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It is common for people with diabetes to experience hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) when their bodies don’t have enough sugar to use as fuel. This may be caused by diet, some medications, or exercise. If you’ve gone too long between meals and suddenly felt shaky, lightheaded, anxious, or cranky, you have likely had hypoglycemia (hypo). These unpleasant symptoms are your body’s way of warning you that your blood sugar levels have fallen too low. Call your doctor or diabetes educator if you have more than one unexplained low blood sugar reaction in a week, as they may need to help you adjust medications or meal plans.
While hypoglycemia can still affect people without diabetes, it happens more easily to people living with diabetes, where if blood sugar levels dip too far below the healthy range it can be dangerous. Glucose is the body’s main source of energy, and most healthy people only need a quick high-carb snack such as an apple or banana to help get their blood sugar back up to normal. However, everyone is different so consult with your doctor about the best way to manage a hypo.
Eating too little food after taking your medication or exercising more than usual can make your blood sugar drop below the healthy level. The American Diabetes Association recommends using the 15:15 rule when you experience hypoglycemia. This is where you eat or drink 15 grams of carbohydrates, wait 15 minutes, and then check your blood glucose levels. If they are still below the recommended level, have another 15 gram serving. The 15 minute wait period helps to avoid overeating as this may make your blood sugar levels rise too quickly.
These are a few tips recommended by the ADA and WebMD on how to manage hypoglycemia.
1. Eat or drink 15 grams of carbohydrates
The ADA suggests consuming 15 grams of carbohydrates when experiencing hypoglycemia. These may include ½ cup of juice or soft drink, a tablespoon of honey or sugar, hard candies, or glucose tablets (check the packaging for how many to eat).
2. Eat small meals spread throughout the day
Aim for every 3-4 hours as recommended by WebMD as this will prevent blood sugar from dropping too much between meals.
3. Continue healthy eating habits
Your diet should consist of a variety of fruits, vegetables, and lean protein. The fiber plant foods and lean protein, will give you lasting energy and help to keep blood sugar levels from crashing. If you plan to eat or drink something sweet, do so along with a balanced meal.
4. Limit caffeine and alcohol
Caffeine and alcohol effects can mimic hypoglycemia symptoms, especially if you drink without eating. It is recommended to drink in moderation and not on an empty stomach.
5. Don’t drive with low blood sugar
Always keep some sugar or glucose tablets in the car in case of emergencies. If you are driving and you start to experience hypoglycemia symptoms, pull off the road, check your blood sugar and eat a recommended sugary food.
6. Test often
Ensure to test your blood sugar as often as recommended by your doctor to be aware of any potential spikes or dips in your levels.
7. Exercise 30 minutes to 1 hour after meals
Check your sugars before and after exercise, and don’t wait too long after a meal to exercise. Discuss what types of changes are necessary with your doctor or diabetes educator.
8. Know the signs
Check in with your body, most people living with diabetes will learn the feelings of when there is a dip in blood sugar levels. Catching these symptoms early will help prevent the dangers that come from a serious hypoglycemic episode.
If you experience hypoglycemia write down the date and time, this will help when relaying this information to your doctor and help them make the necessary changes. Manage your hypoglycemia with well-balanced meals, limiting alcohol, having fast-acting glucagon tablets, testing regularly, and checking in with your body.
We’d love to hear from you! Comment any tips that you have learned dealing with hypos!
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