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Low Blood Sugar Symptoms: Hypoglycemia


Low blood sugar symptoms can be serious. Here you will learn the causes of hypoglycemia, how to recognize the symptoms and what to do to bring your blood sugar back up to a normal range.

Low Blood Sugar Symptoms

What is Low Blood Sugar?

Low blood sugar, also known as hypoglycemia, happens when the sugar or glucose in your blood falls below the normal range to 60 mg/dL and below. Low blood sugar has also been called insulin reaction or insulin shock. This is different than hyperglycemia, which is when the blood sugar rises above the normal range.

Your brain needs sugar, or blood glucose, in order to function properly. Since the brain does not have the ability to create its own glucose, it relies on the rest of the body to provide its fuel.

If your blood sugar drops too low and your brain doesn't get the glucose that it needs, it will react in a negative way.

This is a serious situation because if your blood sugar drops too low, it can lead to fainting, coma or even death.

I have a friend who had a hypoglycemic episode when she was younger. Her blood sugar dropped so low that she fainted and fell flat on her face on a hard floor, busting out her two front teeth.

It could have been worse.

 

What Causes Low Blood Sugar?

There are several common causes of low blood sugar:

  • Overuse of insulin medications
  • Too much exercise
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Skipped meals (or too much time between meals)
  • Eating high glycemic meals
  • Severe infections
  • Genetic conditions or diseases which may cause a release of insulin


Since this site is about Losing Weight and the Glycemic Index, much of the discussion has been around type 2 diabetes, the glycemic index and blood sugar levels.

Hypoglycemia can also result from spiking your blood sugar by eating high glycemic meals. After eating foods with a high glycemic index, your blood sugar will rise rapidly creating an overstimulation of insulin. A lot of insulin in your blood stream can drop your blood sugar quickly into hypoglycemia range, creating low blood sugar symptoms. See the graph at the top of the page.

Hypoglycemia is also one of the indicators of insulin resistance.

The signs of low blood sugar could be mild or you may have no symptoms at all. You may need a blood sugar test to be sure.

Low blood sugar symptoms that you might notice are:

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  • Weakness, faint
  • Dizziness
  • Trembling, shaky
  • Hunger
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Blurred vision


It's important to familiarize yourself with the symptoms of hypoglycemia. If you feel that you have these symptoms and that your blood sugar has dropped into hypoglycemia range, you will quickly need to eat some "fast carbs". These are high glycemic carbohydrates that will quickly raise your blood sugar.

The key is to have a small amount. If you eat a full high glycemic meal, you will be buying your ticket for the High Glycemic Rollercoaster in the graph at the top of this page.

You just want to eat enough to raise your blood sugar back to normal, and that doesn't take much.

For example, one of the following may be enough:

  • Slice of white bread
  • 5 saltine crackers
  • Cup of fruit juice
  • Half cup of regular soda (not diet)
  • 2 teaspoons of sugar
  • Two or three bites of a chocolate candy bar

 

If you are helping someone else and they have fainted or you fear they have gone into a coma, call Emergency Services (911 in the U.S. and Canada).

 

Preventing Low Blood Sugar

Let's prevent you from getting that far to begin with. Here is what you do (or don't do):

  • Don't skip meals
  • Eat 5-6 small meals throughout the day
  • Eat low glycemic meals
  • Be consistent with your exercise (don't overdo it)
  • Keep healthy, low glycemic snacks with you when you travel


If you are on insulin or other diabetes medication, measure your dosages carefully, keep track of your blood sugar levels and keep your doctor informed if you consistently have low blood sugar symptoms.

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