Diabetes causes changes in blood sugar levels that can occur suddenly, especially after eating. While most diabetics focus on how high their blood sugars rise after eating, a sudden drop in blood sugar, called hypoglycemia, can also cause serious problems. Since neither diabetes nor high blood sugar levels cause hot flashes, a possible cause of what appear to be hot flashes after eating may be hypoglycemia.
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Diabetics may experience hypoglycemia after eating for a number of reasons. If you take more insulin than needed for the amount of food eaten, your blood sugars can drop too low, because insulin helps glucose enter cells and tissues. Too much insulin removes too much glucose from your blood. Not eating at all after taking insulin or exercising strenuously, which burns up more calories and glucose than usual, can also cause hypoglycemia. Even if you don’t take insulin, your body may release a large amount of insulin in response to a meal high in carbohydrates. Oral hypoglycemics used to treat diabetes can also cause hypoglycemia.
Hypoglycemia causes flushing, sweating, fast heartbeat, shakiness, confusion and weakness, similar symptoms to hot flashes. If you don’t treat hypoglycemia, you can lose consciousness, go into a coma and in rare cases die or have permanent brain damage.
Blood Glucose Levels
People without diabetes don’t experience flushing, shakiness and rapid heartbeat until their blood glucose levels fall below 60 mg/dL, The Merck Manual Online Medical Library states. Diabetics may experience symptoms at higher levels, closer to 100 mg/dL, David McCulloch, M.D., of the University of Washington reports on UpToDate. In addition, long-standing diabetics may have hypoglycemia unawareness, the inability to recognize early symptoms of hypoglycemia and respond to them before passing out. Diabetics who drink alcohol, those who keep their blood sugars under tight control, the elderly and people who take certain diabetic medications may be more likely to develop hypoglycemia unawareness.
Eating a glucose tablet, having a piece of hard candy or drinking a sugary drink all help raise your blood sugar enough to relieve your symptoms. Check your blood sugar to make sure it’s rising; if it isn’t, eat something else. Don’t drive or try and carry out any activities until your blood sugar is back in your normal range.
To avoid hypoglycemia, diabetics need to carefully balance carbohydrates in their meals, consuming between 40 and 60 percent of daily calories from carbohydrates, James Norman, M.D., explains on endocrineweb. Eating protein and fats, which take longer to digest, along with carbohydrates; and avoiding simple sugars, which raise your blood sugar quickly but are also used up quickly, help keep blood sugar levels stable.