What Is Hypoglycemia?
When the blood sugar or blood glucose levels fall to less than 70mg/dL, the condition is known as hypoglycemia. Hypoglycaemia is also called as insulin shock or insulin reaction. It is a common misnomer that hypoglycemia occurs in people suffering only from diabetes. It can also affect people who do not have diabetes. Hypoglycaemia can be reactive or non-reactive and both have different causes.
Insulin is essentially the hormone that breaks down sugar so that the body can use it for energy. When the body produces too much of insulin, it causes hypoglycemia in people with diabetes. If you have diabetes and take too much of insulin, this can also cause hypoglycemia.
If you don’t suffer from diabetes and your body is unable to regulate the blood sugar levels, hypoglycemia can occur and the condition can also occur if the body produces too much of insulin after you have eaten your meals. Severe hypoglycemia can cause injuries, accidents, coma and even death.
What Are The Symptoms Of Hypoglycemia?
Hypoglycaemia can cause symptoms such as:
- Fatigue, dizziness
- Heart palpitations, shakiness, anxiety
- Pale skin, extreme hunger
- Sweating, headache
- Crying out while sleeping, irritability
- Feeling of a tingling sensation around the mouth
- Incapability to concentrate
When the hypoglycemia worsens the symptoms are:
- Disturbance in vision such as blurring
- Seizures, abnormal behavior and/or confusion
- Inability to do normal jobs, loss of consciousness
- Appearance of being intoxicated, with slurring and clumsy movements
What Are The Causes Of Hypoglycemia?
Hypoglycaemia occurs when the blood sugar falls too low and can be caused due to:
- Drugs taken for diabetes treatment.
- Taking diabetes medication and not eating normally or exercising too much.
Without Having Diabetes
- Medications in children or people suffering from kidney failure (quinine)
- Drinking excessive alcohol without eating
- Critical illness like hepatitis, kidney disorder, anorexia nervosa
- Overproduction of insulin due to pancreatic tumor (insulinoma)
- Beta cells in pancreas get enlarged causing excessive release of insulin (nesidioblastosis)
- Hormonal deficiency caused by pituitary gland and adrenal gland disorders
- Not having eaten for a long time (fasting state)
- People who have undergone stomach surgery (dumping syndrome)
You are a greater risk of developing hypoglycemia if:
- You are obese, have other health issues
- Family history of diabetes
- Have prediabetes
What Are The Things One Should Do To Manage Hypoglycemia?
- Always keep a snack or some food on hand such as candies, fruit juice, cola, jelly, honey etc. that is equal to around 15 grams of carbohydrates in case you suffer from hypoglycemia.
- After you consume the 15 grams of carbohydrates wait for 15 minutes and check your blood sugar levels if you have diabetes. If it is still very low, then have another 15 grams of carbs and recheck.
- If you eat plenty of carbs, you may experience rebound hypoglycemia.
- If you are a risk for severe hypoglycemia, keep glucagon on hand always.
- Make changes to your lifestyle such as following a healthy diet, a regular exercise routine and lose weight.
- Eat small meals at 2-hour intervals, 6 small meals or 3 meals with snacks in between. This helps to keep the blood sugar levels stabilized.
- Remove foods and beverages like refined flour, sugar, caffeine, alcohol and tobacco and reduce the consumption gradually without stopping them abruptly.
- Replace the harmful foods with nutritious and wholesome foods such as whole grains, vegetables, lean meats, poultry without skin, and allowed fruits to prevent deprivation.
- Be careful about the fruits you eat, sometimes people with severe or early hypoglycemia are advised not to eat any fruits.
- Be careful about the natural juices that you consume as they have a high amount of sugar.
- If you feel dizzy while exercising, then it is a good idea to have a small healthy snack before and also after a workout.
- If you notice symptoms of hypoglycemia while sleeping, then have a small snack before going to bed.
What Are The Things One Should Avoid To Manage Hypoglycemia?
- Don’t stop your diabetes medications even if you experience hypoglycemia. Check with your doctor before making any alterations to the dosage or medications.
- Avoid medications that contain caffeine.
- Avoid fruits with high sugar levels such as mango, bananas, etc. and completely avoid dried fruits.
- Don’t ignore any warning signs you may experience, especially if you know that you suffer from low sugar.
- Even if you don’t have any symptoms, if your blood sugar level drops below 70mg/dl, do not ignore it and take adequate measures to prevent hypoglycemia.
- If you find that your blood sugar is low, do not drive and wait till the level becomes normal.
- Never skip any meals, especially breakfast if you are hypoglycemic. This is the most important meal of the day.
- Avoid being obsessed about your diet and focus on the things you can eat instead of the foods you can’t.
If a person becomes unconscious due to low sugar levels:
- Don’t inject insulin, as this will lower the blood glucose further.
- Avoid giving the person fluids or any food, as they can choke.
- Don’t put hands in the person’s mouth, as it increases the risk of choking.
What Are The Best Foods For Hypoglycemia?
- Follow a balanced diet comprising healthy complex carbohydrates, high in fiber and protein and low in sugar.
- Choose foods with a low glycemic index such as 100% wheat, oat bran, oatmeal, barley, pasta, bulgur, sweet potato, yam, peas, legumes, lentils, carrots, non-starchy vegetables, etc.
- Eat foods that are rich in complex carbs such as whole grains, brown rice, sprouted grains, beans, legumes, whole grain pasta, sweet potatoes, etc. These help to sustain your blood sugar levels are a spell of hypoglycemia.
- Eat nuts and seeds in the raw form and grains should be cooked.
- Consume healthy fats such as extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, seeds and nuts such as flaxseeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds and almonds and avocado.
- Focus on high-quality protein such as raw dairy products (raw cheese, yogurt, kefir), wild fish like salmon, eggs (free range), poultry (pasture raised), lamb or beef (grass fed), nuts, beans, seeds, cheese, etc.
- Including chromium in your diet can help to regulate glucose levels. So, you can have foods that are rich in chromium such as potatoes, peas, oysters, whole wheat or rye bread, wheat germ and brewer’s yeast.
- Eating foods rich in magnesium such as yogurt, almond, tuna, artichoke, banana, barley, oat bran, sweet potatoes, spinach, broccoli, potatoes, milk, etc. are good to help the sugar levels from falling if you have hypoglycemia.
- Tomatoes are a rich source of the antioxidant lycopene which helps to cure pancreatic ailments that result in low blood sugar. You can also add fresh tomatoes to your diet.
- Vitamin B3 helps in stabilizing blood sugar levels, so you can include foods such as salmon, asparagus, mushrooms, chicken breast, tuna, etc. in your diet, which are rich in vitamin B3.
- Include foods that are rich in dietary fibre such as oat bran, psyllium husk, wholemeal cereals, apple pectin, green leafy vegetables, beans, apples, almonds, avocado, artichokes, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, chia seeds, etc. as the fibre helps the sugar to be absorbed into the bloodstream very slowly and prevents blood sugar spikes.
- Vitamins such as E, B complex and C help to regulate blood sugar levels and are very beneficial for the condition of hypoglycemia.
- If you feel like eating sugar, then eat sugar-free desserts such as sweet fruits, dark sugar-free chocolate, yogurt cow’s milk, vegetable juice without added sugar and other sugar-free desserts.
- Drink a lot of water to keep yourself hydrated and to flush out all the toxins from the body.
What Are The Worst Foods For Hypoglycemia?
- Avoid sugars and sugary content as the sugar gets absorbed quickly into the bloodstream, which causes a sudden increase and then a decrease in the sugar levels which is very dangerous.
- Eliminate sugar completely from your diet or reduce sugar consumption to less than 5mg.
- Avoid refined and processed foods such as white pasta, white rice, etc. canned foods, caffeinated foods and beverages such as energy drinks, coffee, tea, alcohol (particularly on an empty stomach), salty foods such as bacon, French fries, etc., as they are harmful to the condition of hypoglycaemia.
- Avoid foods that are high in saturated and trans fats such as fast food, junk food, French fries, cakes, ice creams, bacon, red fatty meat, etc.
- Reduce processed and refined sugar and sugary foods and beverages such as white table sugar, jelly, candies, colas, energy and sports drinks, fruit juices, etc.
What Are The Medicines For Hypoglycemia?
What Are The Tips To Manage Hypoglycemia?
- Maintain a diet diary and keep track of what you eat and drink and the quantity for 7-10 days. Also, make a list of the symptoms you experience. After a while, you will be able to notice the correlation between what you have consumed and the symptoms you experience. Eliminate the foods that aggravate the condition of hypoglycemia.
- People with hypoglycemia must avoid stress and should relax. Taking up moderate exercise, breathing exercises, yoga, meditation and progressive muscle relaxation techniques can help to prevent low blood sugar and hypoglycemia.
- Some home remedies for hypoglycemia are:
- Liquorice root can help to stabilize the blood sugar levels. You can cut the pieces of liquorice root and boil it in water for 5 minutes and drink it once daily.
- Apples are rich in magnesium and chromium which helps to regulate the blood sugar level.
- Drinking an extract of molasses with a glass of warm water twice daily helps to stabilize the blood sugar level.
- Boil yam in water and leave it for an hour before drinking the water or you can dry the powdered yam root into a paste, add it to a glass of warm water or milk and consume. Wild yam is an excellent natural remedy for low blood sugar.
- Dandelion root is a great source of calcium that helps to regulate blood sugar.
- Steep some parsley leaves in warm water and drinking this daily, is good for the pancreas and liver and helps to regulate the blood sugar.
- Sunflower seeds are a good source of quinic acid, caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid, polyphenols that are good for stabilizing blood sugar levels.
- Pumpkin seeds are a great source of manganese, iron, and magnesium and help to regulate blood sugar in the case of hypoglycemia.
- Gentian root is an excellent natural remedy for low blood sugar and you can dip this boiling water and drink this twice a day.