Hypoglycemia is a disease, in which a person has a low blood sugar (blood glucose) or a highly fluctuating blood sugar. This is because the body produces too much insulin. Hypoglycemia is a temporary condition that rarely occurs in healthy people, but occurs mainly in people with diabetes mellitus.
Various causes may underlie the development of hypoglycemia:
- Too much insulin or too little food intake in an insulin-dependent diabetic.
- Too little food, such as for example with anorexia nervosa.
- A wrong diet.
- Hormonal disorders.
- Tumors that produce insulin.
- Extreme obesity.
- Presence of toxins.
- After gastrointestinal surgery, in which dumping may occur, for example in the construction of a bypass.
Newborns with a high birth weight may temporarily develop hypoglycemia after birth, because they haven’t regulated their diets properly yet.
Hypoglycemia can be identified by the following signs and symptoms:
These symptoms may also occur for other reasons and don’t necessarily mean that there is hypoglycemia. Most hypoglycemia attacks occur at night.
The diagnosis of hypoglycemia can be made by measuring the amount of glucose in the blood. People with diabetes often have a measuring device, with which they can do this themselves.
The treatment of hypoglycemia is mainly aimed at bringing the disturbed metabolism in balance. In the short term, one can take care of this by taking food. The blood sugar will rise, at least temporarily. The problem is, however, that the body, immediately with the rising of the blood sugar, will produce hormones in order to get the blood sugar down. After some time, the blood sugar will thus be low again.
An unconscious patient can be treated with a direct injection of glucagon or intravenous administration of glucose in a hospital.
In people with diabetes, the prospects are excellent if they follow their prescribed insulin dosage, recommended diet and guidelines for physical exercise. However, if the blood sugar is much too low (final stage), this may lead to epileptic seizures, loss of consciousness, coma and stroke. If the hypoglycemia is very severe, it can even lead to death.
In case of an attack of hypoglycemia, the following recommendations are valid:
- Take something with glucose immediately: starch, a glass of regular soft drinks (no light) or lemonade syrup diluted with water. Make sure to always have something with glucose at hand.
- Take something with carbohydrates when the next meal is at the earliest about an hour and a half. For example, a slice of bread, an apple or a glass of juice.
- Check whether the blood sugar has sufficiently increased. This only applies to people with diabetes, because they have a glucose meter.
There are the following dietary advices, when a person often suffers from low blood sugar:
- Eat healthy. Use as much fresh products as possible.
- Use sufficient unsaturated fat and be moderate with products high in saturated fats.
- Use little to no alcohol.
- Don’t smoke.
- Spread the amount of carbohydrates over the day. It is recommended to rather take six small meals, spread over the day and evening, than three large meals. This ensures a uniform distribution of carbohydrates, making it less likely that a low blood sugar will occur.
- Take enough dietary fiber.
- Use little sugar, because products containing added sugar can cause large fluctuations in blood glucose. The label on the sugar is also referred to as sucrose, cane sugar or beet sugar.