Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, is a rare ailment generally found in those who have diabetes, pancreatic tumors, adrenal or pituitary gland failure, liver disease, or who have had stomach surgery.
Blood sugar (glucose) comes mostly from simple and complex carbohydrates and proteins. The blood carries the glucose to be used as fuel to your brain, organs, muscles and other tissues. The excess is then stored in the liver.
Blood sugar levels are usually in 70-80 mg/100 cc of blood before eating, and 120 to 140 in the first hour after a meal. The high level prompts the pancreas to secrete insulin that enables the blood sugar to be used as energy. Three to four hours after eating, the insulin will cause the blood sugar levels to drop below the original levels. The adrenal gland takes this as a cue to release adrenaline that inhibits a further drop.
When hormonal responses are disrupted, blood sugar levels drop and the above-named symptoms may be experienced.
Hypoglycemia can be caused by endocrine, renal, or liver disorders, or certain medications in diabetics. It also can be caused by excess production of insulin by the body and occurs sometimes after eating, stomach surgery, alcohol use, and certain medications.
The symptoms most people associate with hypoglycemia are likely to be the body’s hormonal reaction to prevent hypoglycemia from occurring. These symptoms can include mood swings, fatigue, irritability, anxiety, headaches, palpitations, sugar cravings, inability to concentrate and others.
Your physician will take a complete medical history and do a physical exam. Blood tests will most likely be necessary to try to determine the specific cause of the hypoglycemia.
Discuss your situation with your physician. Acute or severe episodes of hypoglycemia, with epinephrine-like or CNS (central nervous system) symptoms, may be relieved by ingestion of oral glucose or sucrose. In an attack characterized primarily by CNS symptoms (suggesting that the corrective action of epinephrine is inoperative), glucose should be given promptly.
Treatment of hypoglycemia following meals, on the other hand, is often complex. “Functional” hypoglycemia may occasionally be treated successfully by relieving emotional stress.
The single most useful treatment regimen for all three reactive hypoglycemias that follow meals is a diet high in protein and restricted in carbohydrate. Not all patients will be completely relieved on this regimen, but many will have improvement in their attacks.
Before a patient receives definitive treatment for hypoglycemia (excluding emergency treatment), all of the following should be present:
1. A documented occurrence of low blood glucose level
2. Symptoms shown to occur when the blood glucose is low
3. Demonstration that the symptoms are relieved specifically by the ingestion of sugar or other food
4. Identification of the particular type of hypoglycemia that is causing the symptoms
Can you provide information on protein or carbohydrate content of foods?
Is there a way to test blood sugar level at home?
Is this problem likely to be long-term or transient?
Should a Medical Alert bracelet be worn?