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Research Paper about Hypoglycemia

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Hypoglycemia is a condition characterized by an abnormally low level of blood sugar (glucose) in the body. It is most commonly associated with diabetes, however there are a small amount of conditions in which hypoglycemics have never experienced any form of diabetes. Basically, hypoglycemia is the body’s inability to properly handle the large amounts of sugar that are usually present in the typical North American diet. Non diabetic hypoglycemia is characterized typically by the over production of insulin by the pancreas, which causes blood sugar levels to drop to an unhealthy level.

There is no one specific cause of hypoglycemia, but there are several underlying factors that can contribute to its occurrence, if not cause it. Some external factors that may play a role in causing or enhancing ones chances of getting hypoglycemia are: certain medications, mistaken use of someone else’s diabetes medication, and heavy alcohol use. There are also uncontrollable causes such as: endocrine deficiencies (not producing correct hormone levels for the body), some critical illnesses (such as anorexia nervosa, hepatitis or severe illnesses of the liver), beta cell tumors, and hyperinsulinemia (the bodies overproduction of insulin).

Hyperinsulinemia occurs when the pancreas produces and releases too much insulin into the blood and, in turn, the liver is unable to release glucose into the bloodstream, resulting in a low level of blood sugar.

The brain needs a steady supply of glucose in order to properly function, and so hypoglycemia may effect your brain and, in turn, display some of the following symptoms: confusion, abnormal behavior, visual disturbances (double or blurred vision), or seizures and/ or loss of conscienceness (both of which are more uncommon). Other mental symptoms could include sleepiness or anxiousness. Some physical symptoms that may appear are: shakiness, perspiration, difficulty speaking, lightheadedness and hunger. Often hypoglycemics will experience dizziness and lightheadedness close to four hours after their last meal, and will have the urge to eat something sweet or high in sugar. They often feel faint if they don’t eat something right away, and so it’s very important to always have a small fix of food with you at all times.

Once diagnosed with hypoglycemia, the patient will meet with their doctor to discuss possible causes of the condition in their life, as it is different for everyone. Two basis approaches for treatment are the urgent initial treatment of raising your blood sugar level, and then working with both your doctor and dietician to find out the underlying cause and, in turn, treat that specifically. Hypoglycemia patients will often be sent to a dietician to work out specific diet changes that will need to take place in order for them to treat or overcome their low blood sugar. A lifestyle change will be recommended, and a person specific diet will have to be followed to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.

Most dieticians will recommend that the patient do the following: 1.) Keep a daily account of everything you eat and when, 2.) Start to eliminate things like sugar, alcohol, caffeine, tobacco and white flour, 3.) Eat six small meals a day, with snacks in between, 4.) Keep a snack with you at all times, at home, in the office or car, 5.) Eat small amounts of fruit, and 6.) Be aware of hidden sugars and caffeine. It is also suggested that the patient avoid the following: 1.) Panicking over foods that need to be eliminated, 2.) Being forgetful about meals and/ or snacks, 3.) Skipping breakfast, and 3.) Being obsessive about dieting. These are simply basic suggestions to do, and not to do when you are living with hypoglycemia. Like was mentioned earlier, each person will have a different case, and different reactions to food. It is important to find out what your body can handle and what it can’t in order to successfully keep your blood sugar at a healthy level.

In order to help prevent hypoglycemia it is important to eat regular meals and snacks. Eating breakfast is a very healthy habit to get into. It is also important to consider having a snack before doing any sort of physical activity that will require a large amount of your energy. Drinking, especially on an empty stomach, can cause hypoglycemia very quickly, so if you are drinking always make sure to have a meal or snack before or during to prevent rapid blood sugar deficiencies. Hypoglycemia itself is not a hereditary condition, however there are several hereditary conditions such enzyme or hormone deficiencies that can be passed on through generations and lead to the development of hypoglycemia. The first and most important thing to do if you are hypoglycemic, or you think that you may be, is educate yourself about the condition. With the knowledge you gain, you will be better able to talk to your doctor about it, and also make wise decisions when it comes to your lifestyle and dieting habits. Hypoglycemia is a treatable disorder, it is just important that the patient be willing to submit to the limitations of diet and lifestyle that will come as a result of maintaining a healthy blood sugar level.


Murray, Michael T. Diabetes and Hypoglycemia. (New York, NY, Prima Lifestyles Inc,. 1994)

“Hypoglycemia.” 2004. [document on-line]; available from http://www.hypoglycemia.org Internet; accessed January 15th, 2006

Chow, Cheryl. Hypoglycemia for Dummies. (Grand Rapids, MI. John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2003)

Ruggiero, Roberta. The Do’s and Don’ts of Hypoglycemia. (Frederick Fell Publishers Inc., Florida. 2002.) Pg. 5 – 27

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