Hypoglycemia or Low Blood Sugar levels is one of the most common health issues that women struggle with. Often, hypoglycemia symptoms are confused with low blood pressure.
You end up either gulping loads of sugar to immediately fix the shakiness, you keep taking in excessive salt in your meals, and sometimes too many small meals to treat the restlessness in your body and mind! Yet all of these so called fixes further aggravate the problem of poor blood sugar control. And the result? More suffering from hypoglycemia symptoms.
So, let’s take a deeper look into hypoglycemia symptoms, what causes it, and Ayurvedic solution to better manage your blood sugar levels. Let’s check it out!
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What is Hypoglycemia?
Hypoglycemia is a condition in which there is a shortage of sugar in the blood. It occurs when blood sugar levels drop below the normal levels. It is also referred to as insulin reaction or insulin shock.
We can thus infer that insulin has a major role to play in the cause and management of this condition.
When the body senses that the blood sugar levels is getting lower than the threshold it needs to maintain life and health, it sees this situation as an emergency.
As a result, it releases the hormone adrenaline (aka epinephrine). It is an emergency hormone. Release of Epinephrine triggers fight-or-flight response. And this further causes typical symptoms of low blood sugar level.
Adrenaline then causes hypoglycemia symptoms.
- Drowsiness/ light-headedness;
- Difficulty speaking;
- Feeling weak/fainted – Blackout or passing out
- Blurred Vision
Primary Causes and Triggers for Hypoglycemia Symptoms
To understand the causes of hypoglycemia, let us explore these other factors:
- Medications: Medications can cause hypoglycemia. Examples of such are diabetic drugs, like insulin or insulin production boosters, as was mentioned above. Some certain pill combinations can also lead to symptoms of hypoglycemia.
- Hormones: Hormonal imbalances can also cause the blood sugar levels to be very low. For example, hyperinsulinemia(without insulin resistance), low glucagon levels/glucagon deficiencies etc. This means that glucose is converted into glycogen very fast, whereas there is a problem converting glycogen back to glucose when needed.
- Tumors: like insulinomas(tumors inside the pancreas that produce excess insulin). Excess insulin makes it difficult to maintain normal glucose levels, and cause almost perpetual low blood glucose levels.
- Enzyme deficiencies: like hereditary fructose intolerance.
- Taking small meals, delaying or skipping meals.
- Increased levels of physical activity.
- Taking alcoholic beverages.
These, among others, are risk factors for hypoglycemia.
The role of Insulin, Glucagon and Glucose in Low Blood Sugar Levels
After a meal, the levels of glucose in the blood rise. Glucose is the form in which the body uses energy. It is commonly said that glucose is the energy currency of the body. The cells of the body can easily absorb glucose for use through the bloodstream.
The hormone, insulin, helps the body to use glucose as energy. Also, when the levels of glucose rise higher than the body needs, it is converted into glycogen.
Excess glucose can also be converted into fat for storage. Glycogen can be stored for later use, like between meals, when no new glucose is being supplied.
If the levels of glucose do fall low, and the body is in need of energy, then another hormone, called glucagon is produced. Glucagon helps to break down glycogen back into glucose, the energy currency that the body is familiar with.
Who can have low blood sugar level?
There is however a problem in diabetic patients. In these people, the response to glucagon is impaired, so the signals to convert glycogen back to glucose are not well carried out.
The adrenaline that we talked about before would intervene to raise the blood sugar levels back to normal here.
But the unfortunate thing is that, some diabetic patients take insulin or medications that boost insulin production. Consequently, there is always insulin to convert glucose to glycogen, further lowering the blood sugar levels. This leads to hypoglycemia.
Severe Hypoglycemia: When it can be life-threatening?
The symptoms of hypoglycemia can range from severe to mild. In most cases, the patient can usually take care of their own self. However, when it comes to severe hypoglycemia, then it might be necessary to have someone around to help.
Here, the blood glucose level is very low, and it can cause that patient to pass out. As such, it can be life-threatening.
Severe hypoglycemia is more common in type-I diabetes, though it can be seen in people with type-II diabetes also.
It is necessary to always have a glucagon kit at the ready. Someone around can then give the glucagon injection to help raise the blood sugar levels. The patient should regain consciousness in about 5-10 minutes, though might experience symptoms of nausea and vomiting.
CAUTION! Do not give insulin to someone with severe hypoglycemia. Food and drinks might not be a good idea in this case too, as the patient might choke on it.
Hypoglycemia Unawareness leading to Hypoglycemic Associated Autonomic Failure (HAAF)
Hypoglycemia Unawareness is a situation in which hypoglycemia sets in without the warning signs of low blood glucose.
Usually, when the blood glucose level is running low, adrenaline kicks in and causes the symptoms of sweating, shakiness, nausea etc. But in this case, adrenaline doesn’t kick in. In fact, it is not produced at all.
And this itself leads to a dangerous situation, such that your blood sugar levels have gone dangerously low, but you didn’t get any signs of low blood glucose from your body.
Why does Hypoglycemia Unawareness Happen?
This can happen if hypoglycemia happens too frequently that the body ‘gets used’ to it. It is like the body actually adapts to running on low blood sugar. So, it doesn’t see the situation as threatening.
After all, it happens all the time, so it’s probably normal. This is however an abnormal normal.
This situation where the body fails to produce emergency hormones (because it has gotten used to the emergency) is called Hypoglycemic Associated Autonomic Failure (HAAF). Eventually, this results in a vicious cycle where frequent concurrences of hypoglycemia causes HAAF.
The HAAF further leads to more severe hypoglycemia. The body gets conditioned to the next level of severity and HAAF also graduates. This is a deadly progression.
Fortunately, the cycle can be broken with a few weeks of strict management of blood sugar levels.
Can you have Hypoglycemia without Diabetes?
People without diabetes can also have hypoglycemia. In fact, non-diabetic hypoglycemia is a lot more common. It often goes unnoticed by the patient for a very long-time. This is because, you don’t really anticipate that poor blood sugar level could be a reason behind your health symptoms of shakiness, irritability, and anxiety.
Now, there are two kinds of hypoglycemia that non-diabetics can develop, and they are:
- Reactive Hypoglycemia and
- Fasting Hypoglycemia
Let’s look into these in detail.
1. Reactive Hypoglycemia
It is also known as postprandial hypoglycemia. Reactive Hypoglycemia sets in at about four hours after eating.
In this case, Hypoglycemia symptoms arise when the blood sugar level is less than 70mg/dL(milligrams per deciliter). And the symptoms resolve after blood glucose level is restored to 70mg/dL.
It can be resolved by:
- taking small meals frequently (about every three hours)
- physical activity,
- eating a balanced diet,
- and by avoiding intake of high sugar food, especially on empty stomach
2. Fasting Hypoglycemia
It arises after one has spent some time not eating, like overnight or between meals. Excessive physical activity may also lead to Fasting Hypoglycemia for some.
If the level of sugar in the blood falls as low as 50mg/dL or less due to fasting or physical activity and fasting, then the condition is termed as fasting hypoglycemia. This condition can lead to a situation of emergency or health complications for many.
Fasting hypoglycemia can also be caused by diseases, medications, alcohol, intolerance etc. In kids, it can also be seen, where the kid has an intolerance to fasting. However, they usually are more tolerant by the age of 10.
How to Treat Hypoglycemia?
Hypoglycemia is a condition that requires good management with constant monitoring. In fact, monitoring is key here. Be aware of the hypoglycemia symptoms, and take action immediately you feel it coming up.
Follow the “15-15 Rule.” That is to say, when you feel the signs of low blood sugar levels, then immediately hydrate yourself first and consume foods that will quickly release glucose. Given below are some examples of foods/beverages that you should consume.
Generally, your blood sugar level should not fall below 70mg/dL. If it is too low, take at least 15 grams of the foods mentioned below. Check again in 15 minutes to assess your health or measure your blood sugar level.
If you still feel dizzy or the signs of hypoglycemia are not going away, then consume the foods and hydrate. Observe for 15 mins.
In any case, if you feel that the low blood sugar levels is not going away, then immediately call for help and see a Doctor, who can help you out.
Quick healthy ways to get your blood sugar levels up!
- 3-4 glucose tablets (either dissolved in water or taken as such)
- 1/2 a cup of fresh fruit juice
- 1 cup of milk
- A teaspoon of raw honey
- Fresh coconut water
- A glass of lemonade
These all help to get glucose levels up very quickly anytime you feel the symptoms coming up.
Hypoglycemia in Ayurveda
In Ayurveda, hypoglycemia is seen as prevalent in people who have:
- Pitta prakruti. That is to say, their normal composition is predominantly pitta dosha or people with fast metabolism
- Pitta vikruti, meaning you are struggling with pitta dosha imbalance
This elevated pitta increases the levels of insulin. Insulin lowers blood glucose levels so that it results in hypoglycemia.
Ayurvedic Remedies and Herbs to Manage Hypoglycemia
Now, Ayurveda has extensive documentations on various health conditions and their remedies which have been tried and tested over time. Here are just a few of the ways to treat hypoglycemia symptoms with Ayurvedic Diet and Lifestyle:
1. Licorice Tea (yashti madhu)
One teaspoon of licorice tea in one cup of water is sufficient. It helps to quickly raise blood sugar levels. However, hypertensive patients should be cautious of this, as Licorice tends to increase water retention and raise the blood pressure.
For patients with hypertension, you can replace licorice with cinnamon, cardamom, and fennel tea.
Regular practice of asanas like the peacock pose, elevated lotus, camel, etc, all help to strengthen the pancreas, which produces glucagon.
2 drops of brahmi oil in each nostril relieves symptoms of nausea, sweating and confusion quickly. Ideally, you should do Nasya before sleeping in the night.
Ayurvedic herbs like Shatavari and Ashwaghanda assist in balancing hormones. They improve the response of our body to episodes of low blood sugar levels.
Ahara | Ayurvedic Diet Tips to Prevent Hypoglycemia
Hypoglycemia needs to be monitored and managed appropriately. A patient must be willing to make diet, lifestyle and nutrition changes to be able to battle it effectively. Here are some helpful diet and lifestyle tips to manage low blood sugar levels
- Eat a pitta balancing diet by including naturally sweet and astringent foods such as grains, beans, lentils, fresh vegetables, and fruits.
- Always take your meals on time. Do not delay or skip meals as it aggravates blood sugar level imbalance.
- Prefer meals that are warm, easier to digest, yet dense with healthy fats and proteins. This will stablise your blood sugar levels and prevent episodes of hypoglycemia.
- Avoid alcoholic beverages, caffeine, and cigarettes.
Vihara | Lifestyle for Hypoglycemia
- Regularly monitor your blood sugar levels and take action to avoid high swings.
- Check blood glucose levels before physical activities like exercises or sports. If it is less than 100mg/dL, take some snacks to get it up.
- Eating before bed keeps the sugar level from going too low during the night. It helps to prevent helps to prevent fasting hypoglycemia. Grab a glass of warm whole milk, spiced with dry ginger and nutmeg. It will also promote sound sleep.
- Exercise for at least 30 minutes and for five or more times in a week. Prefer light and relaxing activities such as morning walk, hiking in nature, or bicycling.
- Do not drive if you feel hypoglycemia symptoms are setting in. It could be fatal if an insulin shock sets in while you are at the wheel.
These tips can help you live a healthier live. However, you should always consult your health-care provider for a better understanding of your symptoms and options available to you.
Now we want to hear from you. Have you tried any of these natural remedies for Low Blood Sugar? How was your experience? What worked and what didn’t? Do let us know your questions and suggestions in comments. We will get back to you the soonest
Wishing you vibrant heatlh!