What Happens When Your Blood Sugar Gets Low

Low blood sugar levels, or hypoglycemia, is a condition wherein your blood sugar levels drop significantly. The dangerously low sugar levels in your blood can lead to severe consequences like a coma. Thus, it is always advised that blood sugar patients check on the timing of their food and medicines as they are the major causes of decreased blood sugar levels.

Sugar acts as an energy source for all your body cells. A decrease in sugar levels in your blood disrupts the functioning of all your body systems. Thus, if you feel excessive sweating, breathlessness, or other symptoms of a low blood sugar level, do not ignore them. Eat carbohydrate-rich food immediately and consult your doctor so that he can plan your further treatment accordingly.

In this article, let us see what low blood sugar is, what dangerously low blood sugar levels are, low sugar symptoms, what cause low blood sugar, and what to eat when blood sugar is low.

Fasting Blood Sugar Level

What is low blood sugar?

The blood sugar levels considered normal change from one person to another depending on whether they are diabetic, prediabetic, or healthy. The dangerously low sugar level also depends on your age, the time at which you are testing your sugar levels, and whether or not you are pregnant. The average normal blood sugar levels are summarised in the chart below:

S.No. Group Fasting Blood Sugar Level (mg/dL) Postprandial (PP) Blood Sugar Level (mg/dL)
Just after eating 2 hrs after eating
1. Normal  70 – 100 170 – 200 < 140
2.  Early diabetes 101 – 126 190 – 230 140 – 200
3. Diabetes > 126 230 – 300 > 200

The blood sugar levels according to the age of the people with diabetes are summarised below:

S.No. Age Normal blood sugar level (mg/dL)
Fasting Before meal 1-2 hours after eating Bedtime 
1. < 6 years 80 – 180 100 – 180 ~ 180 110 – 200
2. 6 – 12 years 80 – 180 90 – 180 Up to 140 100 – 180
3. 13 – 19 years 70 – 150 90 – 130 Up to 140 90 – 150
4. > 20 years < 100 70 – 130 < 180 100 – 140

The normal blood sugar levels for pregnant diabetic women are:

S.No. Condition Normal Blood Glucose Level (mg/dL)
1. Fasting 70 – 89
2. Before meals 89
3. 1-2 hours after meals < 120
4. Bedtime  100 – 140

According to the ADA and Diabetes UK, the normal blood sugar levels in prediabetic people are given in the chart below:

S.No. Condition Normal Blood Glucose Level (mg/dL)
1. Fasting 100 – 125
2.  2 hours after meal 140 – 199

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What are low blood sugar level symptoms?

Various symptoms can indicate low blood sugar levels. Get your sugar levels checked if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Sweating
  • Weakness
  • Feeling tired all day
  • Shaking
  • Feeling nervous, uneasy, and anxious
  • Hunger 
  • Headache
  • Feeling cranky
  • Blurry vision or double vision
  • Trouble in thinking clearly
  • Pounding or fat heartbeat

Dangerously low levels of sugar in your blood can lead to more severe symptoms like fainting, seizure attacks, and even coma.

What causes low blood sugar?

Low blood sugar can occur due to various reasons. Therefore, it is advised that all people should monitor their blood sugar levels at regular intervals to avoid any complications that may occur due to dangerously low and high blood sugar levels. Some of the major causes of blood sugar levels include:

  • If you take your insulin medicines at the wrong time or skip your doses
  • If you increase your take of insulin or diabetes medicines
  • If you take your diabetes medicines without eating anything, that is, an empty stomach
  • If you take improper or less food during your meals
  • If you skip meals while you are on diabetic medicines
  • Keeping long hours of gap between your medicines and your food
  • Excessive exercise can also cause low blood sugar levels
  • Exercising at an unusual time can also affect sugar levels
  • If you do not monitor your blood sugar levels regularly
  • Excessive intake of alcohol can also lead to low blood sugar levels.

What to eat when blood sugar is low?

Low blood sugar levels can be dangerous. You must eat something when you experience the symptoms of low blood sugar levels. Make sure that whatever you eat contains a high glycemic index so that it can shoot your blood glucose levels immediately. The best way to increase blood sugar levels in case of hypoglycemia is to follow the 15-15 rule. According to this rule, you must immediately eat 15 gms of carbohydrates and then check your sugar after 15 minutes. If the sugar levels come within the range, eat a snack to maintain the sugar levels. Some of the most recommended food items that you can take in case of hypoglycemia symptoms are:

  • Candy

Candies contain carbohydrates that largely impact your blood sugar levels. The simple sugar-based food can be absorbed easily and rapidly into your bloodstream and is capable of increasing your blood sugar levels within 5-15 minutes. Talking about the amount of candy that you can consume, here are some of the candies that you can immediately have:

  1. 12 gummy bears
  2. 4 chewy fruit candies
  3. 5 ring-shaped candies
  4. 6 large jelly beans
  5. 15 hard-shelled fruit flavored candies
  • Fresh or dried fruits

Bananas, grapes, raisins, oranges, and apples can be consumed as they have a good amount of carbohydrate present in them that can help raise blood sugar levels.

  • Fruit juice

Juices of fruits like orange, apple, cranberry, and pineapple can also help in increasing your blood sugar levels.

  • Honey

One tablespoon of honey or jam is also a good option to balance your blood glucose levels. Honey also raises sugar levels exponentially and can be used as your go-to in case of hypoglycemia.

  • Fat-free milk

Drinking one cup of fat-free milk can also help in raising your blood sugar levels as fat-free milk is an excellent source of vitamin D and carbohydrates. Thus, you can immediately drink one cup of fat-free milk if you think your blood sugar levels are dropping.

Takeaway 

Generally, if you have diabetes and take good care of the food you eat, your medicines, and the timing, decreasing sugar levels seldom happens. However, sometimes long gaps between your food and medicines can lead to hypoglycemia or low blood sugar levels. In such a situation, if you feel excessive sweating and breathlessness, make sure you eat carbohydrate-rich food to increase your blood sugar levels significantly. Thus, it is always suggested that diabetic patients must carry some snacks and candies in their bag for such emergencies.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  • What level of blood sugar is considered dangerously low?

Blood sugar levels below 54 mg/dL are considered to be dangerously low.

  • In how much time do low sugar levels come back to normal?

It takes around 15 minutes for the low sugar levels to come back to normal if you have immediately eaten carbohydrate-rich food.

  • Can low sugar levels be dangerous?

Yes, low blood sugar levels can lead to dangerous conditions like fainting, seizure attacks, and coma.

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Ms. Srujana is Managing Editor of Cogito137, one of India’s leading student-run science communication magazines. I have been working in scientific and medical writing and editing since 2018. I am also associated with the quality assurance team of scientific journal editing. I am majoring in Chemistry with a minor in Biology at IISER Kolkata.

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