Preventing Low Blood Sugar
Although sweets will always raise your blood sugar and cause the dips that come with it to some degree, there are some things you can do to prevent from your blood sugar from getting too low. Dont eat sweets on an empty stomach. The sugar in sweet foods digests really quickly and if you eat sugary foods on an empty stomach, there is nothing there to slow down this digestive process. As a result, your blood sugar will spike and youre more likely to experience a blood sugar crash shortly after. Instead, eat sweets after a meal that is rich in protein and healthy fats. Dont overdo it. Its probably not surprising that the more sugar you eat, the higher your blood sugar levels get . If you want to eat something sweet, pay attention to portion sizes, use them as an occasional treat , and dont eat too much.
Checking For Low Blood Sugar Levels
The warning signs of hypoglycemia are the body’s natural response to low blood sugar levels. When blood sugar levels fall too low, the body releases the hormone adrenaline, which helps get stored glucose into the bloodstream quickly. This can make someone:
- start shaking
- have an increased heart rate
If the hypoglycemia isn’t treated, more serious symptoms may happen, such as drowsiness, confusion, seizures, and loss of consciousness.
The only way to know for sure if you’re having a low blood sugar level is to test. Blood sugar levels can be tested with a . This computerized device measures and displays the amount of glucose in a blood sample. But if you can’t quickly check your blood sugar level, it’s important to treat yourself for hypoglycemia immediately to prevent symptoms from getting worse.
Sometimes a person with diabetes may have symptoms of low blood sugar levels, but blood sugar levels are not actually low. This is a called a false reaction. The hormone adrenaline is not just released when blood sugar drops too low it’s also released when blood sugar levels fall quickly when they’re too high. If you’re having a false reaction, you might actually have blood sugar levels in a healthy range but feel as if you have low blood sugar. Testing blood sugar levels before treating yourself for hypoglycemia can help you figure out if you’re having a false reaction.
Faq: Frequently Asked Questions
Who is most at risk for hypoglycemia? Aside from diabetics, Dr. Jennifer Shine Dyer notes that children are more prone toexperience episodes of hypoglycemia because of their smaller body size, as well as having less fat to burn to maintain energy when glucose levels are low. Eating meals every 4 to 6 hours should maintain glucose levels if this is the only cause of hypoglycemia, she says.
How do I know it’s low blood sugar? To know if you’re suffering from hypoglycemia, you’ll need to begin tracking your glucose levels under the supervision of your doctor. Drugstores and pharmacies carry test strips, as well as glucose meters, which will help. You can even see the effect that different foods have on your body by checking your blood sugar after eating.
Does fasting affect my blood sugar levels? Yes, going without food can trigger hypoglycemia. If you have diabetes and are concerned about hypoglycemia, aim to eat smaller, more frequent meals and snacks that are low in processed sugars every three hours or so.
Does alcohol consumption trigger low blood sugar?Excessive alcohol consumption, defined as more than one drink per day for women and more than two drinks per day for men, especially with little food, can keep your liver from releasing glucose, which can lead to hypoglycemia.
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Can Drinking A Lot Of Water Lower Your Blood Sugar Levels
Although feeling very thirsty is a symptom of a hyper, drinking a lot of water will not bring your blood sugar levels down. It will only help to reduce your risk of dehydration.
Its important that you take your diabetes medication to bring your blood sugar levels down. If you have consistently high blood sugar levels, you will need to follow the advice below and speak to your diabetes healthcare team.
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Normal Postmeal Blood Sugar Levels
Checking your blood glucose one to two hours after eating can help you understand how your blood sugar reacts to the food you consume. It can also offer insight into whether you’re taking the right dose of insulin or if you need to follow up with your healthcare provider to discuss medication and diet or lifestyle adjustments.
There are two ways you can measure your blood glucose levels: by pricking your fingertip using a glucometer or by using continuous glucose monitoring. How often you should check your glucose levels varies from a few times per week to four to six times each day. As a general rule, the American Diabetes Association recommends keeping blood sugar below 180 mg/dL one to two hours after eating.
However, your target blood sugar range will depend on the following:
- Duration of diabetes
How Is Hypoglycemia Treated
When your blood sugar levels are too low, eating carbohydrates is key. If you have diabetes, try to keep high carbohydrate snacks on hand.
The American Diabetes Association recommends that your snack have at least 15 grams of carbohydrates. Some good snacks to keep on hand are:
- hard candies
- jelly beans or gumdrops
- fresh or dried fruit
You also can take glucose tablets to rapidly raise your blood sugar if its low. These are available without a prescription. Its important to check how many grams are in each tablet before taking them. Aim to get 15 to 20 grams of carbohydrates.
Wait 15 minutes after eating or taking a glucose tablet and test your blood sugar again. If your blood sugar is not going up, eat another 15 grams of carbohydrates or take another dose of glucose tablets. Repeat this until your blood sugar level starts to rise.
Be sure not to overeat. This could lead to blood sugar levels that are too high.
If your blood sugar remains unresponsive, contact your doctor or emergency services right away. When in doubt, treat.
Symptoms of low blood sugar usually get worse if theyre left untreated. Make an appointment to see your doctor if you have diabetes and experience low blood sugar levels often, or if you have symptoms, even if you dont have diabetes.
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Examples Of Appropriate Snacks May Be:
- 6 saltine crackers
- 1 slice toast and 1/2 cup milk
- 1 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.
Glycemia Load And Glycemic Index
Foods that have a high glycemic index, which means that they break down more rapidly into glucose after being eaten, raise blood sugar very quickly. Generally speaking, carbohydrate foods high in refined sugars or simple sugars have a high glycemic index. The sudden influx of glucose causes the release of large amounts of insulin, which removes too much glucose and causes blood glucose to drop. Eating foods with a low glycemic index helps avoid dropping blood sugar levels after eating. Glycemic load, which considers the amount of carbohydrates in a food along with its glycemic index, determines a food’s effect on your blood sugar.
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I Eat Almost No Carbs And My Blood Sugar Is Still High Charlottes Story
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Meet Charlotte Faith.
Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 14, Charlotte weighed only 83 pounds.
Even though she ate large amounts of food, she found herself ravenously hungry and began gaining weight rapidly. Only 1.5 years following her diagnosis, Charlotte gained about 70 pounds, weighing over 150 pounds.
Soon after, Charlotte embarked on a journey to lose weight and fully control type 1 diabetes, which involved eliminating heavily processed foods and eating a low-carbohydrate paleo diet.
In combination with moderate exercise, Charlotte began losing weight. As a paleo food blogger, she made sugar-free, low carb treats to satisfy her cravings for carbohydrate-rich food and was able to lose about 32 pounds.
Charlotte limited her carbohydrate intake to no more than 50 grams per day, yet still experienced high blood glucose values after eating a banana or half a sweet potato.
She often complained to herself: I eat almost no carbs and my blood sugar is still high! How is this possible?
In addition, Charlotte developed hypothyroidism and lost her period for 7 years.
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.12
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 are very rare. But if low blood sugars do occur they 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.13
High-carb intake may cause reactive hypoglycemia in people who are very insulin sensitive or have experienced massive weight loss.14 A low-carb, high-protein diet has been found to improve reactive hypoglycemia in adults who have undergone weight-loss surgery.15
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Exercise And Blood Sugar
Exercise can have a big effect on your blood sugar levels because blood sugar is used for energy. When you use your muscles, your cells absorb sugar from the blood for energy.
Depending on the intensity or duration of exercise, physical activity can help lower your blood sugar for many hours after you stop moving.
If you exercise regularly, the cells in your body may be more sensitive to insulin. This will help keep blood sugar levels within normal ranges.
What Is Reactive Hypoglycemia
Reactive hypoglycemia occurs when your body experiences low blood sugar after a meal. It typically occurs about 2 hours after a meal, says Zumpano, and can sometimes even happen up to 4 hours after eating.
Its important to note that its different than hypoglycemia, too. Hypoglycemia is related to a fasting state when you havent eaten anything for an extended period, she adds. And your blood sugar naturally drops below whats considered a normal range. People who have diabetes or impaired fasting glucose are more prone to experiencing hypoglycemia.
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What Is The Normal Blood Sugar Level
Blood sugar level means the amount of glucose dissolved in the blood at any given time. It is an important indicator which shows the bodys overall metabolic condition. The normal range of blood sugar is from 3.5 mmol/L to 6.1 mmol/L during fasting and less than 7 mmol/L after having a meal.
If your blood sugar is higher than the normal range, it could be a sign of Diabetes Mellitus. Diabetes is the name of the condition where the body cannot properly process and absorb the glucose taken during eating, causing it to remain in the bloodstream. This can lead to many serious complications like nerve damage and loss of vision.
Choose The Healthiest Carbohydrates
Of the major nutrients found in food carbs, protein, and fat carbs have the biggest effect on your blood sugar. Thats because carbs are the most quickly broken down into glucose for energy. Having too many carbs, or the wrong type of carbs, can lead to spikes in your blood sugar.
The best way to figure out how the carbs you eat affect your blood sugar is to test your levels before and after meals. The American Diabetes Association recommends keeping track of the number of carbs you have per meal. The amount you should eat may vary depending on what it looks like to successfully manage your diabetes. Choose healthy, complex carbs such as whole fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, and lentils. Because they contain fiber and are less processed, these foods dont lead to as many swings in your blood sugar levels. Stay away from refined carbs such as soda, candy, white pasta, white rice, white bread, and other processed foods they can cause blood sugar to rise quickly.
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Symptoms Of A Low Blood Sugar Level
A low blood sugar level can affect everyone differently. You’ll learn how it makes you feel, although your symptoms may change over time.
Early signs of a low blood sugar level include:
- a fast or pounding heartbeat
- becoming easily irritated, tearful, anxious or moody
- turning pale
If a low blood sugar level is not treated, you may get other symptoms, such as:
- unusual behaviour, slurred speech or clumsiness
- feeling sleepy
- seizures or fits
- collapsing or passing out
A low blood sugar level, or hypo, can also happen while you’re sleeping. This may cause you to wake up during the night or cause headaches, tiredness or damp sheets in the morning.
Carbohydrates And Blood Sugar
When people eat a food containing carbohydrates, the digestive system breaks down the digestible ones into sugar, which enters the blood.
- As blood sugar levels rise, the pancreas produces insulin, a hormone that prompts cells to absorb blood sugar for energy or storage.
- As cells absorb blood sugar, levels in the bloodstream begin to fall.
- When this happens, the pancreas start making glucagon, a hormone that signals the liver to start releasing stored sugar.
- This interplay of insulin and glucagon ensure that cells throughout the body, and especially in the brain, have a steady supply of blood sugar.
Carbohydrate metabolism is important in the development of type 2 diabetes, which occurs when the body cant make enough insulin or cant properly use the insulin it makes.
- Type 2 diabetes usually develops gradually over a number of years, beginning when muscle and other cells stop responding to insulin. This condition, known as insulin resistance, causes blood sugar and insulin levels to stay high long after eating. Over time, the heavy demands made on the insulin-making cells wears them out, and insulin production eventually stops.
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Blood Sugar Level Immediately After Eating:
Blood sugar level changes rapidly according to the intake of the meal. The normal blood sugar level before eating or during fasting is between 3.5 to 6.1 mmol/L.
Normal blood sugar right after eating rises drastically as the digestive tract acts quickly to digest the food through mechanical actions, digestive enzymes and different hormones. So the blood glucose rises sharply during this time. The rate at which the blood sugar rises depends on the type of food, the amount is taken, the metabolic condition of the individual, etc.
Other Ways To Measure Blood Sugar
Checking your blood sugar levels with a glucometer is not the only way to measure blood sugar. Other tests that your healthcare provider might use to check your blood sugar levels are hemoglobin A1c and oral glucose tolerance test . Perhaps the most helpful data comes from a continuous glucose monitor . You can learn more about CGMs in our evidence-based guide.
HbA1c provides an estimate of your average blood sugar levels over time, giving you a sense of your blood sugar control over the last two or three months. An HbA1c test is one of the most common measurements used for diagnosing type 2 diabetes.19
However, HbA1c tests and blood sugar tests dont always agree. Using HbA1c levels to diagnose diabetes often fails to identify individuals who would otherwise be diagnosed with diabetes using blood sugar levels.20
Your HbA1c is normal if it is below 5.7%. You may have prediabetes if your HbA1c is above 5.7% but less than 6.5%. You may have diabetes is your HbA1c is 6.5% or over.21
|6.5% or higher|
|Cautious approach||Less than 5.4 %|
To learn more about HbA1c measurements and how they relate to blood sugar levels you record with your glucometer, see our full guide to understanding HbA1c.
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