Feeling dizzy, lightheaded, or hungry very often? These could be signs of hypoglycaemia or low blood glucose (sugar) levels. Hypoglycaemia is when your blood sugar levels drop below the normal range for a healthy individual. Curious about what you can do and what to eat when blood sugar is low? Let’s find out.
We will also take a deeper look at hypoglycemia, its causes, symptoms, and management.
- What is Low Blood Sugar or Hypoglycemia?
- What are the Causes and Symptoms of Low Blood Sugar Levels?
- List of Foods That Raise Blood Sugar Levels
- Know Your Count of High-Sugar Foods And Drinks
- How to Prevent Low Blood Sugar?
- Don’t Have Time To Read?
What is Low Blood Sugar or Hypoglycemia?
Low blood sugar or hypoglycemia is a condition where your blood sugar levels drop below the normal range. A fasting blood sugar level between 70 to 100 mg/dL is considered normal and a reading below 70 mg/dL is considered hypoglycemia.
Paradoxically, people with diabetes are more prone to develop hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia is most often caused as a side effect of medications used to treat diabetes.
What are the Causes and Symptoms of Low Blood Sugar Levels?
The most common cause of low blood sugar levels is the use of insulin or other diabetic medications. As diabetic medications focus on lowering your blood sugar levels, they may drop too low in some cases, leading to hypoglycemia.
In diabetes, low blood sugar may also occur as the result of insufficient food intake after taking your regular dose of diabetes medication or due to increased physical activity.
In cases where diabetes is not present, low blood sugar levels can occur due to excess alcohol consumption, long-term starvation, overproduction of insulin in the body, hormone deficiencies, or critical conditions such as severe kidney, liver, or heart diseases.
Common symptoms of low blood sugar levels include:
- Irregular or fast heartbeat
- Colour draining from the skin
- Difficulty in concentrating
- Tingling or numbness in the lips, tongue, or cheeks
Worsening hypoglycemia can cause confusion, unusual behaviour, loss of coordination, slurred speech, blurred vision, and nightmares in sleep. Severe cases of hypoglycemia can lead to seizures and loss of consciousness.
It is important that you learn how to tackle low blood sugar levels and bring them back to the normal range. Here are a few foods that can help you manage hypoglycemia.
List of Foods That Raise Blood Sugar Levels
What is the best thing to eat when your blood sugar is low? Let’s look at this list below.
Carbohydrates are the main food group that causes a rise in your blood sugar levels. Your digestive system breaks down carbohydrates into glucose (sugar) and therefore it would be the best choice if you want to raise your blood sugar levels. Foods that are high in carbohydrates include rice, oats, beans, bread, pasta, noodles, milk, and yoghurt.
You can follow the 15-15 rule. Have 15 grams of carbohydrates to raise your blood sugar levels and check after 15 minutes. If your sugar levels are still below 70 mg/dL, you can have another serving.
Sugary Foods And Sweetened Beverages
Sugary foods and beverages such as cookies, cakes, pastries, candies, sweetened fruit juices, or aerated drinks can cause a sudden spike in your blood sugar levels. For sudden episodes of hypoglycemia, you can have 5 to 6 hard candies or half a glass of sweetened fruit juice to quickly elevate your blood glucose levels.
Starches are complex carbohydrates that are broken down into sugars to produce energy. Starchy vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, corn, peas, and sweet potatoes can boost your sugar levels instantly. You can consume half a cup of starchy vegetables at a time.
Consuming caffeinated beverages such as coffee or tea can cause a temporary increase in your blood sugar levels. They contain caffeine which alters the way your body reacts to insulin. Caffeine can reduce insulin sensitivity, and thus increases your blood glucose levels.
In situations where you notice symptoms of hypoglycemia such as fatigue or lightheadedness, having a cup of coffee or tea will help you normalise your blood sugar levels.
Fruits such as bananas, grapes, cherries, and mangoes are high in carbohydrates and sugar. These fruits can raise your blood sugar levels quickly. They have a high glycemic index (GI), a score that measures the rise in your blood glucose after eating a particular food. Foods with a high GI create a more quick and dramatic change in your blood sugar levels.
Know Your Count of High-Sugar Foods And Drinks
Here are some examples of foods that can provide you with 15 grams of fast-acting carbohydrates to manage low blood sugar levels:
- ½ cup or 4 ounces of orange juice
- ½ cup or 4 ounces of regular soda (not diet)
- 1 tablespoon of sugar dissolved in water
- 1 tablespoon of honey or maple syrup
- 5 to 6 hard candies, gumdrops, or jelly beans
- 1 tube of instant glucose gel
- 1 cup of skim milk
How to Prevent Low Blood Sugar?
Low blood sugar or hypoglycemia is a serious condition that requires prompt treatment. If you have diabetes, taking certain simple measures can help you prevent low blood sugar levels:
- Track your blood glucose levels regularly using a blood glucose meter. If you have hypoglycemia unawareness or have low blood glucose often, use a CGM (continuous glucose monitoring) device to constantly track your blood sugar levels and alert you when your sugar levels drop.
- Make a meal plan where you have 3 evenly spaced meals with healthy snacks in between. This will ensure that you have enough carbohydrates in your diet to keep your blood glucose level in your target range.
- Carry a source of fast-acting carbohydrates, such as glucose tablets or a juice box, with you at all times.
- Track your carbohydrate intake and your blood sugar levels before and after meals, after exercise, and before going to bed.
- Along with keeping a track of your diet and lifestyle, make sure that you take your insulin and/or diabetic medications accordingly.