Hypoglycemia (Holistic)

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About This Condition

When blood-sugar levels fall fast, symptoms such as fatigue and anxiety may arise. Simple changes can control many cases of hypoglycemia. According to research or other evidence, the following self-care steps may be helpful.
  • Choose foods with fiber

    Stabilize your blood sugar by eating fiber from whole grains, beans and other legumes, vegetables, and fruit

  • Eat light, eat often

    Spread out your meals during the day to sustain a consistent supply of absorbable sugar

  • Give chromium a go

    Take 200 mcg a day of this essential mineral to help stabilize blood sugar swings

  • Cut back on refined carbs

    Avoid carbohydrates that are quickly absorbed, such as sugar and white flour, which may trigger hypoglycemic reactions

  • Say no to alcohol and caffeine

    To improve blood-sugar control, reduce or eliminate alcoholic and caffeinated drinks

About

About This Condition

"Hypoglycemia" is the medical term for low blood sugar (glucose).

People with diabetes who use medications, particularly insulin, to control their blood glucose sometimes develop hypoglycemia. This can be caused by not having a stable intake of carbs-not eating enough of them, eating them erratically, or not adjusting for an increase in physical activity-to balance the blood glucose-lowering effect of these medications.1 , 2

Early symptoms of hypoglycemia typically come on quickly and can include shakiness, anxiety, irritability, hunger, confusion, light headedness, and rapid heartbeat, but some people do not experience or detect these early symptoms.3 Hypoglycemia can contribute to falls, accidents, and other kinds of injuries; if untreated, it can progress from severe confusion to unconsciousness, seizure, coma, or even death.4 In addition, over time, people with diabetes who have repeated episodes of hypoglycemia appear to have a higher risk of dementia.5

People who use insulin to control their diabetes can generally prevent hypoglycemia by using their insulin as prescribed and sticking to an eating pattern that provides the same amounts of carbs at the same times each day. Using a blood glucose monitor can help people identify when their blood glucose is getting low so they can take steps to prevent hypoglycemia. Alcohol makes controlling blood glucose levels with insulin difficult, so drinking alcohol in moderation is best.6

People with diabetes using diabetes medications other than insulin can usually prevent hypoglycemia by eating on a regular schedule, making wise food choices, and having a consistent exercise program. Fasting for lab tests, delaying meals, increasing physical activity, and sleeping are examples of situations that increase the risk of hypoglycemia. Being aware of the risks, watching for symptoms, and monitoring blood glucose can help people with diabetes act fast to avoid hypoglycemia.7

Symptoms

Common symptoms of hypoglycemia are fatigue, anxiety, headaches, difficulty concentrating, sweaty palms, shakiness, excessive hunger, drowsiness, abdominal pain, and depression.

Healthy Lifestyle Tips

According to the American Diabetes Association, untreated hypoglycemia carries potentially serious health risks. Fortunately, acute hypoglycemia is simple to treat, requiring only nourishment to balance the blood sugar. After using glucose test to confirm that blood sugar is low:

  1. Consume 15 to 20 grams of glucose or simple carbohydrates
  2. Recheck blood glucose after 15 minutes. If hypoglycemia continues, repeat.
  3. Once blood glucose returns to normal, eat a small snack if your next planned meal or snack is more than an hour or two away.

Stay prepared to support your blood sugar stability by keeping 15 grams of simple carbohydrates on hand:

  • glucose tablets (follow package instructions)
  • gel tube (follow package instructions)
  • 2 tablespoons of raisins
  • 4 ounces (1/2 cup) of juice or regular soda (not diet)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar, honey, or corn syrup 8 ounces of nonfat or 1% milk
  • hard candies, jellybeans, or gumdrops (see package to determine how many to consume)

Of course, be sure to discuss your hypoglycemia plan with your doctor first, so that it is tailored to your individual circumstances.

Eating Right

The right diet is the key to managing many diseases and to improving general quality of life. For this condition, scientific research has found benefit in the following healthy eating tips.

Recommendation Why
Choose foods with fiber
Stabilize your blood sugar by eating fiber from whole grains, beans and other legumes, vegetables, and fruit in small, frequent meals.

Doctors find that people with hypoglycemia usually improve when they eliminate refined sugars and alcohol from their diet, eat foods high in fiber (such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts), and eat small, frequent meals. Few studies have investigated the effects of these changes, but the research that is available generally supports the observations of doctors. Some symptoms of low blood sugar may be related to, or made worse by, food allergies.

Try a high-protein, low-carb diet
Some doctors have seen good results with high-protein (more meat or soy), low-carbohydrate diets (less pasta, breads, and pastries), particularly among people who do not improve with a high-fiber, high-complex-carbohydrate diet.

Some people report an improvement in hypoglycemia episodes when eating a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet. That observation appears to conflict with research showing that increasing protein intake can impair the body's ability to process sugar, possibly because protein increases insulin levels (insulin reduces blood sugar levels). However, some doctors have seen good results with high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets, particularly among people who do not improve with a high-fiber, high-complex-carbohydrate diet.

Cut out caffeine
Even modest amounts of caffeine may increase hypoglycemia symptoms, so avoid all caffeinated beverages, such as coffee, tea, and some sodas.

Even modest amounts of caffeine may increase symptoms of hypoglycemia. For this reason, caffeinated beverages (such as coffee, tea, and some soda pop) should be avoided.

Supplements

What Are Star Ratings?
Supplement Why
3 Stars
Chromium
200 mcg daily
Taking chromium may help stabilize blood sugar swings.

Research has shown that supplementing with chromium (200 mcg per day) or magnesium (340 mg per day) can prevent blood sugar levels from falling excessively in people with hypoglycemia. Niacinamide (vitamin B3) has also been found to be helpful for hypoglycemic people. Other nutrients, including vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, copper, manganese, and vitamin B6, may help control blood sugar levels in diabetics. Since there are similarities in the way the body regulates high and low blood sugar levels, these nutrients might be helpful for hypoglycemia as well, although the amounts needed for that purpose are not known.

1 Star
Copper
Refer to label instructions
Copper helps control blood sugar levels in people with diabetes, and since there are similarities in the way the body regulates high and low blood sugar levels, it may be helpful for hypoglycemia as well.

Research has shown that supplementing with chromium (200 mcg per day) or magnesium (340 mg per day) can prevent blood sugar levels from falling excessively in people with hypoglycemia. Niacinamide (vitamin B3) has also been found to be helpful for hypoglycemic people. Other nutrients, including vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, copper, manganese, and vitamin B6, may help control blood sugar levels in diabetics. Since there are similarities in the way the body regulates high and low blood sugar levels, these nutrients might be helpful for hypoglycemia as well, although the amounts needed for that purpose are not known.

1 Star
Glucomannan
Refer to label instructions
Glucomannan is a water-soluble dietary fiber. In one trial, adding glucomannan to a meal prevented hypoglycemia in adults with previous stomach surgery.

Glucomannan is a water-soluble dietary fiber that is derived from konjac root (Amorphophallus konjac). In a preliminary trial, addition of either 2.6 or 5.2 grams of glucomannan to a meal prevented hypoglycemia in adults with previous stomach surgery. A trial of glucomannan in children with hypoglycemia due to a condition known as "dumping syndrome" produced inconsistent results.

1 Star
Magnesium
Refer to label instructions
Research has shown that supplementing with or magnesium can prevent blood sugar levels from falling excessively in people with hypoglycemia.

Research has shown that supplementing with chromium (200 mcg per day) or magnesium (340 mg per day) can prevent blood sugar levels from falling excessively in people with hypoglycemia. Niacinamide (vitamin B3) has also been found to be helpful for hypoglycemic people. Other nutrients, including vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, copper, manganese, and vitamin B6, may help control blood sugar levels in diabetics. Since there are similarities in the way the body regulates high and low blood sugar levels, these nutrients might be helpful for hypoglycemia as well, although the amounts needed for that purpose are not known.

1 Star
Manganese
Refer to label instructions
Manganese helps control blood sugar levels in people with diabetes, and since there are similarities in the way the body regulates high and low blood sugar levels, it might be helpful for hypoglycemia as well.

Research has shown that supplementing with chromium (200 mcg per day) or magnesium (340 mg per day) can prevent blood sugar levels from falling excessively in people with hypoglycemia. Niacinamide (vitamin B3) has also been found to be helpful for hypoglycemic people. Other nutrients, including vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, copper, manganese, and vitamin B6, may help control blood sugar levels in diabetics. Since there are similarities in the way the body regulates high and low blood sugar levels, these nutrients might be helpful for hypoglycemia as well, although the amounts needed for that purpose are not known.

1 Star
Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
Refer to label instructions
Research has shown that supplementing with niacinamide (vitamin B3) can prevent blood sugar levels from falling excessively in people with hypoglycemia.

Research has shown that supplementing with chromium (200 mcg per day) or magnesium (340 mg per day) can prevent blood sugar levels from falling excessively in people with hypoglycemia. Niacinamide (vitamin B3) has also been found to be helpful for hypoglycemic people. Other nutrients, including vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, copper, manganese, and vitamin B6, may help control blood sugar levels in diabetics. Since there are similarities in the way the body regulates high and low blood sugar levels, these nutrients might be helpful for hypoglycemia as well, although the amounts needed for that purpose are not known.

1 Star
Vitamin B6
Refer to label instructions
Vitamin B6 helps control blood sugar levels in people with diabetes, and since there are similarities in the way the body regulates high and low blood sugar levels, it might be helpful for hypoglycemia as well.

Research has shown that supplementing with chromium (200 mcg per day) or magnesium (340 mg per day) can prevent blood sugar levels from falling excessively in people with hypoglycemia. Niacinamide (vitamin B3) has also been found to be helpful for hypoglycemic people. Other nutrients, including vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, copper, manganese, and vitamin B6, may help control blood sugar levels in diabetics. Since there are similarities in the way the body regulates high and low blood sugar levels, these nutrients might be helpful for hypoglycemia as well, although the amounts needed for that purpose are not known.

1 Star
Vitamin C
Refer to label instructions
Vitamin C helps control blood sugar levels in people with diabetes, and since there are similarities in the way the body regulates high and low blood sugar levels, it might be helpful for hypoglycemia as well.

Research has shown that supplementing with chromium (200 mcg per day) or magnesium (340 mg per day) can prevent blood sugar levels from falling excessively in people with hypoglycemia. Niacinamide (vitamin B3) has also been found to be helpful for hypoglycemic people. Other nutrients, including vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, copper, manganese, and vitamin B6, may help control blood sugar levels in diabetics. Since there are similarities in the way the body regulates high and low blood sugar levels, these nutrients might be helpful for hypoglycemia as well, although the amounts needed for that purpose are not known.

1 Star
Vitamin E
Refer to label instructions
Vitamin E helps control blood sugar levels in people with diabetes, and since there are similarities in the way the body regulates high and low blood sugar levels, it might be helpful for hypoglycemia as well.

Research has shown that supplementing with chromium (200 mcg per day) or magnesium (340 mg per day) can prevent blood sugar levels from falling excessively in people with hypoglycemia. Niacinamide (vitamin B3) has also been found to be helpful for hypoglycemic people. Other nutrients, including vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, copper, manganese, and vitamin B6, may help control blood sugar levels in diabetics. Since there are similarities in the way the body regulates high and low blood sugar levels, these nutrients might be helpful for hypoglycemia as well, although the amounts needed for that purpose are not known.

1 Star
Zinc
Refer to label instructions
Zinc helps control blood sugar levels in people with diabetes, and since there are similarities in the way the body regulates high and low blood sugar levels, it might be helpful for hypoglycemia as well.

Research has shown that supplementing with chromium (200 mcg per day) or magnesium (340 mg per day) can prevent blood sugar levels from falling excessively in people with hypoglycemia. Niacinamide (vitamin B3) has also been found to be helpful for hypoglycemic people. Other nutrients, including vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, copper, manganese, and vitamin B6, may help control blood sugar levels in diabetics. Since there are similarities in the way the body regulates high and low blood sugar levels, these nutrients might be helpful for hypoglycemia as well, although the amounts needed for that purpose are not known.

References

1. Standards of medical care in diabetes-2017: Promoting health and reducing disparities in populations. American Diabetes Association, Diabetes Care 2017;40:S6-10.

2. Standards of medical care in diabetes-2017: Lifestyle management. American Diabetes Association, Diabetes Care 2017;40:S33-43.

3. Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Glucose). American Diabetes Association[last edited 2015 Jul 1]. Available from URL: http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/blood-glucose-control/hypoglycemia-low-blood.html?loc=type1-exercise.

4. Standards of medical care in diabetes-2017: Glycemic targets. American Diabetes Association, Diabetes Care 2017;40:S48-56.

5. Standards of medical care in diabetes-2017: Comprehensive medical evaluation and assessment of comorbidities. American Diabetes Association, Diabetes Care 2017;40:S25-32.

6. Standards of medical care in diabetes-2017: Lifestyle management. American Diabetes Association, Diabetes Care 2017;40:S33-43.

7. Standards of medical care in diabetes-2017: Glycemic targets. American Diabetes Association, Diabetes Care 2017;40:S48-56.