Hypoglycemia- symptoms, causes, treatment
Definition of hypoglycemia
Hypoglycaemia (or hypoglycaemia) means low blood sugar (glucose) – less than 70 mg / dl (3.9 mmol / l). However, it is also a really individual matter. Some people may experience symptoms at higher blood sugar levels, and others may develop symptoms at lower blood sugar levels. Hypoglycemia can occur not only in people with diabetes, but also in healthy people.
Symptoms of hypoglycemia
Everyone may experience low blood sugar differently, but some of the symptoms are quite characteristic. We include here:
- Shaking hands
- The feeling of the legs are made of cotton wool
- Drowsiness, excessive sleepiness
- Headache and dizziness
- Stomach pain
- Increased sweating
- Feeling of a racing heart beating
- Excessive appetite, the so-called “Wolf hunger”
- Anxiety, fear
- Cold sweats
- Pressure build-up
- Nausea and vomiting
- Disorders of orientation, vision and coordination of movements
- Difficulty thinking, concentrating, and remembering
At first, symptoms develop gradually as blood sugar levels drop. These are the early symptoms and you can deal with them yourself, e.g. by eating something sweet. As glucose levels decline further, symptoms of low blood sugar worsen, including coma, which can be fatal. Therefore, the ability to recognize symptoms and react early in such situations is very important.
Causes of hypoglycemia:
- Too low caloric content of meals, the whole diet
- Too long break between meals, skipping a meal
- Prolonged, too intense, sudden physical exertion
- Drinking too much alcohol, especially on an empty stomach
- Stress, nervous tension
- Not getting enough sleep
- Sudden weight loss
- Incorrectly selected dose of insulin or a hypoglycaemic drug to the current blood sugar level in people with diabetes
Types of hypoglycemia:
- Mild hypoglycemia – occurs when the glucose concentration is 50-70 mg / dl. The sick person can react by consuming easily digestible carbohydrates, e.g. juice.
- Moderate hypoglycemia – Occurs when glucose levels are 30-50 mg / dL. Here it may be necessary for someone else to help administer the sweet product.
- Severe hypoglycaemia – occurs when the glucose concentration is 20-30 mg / dL. It can lead to unconsciousness, it is dangerous to health and life.
We can also distinguish reactive hypoglycemia, i.e. the state of hypoglycemia after a meal. Most often it appears within two hours after a meal, but there are situations when we can feel its symptoms half an hour after a meal. It depends, inter alia, the volume of the meal and what we ate.
Complications of hypoglycemia
Hypoglycemia is very often associated with insulin resistance. In fact, anyone with the symptoms of hypoglycaemia may also notice symptoms of insulin resistance in their body, and vice versa. Every time we have large fluctuations in blood sugar levels, we can expect spikes in insulin levels. When the sugar level drops too low, the insulin release causes available glucose to be transported from the bloodstream to the cell. After a while, cells will become resistant to insulin, causing another insulin burst and a drop in blood sugar, giving rise to symptoms of hypoglycemia. It can also be the stage before full-blown type II diabetes develops. Repeated episodes of low glucose levels in the body increase the risk of complications from the cardiovascular and nervous systems. In addition, hypoglycemia may be a symptom of liver and kidney diseases, indicate adrenal insufficiency, pituitary insufficiency and hypothyroidism, Hashimoto’s. Severe hypoglycaemia can result in a loss of consciousness and is always a medical emergency.
Treatment of hypoglycemia
If you have mild hypoglycaemia you can usually help yourself by, for example, drinking juice or eating something sweet. It is best if they are pure carbohydrate products (juice, fruit), and not a combination of carbohydrates with fat (chocolate, bars), which delays the absorption of carbohydrates. Then eat a meal with complex carbohydrates and protein. It is important not to overeat as you can easily fall into a vicious cycle: big meal – hypoglycemia – big meal. This way you can gain weight quickly. However, in the event of severe hypoglycaemia, when the patient becomes unconscious, other people must help. Do not give anything sweet as it may cause choking. The unconscious person should be placed in a safe position and the ambulance service should be called, which will administer glucagon in the form of an injection and / or take the patient to the hospital. However, it is essential to avoid such situations, because they will worsen our well-being, cause excessive insulin release and intensify subsequent episodes of hypoglycemia. It is related to the excessive loss of neurons. Every time sugar levels drop sharply, we lose a lot of neurons, leading to brain degeneration. For this reason, Alzheimer’s disease is often referred to as type III diabetes, where the brain becomes resistant to the effects of insulin and glucose.
How can I prevent hypoglycemia?
First of all, you should pay attention to proper nutrition. The most important rules are:
– regular meals during the day, when we often have hypoglycaemia, at the beginning it can be up to 6 meals, and then you can gradually reduce their amount
– bet on complex carbohydrates (groats, rice, potatoes, pasta), good quality proteins (meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, legumes) and healthy fats (olive oil, linseed oil, avocado, nuts)
– carbohydrates should be combined with protein and fats
– the diet should contain the most vegetables
– ensuring an adequate supply of fiber
– eating meals slowly, without haste, biting food thoroughly
– the amount of calories should be individually adjusted, you must not overeat, but also eat too little
– taking care of the low index and glycemic load of meals
– reducing simple sugars, such as sugar, honey, sweeteners, glucose-fructose syrup
– limiting highly processed foods, sweets, fast food, salty snacks
– limiting sweet drinks, juices, energy drinks
– limitation of products made of white flour, refined, white bread, refined rice, small groats, wheat pasta
– minimization and preferably elimination of alcohol
Hypoglycemia is very common in insulin resistance, which is associated with hypothyroidism and the induced Hashimoto’s. Thyroid hormones influence the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats. For this reason, the principles of the diet described in the article about Hashimoto’s will also work here in most cases.
In addition, do not forget about:
- Physical activity – helps stabilize blood sugar levels. It should be selected individually for a given person, their health condition, efficiency, level of training, lifestyle, abilities.
- Adequate hydration – we focus on water, especially mineral water, rich in calcium and magnesium
- Taking care of the right amount and quality of sleep – not getting enough sleep disrupts the body’s carbohydrate balance
Supplementation in hypoglycemia
An important element may also be supplementation, which will help maintain the proper level of glucose in the blood and will support the proper metabolism of carbohydrates. It is worth paying attention here to:
– vitamin D3 – affects the secretion and action of insulin, thanks to which it helps to reduce insulin resistance, which very often occurs together with hypoglycaemia
– probiotics – affect the regulation of the sugar economy. Recently, it turns out that the way we react to a given meal depends on the bacteria in our intestines.
– omega 3 fatty acids – have anti-inflammatory properties, reduce cortisol levels, and sensitize cells to insulin.
– B vitamins – improve the metabolism of carbohydrates, and in the case of problems with the sugar management, there is often their deficiency. Additionally, they support the functioning of the nervous system.
– magnesium – is involved in the transformation of proteins, fats and carbohydrates, reduces oxidative stress. It supports the genes that control glucose and insulin balance.
– turmeric – improves glucose metabolism, has anti-inflammatory properties, can improve the functioning of the pancreas.
It is very important to know the symptoms of sugar problems, hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia. When we are aware of them, we will be able to help ourselves or other people if such a situation occurs.