A quick search on internet can tell you that not eating on time, certain medication, and alcohol use are among the most common low blood sugar causes.
Eliminating the above should, at least in theory, help with symptoms of hypoglycemia.
Unfortunately that is only a theory. Reality is different: despite eating on time, being careful with medication and barely using alcohol many people still suffer low blood sugar symptoms. Why?
Different low blood sugar causes
One of the most frequently overlooked causes behind low glucose numbers is elevated blood insulin.
There are two sources of insulin in the body. One is your own pancreas, which produces insulin on demand and the other one is injectable insulin which is used by some diabetics. Regardless whether own or injected excess insulin is one of the major low blood sugar causes.
Precautions for diabetics who use insulin
If you have a habit to inject the same amount of insulin at every meal you need to stop and re-evaluate. Many diabetics forget that it is insulin that needs to be adjusted to the meal, not a meal to insulin units. When you find yourself hungry and shaky in between meals it is a sure sign that you have injected too many insulin units. Over-injecting insulin and then getting emergency candies only causes vicious cycle that aggravates diabetes and its complications. Avoid doing it.
To prevent getting stuck between too much and too little blood sugar focus on adjusting your insulin units better to match your meal requirement. This way you prevent hypoglycemia symptoms and the need for reaching for emergency measures. Frequent state of low blood sugar is not desirable. It carries serious long-term consequences you may not be even aware of.
High insulin and other low blood sugar causes
Having pancreas producing too much insulin is not only possible, but also very common. Many people experience hypoglycemia symptoms without being aware of it.
Overactive pancreas is not something you want to disregard. In fact, if you experience low blood sugar symptoms chances are your body is in a habit of producing too much insulin already. Why knowing about the state of your insulin is important? Because adult onset diabetes does not start with high glucose numbers, but with low blood sugar and high insulin.
Hidden sources of elevated insulin:
- Eating hidden sugars; ingestion of simple sugars will cause a huge increase in insulin. Most people think they know where simple sugars are, but too many are mistaken. If you are eating cereals and fruit juices or smoothies for breakfast you may be starting your day with as many as 40 cubes of sugar without realizing it.
- Eating meals with a high glycemic load; high glycemic load demands higher insulin levels. High glycemic load is greatly tied in to high glycemic index of foods as well as large portion size. This is where buffets and “all you can eat” are not worth your money. It only makes you gorge, which causes an insulin spike
- Using Birth Control Pills; Pregnancy-preventing Birth Control Pills can steadily increase insulin levels[i] over several months first contributing to low blood sugar and eventually to insulin resistance and even diabetes. If you are wondering how the Pill makes you hungry and put on weight this is likely the mechanism.
- Living next to a bakery or watching TV; digestion starts in the brain and mere thinking of or smelling food triggers digestion. You do not have to have food in your mouth to have your insulin spiked. A sight or smell of food can do that[ii]. Wondering why snacking in front of TV is such a common practice? Seeing food, food ad or people eating stimulates your senses, which start digestion, which causes insulin spike, which causes low blood sugar, which makes you want to eat.
- Using artificial sweeteners; trying to lose weight by avoiding dietary sugars? You may be doing just the opposite. Artificial sweeteners have been shown to cause an increase in blood insulin. Elevation of insulin after ingesting of artificial sweeteners is one of the most overlooked causes behind insulin resistance. High insulin causes low blood sugar and that in turn causes a variety of symptoms and disorders from tiredness to obesity.
- Chewing; just like seeing or smelling food chewing also can tell your body to start digestion. Chewing signals that food is already on the table. Chewing eg. chewing gum, tobacco, chew & spit habit, has been shown to significantly increase insulin levels even in the absence of swallowing[iii]. Combine the act of chewing with artificially-sweetened gum (to prevent cavities) and you have a hidden recipe for low blood sugar and possibly insulin resistance in the future.
- Bad gut flora and low fibre diet; Lacking bifidobacteria and lactobacillus in your intestine can cause havoc to glucose as well. These two bacterial strains ferment fibre and produce butyrate, which improves insulin sensitivity[iv]. People with altered bacteria flora are more likely to suffer from insulin resistance. Having wrong gut bacteria is a very common cause behind low blood sugar. Now you may reconsider reaching for antibiotics with every sneeze and cough. Antibiotics as well as many other popular drugs destroy good bacteria in the gut and in no way they can be considered health-promoting. They also contribute to ever unpopular Candida overgrowth.
Preventing and dealing with sugar swings is a must, because continuous cycle of high insulin low blood sugar not only leads to many symptoms of hypoglycemia, but also leads to insulin resistance and eventually diabetes. Be wise and investigate low blood sugar causes to avoid weight fluctuation, hunger pangs, and hormonal destabilization over time.