Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) is an illness where the blood sugar levels drop below the level the body needs for normal brain and body function.
It can occur in individuals both with and without diabetes. While there are many causes of low blood sugar, research into the causes of hypoglycemia without diabetes is relatively limited.
In this blog, we will discuss the various causes that can contribute to hypoglycemia in individuals who do not have diabetes. We will explain the manifestations and symptoms of hypoglycemia and advise what to do if you think you’re experiencing hypoglycemia.
Identifying Symptoms of Low Blood Sugar:
When blood sugar levels drop, the body cannot receive the energy it needs from food. To compensate, it begins to use stored energy from its reserves. Symptoms of low blood sugar begin to appear when blood sugar levels fall 70 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter).
The most familiar symptoms of low blood sugar include feeling shaky, weak, confused, tired, dizzy, irritable, anxious, or hungry. Other indicators may include sweating, chills, numbness or tingling in the extremities, rapid heart rate, a sudden headache, blurred vision, and a racing pulse.
It’s important to recognize and manage hypoglycemia quickly. Hypoglycemia can cause serious health complications such as fainting, coma, or even death if left untreated.
If you think you may be experiencing symptoms of low blood sugar, it’s essential to raise your blood sugar levels quickly and safely.
Causes of Low Blood Sugar:
It’s most common in people with diabetes who take insulin or certain diabetes medications. However, non-diabetics can also experience low blood sugar caused by several factors.
The most common causes of non-diabetic hypoglycemia include taking too large of a dose of particular heart, blood pressure, or psychiatric medications; an overactive, or highly responsive, pancreas; malnutrition; kidney or liver or gut dysfunction; overconsumption of alcohol; a tumor of the pancreas or adrenal glands; or an endocrine disorder.
In addition to the causes mentioned above, extreme physical activity or exercise can cause low blood sugar in some individuals. This is especially true if the exercise is done on an empty stomach or if the individual completes a strenuous physical activity without consuming enough food or liquid beforehand.
Therefore, it’s crucial to balance medications, physical activity, and diet to prevent low blood sugar in those who do not have diabetes. For people with diabetes, it’s equally important to monitor blood sugar levels regularly and take the necessary steps to avoid hypoglycemia.
Diagnosis options for low blood sugar without diabetes will depend upon the range of symptoms presented. Common symptoms include feeling shaky, lightheaded, weak or tired, sweating, heart palpitations, confusion, irritability, hunger, and blurred vision.
A laboratory-based blood glucose test is typically the primary option to diagnose low blood sugar. This test will measure a person’s glucose levels and other relevant evidence, such as ketone levels. If the results of this test come back within the normal range, then a doctor may recommend further tests as a follow-up.
Other options for diagnosis include an oral glucose tolerance test, which is used to check blood sugar levels over some time (typically over 2-3 hours) after drinking a glucose solution. This test allows for the testing of carbohydrate metabolism caused by low blood sugar.
Other possible diagnostic tests include a glucose challenge test, a fasting glucose test, and an activated protein C resistance test. Each of these tests will check blood glucose levels and identify any abnormal patterns. If any of the results are abnormal, further testing may be recommended.
Lifestyle Factors That Contribute to Low Blood Sugar:
• Poor Diet: Consuming a diet high in processed foods, refined carbs, and sugar can contribute to low blood sugar, as these foods cause rapid changes in blood sugar levels.
• Insulin Issues: If the body does not produce enough insulin or has difficulty using insulin, a person’s blood sugar levels may be out of balance. This can lead to hypoglycemia (decreased blood sugar).
• Decreased Carbohydrates: If a person significantly reduces the amount of carbohydrates they consume, it can cause low blood sugar. This is because carbohydrates are the body’s primary energy source; without enough carbs, the cells cannot get enough energy.
• Skipping Meals: If a person does not eat for several hours, their blood sugar levels will drop, leading to hypoglycemia.
• Too Much Exercise: While regular physical activity is essential for overall health, too much can lead to low blood sugar. This is because exercise causes the body to use up the sugar in the bloodstream and can also decrease insulin release.
• Alcohol Consumption: When consumed with meals, alcohol can contribute to low blood sugar. This is because the body breaks down alcohol before sugar, so hypoglycemia can occur when blood sugar levels drop.
• Dehydration: When a person is dehydrated, it can lead to a reduction in blood sugar levels. This is because dehydration inhibits the kidneys’ ability to filter out sugar and pass it into the bloodstream.
Medication and Low Blood Sugar:
This prescription medication is commonly used to feast type 2 diabetes. It functions by lowering the amount of sugar (glucose) produced by the liver and absorbed from food, thus lowering the amount of sugar in the blood. Possible side effects of metformin include low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), which can occur if the drug is taken with meals that are high in sugar or carbohydrates.
This class of medications is used to treat type 2 diabetes. Specific medications include glimepiride (Amaryl), glipizide (Glucotrol), glyburide (DiaBeta), tolbutamide (Orinase), chlorpropamide (Diabinese), and tolazamide (Tolinase). They work by stimulating the pancreas to produce more insulin. Possible side effects include low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).
This class of medications, such as Exenatide (Byetta) and Liraglutide (Victoza), are used to treat type 2 diabetes. They work by suppressing appetite and stimulating insulin production. Possible side effects include low blood sugar.
This class of drugs is used to treat type 2 diabetes and includes repaglinide (Prandin) and nateglinide (Starlix). They work similarly to sulfonylureas in stimulating the pancreas to produce more insulin and can cause low blood sugar.
Strategies for Managing Low Blood Sugar Levels:
- Monitor your blood sugar levels regularly. Reviewing your blood sugar regularly can help you spot trends in how your diet and activity affect your sugar levels.
- Eat meals that are high in fiber and low in fat and carbohydrates. Foods high in fiber offer slow-burning, sustained energy, which helps keep your blood sugar levels more consistent.
- Include proteins in your meals. Protein helps to slow the absorption of carbohydrates and keep your blood sugar levels steady and more consistent.
- Exercise regularly. Exercise helps your body to use insulin more effectively, which can help to lower your blood sugar levels.
- Avoid sugary foods and drinks. Sugary foods and beverages can cause a rapid increase in your blood sugar levels.
- Don’t skip meals. Omitting meals can cause your blood sugar levels to drop.
- Drink plenty of water. Water aids in stabilizing blood sugar levels and can help prevent dehydration.
The ending lines:
In summary, it is possible to experience low blood sugar without having diabetes. Various factors can result in hypoglycemia, including medication usage, insufficient food intake, consuming excessive alcohol, an overactive thyroid, intense physical activity, and certain inherited disorders.
Hypoglycemia symptoms can also be cured on your own with appropriate living and dieting strategies. A proper diet can help you the most to reduce this health issue quickly.
If you experience signs of low blood sugar, consult your healthcare expert for a diagnosis and to determine an appropriate course of treatment. Avoiding this type of illness can lead to poor living and can also impact your mental health.