hypoglycemia without diabetes: causes and diet
People suffering from hypoglycemia should avoid certain foods, such as trans and saturated fats, sugar-rich foods, processed foods, excessive caffeine, and alcohol.

Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels) is a condition often seen in people with diabetes. However, sometimes, it may be seen in people who do not have diabetes or have prediabetes.

Hypoglycemia develops whenever the balance between food, exercise, and medications is disturbed.

To reduce episodes of hypoglycemia in people with and without diabetes, it is recommended to minimize the intake of certain food varieties, such as:

  • Foods with fats
    • Saturated fat
    • Trans fat
  • Foods high in sugar, particularly granulated sugar, are to be avoided.
    • It is preferable to avoid foods that contain simple carbohydrates, whether you wish to treat or prevent symptoms because they can precipitate a sudden drop in sugars due to a spike in insulin levels, which include:
      • Glucose
      • Fructose
      • Sucrose
      • Dextrose
  • Packaged and processed foods contain more sugar than the following:
    • Fruit juices
    • Sodas
  • Excess caffeine
  • Alcohol (avoid drinking on an empty stomach at all costs)

What are the symptoms of nondiabetic hypoglycemia?

Symptoms of hypoglycemia defer with how low blood sugar levels are:

  • Mild: Blood glucose levels are less than 70 mg/dL but higher than 54 mg/dL.
  • Moderate: Blood glucose levels fall below 54 mg/dL.
  • Severe: Inability to function due to mental or physical changes.

What are the causes of nondiabetic hypoglycemia?

Hypoglycemia is a clinical condition that occurs when blood glucose levels fall below the normal fasting glucose range, which is usually 60 mg/dL or the individual exhibits symptoms such as jitteriness, giddiness, sweating, or irritability.

Nondiabetic hypoglycemia is classified into two types:

  1. Relative hypoglycemia: Occurs shortly after consuming a meal
  2. Fasting hypoglycemia: May be caused by an illness

Glucose is your body's and brain's primary source of energy. It is derived from what we eat and drink.

  • Insulin, a hormone, aids in maintaining regular blood glucose levels so that your body can function correctly.
  • Insulin's role is to facilitate the entry of glucose into your cells, where it is utilized for energy.
  • You may not feel good if your glucose level is too low.

Hypoglycemia in people who do not have diabetes is caused by various underlying causes, which include:

  • Medications:
    • The most prevalent cause of hypoglycemia is a medication with drugs that include:
    • It is important to inform your healthcare provider if you have a history of unexplained hypoglycemia. To avoid dangerously low blood sugar levels, you may need to change medicines, modify your dietary habits, or constantly monitor your symptoms.
  • Overproduction of insulin:
    • Insulin overproduction is seen in people with conditions such as:
      • Insulinoma: Insulinoma is a rare pancreatic tumor and can produce more insulin than the body requires, resulting in hypoglycemia. 
        • Insulinomas are more frequent in women aged between 40 and 60 years.
        • It may take some time to acquire an accurate diagnosis, but if an insulinoma is removed, your symptoms should go away.
      • Bariatric surgery: Insulin overproduction can be an issue for people who have just had bariatric surgery.
      • Insulin autoimmune syndrome: Insulin autoimmune syndrome is a rare disease in which the body produces antibodies that target insulin. When insulin is under attack, it needs to work two times as hard to regulate blood sugar levels.
        • The condition usually manifests itself in maturity with symptoms that are consistent with low blood sugar, such as
          • Fatigue
          • Lightheadedness
          • Sweating
          • Fainting
          • Long-term damage to the pancreas is possible; thus, receiving an appropriate diagnosis and treatment is critical.
  • Reactive hypoglycemia: Reactive hypoglycemia (postprandial hypoglycemia) is caused by insulin overproduction and often occurs within a few hours of eating a meal.
    • In most people, the origin of reactive hypoglycemia is unknown. However, it may be connected to a specific item you ate or differences in the timing of the food traveling through the digestive tract.
  • Underlying illness: Low blood sugar levels may be caused by an underlying illness such as
  • Hormonal abnormalities: Glucose control is influenced by hormones other than insulin that aid in the maintenance of normal blood sugar levels, which include
    • Growth hormone produced by the pituitary gland
    • Cortisol produced by the adrenal glands
    • Hypoglycemia can be caused by adrenal illnesses (such as Addison’s disease) or pituitary problems due to a lack of these blood sugar-stabilizing hormones.
    • Hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone levels) can cause hormonal changes that result in low blood sugars.
    • This effect is found in both children and adults with hypothyroidism and should be examined as part of an overall treatment strategy.
  • Alcohol intake:
    • Alcohol disrupts natural blood sugar control and can cause highs and lows in certain people with alcoholism. Starting with dietary adjustments to maintain stable blood sugar levels such as increasing intake of foods high in fiber, protein, and healthy fats may be beneficial for people attempting to reduce their alcohol use.
    • Drinking alcohol with a meal rather than on an empty stomach can help buffer some of the effects of alcohol on blood sugar.
    • Passing out or dozing off after a few drinks might suggest hypoglycemia, which could make you more exposed to the dangers of alcohol.
  • Ingestion of raw ackee fruit:
    • The raw ackee fruit contains toxins called hypoglycin A and B that may cause dangerously low sugar levels.

SLIDESHOW

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

How to diagnose nondiabetic hypoglycemia

Your doctor will perform a physical exam and ask you questions about your health and any medications you are taking to diagnose hypoglycemia.

  • Blood tests will be required to monitor your blood sugar levels.
  • Some testing may entail not eating (fasting) and keeping an eye out for signs.
  • Another testing might include consuming a meal that could trigger low blood sugar symptoms many hours later.
  • Findings of these tests can aid in the diagnosis of the underlying problem.

Tests may be required to search for or rule out health issues that may affect your blood sugar levels.

What are the treatment options for nondiabetic hypoglycemia?

A quick drop in blood sugar can be treated by eating or drinking something with sugar, especially foods that are considered quick-sugar foods to restore the blood sugar levels in the blood, which include:

  • Fruit juice
  • Soda
  • Milk
  • Raisins
  • Hard candy
  • Glucose pills

If your hypoglycemia is the result of a medical illness, you may require medical attention for that condition.

People who do not have diabetes and who have experienced episodes of hypoglycemia must be cautious to prevent such episodes. Discussing with your doctor regarding changes in your diet, medications, or exercise habits could be beneficial.

Starting with dietary adjustments to maintain stable blood sugar levels such as increasing intake of foods high in fiber, protein, and healthy fats may be beneficial for people attempting to reduce their alcohol use.

Eating every three hours and consuming balanced meals high in fiber and protein will help reduce blood sugar swings.

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Medically Reviewed on 12/30/2021
References
Image Source: iStock Images

Hypoglycemia in adults without diabetes mellitus: Clinical manifestations, diagnosis, and causes: https://www.uptodate.com/contents/hypoglycemia-in-adults-without-diabetes-mellitus-clinical-manifestations-diagnosis-and-causes

Hypoglycemia (Low Blood sugar): https://www.diabetes.org/healthy-living/medication-treatments/blood-glucose-testing-and-control/hypoglycemia

Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Sugar): https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/11647-hypoglycemia-low-blood-sugar