Low Blood Sugar

The human body gets a necessary and sufficient dose of energy from glucose – a well known form of sugar. Post consumption of glucose from sugar rich foods such as fruits, dairy products and vegetables, the glucose is absorbed into the blood through the digestive track. Excess sugar is stored in muscles and in the liver. In the event that blood sugar levels begin to fall – due to stress or exercise, the liver releases glucose that it stores. If this phenomenon does not raise blood sugar levels, it might lead to a condition called Hypoglycemia or Low Blood Sugar. In hypoglycemic patients, blood sugar levels can fall dangerously low.

When blood sugar levels are lower than healthy levels, the resulting condition is medically termed as hypoglycemia. Low blood sugar or hypoglycemia is a result of abnormalities in the consumption and metabolism of carbohydrates by the blood.

Although there are standards that define thresholds on the serum glucose level below which an individual can be diagnosed as suffering from hypoglycemia, it varies from individual to individual. Blood sugar levels from 50-70 mg/dL are generally considered to be at the lower limits of blood sugar levels, while any higher reading would be normal.

Glucose is one of the primary sources of energy for the body. Most mammals derive glucose from carbohydrate rich foods such as fruits, vegetables and grains. It thus follows that a deficiency of glucose can lead to weakness and headaches. Hypoglycemia is often credited as a side effect of diabetes medications. Consumption of sugar rich foods or drinks can provide temporary relief. However, repeated occurrences need to be addressed medically.

Symptoms of Low Blood Sugar

Since hypoglycemia is directly related to blood sugar levels, it is important to know and watch out for signs of low blood sugar levels. Common symptoms include the following:

  • Hunger
  • Shakiness
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Feeling anxious or weak

Hypoglycemia produces many different symptoms and effects. In extreme conditions, it results in an insufficient supply of glucose to the brain. This, in turn, could result in impairment of function – also known as neuroglycopenia. These constitute the most serious problems occurring as a result of hypoglycemia. Mild dysphoria and dizziness can extend to seizures or unconsciousness. In rare cases, it can also lead to permanent brain damage or death.

Hypoglycemia symptoms can be different depending on how low your blood sugar level has dropped. Mild hypoglycemia can cause:

  • Hunger
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Vomit like reflexes
  • Jitters
  • Nervousness or anxiety
  • Increase of rate of heart beat
  • Heart palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Pallor, coldness, clamminess of the skin
  • Headaches
  • Moderate to severe hypoglycemia, on the other hand, can lead to:

    • Feelings of ill-temper, nervousness, fear or confusion
    • Blurred vision
    • Impaired judgment
    • Moodiness and depression
    • Unsteady or troubled walking
    • Slurred speech
    • Unconsciousness or passing out
    • Seizures
    • A coma or even death due to brain damage

    Hypoglycemia is often misdiagnosed because of the inconsistent order of the symptoms and their appearance. Symptoms might not even occur, might get counterbalanced by other deficiencies or surpluses and may vary by age. Moreover, since the severity of the hypoglycemia plays an important role in the appearance and intensity of symptoms, they are often misleading. The symptoms observed in the same person may differ from episode to episode as well.

    Hypoglycemic symptoms can also occur when one is sleeping. Excessive perspiration while asleep, nightmares and weariness on awakening are all symptoms of a hypoglycemic episode that occurs during sleep.

    Causes of Low Blood Sugar

    Generic forms of hypoglycemia are known to occur as a side effect of diabetes treatment that involve insulin based or oral medications. Though most prevalent among diabetics, hypoglycemia is known to occur in non-diabetic persons as well. Common causes are:

    • Excessive insulin in the body
    • Metabolic abnormalities
    • Side effects of medications and poisons, specifically, medicines used to treat depression, malaria and even aspirin
    • Excessive consumption of alcohol
    • Inherent hormonal deficiencies that affect insulin generation
    • Prolonged fasting or starvation due to missed meals
    • Organ failure due to diseases that have affected the liver, the kidneys or the pancreas

    A successful diagnosis of hypoglycemia depends quite heavily on recent circumstances.

    These include the patient’s age, time of occurrence, dietary details, patient’s medication history, major past diseases, family history and treatment history.

    Patients that are hospitalized or are in intensive care units who are prevented from eating can suffer hypoglycemia from a variety of circumstances. Some of them might be related to the care of the disease that they were hospitalized for.

    Remedies for Low Blood Sugar

    A hypoglycemic person must be treated immediately by attempting to increase his/her blood sugar level. Failure to do so might lead to malfunctioning organs or seizures. A diabetic patient with low blood sugar can be given a small amount of sugar at least once a day. A small amount can do no harm if their blood sugar is already high, but can be life saving if it is low.

    Here are some remedies to quickly treat a patient who has suffered a hypoglycemia episode:

    • Provide sugar rich foods or drinks. These include fruit juices, sugar water, cake icing, hard candy, glucose tablets and concentrated glucose paste. Diabetics must carry such items at all times to be prepared for potential emergencies.
    • A glucagon medical kit is the most effective in cases of moderate to severe conditions. If the patient suffers confusion, anxiety attacks or the likes, an ambulance must be called for immediately. A glucagons dose in such a case might prove life saving until the ambulance arrives.
    • If the patient falls unconscious or in a deep sleep and cannot be woken up, lie them down on their left side to prevent choking from vomiting.
    • A glucose monitor should be kept available at home and used frequently to prevent any serious episodes.
    • Diabetics must be very careful about their insulin injections.
    • Meals should not be missed on a regular basis and patients must be very careful about their medications and dosage.

    Diet for Low Blood Sugar

    It seems obvious that to combat low blood sugar, your diet must contain sugar rich foods. High carbohydrate foods and dairy products are a must for hypoglycemic patients. Symptoms of low blood sugar must be immediately remedied with sugar water or something similar. Some foods should become a part of your regular diet if you experience recurring episodes of low blood sugar. These include but are not limited to the following:

    • Raisins
    • Graham crackers
    • Candy
    • Skim milk
    • Regular soda or other non-diet soft drinks
    • Fruit juices
    • Glucose tablets
    • Dextrose tablets which are a must carry for diabetics
    • Sugar cubes or packets
    • Chocolates

    Above all, meals should not be missed and should be consumed in adequate quantities. A balanced diet can undoubtedly help to maintain blood sugar levels. When healthy meals are accompanied with periodical snacks, low blood sugar can be avoided at almost all times. A light exercise regimen can ensure metabolic consistency, which is very important as it allows the blood to better absorb glucose from the digestive system. Although heavy exercise is a potential risk for hypoglycemia, the benefits outweigh the risks, when balanced with heavy meals.

    It is important to not eliminate carbohydrates from the diet. Some foods rich in complex carbohydrates are rice, pasta, cereals, bread legumes and vegetables. Small snacks must come in between meals. Foods and beverages that contain caffeine should be avoided as they produce symptoms similar to those of hypoglycemia. Alcohol when consumed, especially on an empty stomach, can cause a sudden drop in blood sugar levels and must be avoided under all circumstances.

    Suggestion for Low Blood Sugar

    The body’s ability to consume, generate and use insulin varies with body weight. This makes it essential to keep your body weight under or around the optimum body mass index ratio. A heavier body also requires more energy and hence more glucose at more frequent intervals than one at optimum weight. This can cause lead to more intense episodes of hypoglycemia.

    Avoiding or ignoring mild hypoglycemia can cause it to worsen, thus leading to unconsciousness, anxiety attacks or dysphoria. Any symptoms must be addressed to immediately. If possible, it would be good to keep family and friends informed about the symptoms and remedies. All of the dietary changes mentioned in this article are quite easy to follow and can help avoid any serious effects.

    As is the case with any other condition or disease if there are repeated occurrences after employing methods of control, a medical professional must be consulted. Hypoglycemia though easily detected and prevented can in some cases cause irreversible damage and must not be taken lightly.

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