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Dealing With Low Blood Sugar Levels by Changing Your Eating Habits

Updated: Mar 20, 2023

Food, Medicine & lies - Diabetes The Health Talk series by Dr. Prritii

Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) is a condition in which blood sugar level drops below the standard range and most commonly occurs in people with diabetes.

  • Hypoglycemia needs immediate attention. If blood sugar drops below 70 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), it serves as an alert of hypoglycemia. It can further lead to symptoms such as tiredness, weakness or shakiness.

  • If blood sugar drops below 20 mg/dL and if immediate help is not given, a person can feel confused or drowsiness or can lose consciousness and in the worst condition can lead to death also. In the case of pregnancy, the baby could be harmed adversely.

  • Taking too much insulin dose, skipping meals, not having enough food, exercising without eating a good meal and drinking too much alcohol (especially on an empty stomach) can lead to the reasons of inadequate blood sugar levels.

  • Mild to moderate low blood sugar levels can be managed by eating food with high sugar content.

Blood Sugar levels

How to deal with low blood sugar emergencies :

Here are some ways you can manage low blood sugar.

Be Prepared:

  • Always be prepared for the possibility of having a low blood sugar level.

  • Carry quick-sugar food all time. If you are at home, keep something handy that contains sugar, such as table sugar or fruit juice, jaggery, coconut sugar etc.

  • You must be aware of the signs and symptoms of low blood sugar levels. Earlier you understand, less damage will occur to your health.

As hypoglycemia worsens, signs and symptoms include :

  • sweating

  • feeling tired

  • dizziness

  • feeling hungry

  • tingling lips

  • feeling shaky or trembling

  • a fast or pounding heartbeat (palpitations)

  • becoming easily irritated, tearful, anxious or moody

  • turning pale

Untreated low blood sugar level symptoms include:

  • weakness

  • blurred vision

  • confusion or difficulty concentrating

  • unusual behaviour, slurred speech or clumsiness (like being drunk)

  • feeling sleepy

  • seizures or fits

  • collapsing or passing out

A low blood sugar level, or hypo, can also occur while sleeping. This can also wake you during the night or can cause headaches, tiredness or damp sheets (from sweat) in the morning.

Check your blood sugar levels regularly. If you already had diabetes for many years, you may not experience symptoms until your blood sugar goes very low.

  • Glucagon is a prescribed medicine that raises blood sugar, and it is needed in severe hypoglycemia. Keep glucagon handy, If you are unconscious due to very low blood sugar levels, you may need someone to give you a shot of glucagon to raise your blood sugar levels. Be sure someone knows how to give you the shot. One person should be in the regular practice of giving insulin shots once or twice a month. This will increase his confidence when giving a glucagon shot in an emergency. Always keep the instructions on how to give glucagon with the medicine and keep a check on the expiry date of glucagon. Most kits need to be replaced every 6 months.

  • Take precautions while driving and do not drive if your blood sugar drops below 70 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL).

  • Good choice of food includes a piece of fruit, a few whole wheat crackers, a glass of milk, or a carton of yogurt. In people with diabetes, hypoglycemia episodes can be sudden and need to be treated immediately to prevent them from worsening. Eat or drink a quickly digested carbohydrate food, such as ½ cup fruit juice. Eating an apple at that time can be very helpful.

DIY ( Do it yourself ) instructions to manage blood sugar levels :

Follow these steps if your blood sugar level is less than 4mmol/L or you have hypo symptoms:

  1. Have a sugary drink or snack – like a small glass of fizzy drink (not a diet variety) or fruit juice, a small handful of sweets, 3 or 6 glucose tablets or 1 to 2 tubes of glucose gel.

  2. Test your blood sugar after 10 to 15 minutes – if it's improved and you feel better, move on to step 3. If there's little or no change, treat again with a sugary drink or snack and take another reading after 10 to 15 minutes.

  3. You may need to eat your main meal (containing a slow-release carbohydrate) if it's the right time to have it or, have a snack that contains a slow-release carbohydrate, such as an apple, a slice of bread or toast, a couple of biscuits, or a glass of cow's milk.

You do not usually need to get medical help once you're feeling better if you only have a few episodes of hypos.

What causes a low blood sugar level:

In people with diabetes, the main causes of a low blood sugar level are:

  • The effects of the medicine – especially taking too much insulin, medicines known as sulfonylureas (such as glibenclamide and gliclazide), also glinides (such as repaglinide and nateglinide), or some antiviral medicines to treat hepatitis C

  • Skipping or delaying a meal

  • Change the dietary pattern

  • Exercise, especially if it's intense or unplanned

  • drinking alcohol

Sometimes there's no obvious reason why a low blood sugar level happens.

Very occasionally, it can happen in people who do not have diabetes.

Preventing a low blood sugar level:

If you have diabetes, you can reduce your chance of getting a low blood sugar level if you:

  • Check your blood sugar level regularly and be aware of the symptoms of a low blood sugar level so you can treat it quickly.

  • Always carry a sugary snack or drink with you, such as glucose tablets, a carton of fruit juice or some sweets. If you have a glucagon injection kit, always keep it handy.

  • Do not skip meals.

  • Be careful when drinking alcohol. Do not drink large amounts, check your blood sugar level regularly, and eat a carbohydrate snack afterwards.

  • Be careful when exercising; eating a carbohydrate snack before exercise can help to reduce the risk of a hypo.

  • Take one anjeer (dates) or 1 tsp of cold pressed coconut oil before sleeping to allow slow release of sugar for a long time. This will take care of nighttime hypoglycaemia in a large number of cases.

  • Do remember to maintain a diary of your eating pattern and sugar levels specially making a note of hypoglycemic episodes.

Say no to driving In case of low blood sugar levels:

It's very dangerous to drive while experiencing symptoms of hypoglycemia. Stop the car, check your blood sugar, and eat sugary food. Wait at least 15 minutes, check your blood sugar, and repeat these steps if necessary. Eat a protein and carbohydrate source (such as peanut butter crackers or cheese and crackers) before you drive again.

Be prepared. Keep a sugar source in your car at all times for handling emergencies.

Preventing Hypoglycemia:

If you have diabetes, ways you can prevent hypoglycemia include:

  • Follow your meal plan.

  • Eat at least three evenly spaced meals each day with between-meal snacks as prescribed.

  • Plan your meals no more than 4 to 5 hours apart.

  • Exercise 30 minutes to 1 hour after meals. Check your sugar levels before and after exercise, and discuss with your doctor about the changes.

  • Double-check your insulin and dose of diabetes medicine before taking it.

  • If you drink alcohol, be moderate and monitor your blood sugar levels.

  • Know when your medicine is at its peak level.

  • Test your blood sugar as often as directed by your doctor.

  • Carry an identification card that says you have diabetes.

Remember hypoglycemic attacks are more risky and with the above information you are empowered to manage them better and also decrease the frequency of such attacks.

Wishing you diabetes-free life.


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