When you wake up headachy and groggy with a feeling that your sugar plummeted overnight the question: “is low blood sugar a sign of diabetes”, may enter your mind.
Can low blood sugar be an early warning sign of approaching diabetes or maybe hypoglycemia symptoms have nothing to do with high glucose numbers? Are these two related and if yes in which way?
If you are not sure how hypoglycemia symptoms look like download a handy chart that you can conveniently stick on the fridge. This way you will always know if the symptoms you have are symptoms of hypoglycemia.
Is low blood sugar normal?
In a normal healthy and robust individual a state of low or high blood sugar does not exist. Only health-compromised individuals experience metabolic highs and lows. Fuel supply is tightly regulated by several organs and only when they fail metabolic dis-regulation can happen. In a healthy body glucose does not fluctuate except for a slight short rise after a meal.
Low blood sugar should not be occurring in a healthy metabolism except for a prolonged fasting. Hypoglycemia symptoms occur when the body is unable to correct falling blood sugar. This may happen due to a “lazy” liver, exhausted adrenals, or simply due to overzealous pancreas. Whatever the reason, hypoglycemia symptoms may suggest that either one of these organs are malfunctioning.
Are hypoglycemia symptoms only in your head?
Not all hypoglycemia symptoms can be verified by glucose test. When you have low blood sugar symptoms, yet your glucose test is normal, it may look as if you are making things up. Your doctor may not be sympathetic without having any indication that what you are saying is correct. Your doctor will need confirming blood test. This is possible only if you know how to test blood sugar properly.
Hypoglycemia symptoms without low blood sugar
Hypoglycemia symptoms that are NOT accompanied by low glucose do however exist. These hypoglycemia mimicking symptoms happen usually after a sudden release of neurotransmitter called epinephrine. Epinephrine release happens during stress or when we recall a stressful situation, kind of a short stress flashback, which the body also perceives as stress. Interestingly, a mere memory of a stressful situation is enough to put body in a stress-like mode and cause a cascade of hormonal reaction that releases epinephrine and leads to a hypoglycemia-like attack.
Can low blood sugar lead to diabetes?
Diabetes is a degenerative disease of a complicated nature. Before a full-blown diabetes happens the body has to go through several, usually permanent, metabolic changes. Only then, after years of metabolic alteration, one can see a continuous increase in glucose numbers.
In most cases adult onset diabetes starts not as high glucose, but as high insulin. In this early pre-diabetic phase is called insulin resistance, glucose numbers are normal. Many people walk about in a pre-diabetic state, being mislead by their health care providers about their diabetic risk, only because they haven`t been tested adequately.
This early insulin resistance is a sugar-quiet phase which is seldom discovered during routine medical screening. There are simply no signs of diabetes or pre-diabetes on the lab tests. However, if you have hypoglycemia symptoms you should insist to be tested for insulin resistance, because high insulin may be a reason behind your blood sugar dips.
Glucose and insulin can be easily tested. When glucose is normal or low, but insulin is high you are at a higher diabetic risk. Consider this number combo as the first measurable sign of unhealthy metabolism.
As the blood sugar problem deepens insulin resistance progresses as well and the lab numbers change accordingly. The compensated insulin resistance, when glucose numbers are normal, becomes uncompensated. This is when glucose numbers can be seen going up. This uncompensated insulin resistance is known also as diabetes T2.
Do all hypoglycemia symptoms lead to diabetes?
Not all people that experience hypoglycemia symptoms end up with diabetes. The progression of insulin resistance is largely lifestyle dependent and is under the control of an individual.
Although genetics play a part in development of diabetes it is predominantly lifestyle factors and daily health decisions, especially in regards to the diet and exercise, that decide if hypoglycemia progresses to diabetes.
Are all low blood sugar symptoms related to diabetes?
Not at all. Sometimes low blood sugar may have nothing to do with insulin resistance, but is due to pancreatic or liver irritation. Inflammation, eg. due to a virus or tumors can cause overproduction of insulin or epinephrine causing low glucose.
Hypoglycemia may also happen after ingestion of alcohol, meals that contain irritating foods, or medication that have been shown to affect these organs. For example, blood pressure lowering pills are known to precipitate hypoglycemia. Thyroid and adrenal disorders can affect blood sugar control as well.
Should you worry about low blood sugar?
Before getting into a panic state first verify that you actually have hypoglycemia. Check if your blood sugar actually plummets.
If you actually register low blood sugar on your glucometer the next thing you need to do is exclude probability that low glucose number is due to alcohol, medication, or food allergies and sensitivities.
To check if changes to glucose metabolism is due to a food you need to do a specialized tests. For that you need to do a food sensitivity test, but that’s not the same as a skin scratch. Skin scratch is valuable in detecting foods that cause anaphylactic or skin reaction, but not food sensitivities. Skin scratch cannot detect all the foods your immune system reacts to. For that you need a hidden food sensitivity test.
If after ruling out the above causes you are still experiencing hypoglycemia symptoms you need to ask your doctor (medical or naturopathic) to test for insulin resistance. This will involve taking blood for two tests (glucose and insulin), both of which should be done at the same time in your local medical laboratory.
When the tests come back your doctor needs to run an insulin resistance algorithm, called HOMA. Only this way you are able to detect early signs of insulin resistance, which can seen years or decades before glucose numbers change on the standard lab test.
If the test for insulin resistance turns out positive then you may consider low blood sugar to be a metabolic warning. Embrace lifestyle changes immediately to prevent development of diabetes in the future.