Preventing Low Blood Sugar Levels
Here are some other tips to help you avoid low blood sugar levels:
- Eat all your meals and snacks on time and try not to skip any.
- Take the right amount of insulin.
- If you exercise longer or harder than usual, have an extra snack.
- Don’t take a hot bath or shower right after an insulin shot.
- Stick to your diabetes management plan.
- Check your blood sugar levels regularly, so you can tell if your blood sugars are running too low and your treatment plan needs adjustment.
- Carry something containing sugar with you at all times and take it right away if you have symptoms. Don’t wait to see if the symptoms will go away they may get worse!
Alcohol and drugs can cause major problems with your blood sugar levels, so avoiding them is another way to prevent diabetes problems. Drinking can be particularly dangerous even deadly for people with diabetes because it messes up the body’s ability to keep blood glucose in a normal range. This can cause a very rapid drop in blood glucose in people with diabetes. Drug or alcohol use is also dangerous because it may affect someone’s ability to sense low blood sugar levels.
Learning how to recognize the signs of low blood sugar levels and get them back to normal is an important part of caring for diabetes. Keeping track of your blood sugar levels and recording lows when they occur will help you and your diabetes health care team keep your blood sugar levels in a healthy range.
Manage Your Carb Intake
Your body breaks carbs down into sugars , and then insulin helps your body use and store sugar for energy.
When you eat too many carbs or have insulin-function problems, this process fails, and blood glucose levels can rise.
However, there are several things you can do about this.
The American Diabetes Association recommends managing carb intake by counting carbs and being aware of how many you need .
Some studies find that these methods can also help you plan your meals appropriately, further improving blood sugar management (
The recommended daily intake of fiber is about 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. Thats about 14 grams for every 1,000 calories .
Eating plenty of fiber can help with blood sugar management. Soluble dietary fiber is the most effective.
Low Blood Glucose During Sleep
Your blood glucose level can drop while you sleep and stay low for several hours, causing serious problems.7 Symptoms of low blood glucose while you sleep can include
- crying out or having nightmares
- sweating enough to make your pajamas or sheets damp
- feeling tired, irritable, or confused after waking up
Although you may not wake up or notice any symptoms, low blood glucose can interfere with your sleep, which may affect your quality of life, mood, and ability to work. Having low blood glucose during sleep can also make you less likely to notice and respond to symptoms of low blood glucose during the day.
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About Type 2 Diabetes
Diabetes is growing significantly in the United States, with the Centers for Disease Control stating that 9.4% of the country’s population has diabetes. Another 84 million have prediabetes, which can lead to full blown diabetes within 5 years if not treated.3
Diabetes can be silent, developing without any symptoms or indications that it is damaging the body’s organs. The complications from diabetes are numerous. Having diabetes puts one at significantly higher risk for heart disease and stroke. Diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of blindness. Circulation problems in the legs can develop because of diabetes, and in the worst instances, can lead to tissue death requiring amputation. Diabetes can also damage the nerves , causing tingling, numbness, and burning pain in the hands and feet. Diabetes also damages the filtering system in the kidneys, leading to kidney disease that could require dialysis or a kidney transplant. Symptoms of depression are more common in people with diabetes, which can affect diabetes management.
1 Diabetics Guide, 20 Foods That Lower Blood Sugar, March 23, 2018,
2 Harvard Health Publishing, Glycemic Index for 60+ foods, March 14, 2018,
3 Centers for Disease Control,
How To Treat Someone Who’s Having A Seizure Or Fit
Follow these steps if someone has a seizure or fit caused by a low blood sugar level:
Tell your diabetes care team if you ever have a severe hypo that caused you to have a seizure or fit.
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Digestive Endocrine And Circulatory Systems
After you eat, your digestive system breaks down carbohydrates and turns them into glucose. Essentially, glucose is your bodys fuel source.
As your sugar levels rise, your pancreas releases a hormone called insulin, which helps glucose get taken up and used by cells throughout your body. If you have insulin-dependent diabetes, you must take the right about of insulin to get the job done.
Any excess glucose goes to your liver for storage.
When you go a few hours without eating, blood sugar levels go down. If you have a healthy pancreas, it releases a hormone called glucagon to make up for the absence of food. This hormone tells your liver to process the stored sugars and release them into your bloodstream.
If everything works as it should, your blood sugar levels should remain in the normal range until your next meal.
Insufficient blood sugar levels can cause a rapid heartbeat and heart palpitations. However, even if you have diabetes, you may not always have obvious symptoms of low blood sugar. This is a potentially dangerous condition called hypoglycemia unawareness. It happens when you experience low blood sugar so often that it changes your bodys response to it.
Normally, low blood sugar causes your body to release stress hormones, such as epinephrine. Epinephrine is responsible for those early warning signs, like hunger and shakiness.
What To Do If Your Blood Sugar Levels Are Lower Than Normal
Blood sugar levels that are below 70 mg/dL are known as hypoglycemia. Symptoms of hypoglycemia include heart palpitations and feeling lightheaded, jittery, irritable, fatigued, or sweaty.9
Low fasting blood sugar levels can occur if you have diabetes and your medication does not match your carbohydrate intake. So its very important to let your healthcare provider know youre following a low-carb diet so they can adjust your medication to match your carb intake.
In people who do not have diabetes, low fasting blood sugar levels may be the result of a serious underlying medical condition such as an eating disorder or a tumor. If your fasting blood sugar is low and you do not take diabetes medications, see your healthcare provider.
Low blood sugar levels after eating are often called reactive hypoglycemia. This can occur in people with diabetes, as well as those with normal fasting blood sugars. How it should be treated depends on what the underlying cause is. But if you have low blood sugar and experience symptoms, you can remedy this in the short term by eating something with carbs or sugar.
High-carb intake may cause reactive hypoglycemia in people who are very insulin sensitive or have experienced massive weight loss.10 A low-carb, high-protein diet has been found to improve reactive hypoglycemia in adults who have undergone weight-loss surgery.11
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What Causes Blood Sugar To Be High
Many things can cause high blood sugar , including being sick, being stressed, eating more than planned, and not giving yourself enough insulin. Over time, high blood sugar can lead to long-term, serious health problems. Symptoms of high blood sugar include:
- Feeling very tired.
- Having blurry vision.
- Needing to urinate more often.
If you get sick, your blood sugar can be hard to manage. You may not be able to eat or drink as much as usual, which can affect blood sugar levels. If youre ill and your blood sugar is 240 mg/dL or above, use an over-the-counter ketone test kit to check your urine for ketones and call your doctor if your ketones are high. High ketones can be an early sign of diabetic ketoacidosis, which is a medical emergency and needs to be treated immediately.
What To Eat To Keep Your Blood Sugar In Check
Swap difficult diets for good and simple healthy foods. Hereâs how.
You need to eat wisely to keep your diabetes in check. The key is to choose healthy foods and portion sizes so that you can control both your weight and blood sugar levels.
The first step: Learn whatâs good for you, says diabetes educator Emmy Suhl, RD, CDE, of Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston.
âThereâs no such thing as a diabetes diet,â Suhl says. âThe best diet for someone with diabetes is your basic, healthy diet.â
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How Do I Treat An Episode Of Hypoglycemia
The American Diabetes Association recommends the 15-15 rule for an episode of hypoglycemia:
- Eat or drink 15 grams of carbs to raise your blood sugar.
- After 15 minutes, check your blood sugar.
- If its still below 70 mg/dL, have another 15 grams of carbs.
- Repeat until your blood sugar is at least 70 mg/dL.
If you have symptoms of hypoglycemia but cant test your blood sugar, use the 15-15 rule until you feel better.
Note: Children need fewer grams of carbs. Check with your healthcare provider.
Best Foods For Low Blood Sugar
For patients with diabetes, monitoring blood sugar levels is a part of daily life.
Low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, can occur for many people with diabetes who are on certain medications, including insulin. It can occur for a variety of reasons including skipping a meal, exercising strenuously, taking too much insulin or consuming alcohol, especially on an empty stomach.
Low blood sugar can be as minor as a slight inconvenience or as serious as a life-threatening emergency. Thats why it is important to boost blood sugar before it becomes problematic.
Angela Norton, a diabetes educator at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center, has diabetes herself, so she knows firsthand the tips and tricks of keeping blood sugar on track. Although blood glucose is considered normal if above 70 mg/dL, Norton says patients with diabetes should not wait until they reach below that threshold to take action.
Treat when you feel the symptoms, even if your blood sugar is not below 70, because as long as it is less than 100, it may be dropping fast, she says.
When it comes to treatment, Norton shares these five foods to help boost low blood sugar.
1. CandyWhen hypoglycemia occurs, patients should follow the 15-15 rule. Consume 15 grams of carbohydrates to raise blood glucose and check your levels again after 15 minutes. When the numbers return to normal, eat a snack to stay on track.
Gummy candies contain carbohydrates, which have a large impact on blood sugar levels.
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Best Ways To Lower Blood Sugar Quickly
When treated early, you can bring high blood sugar levels down and prevent complications, including DKA.
Some sources suggest that drinking water or eating a high protein snack can quickly lower your blood sugar levels, though there isnt enough research to support this.
If you have high blood sugar and need to lower it fast, try the following methods:
How To Treat A Low Blood Sugar Level Yourself
Follow these steps if your blood sugar level is less than 4mmol/L or you have hypo symptoms:
You do not usually need to get medical help once you’re feeling better if you only have a few hypos.
But tell your diabetes team if you keep having hypos or if you stop having symptoms when your blood sugar level is low.
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What Are The Causes Of Reactive Hypoglycemia
Scientists believe reactive hypoglycemia to be the result of too much insulin being produced and released by the pancreas following a large carbohydrate-based meal.
This excess insulin production and secretion continues after the glucose derived from the meal has been digested, causing the amount of glucose in the bloodstream to fall to a lower-than-normal level.
What causes this increase in pancreatic activity is unclear.
One possible explanation is that in rare cases, a benign tumour in the pancreas may cause an overproduction of insulin, or too much glucose may be used up by the tumour itself.
Another is that reactive hypoglycemia is caused by deficiencies in glucagon secretion
In the U.S. the National Institutes of Health states that the causes of most cases of reactive hypoglycemia are still open to debate.
What Causes Low Blood Sugar
Low blood sugar has many causes, including missing a meal, taking too much insulin, taking other diabetes medicines, exercising more than normal, and drinking alcohol. Blood sugar below 70 mg/dL is considered low.
Signs of low blood sugar are different for everyone. Common symptoms include:
Know what your individual symptoms are so you can catch low blood sugar early and treat it. If you think you may have low blood sugar, check it even if you dont have symptoms. Low blood sugar can be dangerous and should be treated as soon as possible.
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Treating Low Blood Sugar
You are at risk of having a low blood sugar reaction if you:
- Skip or delay a meal or snack
- Take too much insulin or eat too few carbohydrates
- Drink alcohol, especially without eating carbohydrates
Check your blood sugar if you have any of these symptoms:
- Weakness and/or fatigue
If your blood sugar is less than 70 milligrams per deciliter :
- Eat 15 to 30 grams of carbohydrate
- Wait 15 minutes and then recheck your blood sugar
- If your blood sugar is still less than 100 mg/dl, take another 15 grams of carbohydrate and retest your blood sugar in another 15 minutes. Repeat if necessary.
Important: If you have frequent low blood sugars speak to your doctor. You may need changes in your medication and/or meal plan.
Prevention Of Low Blood Sugar
Do not skip or delay meals. If your diet plan includes snacks, make sure to take these.
Measure insulin dosage carefully and inject it properly. If you cannot see well, a family member or a visiting nurse can prepare your insulin injections for you.
Take only the prescribed amount of insulin or oral medication for diabetes that your doctor has ordered.
Keep exercise consistent from day to day. Eat a snack or reduce your insulin prior to unusual exercise.
If you are taking insulin, notify your doctor if you have low blood sugars four or more times per week or if you have a severe low blood sugar. Severe low blood sugars are those less than 40 mg., those requiring help from another person, or those which cause you to have a convulsion or become unconscious.
If you are taking oral medication for your diabetes notify your doctor or nurse if blood sugars are running less than 80 mg. or if you have a severe low blood sugar.
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What If I Have Severe Low Blood Glucose And Cant Treat Myself
Glucagona hormone that raises blood glucose levelsis the best way to treat severely low blood glucose. Available as an injection or a nasal spray, glucagon will quickly raise your blood glucose level. Your doctor can prescribe you a glucagon kit for use in case of an emergency.
If your blood glucose level drops very low, you wont be able to treat it by yourself. Be prepared to address severely low blood glucose by
- talking with your doctor or health care team about when and how to use a glucagon emergency kit. If you have an emergency kit, regularly check the date on the package to make sure it hasnt expired.
- teaching your family, friends, and coworkers when and how to give you glucagon. Tell them to call 911 right away after giving you glucagon or if you dont have a glucagon emergency kit with you.
- wearing a medical alert identification bracelet or pendant. A medical alert ID tells other people that you have diabetes and need care right away. Getting prompt care can help prevent the serious problems that low blood glucose levels can cause.
What To Do When Your Blood Sugar Levels Drop Too Low
People who use insulin and other diabetes medications are at risk for hypoglycemia. Keep this action plan handy so you’re prepared.
If you take insulin or diabetes medication, you may be at risk of developing hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. Without quick attention, hypoglycemia can lead to serious complications, so its important to know what to do if it happens to you or someone close to you.
In very severe cases, hypoglycemia can lead to seizures or loss of consciousness, says a clinical assistant professor of medicine, endocrinology, gerontology, and metabolism at Stanford Health Care, and chief of the Stanford Endocrine Clinic.
It’s possible to have hypoglycemia but have no symptoms, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases . On the other hand, symptoms can also come on rapidly. While symptoms vary from person to person, if you develop mild to moderate low blood sugar you may:
- Feel shaky or jittery
- Have a headache or be lightheaded
- Turn pale
- Be irritable or combative
- Have blurred vision or see double
Some people feel tingling or numbness in their extremities too, says Rodolfo Galindo, MD, an assistant professor of medicine in the division of endocrinology, metabolism, and lipids at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, and chair of the inpatient diabetes taskforce.
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