Hypoglycemia and the Grouch Connection

Hypoglycemia is a medical term. It simply means low blood sugar. It might explain why you're grouchy, and it could be a warning of borderline diabetes.

Cells fuel themselves with glucose, the simplest form of sugar. The main purpose of digestion is to turn everything we eat into glucose for our hungry cells.

But what happens if the supply of glucose in your blood runs low? Maybe it has been too long since you ate, or you went swimming or jogging.

If you did not prepare for the extra exercise by eating something first, you could get hypoglycemia.

This happens often to a prediabetic or type 2 diabetic on medications to control blood sugar.

What Should You Watch For?

The symptoms are clear. You get tired and lose focus easily. You might feel shaky and anxious.

You may feel extremely hungry or thirsty. If you ignore these symptoms you will begin to sweat and get blurred vision.

What is the worst that could happen if a diabetic ignores hypoglycemia and tries to push past it? Seizures, coma, an ambulance trip, and even death.

But that is the extreme, and it happens most often in people who have untreated type 1 diabetes, or when a diabetic took too much insulin without eating enough carbohydrates.

Why you need an ID bracelet or necklace.

The Grouchies

But usually hypoglycemia just makes you a grouch. You wake up in the morning grouchy because it has been a long time since you ate.

It is called breakfast because you have been fasting, something hypoglycemics do not tolerate well.

Then about an hour before lunch, or in the middle of the afternoon you have another spell of the grouchies, or you get tired and sleepy and cannot concentrate.

The worst part of hypoglycemia is how quickly it affects the brain.

Your brain does not store or make glucose, so it is sensitive and reacts to low blood sugar faster than other parts of your body.

Foggy brain from low blood sugar makes driving dangerous. Do not ignore the symptoms when you get behind the wheel.

Are You Hypoglycemic?

I have experienced the effects of low blood sugar at a level as high as 70, but doctors classify hypoglycemia as chronic blood sugars under 50.

If you do not have a glucose monitor to check your blood sugar level every time you feel hypoglycemic, you will not know what your numbers are.

Doctors will not diagnose hypoglycemia even if you describe classic symptoms, if the numbers they see in the office are not low.

Most hypoglycemics I know have never been diagnosed with it by a doctor. They have learned how to treat the symptoms on their own.

One friend who suffered with morning grouchies kept a plate of cheese by her bed.

In the morning before her feet hit the floor she would eat it. That snack kept her on an even keel while she got her kids ready for school.

If dairy is not an option for you because of lactose intolerance, try a complex protein and carb snack like nuts. If it works for you, have it close by when you wake up.

What Causes Chronic Low Blood Sugar?

Nobody knows for sure. Since it comes and goes it is hard to diagnose, much less pin down a cause.

In non-diabetics, low blood sugar seems to be caused by an overreaction of the pancreas to eating sugar and other simple carbohydrates.

If the beta cells send out too much insulin, glucose disappears into your cells too fast. Low blood sugar is the result.

There are other things going on, too, because your endocrine system is out of balance.

But it is the symptoms that matter to you. They show up fast, making you tired, shaky and grouchy.

It is the same whether you have diabetes or not.

Does Hypoglycemia Mean You are Borderline Diabetic?

What to do if exercise causes hypoglycemia.

Definitely NOT! Many people who have hypoglycemia never become diabetic.

A word of caution. You might have symptoms that mimic low blood sugar, but the cause is not blood sugar at all.

The list of possible conditions is long, and it includes things like anemia and thyroid imbalance.

It is important to go to your doctor and get those other things ruled out. Do not assume you have low blood sugar. Self diagnosing is dangerous.

But if your doctors cannot find any reason for how bad you feel, then you can try the things others have used to treat their hypoglycemia.

If those things help you, and your doctor has ruled out prediabetes, you may be hypoglycemic.

Here Are Some Things You Can Do

The good news is that many people have this problem. Even though there is no medical cure to date, they have found ways to feel better.

They have shared their success stories on sites dedicated to hypoglycemics.

Here are some of the ideas from those sites.

  • Do eat smaller, more frequent meals. Your pancreas won't need to pump out a lot of insulin at one time, and that smooths out the highs and lows.
  • Do not eat simple carbohydrate snacks alone. Eat some fiber, protein and fats (nuts and avocados are good) to slow down your digestion of things like crackers and chips.
  • Do eat a healthy snack with carbs and protein before you exercise.
  • Do not drink high sugar sodas. They are the worst for causing sugar highs and crashes. They are packed with sugar and many have caffeine, and some hypoglycemics say caffeine make things worse.
  • Do get your blood sugar checked to see if you are borderline diabetic.

Hypoglycemia in Diabetics

Diabetics must watch for low blood sugar as much as for high blood sugar, because we are artificially managing insulin levels.

Since you are watching for sugar lows, it is good to know the way your body reacts to them as part of your journey with the disease.

If you get weak and sweaty and begin to see spots before your eyes, your blood sugar has probably dipped close to or below 50. You need to act fast.

Orange juice, a quick bowl of cereal or some glucagon brings blood sugar up quickly.

A sugar low is dangerously easy for a diabetic to have. It can happen in minutes, and it is always unexpected.

You might get a virus. For no reason at all your insulin level may rise during the night.

Perhaps you exercised more than usual and did not adjust your medication enough. If you are injecting insulin, low blood sugar is a constant possibility.

It helps to have someone around who knows what to do. You may not be thinking clearly, so it is good to have someone else take your blood sugar.

They can call 9-1-1 or take you to the emergency room.

If you are alone, be quick to ask for help. Whatever you do, always wear your diabetic alert jewelry.

Help For Hypoglycemics

There are many groups ready to welcome you and sympathize with the problems you face.

Sometimes my hypoglycemic friends felt left out in the cold because they were not taken seriously by the medical community.

But there are people who have been helped and want to pay it forward. They will share the things that have helped them, and they will support and encourage you when you feel alone.

One of those groups is http://www.mdjunction.com/hypoglycemia, and there are many others.

But please, please do not self diagnose. Rule out prediabetes and anemia before you decide you are hypoglycemic. I wish you well.

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