Symptoms of hypoglycemia, or lower than normal blood sugar, include hunger, shakiness, dizziness and lightheadedness. It's more common in those who take medication for diabetes, but it can affect anyone. Hypoglycemia may occur after fasting for more than eight hours. Reactive hypoglycemia is more common than fasting hypoglycemia. It happens when blood sugar drops below normal within two to four hours after eating. Diet can help control it, and recommendations for both types of hypoglycemia are the same.
Spread Out Carbs Evenly
To prevent nondiabetic hypoglycemia, the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse advises eating about every three hours. Meals and snacks should be balanced with protein and include between 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrate with each meal and about 15 to 30 grams with each snack. This helps to keep blood sugar levels even. Examples of healthy meals for hypoglycemia include a whole wheat English muffin with peanut butter plus a small banana for breakfast, and a turkey vegetable wrap plus a glass of milk for lunch. A snack of a small bunch of grapes with four or five crackers and some cheese provides about 30 grams of carb. For dinner, choose meat and a vegetable and about a cup of starch, such as rice, corn, potatoes or pasta.
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Limit Sugary Foods
Eating sweets and drinking sugary beverages or even fruit juice causes your blood sugar to go up quickly, which can result in release of excess insulin into the bloodstream. Hypoglycemia occurs when the high levels of insulin cause a rapid drop in blood glucose levels. For reactive hypoglycemia it's best to limit or avoid foods and drinks with added sugar or other sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners are fine to use because they won't affect blood sugar or insulin. For dessert or a sweet treat, try a half-cup serving of fruit or sugar-free ice cream, which won't cause a spike in blood sugar.
Include Fiber and Protein with Meals and Snacks
Meals that include lean protein and high fiber carbs will be digested more slowly and allow glucose levels to remain more stable. Good choices include a vegetable omelet with two slices of whole-wheat toast for breakfast; a salad with grilled chicken and a whole-wheat pita for lunch; and fish, vegetable and half of a sweet potato for dinner. Raw vegetables with cheese and crackers or Greek or low-calorie yogurt plus a piece of fruit makes a healthy snack.
Limit Caffeine and Alcohol
High amounts of caffeine can cause symptoms like shakiness, rapid heart rate and sweating, which can be mistaken for hypoglycemia, so try to limit excess amounts of coffee or energy drinks. Drinking alcohol can cause blood sugar levels to drop, especially if you drink on an empty stomach. It's best to stick to water, vegetable juices or sugar-free beverages. If you do drink alcohol, eat a balanced meal or snack with it, and drink in moderation.