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Hypoglycemia without diabetes: Causes, treatment, and diet

In this article, we explore the health conditions beyond diabetes that can cause hypoglycemia. We also look at treatment options and the dietary changes that can help prevent low blood sugar.

What is hypoglycemia?

Hypoglycemia occurs when blood sugar levels drop below 70 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl). Severe hypoglycemia can be life-threatening if a person does not receive treatment. Treatments focus on returning blood sugar to safe levels.

Blood sugar, or glucose, is the body’s primary source of energy. When levels fall too low, the body does not have enough energy to function fully. This is called hypoglycemia.

Insulin helps the body’s cells to absorb sugar from the bloodstream. A person with diabetes may take insulin shots because their body is resistant to insulin or because it does not produce enough.

In people with diabetes, taking too much insulin can cause blood sugar levels to drop too low. Not eating enough or exercising too much after taking insulin can have the same effect.

However, people who do not have diabetes can also experience hypoglycemia.

When a person has hypoglycemia, they may feel:

  • shaky
  • dizzy
  • unable to concentrate
  • unable to focus their eyes
  • confused
  • moody
  • hungry

A person with hypoglycemia may develop a headache or pass out (lose consciousness).

If a person has hypoglycemia often, they may stop experiencing symptoms. This is called hypoglycemia unawareness.

Treating the underlying cause is the best way to prevent hypoglycemia in the long term.

In the short term, receiving glucose helps blood sugar levels return to normal.

According to research from 2014, the best way to treat mild hypoglycemia is to:

  • take 15 grams of glucose
  • wait for 15 minutes
  • measure blood glucose levels again
  • repeat this treatment if hypoglycemia persists

There are many ways to receive glucose, including:

  • taking a glucose tablet
  • injecting glucose
  • drinking fruit juice
  • eating carbohydrates

Eating slow-release carbohydrates may help sustain blood sugar levels.

Non-diabetic hypoglycemia diet

A non-diabetic hypoglycemia diet can help keep blood sugar levels balanced. The following tips can help to prevent hypoglycemia:

  • eating small meals regularly, rather than three large meals
  • eating every 3 hours
  • eating a variety of foods, including protein, healthful fats, and fiber
  • avoiding sugary foods

Carrying a snack to eat at the first sign of hypoglycemia can prevent blood sugar levels from dipping too low.

Ultimately, the best way to prevent hypoglycemia is to identify and treat the underlying cause.

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