Signs And Symptoms Of Low Blood Sugar
Blood sugar can be affected by many factors. Some possible causes of hypoglycemia include:
- Insulin: administering too much insulin, not eating enough carbohydrates for the amount of insulin that is injected, or incorrect insulin timing
- Certain diabetes medications such as glyburide, glimepiride, or glipizide
- Exercise or physical activity
- Altitude changes
- Hormonal factors such as puberty or menstruation
How will you know if you have low blood sugar? Testing your blood sugar, either with a blood glucose meter or by continuous glucose monitoring , will provide you with your blood glucose number. CGMs are becoming more popular , do not require finger sticks , and are updated continuously. Depending on the specific CGM, your blood glucose level will be updated every one to five minutes. In addition to knowing the blood glucose level, patients may feel symptoms of low blood glucose , such as:
Severe low blood sugar symptoms may include weakness, difficulty walking, confusion, strange behavior, seizures, or fainting.
Some people may not notice symptoms of low blood sugar. This is called hypoglycemia unawareness. People who experience hypoglycemia unawareness will need to check their blood sugar more oftenespecially before driving or physical activity.
What Are The Signs & Symptoms Of Low Blood Sugar
Different people may feel low blood sugar levels differently. People with low blood sugar may:
- feel hungry or have hunger pains in their stomach
- feel shaky or like theyre trembling
- have a rapid heart rate
- feel sweaty or have cold, clammy skin
- have pale, gray skin color
- have a headache
- have seizures or convulsions
- lose consciousness
If you have diabetes, try to remember how your body reacts when your blood sugar levels are low. It may help you figure out when youre having a low blood sugar level more quickly the next time.
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What You Can Drink With Meals
Add a low-calorie, low-sugar drink or choose water. Proper hydration is essential to helping your body remove excess sugar.
Some drinks that are good for keeping your blood sugar level low include:
- Unsweetened tea
- Sparkling water or club soda
- Flavored water or sparkling water without added sugar
- Diet soda or other diet drinks
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A Low Blood Sugar Level Without Diabetes
A low blood sugar level is uncommon in people who do not have diabetes.
Possible causes include:
- a gastric bypass
- other medical conditions, such as problems with your hormone levels, pancreas, liver, kidneys, adrenal glands or heart
- some medicines, including quinine
See a GP if you think you keep getting symptoms of a low blood sugar level. They can arrange some simple tests to check if your blood sugar level is low and try to find out what’s causing it.
When To Call The Doctor
If signs of low blood sugar do not improve after you have eaten a snack that contains sugar, have someone drive you to the emergency room or call 911 or the local emergency number. Do not drive when your blood sugar is low.
Get medical help right away for a person with low blood sugar if the person is not alert or cannot be woken up as this is a medical emergency.
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Examples Of Appropriate Snacks May Be:
- 6 saltine crackers
- 1 slice toast and 1/2 cup milk
The food eaten for a reaction need not be subtracted from a meal plan.
Obtain a blood sugar when symptoms occur if you are able. If symptoms are severe, treat the reaction first and then obtain a blood sugar. Do not drive nor operate equipment if you feel your blood sugar is low.
If your blood sugar drops low enough for you to become unconscious, you must be taken to the hospital and/or treated with glucagon.
Glucagon is a hormone that causes the blood sugar to rise. It can only be given by injection. It is used to treat a low blood sugar if a person becomes semi-conscious or unconscious due to a severe low blood sugar. Please ask your nurse for instruction on glucagon. Your doctor will need to write a prescription for glucagon so you can have it available at home.
Nighttime Low Blood Sugar
While low blood sugar can happen at any time during the day, some people may experience low blood sugar while they sleep. Reasons this may happen include:
- Having an active day.
- Being physically active close to bedtime.
- Taking too much insulin.
- Drinking alcohol at night.
Eating regular meals and not skipping them can help you avoid nighttime low blood sugar. Eating when you drink alcohol can also help. If you think youre at risk for low blood sugar overnight, have a snack before bed.
You may wake up when you have low blood sugar, but you shouldnt rely on that. A continuous glucose monitor can alert you with an alarm if your blood sugar gets low while youre sleeping.
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Diabetic Low Blood Sugar Remedies
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Are Dates Good For You
Dates are an energy-dense food, so they can be a good addition to your diet if you eat them in the right way for your body.
While they contain fiber and important micronutrients, dates also have high amounts of sugar. For some people, eating sugar-dense foods can lead to steep increases in blood sugar levels.
Blood sugar fluctuations are normal, but having high blood sugar levels frequently isn’t good for your long-term health.
In the short term, these blood sugar spikes can cause you to feel hungry, tired, and irritable. Over long periods, they can lead to chronic health conditions.
But the sugar in dates doesnt mean you have to avoid them. Eating dates alongside sources of fats, protein, or fiber can help prevent big blood sugar fluctuations.
You might try tossing some chopped dates into a salad with lentils, or eating them with oats or nuts.
If youre looking for fruit alternatives to dates apples, pears, cherries, peaches, and berries are all good sources of fiber and other nutrients.
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Possible Causes Without Diabetes
Even if you dont have diabetes, you may experience low blood sugar. However, hypoglycemia is much less common in people without diabetes.
Some possible causes of low blood sugar in people who dont have diabetes are:
- certain medications, such as quinine
- some medical conditions, such as hepatitis and kidney disorders
- a tumor that produces excess insulin
- endocrine disorders, such as adrenal gland deficiency
How To Raise Blood Sugar Fast
Having low blood sugar is not a reason for panicbecause it can be quickly treated. Low blood sugar should be quickly treated to prevent a further drop and to bring the blood sugar back into the target range.
People with diabetes should always keep some fast-acting carbohydrates with them, so they are accessible at all times. For example, keeping some candy in a pocket, purse, backpack, and/or car can be very helpful so that it is always accessible quickly if blood sugar drops below 70 mg/dl.
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How Do Carbs Affect Blood Sugar
Carbs in food make your blood sugar levels go higher after you eat them than when you eat proteins or fats. You can still eat carbs if you have diabetes. The amount you can have and stay in your target blood sugar range depends on your age, weight, activity level, and other factors. Counting carbs in foods and drinks is an important tool for managing blood sugar levels. Make sure to talk to your health care team about the best carb goals for you.
Complications Of High And Low Blood Sugar Levels
If you dont get treatment, high blood sugar levels can lead to long-term complications, including:
Before checking your blood glucose levels, make sure that you have:
- a finger-stick device to prick your finger, such as a lancet
- an alcohol swab to sterilize the puncture site
- a blood glucose monitor
- a bandage if bleeding continues beyond a few drops
Also, depending on the type of test youre taking, you may need to adjust your meal schedule or time it around your meal, depending on your doctors instructions.
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How To Improve Blood Test Results
Identifying the foods or meals that regularly spike your blood sugar too high, too fast, or too long can help you to individualize your diet for longevity.
After a few weeks of testing your blood sugar levels after eating various types of food, you should have a clear record of how your body responds.
A balanced blood sugar results in a greater sense of wellbeing, having more energy, preventing the afternoon crash and feeling hangry , and getting a better nights rest.
Heres what It feels like to have normal blood sugar:
- No extreme hunger between meals
- No sleepiness after meals or mid-day
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How Your Body Regulates Glucose
Lets first review some basics about. The glucose in your blood serves as a primary source of energy for all the cells in your body. There are other molecules your body can make for fuel if needed, like ketones, but well keep the focus on glucose here for simplicity.
Your body has sensors throughout it to determine if you are at the correct blood glucose level. In people without, this level is typically between 70 and 120 mg/dL . There are multiple hormones that either activate or go quiet as needed to protect this glucose level. If the, your body might release catecholamine hormones to trigger an increase in the level of glucose in the blood. If, your body will release and other hormones to correct the level back down to an appropriate range.
People with diabetes dont lose the ability to raise or lower their blood sugar levels rather, the hormones that serve to keep blood glucose in the correct range dont function correctly, and the sensors that assess the glucose level are also often impaired.
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Personalizing Your Diet Based On Blood Sugar Response
In addition to seeing your healthcare provider, there are steps you can take to reduce your blood sugar levels. If you check your blood sugar after meals and keep track of those measurements, along with the types and amounts of food you ate, you may be able to see which foods are problematic.
Although an increase in blood sugar is usually due to eating high-carb foods, all carbs are not the same when it comes to raising blood sugar. Because starchy foods digest down to glucose very quickly, some starchy foods may end up having a much greater impact on blood sugar than you might expect.
For instance, even though a banana tastes sweeter than a baked potato, the potato may actually have a bigger impact on blood sugar.16
Because high-carb foods have the biggest impact on blood sugar levels, it makes sense to reduce them, no matter what type of diet you follow. The American Diabetes Association made this point in a 2019 paper on nutrition for people with diabetes.17
Sometimes making gradual changes can work best. Our guide, Eating better: six steps down carb mountain, can help you lower your carb intake, one step at a time.
If youve been diagnosed with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, our guide to the best foods for people with diabetes can help you make choices that may reduce your need for blood sugar control medications.
If a food or beverage seems to be causing your blood sugar to rise too much, try leaving it out of your diet for a few days to see if you notice a difference.
A Few Final Notes On Keeping Blood Sugar Stable
Taking an active, intentional approach to your blood sugar levels is crucial to your quality of life and overall health, ONeill says. Avoiding too-high or too-low blood sugar levels will help you avoid adverse symptoms and health complications, and staying within your target range can enable you to feel your best and do whatever you want to do in life, she says.
Test your blood sugar regularly, listen to your body, and dont ever hesitate to reach out to your doctor.
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What Is The Best Thing To Eat When Your Blood Sugar Is Low
To avoid overtreating lows with too much simple carbohydrate or food and then facing a rebound high blood sugar, its best to have go-to automatic corrections for hypoglycemia that are quantity limited and unappealing to overeat. Glucose tablets and gels, and candies like Smarties, are predictable, relieve low symptoms quickly, and are hard to overeat. Some people with diabetes count out jelly beans, mini-Swedish Fish, gummies, or hard candy and eat the exact amount that will help their blood sugar. Others take a specific amount of juice or another sugar-containing drink.
How do you know how much of your correction to consume? Similar to the 15-15 rule, the only way to discover exactly how much of your go-to correction your body needs is by checking your glucose levels, eating a source of sugar that has been measured out, and then checking again in roughly 15 minutes. This can help you adjust the amount of your source of sugar to raise your blood sugar to your target , but not overshoot. This is a precision dose of carbs. To learn more, read Adam Browns Defeating the Hypoglycemia Binge.
Do not use a low as a reason to eat treats this can cause your blood sugar to spike later. Plus, it connects a food reward with something you want to avoid , which is an easy way to develop a bad habit.
High Blood Sugar Level Causes
Several types of diabetes and medical conditions are the primary cause of high blood sugar levels. Most of which are unpreventable issues but are the reason for a spike in high blood sugar. The causes for high blood sugar levels are as follows:
Causes of low blood sugar levels are very different and are as important to be aware of, as they are in fact easier to control.
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How Is Hypoglycemia Diagnosed
If you suspect you have low blood sugar, its important to check your blood sugar right away. If you dont have a blood glucose meter and youre on diabetes medications that increase insulin, talk with your doctor about getting a meter.
If you experience low blood sugar often say, a few times a week see your doctor right away to find out why. Your doctor will begin your visit by requesting your medical history, asking questions about your eating habits, and learning more about the symptoms youre experiencing.
If you dont have diabetes but suspect you have hypoglycemia, talk with your doctor about your symptoms. Your doctor will use three criteria, sometimes referred to as Whipples triad, to diagnose low blood sugar:
- Signs and symptoms of low blood sugar. Your doctor may require you to fast, or abstain from drinking and eating for an extended period of time, so they can observe your low blood sugar signs and symptoms.
- Documentation of low blood sugar when your signs and symptoms occur. Your doctor will order a blood test to analyze your blood sugar levels in a laboratory.
- Disappearance of the signs and symptoms of low blood sugar. Your doctor will want to know whether the signs and symptoms go away when your blood sugar levels are raised.
Preventing Low Blood Sugar
Preventing low blood sugar is better than having to treat it. Always have a source of fast-acting sugar with you.
- When you exercise, check your blood sugar levels. Make sure you have snacks with you.
- Talk to your provider about reducing insulin doses on days that you exercise.
- Ask your provider if you need a bedtime snack to prevent low blood sugar overnight. Protein snacks may be best.
Do not drink alcohol without eating food. Women should limit alcohol to 1 drink a day and men should limit alcohol to 2 drinks a day. Family and friends should know how to help. They should know:
- The symptoms of low blood sugar and how to tell if you have them.
- How much and what kind of food they should give you.
- When to call for emergency help.
- How to inject glucagon, a hormone that increases your blood sugar. Your provider will tell you when to use this medicine.
If you have diabetes, always wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace. This helps emergency medical workers know you have diabetes.
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