Hypoglycemia, also called low blood glucose or low blood sugar, occurs when blood glucose drops below normal levels (70 mg/dl). This medical condition is accompanied by a range of sudden symptoms that include weakness, nausea, headache, sweating, nervousness, as well as mental confusion, anxiety, dizziness, and trembling. These symptoms indicate that you might have low blood glucose, and when severe, can cause accidents, injuries, coma, and even death. Knowing its adverse effects on human life, it’s important to be alert to these life threatening symptoms and take action at the earliest.
Here is some important information on how Hypoglycemia develops, what causes it, and some valuable tips on preventing it.
How does it occur?
Generally, after a meal, glucose is absorbed into the bloodstream and carried to the body’s cells. This glucose is then converted into energy using Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas. During the day, when blood glucose begins to fall, glucagon, another hormone made by the pancreas, signals the liver to break down glycogen and release glucose into the bloodstream, bringing it to a normal level. But for patients with diabetes, this glucagon response to hypoglycemia is impaired and the glucose levels can’t easily return to the normal range. That is why such patients need to eat or drink a small amount of glucose-rich food to get instant relief and avoid serious impairments. If the patient on the other hand is not in a position to eat, then they need to be hospitalized and given glucose through IV.
What causes this condition?
It is found to occur most predominantly among diabetic patients whose treatment plans are designed to match the dose and timing of medication to a patient’s usual schedule of meals and activities. Mismatches in treatment plans could result in hypoglycemia, especially if the patient eats inappropriately or lacks proper exercise routines. Some other factors include drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, long delays between meals and snacks, eating junk foods resulting in gastric trouble, and in certain rare cases, hormonal imbalance and kidney/liver disorders.
Hypoglycemia can be treated effectively by making some important changes in your diet.
What can a patient eat?
Foods rich in glucose and carbohydrates such as rice, potatoes, bread, tortillas, cereal, milk, fruit, and sweets are the main dietary source of glucose. As delicious and healthy as they seem aren’t the best food for a patient suffering from Hypoglycemia.
Doctors advice hypoglycemic patients to go on a low-carb, high fat diet. Patients are strictly recommended to carry high protein snacks when they’re on-the-go, and limit caffeine and alcohol to keep the liver healthy and safe. With adequate sleep, physical exercise and good peace of mind, well informed patients can keep hypoglycemia at bay.
Dr Vikash Maskara
Consultant – Physician, Endocrinology & Diabetology
NH Barasat, Kolkata.