Posts Tagged ‘low blood sugar’

A couple of weeks ago, I went to brunch with a friend. We met around 10 am and I had a couple of breakfast tacos and some amazing french press coffee. I didn’t overeat, but was full.

I was meeting my boyfriend at his house for dinner and he eats early (5:30 ish).  I wasn’t feeling hungry that afternoon, so all I at was a 100 calorie Greek yogurt.

At around 4:30 pm it hit me, a full-blown low blood sugar hypoglycemic attack. I didn’t know what was going at first until I realized I was getting very irritated with him on the phone for no reason, was light-headed and talking very fast.

So I ate something. But, since we were eating soon, I didn’t want to eat much. The problem was, I’d hit that point where I needed to eat and I had that “bottomless pit” hunger that I sometimes get when I get low. So I kept going back for more food, then more, instead of just eating something substantial the first time.

It took me a while to come out of it and I couldn’t drive to my boyfriend’s house for quite some time (since it’s basically the equivalent of driving drunk).

Mistakes (and lessons to learn):

  • Not eating a decent lunch, especially after having such massive doses of caffeine
  • When I did eat, not eating something substantial
  • Worrying more about staying skinny/being able to eat with my boyfriend vs. taking care of my health (which actually resulted in me downing probably 700 calories)


  • It was pretty scary. I felt horrible and felt a complete loss of control. I never want to feel like that again.
  • I felt terrible, like I’d been very sick
  • Didn’t get to spend as much time with my boyfriend
  • Gained 3 lbs from serious overeating

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Even if you know an event you are going will have food, as a hypoglycemic, you still need to carry food on you for a couple of reasons:

  • You know the food with you meets your calorie/protein/carb needs.
  • There might be long lines, they may shut the food down, etc. You need to be prepared.
  • You should never go anywhere without food!
  • It’s cheaper. Eating every 3 hours can get pricey at a festival!

The process

Normally, if I’m going somewhere where I think they will not allow me to carry food in, I contact the venue/event managers a few days in advance to explain that I’m hypoglycemic and ask what I need to do. In most cases, they are absolutely great about it. They allow me to carry a small amount of food into concerts, football games, etc. by showing my medical alert necklace or bracelet to the person searching my bag.  I should mention that even the Secret Service, when I’ve been near two different U.S. Presidents, have allowed me to have food with me.

I’ve only had one concert venue give me grief and they give me grief EVERY SINGLE TIME. They always make me “check” (think coat check) my food at the emergency station. This is stupid because it’s tucked-away in a corner and hard to get to. Every time, they make me walk there with a security guard and hand my food over to the EMT’s. What they don’t know though, is once the security guard leaves, the EMT’s vent about how ridiculous it is, have me say “I need my food” and hand it right back to me before I walk back out and join my friends.

The biggest thing, I think is to be up-front and respectful and people usually accommodate. BUT, make sure you have your medical alert with you as proof.

What I carry

I usually carry pre-packaged foods so it’s less of a security issue. I carry protein bars (mindful of not carrying one that melts), nuts and dried fruit. I try to take at least two full snacks with me and plenty of money for food. You can see my usual set-up below with a small wristlet. If I can carry something bigger, I do, with an additional snack.

If I'm only allowed to carry a wristlet with me, I have in it plenty of money for food, a Clif bar, and dried fruit and nuts. My cell phone with credit card also fits.

If I’m only allowed to carry a wristlet with me, I have in it plenty of money for food, a Clif bar, and dried fruit and nuts. My cell phone with credit card also fits.

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A couple of weeks ago, I was scanning the news and noticed the below article. I’m not sure what made me click on it, but I’m glad I did, because it reminded me of something that I’ve forgotten to address up until now.

Driving with low blood sugar is similar to driving drunk. Don’t do it! if your blood sugar is low, eat (always) and then either stay where you are or wait until your sugar level comes back up, but don’t get behind the wheel when your blood sugar is low. You are not only putting your life at risk, but many others that you could potentially harm.

Driver who hit Tennessee house, gas station had 5 wrecks in past year

“Ward told police he’d felt dizzy then blacked out. He also told police he is hypoglycemic and is on medication for stress.”


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a woman sleeping

From flickr: cvx_2k

Whenever I explain to someone that I’m hypoglycemic (usually apologetically while I pull out food to eat in the front of them) and what that means (eating every three hours), the number one question I get is, “Do you have to get up in the middle of the night too?”

The answer is, sometimes. It used to be 50% of the time, but I’ve gotten it down to about 20% of the time. Yes, it’s not fun.

What causes it

Usually, it means I ate poorly or decided lots of alcohol sounded like a good plan (you’d think I’d learn by now, but sometimes I’m FANTASTIC at forgetting). Those two factors, or really bad, the combination of both, mean I’m going to have a low blood sugar attack. But, sometimes it just happens.

How do I know when I need to get up?

My body wakes me up. It’s not a hungry feeling I get; it’s a feeling of panic. I feel scared, disoriented, and jumpy. Again, it’s not fun.

What do I eat when I get up?

My first choice is one cup of milk. Milk has the perfect combination of carbohydrates (about 12 g) and protein (7 g) needed for a snack. And, 1% milk is about 100 calories, so it’s not going to break you calorie-wise.

In the rare cases where I’m also hungry and a glass of milk isn’t enough, I usually grab a protein bar.

Taking care of your teeth when you get up in the middle of the night

In the movie Panic Room, Sarah Altman, who is diabetic, has a refrigerator as her bedside table. I don’t recommend this because it encourages you to eat and go right back to bed. You MUST take care of your teeth, so while you are up eating, brush your teeth. Unless, of course, you like a lot of cavities.

Side effect

Obviously, I’m pretty tired the next day, but I’ve also noticed that, for some reason, if I have an attack in the middle of the night, I’m FAMISHED the next day and can’t seem to get full no matter what I eat. Seriously, it’s like I traded appetites with a teenage boy.

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There have been a few times when the issue of low blood sugar has graced the big screen.

Movie: Live Free or Die Hard (Die Hard 4.0)
Character: Matthew Farrell

Justin Long as Matthew Farrell

Justin Long as Matthew Farrell

In the movie Live Free or Die Hard, Matthew Farrell plays a computer hacker who assists Bruce Willis’ character in taking down a group of hackers trying to steal the wealth of the United States. At least twice, Matthew Farrell asks Bruce Willis if they can stop to get something to eat because his blood sugar is dropping.

Sadly, Matthew is portrayed as a “wimp” anyway and his blood sugar dropping is used as evidence towards his “wimpiness,” so his requests are ignored. This is a classic case of what NOT to do when someone mentions low blood sugar and they don’t really show the consequences of this (passing out).

Movie: Steel Magnolias

Character: Shelby Eatenton Latcherie


Movie: Kindergarten Cop
Character: Phoebe O’Hara

Phoebe O'Hara (Pamela Reed) in a red jacket on the left in Kindergarten Cop.

Phoebe O’Hara (Pamela Reed) in a red jacket on the left in Kindergarten Cop.

I couldn’t get the video to embed, but you can watch it here: http://www.metacafe.com/watch/an-oB7L7ntYhbJmm/kindergarten_cop_1990_the_assignment/

One of my favorite family movies, Kindergarten Cop, also shows a character with hypoglycemia. Police Detective Phoebe O’Hara plays the partner to Arnold Swarzenegger. He comments early on in the movie how he’s never seen such a tiny woman eat so much. She quips back that’s she’s hypoglycemic and, if she doesn’t eat often, she gets a little nutty.

This is probably the best representation of hypoglycemia in a movie because it does show the character Phoebe O’Hara having to eat often. Unfortunately, it’s not perfect either. Phoebe is shown eating mass quantities of foods that hypoglycemics shouldn’t eat including a heaping bowl of white pasta and blueberry pie.

I know there is more than this that show hypoglycemia and low blood sugar, but I can’t seem to find them. If you happen on a movie that talks about it, please let me know!  I’d love to add to this list!

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The word forget carved in a stone bench.

Photo from Flickr: Key Foster

When I tell people I’m hypoglycemic, one of the first questions they ask is how will they know if my blood sugar is low. One of my telltale signs is that I’m VERY forgetful. Seriously, I forgot to close my car door once when walking into a mall. HOW THE HELL DO YOU FORGET TO DO THAT???  Luckily, someone stopped me and pointed it out.

Memory loss is a symptom for most hypoglycemics, I jokingly call it my “hypo brain,” but it’s actually very serious. I forget people’s names that I darn well know, I forget to do things, I forget….well, I forget. And it’s not because I’m a natural blonde.

As with most things, scientific studies on the subject change all the time as researchers prove and then disprove their studies, but here’s what we know:

  • Hypoglycemia is low blood sugar (duh)
  • Low blood sugar can cause dementia or “forgetfulness”
  • The more often someone has an extreme hypoglycemic low blood sugar episode, the increased chances for dementia

Here’s where things get fuzzy:

  • I was told by a doctor when I was first diagnosed with hypoglycemia that a blood sugar below 30 will cause permanent brain damage. I’m not sure if this is still the rule or not.
  • There have been studies that have suggested that hypoglycemia, as well as diabetes high blood sugar episodes, can cause long-term brain damage and dementia.

Like I said, the last two points are still up in the air and I don’t have the time or access to research them fully, but the thought that low blood sugar levels MAY cause long-term dementia should be enough to scare you. If not that, think about what could happen to your house and family if you, for example, forget to turn a stove burner off in one of your hypoglycemic episodes.

So, take care of yourself, eat like and when you are supposed to, and don’t take the risk.

More research on the subject:

Dementia due to metabolic causes (U.S. Government website)

Types of dementia (Cleveland Clinic website)



Other valuable posts:

Outline of a Hypoglycemic Diet

Travel tips for hypoglycemics and healthy eaters

How I lost the weight (and keep it off)!

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