What should people with diabetes eat when their blood sugar level is low?

When a person with diabetes senses their blood sugar is low, they should check their blood sugar to confirm that it is low with home blood sugar testing methods, if available. If these methods are not readily available, is it best to self-treat with sugar replacement as soon as possible. This is because it is better to treat a low blood sugar rather than wait to confirm it if blood sugar testing is not handy. A very low blood sugar can lead to loss of consciousness: a medical emergency rendering the person incapable of self‐treating.  

Rather than risk this, it is best to assume that the symptoms one is feeling are due to low blood sugar and treat. If that turns out to be wrong and the symptoms are due to something else, additional medicine or insulin can be used to bring the blood sugar down. A high blood sugar can be a problem, but it usually does not lead to loss of consciousness at the levels commonly encountered by diabetic patients in their usual daily routines. Low blood sugar, on the other hand, can happen quite easily and commonly.

The best foods to eat for low blood sugar are those that have readily available sugar in them, such as fruit juices like orange juice. Actually, sugar in any form will treat the low blood sugar, so table sugar or candy would also work. Some experts don't like this approach because it can overshoot and cause the blood sugar to "roller coaster" and go too high. Dextrose (sugar) tablets, which have a measured amount of sugar, can be a useful alternative and are easily obtained. Of course, these foods are not good for people with diabetes in general, and should be used only when someone is feely poorly due to low blood sugar.
William Lee Dubois
Endocrinology Diabetes & Metabolism

To make it easy to remember, we call it the Rule of 15. Eat/drink 15 carbs and wait the longest 15 minutes of your life to re-test your blood sugar. (Hey, low blood sugar is scary stuff.) It is not necessary to be back to your target blood sugar in 15 minutes, just moving in the right direction. Over-correcting by going hog-wild in the candy store is just as dangerous.

What you should eat or drink depends on what’s around. Low blood sugar is a potential emergency. You don’t want to pussy-foot around. Liquids are fastest. Half a regular soda will do. As will a couple spoonfuls of honey. Hard candy can work fine.

Sorry. No chocolate. Good for the soul, yes. And maybe the heart. But not good for low blood sugar. Most chocolate candy is also high in fat and fat slows down the sugar from getting from your digestive system to your blood, where it needs to be.

Of course the very best plan is to plan ahead. Anyone on insulin or other diabetes medications that might lower blood sugar should always have some emergency supplies with them at all times. There are a number of very effective over-the-counter glucose products at any drug store. Glucose comes in liquid “shots,” tablets, and jells.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.