When you go hypo from too much insulin or sulfonylurea and too little food, you need to act quickly to bring your blood glucose level back to normal. Nothing does that better than a little glucose.
Too much glucose, on the other hand, will send your level in the other direction – too high. That’s not good either.
The solution is to take just a few glucose tabs – three or four of them depending on the brand. You want to get a total of 15 grams of glucose when you go low. Then you wait 15 minutes and if necessary take 15 more grams of glucose.
That’s what one manufacturer, Paddock Laboratories, calls “the rule of 15". This is the only company that makes both glucose tabs and gels.
Are glucose tabs or gels better? It depends, says Jeff Myers, a diabetes life and wellness coach in Loveland, Colorado. His Web site, Well Balance: Diabetes Life Coaching, describes the services that he can offer to complement those of your health care team.
“I find the 15 gram glucose gel tubes to be OK in an emergency,” Jeff tells me, “but not user friendly for more frequent adjustments in everyday life situations.” He says that these include addressing a dropping blood glucose level:
When he is driving a car and doesn’t want too eat much
Before going to sleep
When camping in a tent
Before or during a meeting at work
During an athletic activity (with water) when he wants small, measured increments of carbs (although he prefers and typically uses real food; other athletes he knows like the simplicity and accuracy of glucose tabs).
Jeff usually uses the Dex 4 tablets from Can-Am Care. “At $5 to $6 per bottle of 50 they are among the most affordable,” Jeff says. “And they have four pleasant flavors. We get them from Diabetic Express".
Jeff not only has diabetes himself, but his young son does too. “We find them easy for children to chew,” he says, “when they are half asleep and need a quick carb dose at 9 or 10pm to ensure that blood sugars don’t dip low during the night (based on some fast-acting insulin still being available in their bodies). As an adult I enjoy the variety of flavors, sweet-tart-like taste, and 4 grams of carb per tablet ‘dose’ size provides the BG adjustment resolution I want.”
The American Diabetes Association has a directory of “Over-The-Counter Products For Treating Low Blood Glucose.” It is online.
All glucose tabs and gels are essentially pure glucose. This is the sugar that our bodies use the fastest. When our blood glucose levels drop below 60 or 70 mg/dl, we are at risk of hypoglycemia and need to take quick action.
Other sugars don’t work fast enough when we go low. The recommendation that always irritates me the most is to drink orange juice, which is mostly two complex sugars, sucrose and fructose.
The glycemic index of glucose is 100. The glycemic index of orange juice is 50. So orange juice works exactly half as fast and as well as glucose.