Dr. Brian Lum
Why Do My Hands Shake Between Meals?
Updated: Jan 17
Often, when your hands shake between meals it indicates that your body is having trouble stabilizing your blood sugar.
Hand shakiness can result from other things as well, like a reaction to certain medications, over the counter drugs or even too much caffeine. Once you and your doctor have determined that blood sugar imbalance is the culprit, steps can be taken to rebalance your system.
Dietary and lifestyle changes can often correct this metabolic imbalance and can also reduce your likelihood of developing diabetes and other conditions in the future.
Major symptoms that accompany shakiness - like dizziness, shortness of breath, chest pain, and excessive sweating could indicate a more serious problem and should be investigated by a doctor immediately.
What Makes My Hands Shake?
When your hands shake between meals it can be because your body is struggling to balance your blood sugar, and your body views this as a small crisis.
Imbalanced blood sugar causes the stress hormones cortisone and adrenaline to be quickly released. This is so stored glucose can be utilized from the liver.
The feeling of shakiness is the increase of adrenaline and cortisone in your bloodstream. In a healthy person, those chemicals are only released in an emergency - when you are panicking, angry, scared, or being chased by a cheetah.
In these instances, your body is making sure to release more stored glucose quickly so you have enough energy to handle that emergency.
Why Is Shakiness a Problem?
While your body is 'doing what it is supposed to do' by releasing stored glucose so you don't faint, doing this often causes great stress on your body and can lead to other problems.
The process of repeatedly releasing stored glucose causes your stored glucose to run low or run out.
As a result, your body releases even more stress hormone, causing you to feel shakier until your body has no more glucose to release and you faint.
Repeatedly releasing stored glucose is particularly hard on your liver and pancreas. In addition to the risk of diabetes, liver-related health issues can result in long-term blood sugar regulation issues.
How It Affects Your Adrenal Glands
When my patients have blood sugar regulation issues (like hand shakiness), they usually have adrenal issues as well. Both involve the 'fight or flight response of the body and both are usually out of balance.
'Adrenal fatigue' usually occurs when your adrenal glands become less effective at balancing and restoring harmony during what the body believes to be a constant crisis.
This 'fatigue' occurs both in the brain's neurochemistry as well as in the target organs including the adrenal glands, ovaries/testes, and even the thyroid gland.
This is why symptoms of adrenal imbalance are so wide-ranging and include anxiety, depression, insomnia, excessive thirst, panic attacks, hypothyroidism, and hormonal imbalances.
A first patient appointment with me will check for adrenal problems and, if detected, steps to restore normal function will be included in your treatment plan.
Read our post How to Heal Naturally from Adrenal Fatigue
Testing for Blood Sugar Problems
Persistent low blood sugar episodes need to be investigated. Ideally, consult a functional medicine practitioner who can help you utilize lifestyle and dietary changes so that often, patients can avoid long-term medication.
I offer online consultations to patients worldwide if there is not a practitioner in your area.
Prediabetes and diabetes will need to be ruled out with some targeted blood testing. The best panels to do this will include these markers:
Often, a primary care doctor will only test fasting glucose. This is a problem because it will miss about half of all blood sugar issues and will miss underlying insulin resistance which is the root cause of 90% of blood sugar problems.
An abnormal fasting glucose measurement typically detects a blood sugar problem that is well advanced. It is the last testing marker to show a problem.
By picking up a blood sugar issue before it progresses you can delay or prevent diabetes altogether.
Dietary Changes to Stabilize Blood Sugar
To stabilize blood sugar, it is important to feed your body a steady stream of foods with slow-releasing sugars and to avoid blood sugar spikes as well as low blood sugar episodes.
Cut Out Refined Sugar
Immediately stop eating candy, sugary snacks, and especially soda. Many people eat something sugary to bring up their blood sugar quickly but over time, this makes blood sugar problems much worse.
Things like candy and soda cause a blood sugar spike, which the body has to work hard to balance.
The easiest way to keep track of your meals is to set a timer. Eat 3 meals a day, 4 hours apart.
Most people with blood sugar problems will also need to have a snack at the two-hour mark between meals during the day.
Set a timer for the snacks as well. If you still get shaky or nauseous, despite being on this schedule, consult with your practitioner.
Each snack and meal should have some protein, fat, and carbohydrates. This is no time for extreme dieting (Ex. no carb, no fat, or extremely high protein diets are not beneficial at this time).
To regain balance, the key is moderation. A great snack would be an apple with peanut butter. An example meal would be chicken, sweet potatoes, and Brussel sprouts cooked with olive oil with a high polyphenol content.
Slowly Reduce Caffeine
Gradually reduce your caffeine intake to zero. Caffeine makes blood sugar regulation issues worse. When you are fully recovered, you can slowly reintroduce caffeine.
If you want to really speed up recovery, eat as close to the earth as possible. This means make your food yourself - no fast food, premade meals, or packaged foods. Bread or pasta should be avoided, as anything made with flour will raise your blood sugar too quickly.
If you can, only buy organic. If cost or availability are issues, then ensure that fruits and vegetables that have the most pesticide residues are purchased organic (these are called the 'dirty dozen').
Relaxation - 15 minutes a day
Even a few minutes a day in meditation can make a big difference in your overall health. Engage in yoga, prayer, or meditation for at least a few minutes a day to prioritize your recovery.
Don't exercise too much! When you have blood sugar regulation issues, exercise can wear down your body. The duration and intensity should make you feel energized.
You should not feel tired at any point, if you do, you exercised too much. 15-20 minutes a day should be your maximum while you recover.
Supplements to Help Blood Sugar Regulation
Any supplementation should be monitored by your functional medicine practitioner. While effective, some supplements can interact with medications and other things you are taking.
Dosing and sourcing need to be determined on a case-by-case basis and will vary greatly between individuals.
NAC (N-Acetyl Cysteine)
Functional Medicine Treatment of Blood Sugar Problems
All of the above steps are powerful ways to restore blood sugar regulation and get your body stable and resilient again.
In my experience, these therapies help about half of those with nondiabetic blood sugar imbalances but there are those who need additional help.
A wide range of underlying conditions can be causing your blood sugar regulation problems.
By identifying those conditions and imbalances through targeted testing, I can help you effectively treat the underlying cause of your blood sugar imbalances and you can regain metabolic balance and enjoy sustained energy throughout the day.
Worldwide Online Consultation
As always in my practice, there is never a one-size-fits-all approach. Our hour-long new patient appointment will go over your health and medical history since birth. All of your symptoms, goals, and worries are relevant in the development of your treatment plan.
My practice is now 100% online and I can have a consultation with you anywhere in the world. You can read more about an online consultation here.
I can personalize treatment and even work with your primary care physician or order testing if you are out of state or outside of the US.
If you would like to speak with me directly you can schedule a Free 15 Minute Consultation here or call or text my office directly at 913-728-5291.
If you think that you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. No action or inaction should be taken based solely on the contents of this information. Nor should you ever delay seeking medical advice or treatment due to the information contained on this Website.