by Grace Rivers, RDN, CDCES
You ate your carefully planned meal and went about your regular activity, but you begin to feel shaky and sweaty. You quickly test your blood sugar to find you are less than 70mg/dL (or the level your healthcare team provided for you). You know you must treat your blood sugar right away.
You are nervous, frustrated, and confused. Every time you try to be careful and eat right by controlling your carb intake, you end up going too low, and then you overeat when treating.
Are you eating right?
Once you were diagnosed with diabetes, you may have noticed you suddenly gained an array of food mongers telling you what to avoid. You have heard over and over to stop eating carbs if you want to lose weight. But you try it, and you keep getting too low.
Decreasing carbs can result in weight loss, for sure, but it’s not always the best route to take. If you have opted to do so and aren’t successful or feel guilty because you ate carbs, you may want to add a few carbs into your food intake routinely. Checking your blood sugar two hours after eating or using a continuous glucose monitor can guide you to know you are on the right track.
When you have diabetes, not eating enough or skipping a meal can negatively impact your sugar levels. Doing so may lead to overeating later, snacking on foods that aren’t nourishing, or hypoglycemia.
What happens when your blood sugar is too low?
Low blood sugar comes on suddenly and takes a hard toll on your body. A few signs and symptoms are:
If you experience any of these, testing your blood sugar is recommended, but if you cannot do so, then go ahead and treat the low immediately.
Repeated low blood sugar episodes over time can cause your body to be less sensitive to the changes that start to happen when your sugar begins to drop. The result is that you (or someone else) will detect it, but your sugar level will be much lower. Right now, you notice the signs and symptoms when you go below 70mg/dL, but with hypoglycemia unawareness, you lose that ability.
Preventing the lows
When the hunger kicks in between meals, go for high fiber, high protein snacks. They will provide you with nourishing carbs to contribute toward the prevention of low blood sugar. Protein will aid in keeping you satisfied. Examples:
3 cups popped corn with two tablespoons of nuts
Small pear with eight walnut halves
How many carbs to eat
The carb amount your body can manage is based on the individual. For many, two-four servings (30-60 carb grams) each main meal is satisfactory. If you exercise or move around a lot during the day, you may need more than this.
Low blood sugar can be dangerous. If you aren’t successful in getting the results you want, consult a certified diabetes care and education specialist for assistance.
Nourishing carbs for wellness
- Whole grains such as brown rice, bulgur, corn, quinoa, or whole-wheat
- All fruit except with added sugar
- Beans, peas, and lentils
If you have decreased your carbs or calorie intake and notice that you have low blood sugars, be good to yourself by adding nourishing carbs to your eating pattern.
Remember, too, that carbs are not the only factor that impacts your blood sugar. If you know your intake was reasonable, consider other factors such as diabetes meds and exercise.
Monitoring your sugar levels will help you see that your blood sugar can stay within a safe range when eating healthier carb choices in controlled amounts.