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What Is Hypoglycemia And How Do I Treat It?

Updated on November 14, 2013
Hypoglycemia can be managed by eating five small meals spread out over the course of your waking hours.
Hypoglycemia can be managed by eating five small meals spread out over the course of your waking hours. | Source

Hypoglycemia And Diabetes

Hypoglycemia is low blood sugar - usually less than 60 mg/dl when your blood is tested.

If you miss a meal, are dieting (low carb diets, liquid diets, etc.) over-exercise, are fatigued, are pregnant, or stressed, hypoglycemia can step in and cause havoc with your body and often can be misdiagnosed as something else.

To a bystander, it can look like an anxiety or panic attack. Some people have been mistakenly accused of being drunk.

It is very important to make sure your symptoms are actually due to hypoglycemia and not some other medical condition. Hypoglycemia can mimic a variety of other medical disorders including some types of heart conditions, low blood pressure, pregnancy, and diabetes.

Anyone can become hypoglycemic, but it is often part of another diagnosis - usually diabetes.

When a diabetic doesn't eat within a reasonable amount of time after taking insulin, hypoglycemia can occur.

Hypoglycemics should eat five small meals a day to keep their blood sugar level.

Symptoms of Hypoglycemia
Symptoms of Hypoglycemia | Source
Fainting spell
Fainting spell | Source

What Would You Do?

At a restaurant, while waiting in line to be seated at a table, your diabetic friend falls faint to the floor. You can't arouse him. Choose your best answer:

See results

Symptoms of Hypoglycemia

Any or all of these symptoms can occur with hypoglycemia

  • Sweating
  • Shakiness
  • Rapid Heartbeat
  • Fainting or Lightheadedness
  • Dry Mouth
  • Blurry Vision
  • Hunger
  • Confusion, Disoriented
  • Feeling Tired, Fatigued, Low Energy
  • Dizziness
  • Headache, From Dull to Throbbing
  • Irritability, Moody
  • Anxiousness, Nervousness
  • Can Give the Appearance of Being Drunk or On Drugs

Who Does Hypoglycemia Affect?

Hypoglycemia can affect EVERYBODY.

But certain people are just set up for it simply by their lifestyle and eating habits.

People with bad diet habits can have episodes of hypoglycemia - eating sugary foods, fast food, processed foods, unhealthy foods, drinking caffeine beverages, alcoholic beverages, and sugary drinks - these are the types of diets that make hypoglycemia happen. The reason why is because these foods get used up fast in our bodies leaving nothing for our bodies to use for energy.

People who have strict rigid exercise regimens may experience hypoglycemia because they didn't take enough nourishment before or after exercise.

If you know upon rising each morning that you are experiencing hypoglycemic symptoms, a change in your daily meal schedule is paramount to managing this condition.

As stated above, it is better to eat 5 to 6 small meals (snack size) per day than to eat three large meals per day. Always have a protein snack an hour or so before bed so that you don't have symptoms upon arising in the morning.

Estimated Serving Sizes

Your fist equals 1 cup

Your palm equals 3 ounces

Your thumb equals 2 tablespoons

A handful equals 1 to 2 ounces of snack food (ex: nuts)

READ LABELS!

Accu-Check to test blood
Accu-Check to test blood | Source

Quick Facts

  • Check blood sugar often
  • Eat 5 to 6 small meals per day, with between meal snacks if needed
  • Drink plenty of fluids (preferably plain water) when exercising
  • Start every day with a good healthy breakfast which includes some fiber.
  • Start eliminating "bad foods" like white flour, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, alcoholic beverages, processed foods, fast food, and caffeine products
  • Try to include more chicken, fruits, fish, beef, cheese, and nuts in your diet
  • Eliminate carbonated (fizzy) beverages, alcoholic beverages, sport beverages and sugary drinks


How To Treat Hypoglycemia

Pay attention to your body so you can recognize hypoglycemia symptoms quickly. It's extremely important to start treating yourself the moment you realize you have hypoglycemia.

First, check your blood sugar with an accu-check machine or any blood testing device. It only requires a drop of blood from your finger or forearm and you get results within 30 seconds or less.

Once you know that number (if it is under 60), you need to eat or drink something that is a fast acting carbohydrate.

Examples are:

  • 3 to 4 glucose tablets OR
  • 4 ounces of fruit juice (ex: apple, orange or grape) OR
  • half a can of regular soda (not diet) OR
  • 3 to 5 pieces of hard candy like peppermints that you can chew quickly. (these amounts are equal to 15 grams)

Wait 15 minutes, then check your blood sugar again. If it is still low, and/or you still have symptoms, you will need to consume another 15 grams of fast acting carbohydrates.

Wait 15 minutes, then recheck.

When you start to feel better, and if you don't have a meal scheduled within the next hour or two, eat a small snack like crackers and peanut butter, or crackers and cheese to hold you over until your next planned meal.

Alternative Remedies For Hypoglycemia

 
 
 
 
Vitamin B 6
Chinese ginseng (regulates sugar)
Stevia (to replace table sugar)
Eat more vegetable protein
Magnesium
Vitamin C
Bilberry capsules
Walk 30 minutes per day
Vitamin B3 Complex
Bee Pollen (helps fatigue)
Biotin
Cut out fast food/fried foods
Glucomannan capsules
chromium picolinate
Eat more fiber
Don't mix alkaline foods with acidic foods

Portion Sizes Matter

Source
hypoglycemia reading
hypoglycemia reading | Source

Summary: Knowledge Is Power

It is important to learn all you can about hypoglycemia, learn to recognize the signs of an impending episode, and let your companions know so they know how to help you.

It is a good idea to wear an Medi-Alert bracelet or carry some acknowledgement in your wallet or purse (symptom and treatment card) to let others know how to help you.

  • Never, ever skip breakfast. Eat a healthy breakfast of high fiber and at least one fruit every day and remember to pack a mid-morning snack to hold you over to lunch.
  • Never go more than 3 hours without eating something.
  • Gradually cut down or eliminate foods from your diet that are bad for you - one food per week, for example - so that you can get the most energy from the foods you do eat.
  • Don't eat white sugar, brown sugar, products containing high fructose corn syrup (as in soda or carbonated beverages). Check labels of your foods to make sure they don't have added sugar.
  • While we all like a sweet treat now and then, don't overdo it. Everything in moderation.
  • Keep hydrated. Water is best.
  • Alcoholic beverages cause you to urinate and therefore you lose your fluids. So if you do drink, at least make sure you have eaten a meal beforehand.
  • Try to include more vegetable proteins and foods with fiber in your meals.
  • Eliminate junk food, fried foods, salt, alcohol, and processed foods.If a food has more than 4 ingredients in it or if it has at least one ingredient you can't pronounce, chances are you shouldn't be eating it.
  • Walk at least 30 minutes per day
  • Consider a vitamin, mineral and supplement regimen to help control your blood sugars (see table above).
  • If you are on a weight loss diet, it is extremely important that you don't skip meals. Instead eat smaller portions but eat more often so that your body always has a surplus for energy.
  • Try to eat foods rich in proteins, such as eggs, cheese and meat, whole grains and vegetables because they are slowly absorbed by the body. Don't have too much fruits. Eat SLOWLY.
  • Nicotine raises your blood sugar, so cut down or quit smoking.
  • Always have a sugary something for a quick fix in your purse or within reach should you need it. Peppermint hard candy is good to keep handy. In USA, Peppermint Lifesavers are easy to access if you should have an episode.
  • Cut back your use of caffeine products because it speeds up the absorption of stored sugar into the blood stream. Caffeine can be found in the most obscure of foods, so read your labels.
  • ALWAYS know when your next meal is and where it is coming from. If you are going to be on a road trip or involved in an activity that takes you away from your normal eating schedule, pack snacks.

Exit Poll

Did you learn anything new from this hub?

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Hypoglycemia is REAL

Know which high sugar foods are your weak spot and start cutting down your consumption of them. It is hard to cut OUT foods but cutting DOWN can be manageable.

Either ask your insurance company if they will cover it or else invest in an accu-check machine (or any blood testing device) and keep it within reach.

As soon as you feel any of the above symptoms of hypoglycemia, test your blood and follow the 15 minute rule.

Keep a record of your blood sugars so you can get an idea of what part of the day can be problematic.

Pack snacks when leaving the house for long periods. Eat 5 to 6 small meals per day. Never go more than 3 hours without eating something.

Lastly, now that you know you are prone to hypoglycemic episodes, educate yourself and educate your spouse or significant other. You need to take this condition seriously. To let it go untreated can lead to chronic fatigue syndrome, pancreatic failure, brain damage, coma or even death.

© John De Vettese June 2013

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  • MySwanSong profile image

    MySwanSong 3 years ago

    I love the part you wrote " ALWAYS know when your next meal is and where it is coming from." That is so important not only with people who have hypoglycemia but also with people who are diabetics. This is a well written article with lots of good information. I took your poll and I'm hoping the answer I chose was the correct one -- check blood sugar with accu-check machine. Voted Useful and Interesting. I've read your other articles here and you are very knowledgeable and write very clearly so even someone who doesn't have the disease can understand. I urge all significant others and partners/spouses of people who suffer from hypoglycemia to read this article.

  • here-s johnny profile image
    Author

    John 3 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

    MySwanSong, thank you for your comment and compliment, Marjorie. I'm still learning all about hubpages, but all encouragement is greatly appreciated. :)

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