Most of us are familiar with the feeling of hunger or low energy that happens when our blood sugar drops. But for people who suffer from hypoglycemia, it is more than just a passing sensation. Low blood sugars can create an array of symptoms which can be both physically and mentally exhausting – disrupting sleep, draining your sense of wellbeing and causing emotional distress. Fortunately, there are nutritional supplements out there to help restore healthy glucose levels in the body; but first it is important to understand what hypoglycemia is and how you can get yourself tested for diagnosis. In this blog post we’ll look at the basics behind hypoglycemia and discuss some natural supplements you might try if provided with a diagnosis by your healthcare provider. So whether you’ve already been diagnosed or suspect low glucose may be playing a role in your current health state… read on!
What is Hypoglycemia?
Hypoglycemia, also known as low blood sugar, is a condition that affects millions of people around the world. It occurs when your blood sugar levels drop to below normal, and it can potentially lead to serious health problems. This condition is often prevalent among people who suffer from diabetes, but it can also affect anyone who has a low-carbohydrate diet or those who engage in intense physical activities.. This can be very dangerous and the patient has to treat the condition to raise their blood sugar as soon as possible.
Usually the condition affects patients with diabetes, but other patients may experience symptoms as well. For example, research also associates abnormal glucose metabolism with rheumatoid arthritis, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and metabolic syndrome. There are several risk factors, including lifestyle and dietary choices.
Hypoglycemia Signs and Symptoms
There are a wide number of symptoms for hypoglycemia. They usually develop very quickly and each patient reacts differently to the condition. Not all patients will experience the same symptoms, but it’s important to be able to recognize the signs of low blood sugar. The only way for a patient to confirm low blood sugar is to check their blood sugar levels.
Shaking and Sweating
The most common symptom of hypoglycemia is shaking or trembling, along with excessive sweating. The body’s defense mechanism kicks in as the blood sugar level drops and starts releasing hormones such as adrenaline, which triggers these symptoms.
Hunger and Nausea
Low blood sugar levels can also lead to hunger pangs and nausea. You may feel the need to eat frequently after only a few hours of eating your last meal. It is essential to consume healthy carbohydrates or glucose-rich drinks to avoid a hypoglycemic episode.
Irritability and Confusion
The brain relies on glucose for its energy requirements. Low blood sugar levels can cause irritability, confusion, anxiety, and difficulties in concentration. You may find it difficult to perform routine tasks, and your cognitive abilities may become impaired.
Weakness and Fatigue
Hypoglycemia can cause the body’s muscles to feel weak or fatigued. You may also experience drowsiness or low energy levels. It is vital not to ignore this symptom and seek medical attention immediately.
Rapid Heartbeat and Headaches
When your body is low on glucose, it will release hormones in an attempt to raise the blood sugar level. These hormones can trigger rapid heartbeats, palpitations, headaches, and even episodes of dizziness.
Hypoglycemia can cause mood changes such as irritability, anxiety, or even depression. If you notice that you are more irritable or anxious than usual, it could be a sign of hypoglycemia. If you do not treat it promptly, your symptoms may worsen, and you may start experiencing more severe symptoms like seizures or loss of consciousness.
Complications from Hypoglycemia
Hypoglycemia can be a very dangerous condition, putting the patient at risk for serious complications, including:
Can Hypoglycemia Cause Seizures?
When the brain doesn’t receive enough glucose, it can lead to a seizure. The symptoms of a seizure caused by hypoglycemia can vary depending on the severity of the condition. Some people might have a mild seizure where they feel dizzy, confused, or disoriented, while others may lose consciousness and experience convulsions. Seizures caused by hypoglycemia can be very dangerous, especially if they occur when you’re driving or engaging in other activities.
Can Hypoglycemia Cause Weight Gain?
To understand how hypoglycemia might cause weight gain, we first need to look at how blood sugar levels affect the body. Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, helps to transport glucose (sugar) from the bloodstream into cells to be used for energy. When blood sugar levels drop, the body responds by releasing another hormone called glucagon, which signals the liver to release stored glucose into the bloodstream. When hypoglycemia occurs frequently, it can put a strain on the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels properly, leading to insulin resistance and weight gain.
Another factor that can affect weight gain in people with hypoglycemia is the urge to overeat. When blood sugar levels drop, it can trigger hunger signals that can be difficult to resist. After eating a high-carbohydrate meal, you might feel full and satisfied for a short period of time, but then experience another drop in blood sugar levels, causing you to crave more food again. This cycle of blood sugar spikes and crashes can lead to overeating and weight gain.
Hypoglycemia and Pregnancy
Pregnant women are at a higher risk of developing hypoglycemia due to various reasons. Some of the common causes of hypoglycemia during pregnancy include: hormonal changes, changes in diet, increased energy demands. Fortunately, hypoglycemia during pregnancy can be easily managed with proper treatment and care.
Hypoglycemia and Anxiety
Hypoglycemia can cause anxiety. When your blood sugar levels drop too low, it can lead to symptoms like dizziness, confusion, and irritability. These physiological symptoms can trigger feelings of anxiety in some people, leading to increased heart rate, sweating, and even panic attacks. In fact, studies have found that hypoglycemia can activate the same stress response in the brain that occurs during anxiety.
Anxiety can affect blood sugar levels. On the flip side, anxiety can also impact your blood sugar levels. When you’re anxious, your body releases stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, which can cause your liver to release stored glucose into your bloodstream. This can result in a temporary increase in blood sugar levels, which is why some people with anxiety report feeling shaky and jittery.
While people with diabetes are more likely to experience hypoglycemia, non-diabetic hypoglycemia can also occur due to certain factors like fasting, high-intensity exercise, and certain medications. Interestingly, research has found that people with non-diabetic hypoglycemia may be at a higher risk for developing anxiety disorders.
What Causes Hypoglycemia
Hypoglycemia is usually associated with diabetes, but other patients can suffer from abnormal glucose levels. Glucose is one of the most vital sources of energy in the body and is mainly present in foods rich in carbohydrates. The body sources energy from foods with high glucose levels, such as beans, fruits, vegetables and sugary drinks and snacks. The body absorbs this glucose into the bloodstream and then transports it to the cells that need it for energy. Because diabetes can cause drastic changes in blood sugar, the condition often affects diabetic patients. According to the National Institutes of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), the symptoms of hypoglycemia typically appear when the blood sugar levels fall below 70 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL).
One of the most common causes of hypoglycemia is skipping meals, especially breakfast. When your body doesn’t receive enough glucose, it can cause a drop in your blood sugar levels. To combat this, make sure you eat a healthy and balanced breakfast every morning. Additionally, try to eat several small meals throughout the day to keep your blood sugar levels stable.
Certain medications, such as insulin and sulfonylureas, can cause hypoglycemia as a side effect. If you are taking these medications, it’s important to carefully monitor your blood sugar levels and follow your healthcare provider’s instructions. Additionally, make sure you inform your doctor if you experience any symptoms of hypoglycemia.
Increased Physical Activity
When you engage in physical activity, your body uses glucose for energy. If you don’t have enough glucose in your blood, it can cause hypoglycemia. To combat this, make sure you eat enough carbohydrates before and after exercising. Additionally, check your blood sugar levels before, during, and after exercising to ensure they stay within a healthy range.
Alcohol can interfere with the liver’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels, leading to hypoglycemia. If you do choose to drink alcohol, it’s important to do so in moderation and with food. Additionally, make sure you monitor your blood sugar levels before and after drinking to ensure they stay within a healthy range.
Certain medical conditions, such as liver disease and kidney disease, can cause hypoglycemia. To combat this, it’s important to work with your healthcare provider to manage your condition and monitor your blood sugar levels regularly.
Risk Factors for Hypoglycemia
Patients with diabetes use medication to control blood sugar and keep it in a healthy range. Research shows that some medications may contribute to hypoglycemia. Some common medications that may trigger the condition include glimepiride (Amaryl), repaglinide (Prandin) and chlorpropamide (Diabinese).
High levels of glucose in the blood can raise insulin levels, which contributes to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a condition where the cells fail to respond to normal insulin levels in the blood. This imbalance can increase the risk for diabetes or cause irregular blood sugar metabolism.
Hepatitis is a condition caused by inflammation in the liver that interferes with the organ’s ability to function. When the liver cannot metabolize sufficient amounts of glucose, the process falls out of balance.
Increased Physical Activity
Exercising can cause blood sugar levels to fall too low. When the body is active, the muscles use up all the glucose and stored glycogen in order to repair themselves. For diabetics, exercise can cause an unhealthy decline in blood sugar, depending on the intensity, duration and timing of the activity.
Alcohol can disrupt blood sugar levels in the body, interfering with the hormones that help regulate them. For a patient with diabetes or hypoglycemia, heavy drinking can use up an unhealthy amount of blood sugar and energy. It can also make insulin less effective.
Specific enzyme deficiencies can make it difficult for the body to process glucose properly. The liver stores excess glucose to use later. However, if the enzyme that regulates this process is not present it can lead to hypoglycemia because the body cannot maintain glucose levels.
In a stressful situation, the body releases glucose in different organs, raising blood sugar levels. For patients with diabetes, it can be more difficult to keep these blood sugar levels regular and in the long term, it can increase the risk for hypoglycemia.
Hypoglycemia symptoms may be mild or more severe and they affect patients differently. It’s important to see an endocrinologist for proper diagnosis. The doctor uses a set of three factors to make a diagnosis: low blood sugar levels, if symptoms appear when blood sugar drops and if the patient finds relief with treatment. Then the doctor administers a blood test to measure glucose levels either after the patient fasts overnight, after they exercise or in between meals (x).
Hypoglycemia vs Hyperglycemia
Understanding the differences between hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia is crucial in preventing and managing these conditions effectively. While both can have serious health consequences, knowing their causes, symptoms, and preventive measures can help you maintain a healthy blood sugar level. If you have diabetes, work closely with your healthcare provider to monitor and manage your blood sugar level appropriately. Eating a balanced, whole-food diet, staying active, and reducing stress can also help you reduce the risk of developing these conditions. Remember, a healthy lifestyle is key to preventing and managing hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia.
Preventing hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia requires different approaches. To prevent hypoglycemia, people with diabetes should monitor their blood sugar level regularly, eat balanced meals, take their medication as prescribed, and avoid alcohol. On the other hand, to prevent hyperglycemia, people should eat a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean protein while limiting or avoiding refined sugar and processed foods. Exercise can also help regulate blood sugar levels, so making physical activity part of your daily routine is essential.
Managing hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia also require different prompt actions. Hypoglycemia can be treated by consuming glucose-rich foods or drinks like orange juice, candy, or glucose tablets. It is also important to check your blood sugar level after a few minutes to ensure it has returned to normal. Hyperglycemia can be managed by drinking plenty of water, exercising, and monitoring your blood glucose level. People with diabetes may need to adjust their medication or insulin dose or seek medical help if their blood sugar level remains high for a long time.
Treatment for hypoglycemia depends on the cause. The condition can affect patients with or without diabetes, so different patients may require different treatment methods. If hypoglycemia is a result of diabetes medication, the doctor may adjust the dosage or the time the patient takes it. Patient can work with a dietitian to develop a healthy diet plan with consistent carbohydrates, which contain glucose. The patient may need to monitor their blood glucose levels more closely to keep them from dropping. It’s also a good idea to limit alcohol consumption.
When blood sugar drops, patients can take steps to regulate them quickly. Doctors may recommend carrying hard candy or glucose tablets. Drinking juices may help and the body absorbs fruits very easily to raise blood sugar quickly. However, avoid foods with protein or fat when the blood sugar is low because they do not raise glucose levels fast enough. Patients should also avoid skipping meals and non-diabetics should take small meals and snacks throughout the day to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
Hypoglycemia Meal Plan
Carbohydrates are the main source of glucose in the body, so it’s important to include healthy carbs in the diet that will help with glucose metabolism. These include potatoes, whole grains, legumes, corn, peas and sweet fruits like bananas, melons and grapes.
A diet with adequate amounts of fiber can reduce the risk for diabetes. It may even help patients who already have diabetes regulate their blood sugar. Patients can get fiber from whole grains like brown rice, whole wheat pasta and whole grain cereal. Fruits and vegetables are also high in fiber, especially berries and leafy greens.
Protein provides the body with energy and can help reduce the risk for diabetes and heart disease. It’s best to include high-quality protein rather than low-quality protein like red or processed meats. Fish, poultry, dairy products, nuts, seeds and soy products are all good options.
Fruits & Vegetables
Consuming fresh fruits and vegetables may help patients control hypoglycemia. They may provide the body with enough glucose to raise levels back to normal when they drop.
Choose Low-Glycemic Index Foods
The glycemic index (GI) ranks foods based on how they affect blood glucose. Foods with a high GI can cause a rapid increase in blood sugar levels, while those with a low GI tend to lead to a slower and more gradual increase. Low GI foods include non-starchy vegetables, legumes, and whole fruits, such as apples, berries, citrus fruits, and pears. Selecting low-GI foods can help control your blood sugar levels, allowing more sustainable energy.
Factor in Good Fats
The type of fats you consume can affect your blood sugar levels. Unsaturated fats are considered better and have a lower glycemic index compared to saturated and trans fats. They have been associated with improved insulin sensitivity, reduced inflammation, and better cardiovascular health. Including healthy fats in the diet can help regulate blood sugar and blood pressure. Patients should opt for monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats—avocados, oils, nuts, fatty fish, soy milk and flaxseed.
Foods to Avoid
Supplements for Hypoglycemia
Patients may also benefit from natural supplements. They are not an adequate treatment or cure for any health condition, but they may benefit overall health. Supplements cannot completely control blood sugar on their own but they may help, paired with other treatment methods. Speak to a doctor before adding any supplements to a dietary routine, especially with diabetes.
Chromium is an essential mineral that plays a key role in the metabolism of carbohydrates. Studies have shown that chromium can help regulate blood sugar levels, making it an effective supplement for those with hypoglycemia. Chromium supplements are available in a variety of forms, including chromium GTF, chromium picolinate and chromium polynicotinate.
Magnesium is another mineral that is important for blood sugar regulation. It helps the body convert glucose into energy and can improve insulin sensitivity. Supplementing with magnesium has been shown to help improve glucose tolerance and reduce the risk of developing diabetes.
Vitamin D has been shown to play a role in insulin secretion and glucose metabolism. Studies have shown that individuals with low vitamin D levels are at a higher risk of developing hypoglycemia and other blood sugar-related disorders. While vitamin D can be synthesized by the body through exposure to sunlight, many people don’t get enough during the winter months or if they live in regions with limited sunlight. In these cases, vitamin D supplementation can be beneficial.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish such as salmon, play a role in reducing inflammation and improving insulin sensitivity. Studies have shown that supplementing with omega-3s can reduce insulin resistance and the risk of hypoglycemia. If you’re not a fan of fish, you can also obtain omega-3s from plant sources such as walnuts and flaxseed.
Alpha-lipoic acid is a powerful antioxidant that has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and increase glucose uptake in the cells. It can also help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, which are common in those with hypoglycemia. Alpha-lipoic acid is available in supplement form and can also be found in some foods, such as spinach and broccoli.
Cinnamon is a spice that has been used for centuries to treat a variety of ailments. It is also effective in regulating blood sugar levels. Studies have shown that cinnamon can help improve insulin sensitivity and reduce fasting blood sugar levels. Cinnamon supplements are widely available and can be taken in capsule form or added to food.
Beta-carotene is a plant pigment that gives fruits and vegetables their color, including carrots, apricots, peppers and leafy green vegetables. It is a powerful antioxidant that protects several bodily systems. It can help protect the eyes from cataracts, support cystic fibrosis and reduce the risk for cancer. Beta-carotene may also help control blood pressure and blood sugar. The recommended dosage for beta-carotene powder is 1,300 mg per day, after confirming the dosage with a doctor.
Green Coffee Bean
Raw coffee beans are actually green and roasting them is what gives them their dark color. They have a high level of a compound called chlorogenic acid that may help with weight loss and high blood pressure. Research states that green coffee beans may help manage diabetes symptoms, reduce inflammation and regulate glucose metabolism. As a dietary supplement, the recommended dosage for green coffee bean powder is 50 to 200 mg one or two times per day. Consult a doctor to confirm the dosage.
There are tons of kelp extract products on the market and people have been using it for centuries in food and drinks. Research states that it may help reduce the risk of diabetes by balancing blood sugar levels in the body. It contains a natural metal called vanadium that can help regulate insulin and control blood sugar. The recommended daily dosage for kelp extract powder is 600 mg (about ¼ tsp) per day with food, if a doctor approves the dosage.
The Bottom Line
Hypoglycemia is a condition in which the body does not regulate glucose properly and blood sugar levels become abnormally low. Typically doctors associate hypoglycemia with diabetes, but patients without diabetes can develop it as well. Common symptoms include dizziness, fatigue, hunger pangs, headaches and seizures. Symptoms can be mild or severe and can cause complications like dementia, injuries and may even put patients in a coma.
As you can see, there are several supplements for hypoglycemia that can help support healthy blood sugar levels. While supplementation can be helpful, it’s important to remember that a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle should be the foundation of your blood sugar management plan. Talk to your healthcare provider if you’re considering adding supplements to your daily regimen, as they can help you determine the right dosage and ensure that they won’t interfere with any other medications or health conditions you may have. With the help of these supplements and a healthy lifestyle, you can manage your hypoglycemia and live a happier, healthier life.
Patients can take steps to manage the condition by following a healthy and balanced diet, monitoring blood sugar levels and adjusting medications with the help of a doctor. Natural supplements may help regulate blood sugar. However, they are not a cure for hypoglycemia or any other medical condition. Consult a doctor to avoid side effects and medication interactions. Although they are not a cure, supplements do aim to benefit overall health.