Low blood sugar symptoms are prevalent in people who:
- Have experienced episodes of low blood sugar
- Are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, cognitive impairment, or kidney or heart disease
- Take insulin or other medications – sulfonylureas and meglitinides – to manage type 2 diabetes
Separately, a person with diabetes is likely to develop low blood sugar (also known as hypoglycaemia) during exercise. Babies that are born to diabetic women, too, can experience a significant drop in blood sugar levels at birth.
Reasons Behind Low Blood Sugar in People with Diabetes
Insulin plays a central role in the occurrence of hypoglycaemia in people with diabetes. The pancreas produces this hormone to move glucose into cells. Subsequently, the cells store glucose – the body’s main source of energy – or use it to fuel aerobic and anaerobic cellular respiration.
Cellular respiration refers to a diversion of chemical energy in glucose into life-sustaining activities, and removal of carbon dioxide, waste products and water.
However, a lack of insulin can lead to glucose accumulating in the blood instead of being absorbed by cells. As a result, a person may be susceptible to diabetes symptoms.
It can also trigger complications like hypoglycaemia, which happens when:
- Glucose production is low
- Glucose is released into the bloodstream too slowly
- The body uses glucose up too quickly
- There’s an excess of insulin in the bloodstream
People without diabetes can also be at an increased risk of hypoglycaemia if they:
- Are 65 years or older
- Consume alcoholic beverages use prescription medications
- Experience chronic kidney or heart failure
- Lack cortisol, or growth or thyroid hormones
- Previously underwent surgery for weight loss
- Are diagnosed with insulinoma or sepsis
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), meanwhile, describes hypoglycaemia as a consumptive disease. Simply put, it arises from a deficiency in one of the organ systems in the body, also known as the zang-fu.
Insufficiency of blood, qi (vital life force), yin (passive energy) and yang (active energy) also constitutes the basic pathogenesis of this type of disease.
“This can often be attributed to many causes, with the most predominant being a deficiency of qi and blood in the Spleen and Stomach. It can provoke irregularities in the Heart and Liver systems, as well as the body’s spirit,” explains Eu Yan Sang Physician Peh Wei Jie.
Recognising Notable Low Blood Sugar Symptoms
Generally, hypoglycaemia may induce mild to moderate symptoms, such as:
- A headache
- Dizziness, confusion or irritability
- Inability to see or speak clearly
- Muscles that shake or jitter
- Unsteady or rapid heartbeat
Severe hypoglycaemia, on the other hand, will halt brain function, and prompt a seizure or loss of consciousness. It’s worth noting that it also requires immediate medical attention.
Interestingly, a person’s blood sugar levels can also drop when they’re asleep. Consequently, they may present with physical and psychological symptoms, including:
- Profuse sweating
- Wails or nightmares
- Fatigue, confusion or irritability when they wake up
Steps You Can Take to Keep Low Blood Sugar Symptoms in Check
If you establish that your blood sugar levels are below 70 milligrammes (mg)/dL, it’s advisable for you to consume 15-20 grammes (g) of glucose or carbohydrates right away. It can come in the form of:
- A tablespoon of honey, sugar, or corn syrup
- Half a can of a carbonated beverage
- Half a cup of apple, grape, or cranberry juice
- One tube of glucose gel or four glucose tablets
Then, wait 15 minutes before checking your blood sugar levels. If it’s still low, repeat this step until it’s regulated.
Role of Chinese Medicine in Managing Low Blood Sugar Symptoms
In TCM, binge drinking affects the release of glucose into the body. This can lead to a deficiency of Spleen qi and symptoms like hunger, confusion, and fainting. Moreover, these symptoms are common in people with diabetes if they use more than the suggested medication dose or have sudden changes in their diet or physical activity levels.
People who are anxious, dizzy or confused may have deficiencies in the Heart and Spleen. People who slur and sweat excessively usually have phlegm-heat in the stomach and body. For these reasons, the consumption of herbal ingredients can boost qi and yin in the Heart or Spleen and clear phlegm heat.
Based on the patient’s current symptoms and diagnosis, herbs such as Astragalus (huang qi, 黄芪), jujube (da zao, 大枣) and Chinese Angelica (dang gui, 当归) can effectively alleviate the former disorder. Stimulation of the Qu Chi (LI 11, 曲池) and Feng Long (ST 40, 丰隆) acupoints on the Large Intestine and Stomach meridians can be beneficial for dispelling phlegm-heat.
The prevention of low blood sugar symptoms relates to effective control. Consuming a balanced diet is fundamental towards achieving this objective. TCM remedies can help address disorders that threaten to spike blood sugar levels. Do speak to a TCM practitioner to ascertain the safety of specific herbal ingredients for your body constitution.
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