Hypoglycemia is a condition where your blood sugar drops to abnormally low levels. It is usually associated with diabetes; however it can occur in other disease conditions and is usually an indicator of a health problem. For people with diabetes, the main cause of hypoglycemia is the result of taking too much insulin, not eating enough food after taking diabetes medications, or exercising more than normal. For people without diabetes, hypoglycemia can result from taking certain medications, excessive alcohol consumption, severe illness, the body producing too much insulin, and some endocrine disorders.
The symptoms of hypoglycemia include confusion, double or blurry vision, heart palpitations, shakiness, anxiety, sweating, hunger, and/or a tingling sensation around the mouth. If the symptoms of hypoglycemia are ignored, your brain can lose consciousness. Glucose is the preferred fuel for your brain and when levels drop too low, your brain can not function properly. Serious consequences can result including seizures and death. If blood glucose levels drop, you must take quick steps to get your blood sugar level back to normal (70 to 100mg/dL). This involves eating a high sugar food or a medication that your doctor can prescribe. Long-term management requires that the underlying issue be resolved.
Follow the tips below to prevent hypoglycemia:
- Eat small, frequent meals, every 3–4 hours. Skipping or delaying meals will worsen symptoms.
- Avoid simple sugars and refined carbohydrates (soda, sugar-sweetened beverages, honey, jam, jelly, sugar, syrup, sweet desserts, fruit juice). Artificial sweeteners do not affect blood sugar.
- Eat balanced meals and snacks with variety.
- Include high-protein foods with meals and snacks (lean meats, fish, eggs, skinless poultry, low-fat milk and other low-fat dairy products (yogurt, cheese, etc), dried beans, lentils, legumes, tofu, soy milk, peanut butter, and other meat alternatives)
- Choose high-fiber foods, particularly soluble fiber (Eat whole grains (like oatmeal), beans/legumes, fruits, and vegetables) and drink extra fluids (like water) when increasing fiber intake.
- Limit alcohol and caffeine (alcohol can cause low blood sugar, caffeine can make symptoms worse)
- Eat a high-carbohydrate snack before exercise ( fresh fruit , cereal, pretzels, or a granola bar)
***Please note that consuming only a high sugar food or beverage when you are having a hypoglycemic episode will raise blood sugar levels only temporarily. The best option would be to have a complex carbohydrate with a protein source like a peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat bread.***