Low Blood Sugar Is Normal When You First Cut Your Carbs. That's because when you cut your carbs down you are likely to experience what doctors call "reactive hypoglycemia," which is just a fancy term for "low blood sugar." This happens because when you cut your carbs it takes the body a while to notice. Meanwhile, it is likely to still be pumping out the high levels of insulin that it used to take to mop up all the carbs you were dumping into your bloodstream.
When you produce more insulin than it takes to deal with the sugar in your blood, what happens is that that excess insulin pushes your blood sugar to a low level. The more insulin you produce the faster this will occur. Unless you are a diabetic on insulin, there are natural regulatory functions that will kick in when your blood sugar gets too low to keep you from suffering serious harm. However, until those functions kick in, you'll experience some or all of the symptoms of a low blood sugar attack.
What are the Symptoms of Reactive Low Blood Sugar?The first symptom for many people is hunger which strikes anywhere from half an hour to two hours after a meal. This hunger can feel like "the munchies" and be a gnawing, impossible to ignore kind of hunger that makes you want to go downstairs and ransack the fridge. Eating something usually does nothing to relieve this kind of hunger, either.
Other symptoms can be a fuzzy headed inability to recall words when you need them or even shakiness and a kind of lightheadedness.
How Do You Correct Low Blood Sugar?Many people have heard that the best way to deal with low blood sugar is to eat a piece of cheese or drink a glass of orange juice. Unfortunately, both cheese and orange juice terrible ways to deal with hypoglycemia!
Cheese works too slowly. It can take up to 6 hours for the proteins in cheese to turn into carbohydrates and raise your blood sugar.
Orange juice has so many carbs that it is likely to set off a rollercoaster of high and low blood sugar that will increase rather than decrease your symptoms.
The Two Gram CureThe solution (which I learned from the book, Dr. Bernstein's Diabetes Solution) is to eat a very small dose of glucose (dextrose). The amount that you will need depends on your body weight. For a person who weighs around 150, two grams will do it. Scroll down to see the table below which shows the amount of glucose you will need to eat to raise your blood sugar ten mg/dl (.56 mmol/L)
|Your Weight ||Grams of Glucose Needed||140 lb ||2 g||175 lb ||2.5 g||210 lb ||3 g||245 lb ||3.5 g||280 lb ||4 g||315 lb ||4.5 g|
Two Grams can be found in five "Smarties" candy discs of the kind you see in the picture at the top of this page (which are not the candies sold under that name in the UK or Canada) or one "Sweetart" candy wafer. After you've taken the glucose, wait fifteen minutes. Do NOT repeat.
If this works, it will work in the fifteen minutes. The reason it works is that typically when a person who is not a diabetic on insulin experiences low blood sugar, that low blood sugar is rarely more than 10 mg/dl lower than a normal, non-hypoglycemic levels. Two grams of glucose will raise your blood sugar by ten mg/dl. This should lift you out of the low blood sugar range but it is so small a dose of glucose that your body is not likely to produce any more insulin in response to it. So you don't end up going low again but should stabilize at a normal level.
In addition, the "two gram cure" has the advantage that if you were wrong about having low blood sugar, you haven't blown your carbs for the day and because the adjustment to blood sugar is so small you haven't messed up your insulin level.
Why not just eat two grams of any carb?
The "two gram cure" requires glucose (also called dextrose on labels) because glucose is the only sugar that goes directly into your blood stream within minutes and does not require time-consuming digestion. Sucrose, lactose, fructose, or starch require enzymes to be digested. Glucose is already in the form that the body uses. Also, if you eat your two grams of carbs in a food where they are bound up with proteins or fats the digestion time is also prolonged because the presence of fat and protein in the stomach delays the processing of carbs.
How often should I need to use this cure?If you are keeping your carbs low and not constantly binging, you should only have to use the "two gram cure" when you significantly reduce your carb level and then only for two or three days.
Other Possible Causes for your SymptomsIf you are still having a problem with ravenous hunger or lightheadedness while keeping your carbs at a steady low level, some other causes might be:
1. Fluctuating female hormones. The hormones that cause PMS are notorious for causing ravenous hunger that doesn't respond to much of anything except the passage of time.
2. Low potassium levels. Low potassium levels occur when you experience the initial diuretic effect of dumping the glycogen out of your body or when you are drinking more water than you need. Typically low potassium causes cramps and weakness. If you are on a potassium-sparing diuretic DO NOT take potassium without talking to your doctor as you can cause a fatal heart rhythm problem by adding too much potassium to your system. If you are not on a potassium-sparing medication you can add potassium, using a salt substitute and the problem should be corrected. If you don't know if a medication you are on is "potassium sparing" call your doctor or a pharmacist and ask them.
3. Medications that change blood sugar levels. Several medications, including some antibiotics like Bactrim or Septra, cause low blood sugar, particularly if you are low carbing and are keeping your blood sugar levels quite low already. Others, like cortisone, raise blood sugar levels no matter what you eat. If you are taking a medication that affects your blood sugar, talk to your doctor about your symptoms.