results of too much weight on the limbs. Just overall a bad combination.

During the past 20 plus years there have been several instances where I was successfully able to take off 50 lbs. give or take, but like so many others, those pounds re­turned (and then some) when falling off the wagon with food choices or returning to a less than active lifestyle. I have always said losing weight is the easy part, keeping it off is what is difficult. Most of these weight loss adven­tures from the past were due to an increase in exercise and choosing to go on a low carb / low sugar diet (Atkins and/or Keto).

Last week marked two years of taking off the largest amount of weight I’ve been able to shed (around 110lbs over 24 months) and more importantly successfully keep­ing it off; there was a bit of small celebration. This weight loss was done with a game plan developed with my family doctor and specialists.

Since losing significant weight, I have been able to wrestle with the kids on the floor, knock out yard work, stay more active, handle more stress at work, etc. One of the most important improvements concerned my blood pressure dropping into near perfect range, and six medica­tions went into the trash, I’m only taking vitamins at the moment. I cannot adequately describe how much better it feels to be able to function with basic activities and not get out of breath or become tired within a short amount of time.

I know my family needs a healthy dad/husband and this business needs a healthy owner. Much of this large amount of weight loss was for these purposes (do it for them). But as is typical in life, the observation “no good deed goes unpunished” or in my case “no positive success will be allowed without challenge” hits home. I should probably not have celebrated the weight loss accomplish­ment on July 6th.

One of the negatives of taking off 110 lbs. in the last two years is I had a rather difficult scenario last October. Never experiencing low blood sugar, I felt like I might be checking out of this globe as my glucose bottomed out. The room was spinning, sweats, could not speak though my thought process was fine (I thought I was having a stroke), shakes and the feeling of leaving the body. As I sat in the ER and they pumped me full of IV sugar water and had me drink orange juice which is the normal medical procedure for low glucose patients. My levels would jump high, then turn around and crash back into the 30s and 40s over and over again. Because of COVID concerns, no hospital in a two-hour radius wanted to accept me, thus I sat in the ER with crashed sugar for a very long time. The ER doctor admitted he was perplexed and frustrated as he had never had a patient crash with such low numbers over and over again.

Eventually, I was transferred to Toledo, in which my sugar tanked in the EMS ride going down the turnpike. I can remember joking with the team as the casual drive turned into feeling a bit like being in a Nascar race, as it felt like we hit every bump going down the turnpike as my sugar kept dropping lower and they hit the gas.

The same routine took place in Toledo. If they kept the sugar water wide open in the IV, then I would stay in the 70-90 range, slow the IV down or stop it and I would be back into the 30s or 40s again within an hour, nearly passing out. The doctors and nurses fully admitted it was a confusing situation.

Eventually, the Endocrinologist team came to the ER and said, “you may be one in two million”. If we give a can­dy bar to 100 people, 100 people will have a sugar spike. You have that spike momentarily but then you crash, it’s like the sugar disappears in your system. They then did what felt like a science fair experiment, took me off the sugar water in my IV and had me eat straight protein.

Slowly my blood glucose levels went up. After several meals I was feeling better with no need for IV support, my glucose numbers stayed stable in the 90s.

Once released, since last October, I have continued es­sentially what is known as the Atkins and/or Keto Diet which I am pretty familiar with since I choose those diets in my past. This includes meat and low carb veggies. I can tell you off the top of my head what the carb count is on most food items. No pizza, no doughnuts, no birth­day cake, no favorites such as my wife’s peanut butter pie and/or blueberry cheesecake. I have done pretty well avoiding these foods though I do live in a house of carbo­holics which can be difficult when the sugary goodness is in front of you all the time. This may end up as another future column…

While its disappointing to face these challenges after the successful weight loss, it is worth it. My medical team has theorized that my body is still adjusting to the lighter weight, creating insulin release, still thinking I am 300+ lbs causing issues. We will see in upcoming months/ years, Lord willing.

Lots of people have asked how did you lose the weight? I would suggest sitting down and talking to your family doctor and have a real conversation and develop a game plan.

I am stubborn (ask my wife), a gifting if put it in a right direction/effort can be a positive thing. I point blank told my doctor when it appeared a seventh medicine was go­ing to be prescribed as I was 315+ and having all kinds of issues, that I was done with pharmaceuticals. While I believe a lot of medicine is needed and appropriate, I also believe these drug companies want to keep patients, check that customers, for life. They more or less keep you com­fortable, not healing their customers and nearly everyone is overmedicated (my opinion).

*If I end up having my knees broke in a back alley for saying this, refer to this column.

I was done with how the medicine made me feel and I decided to get healthy largely on my own or die trying. Dis­claimer – I absolutely do not recommend anybody else do this without the blessing and full approval of your medical team. I know people who quickly went off medicine without doctor supervision and it ended VERY poorly for them.

Since discovering a low carb / no sugar lifestyle was working for me, I have had a good run since last October. Plenty of protein in the fridge. When cooking or grilling, making plenty of extra to make quick meals or snacks. Despite this success over the past half year, we are not ex­actly sure why I had issues recently, including last week’s hospital stay, though I have a guess.

So back to the point of my original column which is part of the above mentioned “guess”. If you go to a restau­rant and the food prepped comes into contact with a nut and/or seafood you will see a warning or a disclaimer on the menu or somewhere. A small percentage of society is allergic to these items and can have harsh health condi­tions develop if their food even comes into contact with a nut or a piece of shrimp.

With this stated, there are no warning labels when food that has no natural sugars is soaked in it. No warning on the menu, the staff generally has no clue, “deer in the headlights” looks when asking as a customer.

I suspect my recent issue was eating out which has thrown my glucose maintenance on its head. I would not swear by this “guess” and as I polish off this column as I’m running out of time before our deadline to turn it in (sorry for any typos), I am still trying to straighten out my sugar levels and struggling a bit with what I call low glu­cose “hangover”. I’m not back 100%…

It is summertime and though we typically only eat at home, we did enjoy dining out recently. Usually, a perfect meal for me is a chicken breast or wings with a salad. Chicken has no carbs, if you get buffalo sauce it generally is made of peppers and vinegar and a side of ranch has little sugar. I have to watch what veggies and fruits I can have in a salad, but a salad is also usually okay.

A recent discovery, before last week’s issue, surround­ed being told point blank for a long time by a local restau­rant their wings and hot sauce had no sugar. I explained to a waitress recently how sick I get if I have too much sugar intake and she actually went out of her way to check labels. I was suspicious as I often did not feel well af­ter eating wings and a salad which should have had low amounts of sugar and under 10 grams of carbs, mostly from the salad veggies. It turns out a meal I have enjoyed for years (wings), was brined in sugar water and coated in brown sugar which was never mentioned on the menu. I was probably eating over 70-100 grams of carbs. The staff over previous years never made the effort to actually an­swer the question properly.

Having this knowledge, I have asked other places re­cently, usually getting a weird look when doing so. Upon going into investigative reporting mode, I have discovered almost all chicken breast and strips (without breading) are brined in a sugar water / salt mix. So, when thinking I was making proper choice, I may have been eating more sugar than if I had a piece of cheesecake for dessert as the piece of protein ordered was like a sponge absorbing sugars I cannot have.

Why do I bring this up? I’m no medical expert but I bet the percentage of people that suffer from diabetic issues (most have the opposite reaction as I have – their glucose goes high) are largely unaware of these hidden sugars. Or maybe they full well know and I was living in the dark. I’ve heard over the years as many as 1/3 of our society has sugar issues of some kind, most are not dealing with it properly. So, while a very small percentage of society have nut or shellfish allergies in which there are warnings for them, the large percentage of Americans that have sugar intake issues are not warned. Those with issues such as I have described in this column can easily read a nutrition label at a grocery store, but the same factual information is often not available at local restaurants though I believe they are supposed to. If I had more time I would research this more, check that, I’m sure I will in the future.

This is food for thought (pun fully intended) to those reading my column that need to watch the level of sugar and carbs intake for your diet. I do not think the restau­rant industry is evil or is in the midst of having some great cover up. I believe most waitresses have no clue that the same Food Services that supply most restaurants soak/ brine/coat what may seem like a low sugar choice in sugar itself. Let’s face it, while many Americans’ health is hurt by sugar and/or salt, these ingredients make everything tasty.

In closing be careful if you are one of likely over 100 million Americans that need to carefully regulate your diet. It’s a life lesson I’ve learned on my glucose journey and if I can warn one person and help them from serious issues, the effort was worth it.

I do not know if this is what caused my rather serious health concern just 36 hours before writing this column, but I’m suspicious. I have also talked to others and dis­covered that though they said I was an oddball when it comes to low sugar (one in two million), there are others that have similar struggles, including some of the medical personnel that recently took care of me.

Last week inside The Village Reporter we published sev­eral page honoring and thanking our local first responders and EMTs. I would like to thank them again. Before I was fully transported to the hospital, they had my glucose levels up from the 30s to the 60s and I felt like I was go­ing to live. They arrived to my rural location quickly, was professional, kind and supportive. Too often we fail to give them the respect and honor they deserve.

Until next time (I’ll try to avoid going to the kitchen and eating the kids’ cookies) …


Do you agree or disagree with, as my wife says, long winded comments? Have thoughts?

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