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Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Sugar)
Hypoglycemia is a condition where the blood sugar levels (glucose) is lower than normal. Often related to people with diabetes, Hypoglycemia occurs when the body is deprived of insulin hormone that converts glucose into energy.
Blood sugar levels are considered low when they drop below 70mg/dL. A severe reduction in blood sugar levels can be dangerous. Let us understand more about the low sugar symptoms, causes and it's treatment
Table of Contents
Types of Low blood sugar levels
Nighttime Low blood sugar
Although you can experience low sugar levels randomly during the day, it is observed that usually people have low blood sugar levels when they sleep. low blood sugar causes due to reasons such as having a super active and exhausting day, getting physically active just before hitting the bed, insufficient intake of insulin, and consumption of alcohol at night. Some precautions that you can take to avoid low blood sugar levels during nighttime include
- Eating meals at regular timings and never skipping them
- Eating something, if you are consuming alcohol ideally.
- Consume a snack before hitting the bed if you feel you are prone to nighttime low blood sugar levels
Having low blood sugar levels during sleep will make you awake but you should depend on such signals. Instead, use a glucose monitor that helps you to wake up in case your sugar levels drop while sleeping. Read more about medications for diabetes.
Severe low blood sugar
This type of low blood sugar level occurs when your sugar levels are drained drastically. Having low sugar, you’ll experience symptoms such as feeling extremely weak, having trouble walking or seeing clearly, experiencing weird behavior and confusion, and having seizures. If your blood sugar levels are lower than 54 mg/dl then you are experiencing severely low blood sugars which can lead to fainting or passing out. It is vital there you must get help and rush to your healthcare expert to stabilize your sugar levels. If you are not managing your diabetes well, you may experience low blood sugar levels twice or thrice a week. You must know what actions are needed to be taken to bring your sugar levels to normalcy.
Symptoms of Low Blood Sugar
Hypoglycemia symptoms can occur suddenly or gradually, depending upon the individual health conditions, lifestyle, etc. Some of the common low sugar level symptoms across different people have been listed below for your understanding:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Sudden nervousness and mood changes
- Sudden/unexplained fatigue and tiredness
- Confusion and difficulty in thinking clearly
- Tingling sensation in the skin and nerves
- Difficulty in sleeping
- Skin turning pale
People who are unaware of their Hypoglycemic condition often fail to notice the hypoglycemia symptoms and can faint due to a severe drop in blood sugar levels leading to experiencing a seizure or even going to coma. Know more about signs and symptoms of diabetes mellitus.
Who is at Risk of Hypoglycemia
Hypoglycemia risk factors differ from individual to individual depending upon the type of diabetes, age, health conditions, etc. Certain red flags for when an individual might be at risk are:
- Diabetic people are more prone to Hypoglycemia than others
- Excessive dieting can lead to a drop in sugar levels
- Excessive smoking or drinking alcohol
- Too much insulin in the body can lead to Hypoglycemia
- Too many medications, diabetic or other, can lead to Hypoglycemia
The triggers that have been causing variations in hormone levels may affect the causes of hypoglycemia. However, we have covered some of the potential reasons for you below:
Hypoglycemia causes In People Without Diabetes
Blood Sugar Control - The hormone insulin, which is released by the pancreas, helps the body convert the carbohydrates (glucose) in food into energy. Unbalanced insulin secretion might originate from improper eating habits or bodily processes and lead to abrupt hypoglycemic episodes. Critical illnesses such as cancer, tumors, endocrine issues, insulinomas, etc. may sometimes cause hypoglycemic episodes. Know more about high blood sugar symptoms.
Hypoglycemia causes In People With Diabetes
People who have Type 2 diabetes take medication or administer insulin injections to control their insulin levels. Hypo- or hyperglycemia may result from an imbalance in insulin intake. It can also occur due to skipping a meal and/or increasing workouts without adjusting their meal plan. Drinking too much alcohol clogs your liver and prevents it from releasing the glucose that has been stored there into the circulation, causing hypoglycemia. Also know how to reverse prediabetes.
Causes Of Reactive Hypoglycemia
Low blood sugar that happens a few hours after a meal is called reactive hypoglycemia. It occurs when a person's blood levels of insulin are too high at the incorrect moment. These are the possible causes of reactive hypoglycemia:
- Possessing rare enzyme deficiencies, which can make it difficult for the stomach and intestines to break down food.
- Having prediabetes, which can make it difficult for the pancreas to produce the right amount of insulin. Also know about prediabetes diet.
- Having had stomach surgery, which can cause food to pass through the stomach and into the intestines too quickly.
Causes of Fasting Hypoglycemia
Several factors may contribute to fasting hypoglycemia:
- medications such as sulfa medicines and aspirin
- consumption of alcohol in excess
- liver, kidney, heart, and pancreatic conditions
- hormone levels that are too low
- specific tumors
How is Hypoglycemia diagnosed?
If one experiences symptoms of Hypoglycemic, it is always best to get a Hypoglycemic diagnosis immediately by checking blood sugar levels. If you don’t have the glucometer with you, a visit to the doctor is very much important.
- Physical Examination – When the doctor determines symptoms of Hypoglycemia they take a Hypoglycemia test immediately and monitor the sugar levels constantly for preventing from fatal episodes
- Studying history – Doctor examines your dietary habits, lifestyle habits, medical history, etc to know the probable cause of diabetes
- Monitoring glucose levels – Doctor may recommend carrying a glucometer or glucose-sensor to study intervals of low blood sugar levels and understand the pattern
Measures to take when your blood sugar levels get low
Having low blood sugar levels causes severe complications therefore it is important to notice the symptoms and take immediate action to balance the glucose levels. Here are certain measures that you must take if you notice that your sugar levels are draining beyond 70mg/dl.
- Consume a food item that consists of 15 grams of carbohydrates. For instance,
- Half a cup of fruit juice or regular soda
- 3 glucose tablets
- Candies, ideally 5-6.
- 15ml sugar, diluted in water or raw
- 15 ml of honey
- After consuming any of these, wait for 15 mins and do not eat anything further as it might spike sugar levels.
- Next, check your blood sugar levels again. If it is still under 70 mg/dl then consume another snack having 15 grams of carbohydrates.
- If your sugar levels reach a safe range and your next meal is more than an hour later then consume something that has carbohydrates and proteins.
Don’t call your doctor immediately while you are taking the above-mentioned measure. Visit your healthcare expert when your sugar levels are drained continuously despite the measures taken to bring sugar levels to normalcy. Also know about random glucose level.
Hypoglycemia treatment is done on the understanding if one is diabetic or not. It starts with controlling the ongoing drop in the blood sugar levels by consuming at least 15 grams of carbohydrates immediately.
- Controlling Hypoglycemia: Eating 15 grams of quick-digestible carbohydrates i.e. fruit juice, dried fruit, cookies, pretzels, toffee, etc to control the ongoing Hypoglycemia
- Dietary changes: Consuming food at regular intervals is one of the distinct measures to balance blood sugar levels. Make sure you eat a nutritive diet with the right balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fats.
- Medication – For diabetic patients, doctors recommend Hypoglycemia medicine in the form of tablets and insulin shots to maintain insulin levels for optimum production of glucose in the body.
Also read about uses and side effects of sugar tablet
Sample diet plan for low blood sugar
An ideal diet plan for low blood sugar levels would recommend you take smaller meals four to five times a day instead of consuming three heavy meals. Make sure to eliminate processed foods, and limit foods with high carbs, sugar, and beverages. Strictly eliminate consuming alcohol or caffeine. Include foods with lean protein, soluble fibers, and complex carbohydrates. Here is a sample hypoglycemia diet (low sugar levels) you can follow.
The ideal timings for consuming the following meals are as follows-
Breakfast- 8:00AM – 8:30AM
Mid Meal- 11:00AM- 11:30AM
Lunch- 2:00 PM – 2:30 PM
Evening- 4:00 PM – 4:30 PM
Dinner- 8:00 PM- 8:30 PM
Breakfast- 1 cup poha with veggies and 1 cup orange juice
Mid meal- 1 cup fruit salad
Lunch- ½ cup salad, 3 Rotis, 100 gm fish curry, and 1 cup cabbage curry
Evening- 1 cup of sprouts
Dinner- 2 Rotis and ½ cup tomato curry
Breakfast- oatmeal topped with dry fruits and 1 cup of pomegranate juice
Mid meal- 1 cup fruit salad
Lunch- 1 cup rice with veggies, ½ cup soya chunk curry, ½ cup low-fat curd
Evening- 1 cup carrot and cucumber salad
Dinner- 2 Rotis and ½ cup lady's finger veggies
Breakfast- 1 Roasted paneer roll and 1 cup of orange juice
Mid meal- 1 cup fruit salad
Lunch-1 cup rice, 1 cup dal, ½ cup palak curry, ½ cucumber salad with curd
Evening-1 cup beans salad
Dinner- ½ cup green beans veggie with 1 cup wheat upma
Breakfast- 2 methi thepla and 1 cup orange juice
Mid meal- 1 cup fruit salad
Lunch- 1 cup brown rice with 200 grams chicken curry
Evening- ½ cup kale and chia seed salad
Dinner- 3 Dosa made of wheat with ½ cup bitter gourd veggie
Breakfast- 1 cup masala oats with vegetables and 1 cup pomegranate juice
Mid meal- 1 cup fruit salad
Lunch-2 Rotis, ½ cup rice, ½ cup kidney beans curry, 1 cup curd
Evening- 1cup makhana or boiled chana
Dinner- 2 Rotis and ½ cup mixed veg curry
Breakfast- 3 Oats and vegetable idli with 1 cup of orange juice
Mid meal- 1 cup fruit salad
Lunch-3 Rotis, ½ cup cluster beans veggie, 100 grams fish curry along with ½ cup curd
Evening-1 cup black bean salad
Dinner- 2 Rotis and ½ cup Ridge gourd vegetable
Breakfast-2 Uttapam with 1 cup pomegranate juice
Mid meal- 1 cup fruit salad
Lunch-1 cup rice, ½ cup soya chunk curry, ½ cup baked lady finger, 1 cup raita
Evening- 1 cup vegetable salad
Dinner- 1 broken wheat upma with ½ cup beans vegetable
Also read about sugar free, no added sugar, and unsweetened
Complications Due to Hypoglycemia
Severe hypoglycemia has the potential to be lethal and may result in accidents, injuries, and/or a coma. Recent research has linked severe hypoglycemia to an increased risk of dementia, fractures, falls, and heart attacks. The most straightforward treatment for hypoglycemia is to give the patient sugar in some form. Hypoglycemia is not something that should be taken lightly and the patient must immediately be taken to a hospital or the nearest healthcare center and you should consult a doctor immediately.
Complications of hypoglycemia can be lethal such as going into coma, seizure and death.. Therefore, hypoglycemia shouldn’t be ignored as it can lead to complications listed below.
- Having a fatigued lifestyle
- Dizziness and having low energy levels
- Falls and injuries
- Increased risk of meeting with accidents
- Developing dementia (Usually old people face this complication)
If such complications are ignored for longer durations, the person may face hypoglycemia complications that are untreatable such as coma and death as listed above.
How can Hypoglycemia be prevented?
Hypoglycemia prevention can be done in several ways. These include:
- Regular checking of Blood Sugar Levels – If you have had Hypoglycemia in the past, then checking blood sugar levels on intervals helps in saving from further occurrence
- Snack Smart – Consider eating a 6-meal diet and snacking at the right time to ensure your blood sugar levels never drop below the normal
- Exercise right – indulge into the right kind of exercises and keep yourself fueled with energy bars, sports drinks, etc to save from Hypoglycemia during exercises
- Draft your lifestyle – Maintain a balanced and healthy lifestyle with proper meal ad sleep patterns to save from any Hypoglycemia episodes.
Also read about what is reactive hypoglycemia.
One of the first things that doctors educate newly diagnosed individuals with diabetes is hypoglycemia. Sugar levels below the range of 70m/dL can be classified as low and can be cause for severe concern as they can be fatal. If you notice any of the common symptoms of hypoglycemia, the primary step that you would need to take is to test your blood sugars immediately. In case of doubt as well, it would be a good idea to check your sugars before taking any step towards treatment. Prevent hypoglycemic episodes by understanding their causes to be able to avoid complications associated with them. Also know about fasting blood sugar range.
Does hypoglycemia go away?
Hypoglycemia, the condition where blood sugar level is lower than normal can be recovered in one or two days by taking steps like dietary changes, increasing sugar levels, and taking medications. However, diabetic hypoglycemia cannot be treated easily if you do not make the necessary diet changes. Intake of good foods for hypoglycemia can help to improve the situation. These foods involve fruit juices, dried fruits, cookies, pretzels, etc.
What causes hypoglycemia without diabetes?
Hypoglycemia can be caused to a non-diabetic person due to numerous causes like drinking excess alcohol, infections, kidney problems, liver diseases, adrenal, and pituitary gland-related problems, etc. If the body produces excess insulin post a meal in a non-diabetic person then such a situation leads to a sudden reduction of blood sugar level causing hypoglycemia. This situation is called reactive hypoglycemia. Following a reactive hypoglycemia diet can easily treat the condition in one or two days.
Can dehydration cause hypoglycemia?
Dehydration can work in a reverse manner during the condition of hypoglycemia. In case you are dehydrated, then the glucose present in your blood is relatively more than the other fluids causing hyperglycemia which is higher sugar levels. However, drinking an ample amount of water daily can help to maintain blood sugar levels as water does not contain any calories.
What are the Warning Signs of Hypoglycemia?
The warning signs of hypoglycemia can be many. Of the many signs, the most common ones include dizziness, difficulty concentrating, looking pale, hunger, feeling weak, sweating, shakiness, irregular heartbeat, nausea, etc. If you notice any of these discussed signs, you can consult your doctor for a timely diagnosis and treatment.
What Foods to Avoid if You Have Hypoglycemia?
People with hypoglycemia should be careful about the food items they have because some can cause significant blood sugar fluctuations. If you have hypoglycemia, you should avoid food items like white bread, dried fruits, fruit-flavored yogurt, trans fat, honey, sweetened breakfast cereal, sugary drinks, etc.
What is dangerously low blood sugar?
Severely low blood sugar levels are when your sugar levels fall below 54 mg/dl. You may experience low sugar level symptoms such as weakness, inability to walk and see clearly, confusion, etc. If you experience these you must immediately take measures to bring sugar levels to a safe range.
Is hypoglycemia a sign of diabetes?
Hypoglycemia which is a condition where sugar levels fall beyond the normal range is usually related to diabetes. Reactive hypoglycemia is generally a sign of diabetes. However, at times people without diabetes may also experience hypoglycemia.
This website's content is provided only for educational reasons and is not meant to be a replacement for professional medical advice. Due to individual differences, the reader should contact their physician to decide whether the material is applicable to their case.