What Happens When Blood Sugar Levels Are Low?
The food that you eat is converted into glucose and is released to your blood stream. This causes the blood glucose level in blood to rise. Your pancreas responds immediately by releasing the hormone insulin, which converts this glucose to energy and thereby maintaining level in blood constant. When the sugar supplied by your last meal is more or less used up, insulin levels decrease to keep blood sugar from falling further. In addition, sugar stored in cells is released back to the blood stream with the help of another hormone called glucagon. Normal blood glucose levels can range from 70 mg/dL to 145 mg/dL.
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Hypoglycemia is a condition where your blood sugar level goes lower than normal values. Hypoglycemia is a medical condition that has many uncomfortable symptoms. There are two types of hypoglycemia.
When there is no food intake for 8 hours or more, your body’s ability to balance blood glucose levels get interrupted due to various conditions like eating disorders and diseases of kidney, liver pancreas etc. A high dose of aspirin may also lead to fasting hypoglycemia.
It happens after a high carbohydrate meal. The insulin release can be too late or in excessive amounts. This makes blood glucose levels go too low.
Some other causes of hypoglycemia are:
- Diabetes. Taking too much medication, eating inappropriately, or illness can cause low blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.
- Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol
- Prolonged exercise
- Waiting too long between meals and snacks
- Prolonged fasting
- Eating large amounts or the wrong types of food after certain stomach surgeries, such as gastric bypass surgery
- Diseases of the glands that produce hormones important in blood glucose control, such as the pancreas, pituitary gland, or adrenal glands.
- Kidney failure, severe liver disease, severe congestive heart failure or severe widespread infection
- Medication interactions
Symptoms of hypoglycemia include nausea, hunger, headache, sweating, nervousness, weakness, dizziness, mental confusion, anxiety, shakiness, drowsiness, and trembling.
Because these symptoms are similar to many other problems, including panic attacks and stress, it’s important to get appropriate testing and an accurate diagnosis from your physician.
Eating with Hypoglycemia
The food you eat plays an important role in preventing the symptoms you experience when your blood sugars drop too low. Some general guidelines to get over hypoglycemia include:
- Eating three balanced meals a day with two or three planned snacks. It is important that you don’t skip meals and snacks. Try not to go any longer than 3-4 hours between eating.
- Eating the right amount of carbohydrates during each meal and snack. This helps to keep your blood glucose and insulin levels in balance.
- Avoiding concentrated sugars such as white sugar, brown sugar, honey, corn syrup, and molasses. These are found in cookies, candy, cakes, pies, soft drinks, jams, jellies, ice cream and other sweets.
- Eating foods high in complex carbohydrates and fiber such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and beans. High-fiber foods digest more slowly and help keep glucose from “dumping” into your blood stream too quickly.
- Eating a high protein food at each meal and snack. Protein-rich foods include fish, chicken, turkey, lean beef and pork, tofu, cottage cheese, cheese, yogurt, milk, eggs, peanut butter, nuts and seeds. Protein can help to maintain your blood sugar levels between meals by delaying how quickly the carbohydrate is digested.
- Achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight.
- Limiting alcohol consumption. Always include a snack when drinking an alcoholic beverage.
- Avoiding caffeine, found in regular coffee and soda.
- Avoiding large meals.
If you suspect that you are experiencing hypoglycemia, visit your physician for medical testing and diagnosis and consult a registered dietitian for individualized dietary recommendations.
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