You don’t have to be diabetic to have hypoglycemia
ypoglycemia or low blood sugar is not a condition exclusive to diabetics. If you exercise too much without eating enough you might easily have hypoglycemia. Non diabetic hypoglycemia is different and it may be caused by a variety of reasons, some of which are associated with diabetes.
If you are diabetic, your know that maintaining ideal blood sugars levels is not an easy task and if you use insulin it’s even more difficult. Diabetics have trouble controlling blood glucose levels because they are always leveraging, food, exercise, and insulin or oral drugs. If you use too much insulin you must eat enough to accommodate the load or you risk becoming too low.
Common non diabetic hypoglycemia
Non diabetic hypoglycemia can also be seen as a common and widespread condition which is not associated with disease processes but only caused by a diet rich in high glycemic index foods such as simple carbohydrates and simple sugars. If you have a strong cup of coffee and a small piece of white bread with jam for breakfast you will bottom out at about 10:30 or before lunch. If you continue to eat simple carbohydrates throughout the day you might run into low blood sugar episodes. You feel hungry, tired and irritable and have difficulty concentrating. This can be easily be remedied by changing the diet to less simple carbohydrates and more protein and fats.
This is such a common occurrence most people don’t even think of it as being a problem. I used to be one of those who could not miss a meal or I would turn into a monster. If my blood sugar dropped I would become irritated and my mind would get foggy. What most people don’t know is that your body can do a much better job keeping blood sugar balanced whether you eat or not. The remedy is a diet change and building of muscle mass.
I changed my diet to the 30-30-30 diet, or 33% or your calories from fat, 33% from protein, 33% from carbs. Usually most people eat about 70% from carbs. The other major change factor is muscle mass. The more muscle you have the better you are able to regulate energy consumption. Muscle works as a buffer for insulin release. Insulin is stored in muscles and is released as needed. Muscle building also promote better hormonal functioning which also helps with glucose metabolism.
Other non diabetic hypoglycemia types
Non-diabetic hypoglycemia may have two different categories: 1) it might be related to a reaction to too much insulin present or 2) it may be related to a disease process. The processes and exact mechanisms still being studied.
- Reactive hypoglycemia can happen within a few hours after eating
- Possible causes:
- Having pre-diabetes or being at risk for diabetes. Insulin making deficiencies
- Stomach surgery. Food passes to quickly to small intestines; reduced glucose absorption
- Rare enzyme deficiencies making harder for the body to break down food
- Fasting hypoglycemia may be related to a disease
- Possible causes:
- Pain relieve medications
- Antibiotic such as sulfa
- Pneumonia treatment using pentamidine
- Malaria treatment with quinine
- Alcohol binge drinking
- Liver, heart, or kidney disease
- Low levels of cortisol, growth hormone, glucagon, or epinephrine
- Pancreatic tumors
The symptoms of hypoglycemia may vary from episode to episode. In healthy people, fasting blood sugar levels are usually between 70 and 99 mg/dL.
Symptoms of mild low blood sugar usually develop when blood sugar falls below 70 mg/dL and may include:
- Extreme hunger
- Nervousness, restlessness
- Cold and clammy, sweating not caused by exercise
- Rapid heart rate or tachycardia
- Numbness, tingling on the extremities
If blood sugar continues to fall, the nervous system will be affected. Symptoms usually develop when the blood sugar falls below 55 mg/dL and may include:
- Mood changes, anxiety, anger, panic attacks
- Confusion, difficulty thinking, lack of concentration
- Blurred vision, dizziness, headache
- Lack of energy
- Lack of coordination
- Difficult moving, talking, slurred speech
- Extreme fatigue, lethargy, drowsiness
The symptoms of severe low blood sugar develop when blood sugar falls below 35-40 mg/dL and may include:
- Seizures of convulsions
- Coma, loss of consciousness
- Hypothermia (low body temperature)
Prolonged severe hypoglycemia can cause permanent brain damage and heart problems which can get worse if you already have coronary artery disease. It is an emergency situation that if not addressed can lead to death.
Different people may present different symptoms at different blood glucose levels. What might be extremely low for some may be tolerable to others. Some medicines like beta-blockers for high blood pressure may mask the symptoms of hypoglycemia.
Diagnosis involves blood glucose lab tests, a review of your symptoms, physical exams, your risk for diabetes, family history. Blood glucose should be checked when you are having symptoms and see if your levels are below or about 55 mg/dL. A personal blood glucose meter might not be accurate enough for diagnosis.
Treatment for non-diabetic hypoglycemia
Treatment will depend on the causes of hypoglycemia. If caused by a tumor it might require surgery. If caused by wrong medication, a medication evaluation and changes is needed.
- For emergency treatment drink 15 grams of carbohydrate: juice, glucose tablets, or hard candy
- Eat more foods rich in complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, oats, beans, nuts
- Eat more fats and proteins
- Limit high glycemic index foods such as pasta, white bread, white rice, white potato, tortillas, and sugar
Balance Your Blood Sugar and Avoid the Dangers of Hypoglycemia | Dr. Weston.
- Find-an-Endocrinologist: www.hormone.org or call 1-800-HORMONE (1-800-467-6663)
- Find a registered dietitian (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics): www.eatright.org/programs/rdfinder
- Hormone Health Network information about hypoglycemic disorders: www.hormone.org/patient-guides/2009/hypoglycemic-disorders
- National Institutes of Health information about hypoglycemia: http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/hypoglycemia
- Mayo Clinic information about reactive hypoglycemia: www.mayoclinic.com/health/reactive-hypoglycemia/AN00934
Image credits: flickr.com