What Triggers Reactive Hypoglycemia?

Medically Reviewed on 11/18/2022
Reactive Hypoglycemia
While reactive hypoglycemia is different from hypoglycemia, the symptoms and triggers of both are similar.

Alcohol and a diet heavy in sugar are two possible triggers for reactive hypoglycemia (RH). However, the exact cause is still unknown. Foods high in simple carbohydrates (such as white rice, white pasta, potatoes, and white bread) and bakery goods (such as cake, pastries, pancakes, or waffles) might also cause this reaction. 

  • Simple sugars, such as candy, sodas with added sugar, honey, and table sugar, start to break down as soon as they enter your body.
  • As they are digested and broken down into glucose, they induce an abrupt rise in your blood sugar, which is followed by an equally quick drop, making you susceptible to RH.

What is reactive hypoglycemia?

Reactive hypoglycemia (RH) describes the state in which your body experiences low blood sugar after eating. Although it typically occurs two hours after eating, it can occasionally occur up to four hours later.

RH is classified postprandially into three categories:

  1. Alimentary RH (within 120 minutes)
  2. Idiopathic RH (at 180 minutes)
  3. Late RH (at 240 to 300 minutes)

It is also extremely important to note how it differs from hypoglycemia. You may experience hypoglycemia if you haven't eaten in a while. Additionally, your blood sugar levels naturally drop below the mark that is regarded as normal. If someone has diabetes or impaired fasting glucose, they are more prone to hypoglycemia.

What are the symptoms of reactive hypoglycemia?

Reactive hypoglycemia differs from hypoglycemia; however, both conditions have a few similar symptoms, such as:

How do you treat reactive hypoglycemia?

Typically, reactive hypoglycemia doesn't need medical attention. However, it is necessary to treat any underlying medical conditions. Changing your diet can often help you feel better.

Try to adjust the timing and composition of your meals by:

  • Eating a balanced diet, which includes high-fiber foods, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables as well as lean and nonmeat sources of protein.
  • Avoiding processed simple carbohydrates, such as white bread or pasta (high in sugar), especially when your stomach is empty.
  • Consuming food when drinking alcohol.
  • Consuming various small meals and snacks throughout the day, spaced about three hours apart during waking hours.


Diabetes: What Raises and Lowers Your Blood Sugar Level? See Slideshow

What are the dos and don’ts to avoid reactive hypoglycemia?


Six things that should be done to avoid reactive hypoglycemia (RH) include:

  1. Include whole grains: Whole grains are a good source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Food contains carbohydrates, which convert to sugar and increase blood sugar levels to give you a rapid energy boost. The fiber in whole grains slows the release of sugar into the blood, which helps maintain a constant blood sugar level.
    • Although distinguishing authentic whole-grain food sources from counterfeits can be difficult at times, you can rely on the following items:
      • Oatmeal
      • Popcorn
      • Barley
      • Brown rice
      • Whole wheat bread
      • Buckwheat
      • Bulgur
      • Millet
      • Whole wheat pasta
      • Whole wheat crackers
  2. Choose whole fruits: Fruits are another excellent source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Whole fruit has more fiber than its juice. People with RH should select whole fruits instead of juice.
  3. Add some dairy products: Dairy products are a good source of protein, carbs, vitamins, and minerals. They also aid in regulating blood sugar for RH.
    • Some dairy options include:
      • No fat milk
      • One percent milk
      • Yogurt that is low in fat and without added sugar
      • Low-fat cheese
  4. Eat your veggies: Although vegetables contain very little carbohydrates, they are a fantastic source of fiber to help slow down digestion.
    • Some suggested veggies for RH include:
      • Cucumbers
      • Asparagus
      • Corn
      • Peas
      • Brussels sprouts
      • White and sweet potatoes with skin
      • Carrots
      • Spinach
      • Legumes
      • Mushrooms
      • Eggplant
      • Broccoli
      • Green beans
      • Lettuce
      • Legumes (beans) give a twofold benefit because they also contain protein, which requires more time for the body to digest. By doing this, you may avoid RH-related low blood sugar.
  5. Healthy fats:
    • Every diet needs fat, but people with RH should focus on getting the right type of fat from the following foods:
      • Nuts
      • Seeds
      • Avocado oil
      • Olive oil
    • Because fats are slowly absorbed, they help regulate blood sugar. Fatty foods are high in calories and can lead to weight gain, so they should be consumed in moderation.
  6. Lean meats and nonanimal proteins: You can avoid experiencing low blood sugar by eating lean protein with every meal.
    • For RH, use lean meat from the following list:
      • Poultry
      • Fish
      • Pork chops
      • Round beef eye
      • Lamb chops
      • Veal
    • A hypoglycemic food list may contain the following meat alternatives:
      • Eggs
      • Nutty spread
      • Nuts
      • Tofu


  1. Don't consume a lot of carbohydrates at once: Although RH symptoms can be reduced by whole grains, it's still necessary to watch how many carbohydrates you consume. According to UW Health, you should spread the intake of these items throughout the day.
    • Eating a lot of carbs may cause your body to produce too much insulin, causing your glucose levels to drop suddenly.
    • Eat smaller meals more frequently (every three to four hours). This helps control the glucose level in your blood.
    • Counting carbohydrates, that is, keeping track of the carbs in all of your meals, snacks, and drinks can help you match your activity level and medications to the food you consume.
    • To keep your blood sugar levels stable throughout the day, try to eat roughly the same amount of carbs at each meal.
  2. Avoid fruit juices: Juice consumption causes blood sugar levels to increase quickly and then decline. Fruits rich in soluble fiber take longer to empty the stomach and release sugar into the bloodstream.
    • Fruits with a lot of soluble fiber include:
      • Oranges
      • Apples
      • Strawberries
      • Pears
    • Other beneficial fruit options for RH include:
      • Melons
      • Berries
      • Grapes
      • Plums
      • Peaches

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Medically Reviewed on 11/18/2022
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