Updated: Aug 14, 2019
We are told from the moment that we’re diagnosed with diabetes that sugar is the best treatment for a hypo, and this is undeniably correct. Sugar after all raises our blood sugars the quickest, removing us from a potentially dangerous situation.
Many diabetics will and should have a stash of fast acting glucose or ’treats’ wherever they are; whether it be in the car, bed, work or gym.
When you’re having a full blown hypo - this is of paramount importance.
But there’s a problem here.
If you experience hypoglycemia often then there’s something wrong with how your diabetes is being managed. There can be a number of causes, from too much insulin, exercise, or alcohol. But if it‘s dropping so sharply and rapidly that you require a fast acting sugar then something needs fixing.
Sugar will pick your blood sugars back up for sure, but so will a host of other foods that are a great deal better for you. My personal choice of hypo avoidance foods are nuts. They increase my blood sugars by a tiny margin (depending on the amount and nut). Enough to keep me out of trouble but not enough to send me on a rollercoster ride of highs and lows.
The main factor to consider here is the word avoidance NOT treatment.
Treatment = sugar
Avoidance = slower acting healthy foods
Overall desired outcome = avoid treatment altogether.
So how else do we avoid a hypo?
The number 1 rule of hypo avoidance is to minimise foods which require industrial amounts of insulin. Thankfully for us, these foods are mostly terrible for us as well. I.e. bread, pasta, pizza, cereal, and any food made from potatoes (chips, fries). So, by avoiding refined, processed and high carb foods you‘ll require less insulin and greatly reduce the risk of going low.
Becoming a professional at managing diabetes is not easy. You’ll have to test, test and test again on yourself before you have it mastered. Researching all things diabetes is recommended as well, on top of becoming an unregistered dietician (you can get registered if you want).
But when you start to avoid hypos all together and are still in a strict target range, you’re becoming a veritable monk of diabetes, and your quality of life will increase. To do this, you’ll need to know every trick in the book, as well as stay disciplined and motivated in your pursuit of perfection.
Avoiding hypos is part of it all and it’s a really important part.
Of course, there are times when a bag of nuts isn’t the best option; like if you’re running a 10km race for example. We get it, have some glucose tablets on you to nibble on if needed. But as a general rule, choosing healthy options is both more healthy and you have less risk of rollercoaster blood sugars.
There‘s no such thing as a free food
You’re likely to have heard this many times before, and it’s very true that nothing you consume will have zero effect on your blood sugars. So bear that in mind next time you open your fridge and head for the cake because your blood sugar is going a bit low. The slice of cheese or chicken wing next to the cake is a better choice.
Why else would we avoid sugar?
Picture this; you’re sat in a meeting, presentation, lecture or at your desk writing an email. You’re feeling a bit sluggish and your mind is wandering; you’re almost confused.
You notice you’re nearing a low, almost a hypo, so your instinct is to grab sweets, biscuits or chocolate (they’re always at easy reach in an office). Once eaten, they spike your blood sugars, relieving the initial low feeling but you’re now going too high. Panic sets in and you’re forced to excuse yourself and inject insulin.
Moral of the story?
Sugar is not your friend. Simply by having some slower acting healthy food options you can continue your day without the hindrance of a rollercoaster, and avoid disruption to your life.
Believe the hypo