Your Guide to the Causes and Prevention of a Hypoglycaemic Attack

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hypoglycemia blood test

You should know that hypoglycemia or a “hypo” is when your blood sugar level is critically low. Generally, 60mg/dl or less is regarded as a hypo.
So whilst most people don’t snack, diabetics should really consider it, to prevent a hypoglycaemic attack.

Reactive hypoglycemia is a medical term. It describes a recurring hypoglycaemic attack that occurs around 2-4 hours after a high carbohydrate meal; typically due to excessive insulin released.

Whilst a hypo is more common for those with Type 1 diabetes, it still occurs in other diabetics. In fact many studies show that 50% of hypos occur whilst asleep, between 00:00 and 08:00.

Hypoglycemic attacks like these can often be prevented with dietary changes or simply by changing the times you eat. Your doctor/dietician can best advise you on making these changes.

Other Common Causes of Hypoglycemia

  • Food timings (an unbalanced diet), and insulin injections.

You need to eat at a certain time when taking an insulin injection to raise your blood glucose level as the insulin activates.

The timing in between eating and taking an insulin injection varies from person to person but either way, if you take an insulin injection too early you risk hypoglycemia, too late and you risk hyperglycemia.

Poor food timings, especially with an unbalanced diet, can easily provoke a hypoglycaemic attack. So to avoid a hypo, make your diet a little more predictable by eating low-Gi foods before taking an insulin injection.

Low Gi foods steadily release glucose into your bloodstream, giving your body a predictable blood sugar level as the low-Gi food digests.

  • Exercise

Due to respiring more often during exercise, exercising can lead to hypoglycemia. And yes, sex is exercise too! Either way, diabetics who exercise, can control their diabetes far better than those who don’t.

The best thing to do is measure your blood glucose level before exercise. If your blood glucose level is low – average (as they generally are in the morning) you should eat and/or reduce your insulin dose to reflect this.

If you need to eat to avoid a hypo, eat a low-medium Gi meal 60-90mins before exercise. Remember, even eating a healthy snack (like a fruit & nut mix) closer to the time of exercise can help to prevent hypoglycemia.

Exercising outdoors? Wearing a Diabetic ID Bracelet could save your life. This way, if you get a hypoglycaemic attack and are unable treat yourself, the paramedics will be able to treat you more efficiently.

  • Alcohol

There’s a ton of info on this but basically…
Alcohol messes with your liver and hormones that effect your blood sugar level. Insulin’s effect on your body then becomes stronger, reducing your blood sugar level even further, casuing a hypo.

And don’t forget, alcohol is a diuretic, forcing your body to lose water much faster than normal!

So If you drink, take it easy, know your limits, line your stomach with food before hand and the GOLDEN RULE, keep yourself hydrated. Do this and you should prevent a hypoglycemic attack and a hangover.

Still getting hangovers? Sometimes the simplest home remedies can be the most effective. Click here to discover these simple home remedies to a hangover.

  • Aspirin

Aspirin can alter the effects of drugs you may be taking for your diabetes, leading to a hypoglycaemic attack. If you have a headache, try drinking water as you may be dehydrated.

Please note – SOME DRUGS SHOULD NEVER BE TAKEN WITH ALCOHOL!!! So always read the label and/or the leaflet inside the packet.

  • Sex – I knew you’d smile ;^)

No need to beat around the bush. Sex is probably the most underestimated subject with regards to hypoglycemia.

Sex is effectively exercise. Long-lasting or powerful orgasms can heavily drain your blood glucose levels so if you know/think its coming, have something to eat beforehand.

It may be beneficial to carry a simple cereal bar with you wherever you go to raise your low blood sugar level just before sex.

Try snacking on some carbs before and after. If you’re prone to falling asleep after the act, consider eating something more substantial to avoid hypoglycemia during sleep.

If you don’t want to eat, have a glass of milk before and after the act. Milk is often reccomended to remedy low blood sugar and it also seems appropriate; especially if it’s warm. Try making a some hot cocoa!

Can hypoglycemia create diabetic sexual problems?

Absolutely. This is partly because hypoglycemia makes it more difficult for your reproductive system to create the energy that it needs during sex – from lubricating the vagina to sustaining an erection.

So below are some tips and resources – for males and females – to combat diabetic sexual problems caused by hypoglycemia:

Females: Note, some sexual problems can be caused by menopause, not diabetes. Your doctor/gynecologist can better assist you.

  • You may have a dry mouth and/or dry vagina if your blood sugar is high.
  • Reduced natural lubrication of the vagina
  • Reduced sensation around the vagina

Ensure you’re adequately hydrated by drinking a glass of water.

Don’t underestimate the usefulness of a lubricant. Water based lubricants are best. Oils can be used but aren’t reccomended if condoms are used as they may rip. You could use petroleum based products but you may risk bacterial infection.

Don’t worry too much if your blood glucose levels are slightly high since you’ll need the glucose during sex. If your close to hyperglycemia consider taking insulin.

Males: There are typically 2 sexual problems cause by hypoglycemia:

  • Erectile Dysfunction
  • Premature Ejaculation

Whilst these sexual problems are commonly psychological, diabetic men are more likely to have them (especially as they age) than those who aren’t diabetic. Remember, a healthy diet effects all aspects of your life, including your sexual health.

What are the symptoms of hypoglycemia?

Some common symptoms are:

  • Sweating
  • Feeling edgy
  • Palpitations (Unusually rapid heartbeat)
  • Forgetfulness/ poor concentration
  • Feeling unsteady/uneasy
  • Blurred vision
  • Going pale And Ultimately…
  • Unconciousness

So prevent a hypoglycaemic attack with a heathy snack.

What constitutes as a healthy snack?

A healthy snack food should have nutritional value and preferably a low-medium GI value. Snacks with natural sugars are healthier than those without and have a more stable effect on your blood sugar levels.

Snacks should have a small portion size. You shouldn’t need any more than 10-20 grams of carbohydrate to stabalise your blood sugar level.

Some examples of healthy snacks are:

  • Fruits and Veg – Try apples, bannans or carrot sticks
  • Nuts and seeds – Great in combination with dried fruit
  • Whole and Cheery Grains – like a granary roll or some Ryvita crackers

Any snack compounded with sugar, sweeteners and/or syrup will have a high GI and will probably be unhealthy.

You can discover the consequences of eating these unhealthy snacks on the Simple Sugars page, here.Return from Hypoglycemia to the Diabetic Dieting home page.

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