One of the most frustrating challenges to living a healthy lifestyle with diabetes is the inevitable blood sugar crash. Unless your blood sugar is completely controlled by diet and exercise (no medications), you will eventually experience a dip low enough that it requires your immediate attention or at the very least makes you feel terrible.
You know the feeling. You start to get hungry, even if you ate recently. Then you feel like your blood pressure is going up. You may get nausea or start to sweat. Then comes the full on tremors, especially in your hands. If you let it go too long, all of that stops and you start to feel faint. No matter what, you feel like you’ve been hit by a bus, and this feeling can sometimes last for hours.
I have wrestled with low blood sugar on and off for years. It usually happens most often when I change up a fitness routine or exercise with more intensity or frequency. It can also happen when I make a major dietary change. But sometimes it seems to happen for no apparent reason whatsoever, like mid-morning on a day when I have a small amount of carbs after a few days of very low carb eating. I’ll be moving along just fine when all of a sudden WHAM! It hits and knocks me off my feet.
The real challenge when this happens is finding a healthy way to deal with the problem without going overboard and wrecking your day. The truth is, I have only found one way to do this well, and that is with patient moderation.
My initial tendency when I have low blood sugar is to grab something really sweet immediately. On really bad days that might be a piece of candy, a cookie, or a sugary drink. Fruit juice is only slightly better. Any of these will bump your blood sugar back up quickly.
The problem with these choices, though, is two-fold.
- It is very difficult to gauge quantities when your body is screaming for a sugar boost. I find it super easy to overdo it and cause my blood sugar to spike way above normal.
- The nutritional value of these choices is pretty much nil. They will not contribute to long-term success. They are full or high fructose corn syrup or other sweeteners, which play havoc with your system, they cultivate a desire for unnaturally sweet foods, and they add tons of calories that make it just that much harder to get healthy.
So what’s a person to do when hit with sudden low blood sugar?
In most cases your sugar won’t plummet enough to put you in immediate danger. There are certainly cases where a new medication or dosage can drop your numbers low enough for serious concern, so make sure you talk to your doctor about how to handle those situations if they should arise.
But for those everyday situations, the best defense is:
- Don’t panic! As hard as it is to be patient when you are shaking like a leaf and feeling sick, I find the best thing to do in this situation is to take your time and not overreact.
- Grab a simple piece of fruit, eat it slowly, and then wait 5 minutes to see if the symptoms have faded.The sugars contained in fruit are healthy, even for diabetics, and will not bring your blood up to abnormally high levels, but they will bring them up.
- If your symptoms don’t fade, then rinse and repeat until your readings return to normal range.
- When you are able to think clearly you can plan to have your next meal a little earlier to ensure that you don’t dip again.
- Follow-up with your doctor to make sure you don’t need to make an adjustment in your activity or medications.
When I follow these simple steps I usually find that my blood sugar returns to normal within just a few minutes, and I am able to continue my day without the horrible sugar hangover that occurs when I down a whole box of Milk Duds instead. And the only thing this method requires of me is a little bit of planning. I try to make sure that we always have fresh fruit like apples at home, and anytime I am going to be working out at a gym or changing my diet or medicines I make sure to pack a piece or two of fruit with me.
What do you do to handle the lows when they hit you? Share your tips in the comments below.