Reactive Hypoglycemia Causes & Symptoms: Foods To Eat And Avoid

The blood carries sugar to the body cells, which is eventually metabolized to generate energy. Under normal conditions, the concentration of sugar in the blood is maintained at an optimum level by the interaction of various endocrinal hormones like insulin and glucagon.

Hypoglycemia is a condition which is characterized by drop in the blood sugar levels below the normal range of 70 to 99 mg/dl.

While this condition is common in individuals suffering from endocrinal disorders like diabetes, the condition may also affect other individuals.

Hypoglycemia is classified into two basic types-

  • Fasting hypoglycemia, this occurs when a person doesn’t consume food for a long duration of time, (typically fasting for more than 8 hours).
  • Reactive hypoglycemia, which is more common and characterized by fall in blood glucose level within a few hours after eating.

Causes Of Reactive Hypoglycemia

Reactive hypoglycemia is linked with several endocrinal and gastrointestinal disorders, which also act as the causes for the condition,

  • Endocrinal disorders like hypothyroidism, adrenal insufficiency or diabetes.
  • Congenital enzymatic deficiencies, which may interfere with the ability of the breakdown of food into simpler sugars and thereby prevent absorption.
  • H pylori induced gastritis, Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative colitis, etc, all of which interfere with the ability of the gastrointestinal tract to assimilate sugar and nutrients.

Symptoms Of Reactive Hypoglycemia

In cases of reactive hypoglycemia, the symptoms develop within a couple of hours after eating. Some of the common symptoms include,

  • Hunger with headache and weakness.
  • Sweating, shakiness and fatigue.
  • Sudden anxiety with rapid heart rate (tachycardia).
  • Flushing with coldness in the arms and legs.
  • Sudden craving for sweats with nausea and vomiting.
  • Confusion with blurring of vision (or double vision) may also be present.
  • Irritability and mood swings are also observed.

Foods To Eat And Avoid With Reactive Hypoglycemia

Dietary recommendations are vital for the management of reactive hypoglycemia. Here are some essential tips,

  • Avoid foods containing simple carbohydrates. These can cause a sudden rise is the blood sugar level, resulting in increased production of insulin which in turn can result in sudden drop in blood sugar levels. Avoid foods like cakes, cookies, jelly, jams, syrups, sugar, sweetened drinks, honey, corn syrup, etc.
  • It is recommended to spread the intake of carbohydrates throughout the day.
  • Avoid taking heavy meals; instead divide your meals into six or more smaller meals. This keeps blood sugar levels regulated. Don’t skip a meal.
  • Include complex carbohydrates in your diet. Complex carbohydrates that a longer time to break down, which in turn reduces the speed with which sugar is released into the blood stream. This helps regulate blood sugar levels at optimum for longer duration of time. Include whole fruits, vegetables, cereals, legumes and whole grains in your diet.

In addition to the above dietary advice, there are certain other tips that can help deal with the condition promptly,

  • Include protein rich foods in your diet. Include soy, poultry, cheese, fish, peanut butter etc as a part of your regular meal.
  • Include high fat foods like mayonnaise, margarine, butter, etc in small amounts throughout the day. These foods are slowly digested, but excessive consumption can lead to weight gain.
  • Limit the intake of alcoholic beverages, especially on an empty stomach.
  • Always keep a snack or a food with you and in case you experience hypoglycemia, have a snack immediately.
  • Avoid caffeine drinks as they trigger the production of adrenaline and thereby cause hypoglycemia.