Hypoglycemia and Anxiety
Having panic attacks, and therapy plus meds not helping much?
If you’re having anxiety then it could be a signal that you may have hypoglycemia.
Hypoglycemia – Symptoms, Causes & Treatment
Depending on a wide-ranging factors, blood sugar level varies from time to time. This fluctuation is absolutely normal. And you don’t have to worry over it as the body is constantly working toward ensuring that blood sugar levels vary within an acceptable range. A situation whereby the blood sugar level drops below the healthy range is known as hypoglycemia. If your blood sugar is low it may cause anxiety.
What Is Hypoglycemia?
Hypoglycemia refers to a reduction in the blood sugar concentration to a level where urgent actions are needed to bring it back to a target range. A patient is diagnosed of low blood sugar when their blood sugar level drops below 70 milligram per deciliter (mg/dL).
Hypoglycemia may also be referred to as insulin reaction or insulin shock. The condition is most common in people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes taking insulin or certain medication. But sometimes, non-diabetic people can also experience hypoglycemia. You will get to know about non-diabetic hypoglycemia later in this article.
The Importance Of Glucose (Sugar) In The Body
Your body can’t function effectively without plasma glucose. Glucose (simple sugar) supplies the needed energy to the body’s cells and brain. The pancreas produces insulin which enables the cells to absorb and use the energy released.
How Is Glucose Produced?
The digestive system breaks down carbohydrate (complex sugar) into absorbable pieces that can pass through the blood. One of these molecules the process creates in glucose. Glucose is the body’s main source of energy. And every human being needs it for their survival.
Glucose enters the bloodstream after you consume a meal. Meanwhile, glucose needs insulin before it can enter and benefit cells. This implies that an abundance of glucose without the right amount of insulin will still not prevent cells from being starved of energy. This is too bad for your health. The lack of adequate insulin in the body leads to diabetes.
After eating, the pancreas automatically supplies the right amount of insulin to move glucose in the blood into the cells. Any redundant glucose goes into the liver and muscles. It is stored there in the form of glycogen. The body can make use of this stored sugar later when it needs more energy.
If for any reason, the glucose levels fall, the pancreas secretes another hormone called glucagon. This hormone triggers the breakdown of the stored sugar (glycogen) into glucose to maintain homeostasis. But there are times when blood sugar refuse to regulate itself and drops significantly. This is when hypoglycemia happens.
On a general note, anxiety is the natural response of the body to stress. It’s feelings of fear or apprehension about what’s to come. Anxiety is regarded as a healthy emotion as it can prepare you to face and overcome uncertain difficult life situations. It, however, portends unpleasant health conditions if the feelings continue for a long time. Chronic anxiety can result in anxiety disorders. Types of anxiety disorder include:
- Post traumatic stress
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Panic disorder
- Generalized anxiety disorder
Although research is still ongoing to uncover the actual causes of anxiety. However, anxiety is likely triggered by a combination of life experiences and biological factors. Some researchers believe that anxiety is activated when the area of the brain responsible for fear is impacted.
How Does Low Blood Sugar Symptoms Trigger Anxiety?
Most times, it’s tricky to determine if anxiety is caused by low blood sugar or other factors. Either way, the symptoms are the same, although symptoms could vary from an individual to another.
Common symptoms of anxiety include increased heart rate, rapid breathing, headache, dizziness, trembling, restlessness, insomnia, and so on.
Anxiety that’s related to the occurrence of low blood sugar can be determined by considering your dietary habits and lifestyle. First of all, you should study the times of the day that you have feelings of anxiety. Also, check how frequently you eat, as well as the proportion of carbs and protein in your diet.
Keep a journal, if possible, of what you eat. If you anxiety and panic attacks one day, see what you ate the day before. There may be red flags.
Hypoglycemia-induced anxiety is traceable to infrequent eating, consumption of protein-deficient meals, or extreme physical activities (without food).
Treatment Of Low-Blood Sugar Related Anxiety
- Eat meals and snacks regularly.
- Eat breakfast every day.
- Schedule a protein-rich snack every 2 hours between meals.
- Eat your meal every 4-5 hours with snacks every 2-3 hours in-between.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol as they can trigger blood sugar irregularity.
Signs & Symptoms Of Hypoglycemia
People react to low blood sugar in different ways. In fact, some people don’t notice any symptoms. This condition is known as hypoglycemia unawareness. But generally, a hypoglycemic person will notice the following common signs and symptoms:
- Pale skin
- Fast or irregular heartbeats
- Irritability or impatience
Those are common symptoms. And they usually manifest at the early stage of the condition. However, more serious symptoms can manifest if the blood sugar continues to drop without treatment. The continuous reduction of glucose in the blood deprives the brain of the needed energy to function. This condition can lead to severe symptoms like confused thinking, blurred vision, slurred speech, numbness, drowsiness and lack of concentration. Conditions such as seizures, coma and even death can develop if the blood sugar level stays long for too long.
Causes Of Low Blood Sugar
Hypoglycemia is a quite common experience for people with type I and type 2 diabetes using insulin or certain medication. Most diabetic patients will experience two or more episodes of low blood sugar in a week. The number can double or even triple if the lows without symptoms and the ones that happen in the night are added. Here are some common causes of low blood sugar especially among diabetic patients:
Insulin is part of essential remedies for diabetic patients. However, an excessive amount of insulin in the body can drastically reduce blood sugar level. As a result, newer insulins are preferred over NPH and regular insulin. Insulin pumps may also help to reduce the risk of blood sugar lows. So, if you are diabetic, you should always consult your healthcare provider on the right amount and type of insulin to use.
The food you eat can also cause low blood sugar. For instance, eating foods that are deficient in carbohydrate is the leading cause of hypoglycemia. You are prone to low blood sugar if you take too much insulin for the amount of carbs you eat or drink. Also, drinking alcohol without eating any food can boost your chance of having hypoglycemia.
Diabetes treatment generally increases the possibility of having blood sugar lows. A diabetes medication known as sulfonylureas, for example can cause hypoglycemia. Commonly used sulfonylureas include Glimepiride (Amaryl), Glipizide (Glucotrol), Glyburide (Diabeta, Micronase) and Micronized glyburide (Glynase).
Although physical activities such as jugging and running have many benefits. But the tricky thing for the people with type 1 diabetes especially is that bodily exercises reduce blood sugar level. So, it is recommended that you abstain it. If you must participate in an exercise. You should try and consult your healthcare provider first.
Low Blood Sugar In Non-Diabetic Patients
Sometimes, people without diabetes experience low blood sugar. There are two types of non-diabetic hypoglycemia. They are:
Reactive hypoglycemia: This usually happens a few hours after you eat a meal.
Fasting hypoglycemia: This type of hypoglycemia is associated with medicine or a disease.
Treatment Of Low Blood Sugar
If you notice any symptoms of low blood sugar, you can try the “15 15-rule” treatment. What does it mean?
This rule says you should have 15 grams of carbohydrate to increase your blood sugar and check your current blood sugar after 15 minutes. If it remains below 70 mg/dL, you should have another serving. You can continue to repeat this method until your blood sugar reaches at least 70 mg/dL. The moment your blood sugar level is back to normal range, eat a meal or snack to ensure it doesn’t fall again.
In the case of severe hypoglycemia where the 15-15 rule proves ineffective… injectable glucagon could be introduced to the bloodstream. Glucagon kits are available. So, you can speak with your doctor on whether you should buy it and when to use it.
Hypoglycemia isn’t live-threatening but it can be if left for too long without treatment. The most reliable way to know if you are experiencing low blood sugar is to check your blood sugar level. You can treat hypoglycemia if you are noticing symptoms but unable to check due to one reason or the other.
If you are in crisis or think you may have an emergency, call your doctor, go to the emergency room, or call 911 immediately. If you’re having suicidal thoughts, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to talk to a trained counselor.