Healthy Eating Guidelines
For People with Diabetes and Low Blood Glucose
Diabetes and Low Blood Glucose (Sugar)
The information in this fact sheet will help you to prevent low blood glucose and help you to treat low blood glucose. Low blood glucose or hypoglycemia usually means a blood glucose level of less than 4.0 mmol/L. This can happen when diabetes medicine (insulin or pills), food, and exercise are out of balance. Low blood glucose can be mild, moderate, or severe. These tips will help you prevent and treat low blood glucose.
Steps You Can Take
Preventing a Low Blood Glucose
Low blood glucose can usually be prevented by:
- taking the correct dose of your diabetes medicine (insulin or pills) at the correct time
- eating meals on time and not skipping meals
- taking extra carbohydrate before you exercise to prevent low blood glucose, if needed
- if you take insulin, checking your blood glucose before, during, and especially for several hours after exercising. This will help you find out how your blood glucose levels respond to exercise, and help you to manage your blood glucose levels when you exercise.
Drinking alcohol can make blood glucose levels fall too low. If you drink alcohol, it's best to have it with food. Discuss the use of alcohol with your doctor.
Treating a Low Blood Glucose
- If you have low blood glucose, you must treat it quickly with some form of sugar. If possible, test your blood glucose level before you treat a low blood glucose, but if you can't test, treat anyway. It is better to be safe.
- Try to avoid over-treating a low blood glucose as this may cause your blood glucose to go up too high. It can also cause weight gain if you often have low blood glucose.
- *If you take acarbose (Glucobay® or Prandase®) either alone or in combination with insulin or other diabetes pills you must treat low blood glucose with glucose (dextrose) tablets, or, if these are not available, with honey or 1 to 1 ½ cups of milk. Foods and drinks sweetened with table sugar (sucrose) will not bring blood glucose levels up if you are taking acarbose (Glucobay® or Prandase®).
The following table describes the degree of low blood glucose, the symptoms you are likely to experience and the treatment for the low blood glucose.
|Degree of Low Blood Glucose||Symptoms||Treatment *See previous section for treatment if you take acarbose|
Mild or moderate
Mild - Trembling or shaking, rapid heart beat, sweating, feeling anxious, hunger, nausea, tingling
Moderate - As above, plus unable to concentrate, confusion, weakness, drowsiness, dizziness, headache, difficulty speaking, vision changes
Take 15 grams of carbohydrate such as:
Wait for 15 minutes and repeat treatment if blood glucose remains below 4.0 mmol/L
Severe (blood glucose usually less than 2.8 mmol/
As above, but symptoms will have progressed so that you need the help of others to treat your low blood glucose. You may become unconscious
Take 20 grams of carbohydrate, such as:
Wait for 15 minutes and repeat treatment with 15 grams of carbohydrate if blood glucose remains below 4.0 mmol/L.
As above, but symptoms have progressed to unconsciousness.
Emergency services must be contacted. May be treated with glucagon injections.
- After treating low blood glucose, if it is a meal or snack time, have your usual meal or snack. This helps prevent low blood glucose from coming back. If a meal is more than 1 hour away, eat a snack such as a slice of bread with a slice of meat or cheese or a tablespoon of peanut butter. Your meal or snack should include 15 grams of carbohydrate and some protein.
HealthLinkBC www.HealthLinkBC.ca Medically approved non-emergency health information and advice.
Dietitian Services Fact Sheets available by mail (call 8-1-1) or at www.healthlinkbc.ca/healthyeating:
- Diabetes Eating Resources
- Healthy Eating for Diabetes - Adapted for Punjabi Diet
- Healthy Carbohydrates for Diabetes - Adapted for Punjabi Diet
Canadian Diabetes Association "Just the Basics" www.diabetes.ca/Files/JTB17x_11_CPGO3_1103.pdf
Last updated: April 2011
These resources are provided as sources of additional information believed to be reliable and accurate at the time of publication and should not be considered an endorsement of any information, service, product or company.
|Dietitian Services at HealthLinkBC (formerly Dial-A-Dietitian), providing free nutrition information and resources for BC residents and health professionals. Go to Healthy Eating or call 8-1-1 (anywhere in BC). Interpreters are available in over 130 languages.|