How to Treat Mild Hypos
This advice is not meant for people with Type 1 diabetes or for people with Type 2 who are using insulin and may be at risk of severe hypos--where blood sugar drops below 50 mg/dl (2.8 mmol/L). They should follow the instructions they get from their doctor or diabetes educator.
A mild hypo is one that sends your blood sugar no lower than 65 mg/dl (3.9 mmol/L). It is not life threatening, but it can be very unpleasant, especially if you have been running much higher blood sugars and have just started a new medication that lowers them.
People may experience this kind of hypo when they suddenly cut back on their carbs after eating a very high carb diet, when fasting, or if they are hypoglycemic, when rebound lows can occur a few hours after eating very high carb meals that force the body to produce too much insulin.
With a Mild Hypo, You May Feel Shaky, Nervous, and, Sometimes, Ravenously Hungry
If your blood sugar has been abnormally high for a long time you may feel the symptoms of a hypo at levels that are actually normal or even high. That is because it takes your body time to adjust when blood sugar levels descend.
The advice on this page is intended for people with Type 2 diabetes or hypoglycemia who would like to be able to correct mild hypoglycemia without causing a large blood sugar spike that puts them on a blood sugar roller coaster where they suffer alternating highs and lows.
Learn How Much Glucose Raises you 10 mg/dl (.5 mmol/l)
The amount of glucose that raises your blood sugar a given amount depends on your body weight. For a person who weighs 140 lbs, two grams of glucose will do it. The table below shows the amount of glucose you need to eat to raise your blood sugar ten mg/dl (.56 mmol/L)
Grams of Glucose Needed to Raise BG 10 mg/dl
Your Weight Grams of Glucose Needed
140 lb 2 gm
175 2.5 gm
210 lb 3 gm
245 lb 3.5 gm
280 lb 4 gm
315 lb 4.5 gm
How To Get Your Glucose
Two Grams of pure glucose can be found in five "Smarties" candy discs (of the type shown in the picture above. The candy sold under that name in the UK and Canada is not made with dextrose/glucose.) or one "Sweetart" hard candy wafer. Check the nutritional information on the wrapper when you buy these candies to make sure they haven't been changed. Sweetarts come in several varieties, now. You want the hard tangy ones in the small roll.
You can also buy glucose tablets at the drug store. However, the good thing about Smarties and Sweetarts is that you can buy them at gas stations and convenience stores in emergencies.
When your blood sugar meter shows that you are under your target blood sugar, take just enough glucose to raise you back to where you want to be plus another 10 mg/dl (.5 mmol/l) in case your meter is reading high.
For example, if your blood sugar meter shows that are at 75 mg/dl and want to be at least at 85 mg/dl, and you weigh 140 lbs, you would want to raise your blood sugar 10 mg/dl to target and another 10 mg/dl for a safety margin. This would require 4 grams of glucose (2 grams per each 10 mg/dl rise.).
If you were 280 lbs and your blood sugar meter measured your blood sugar at 70 mg/dl your target was 90, you'd want to raise your blood sugar 30 mg/dl (20 mg/dl to target and 10 for the safety margin.) This would require 12 grams of glucose (4 grams per each 10 mg/dl rise).
After You've Taken the Glucose
After you've taken the glucose, wait fifteen minutes and measure your blood sugar again. It should be where you wanted it to be unless your medication is dropping you even lower. If this is the case, take the amount of glucose you need to raise you back up further.
Why Not Just Eat Two Grams of Any Carbohydrate-Containing Food?
For treating hypos you should use pure glucose (also called dextrose on labels) because glucose is the only sugar that goes directly into your blood stream within minutes and does not require time-consuming digestion. Sucrose, lactose, fructose, or starch require enzymes to be digested. Pure glucose is already in the form that the body uses.
Also, if you eat your two grams of carbs in a food where they are bound up with proteins or fats the digestion time is also prolonged because the presence of fat and protein in the stomach delays the processing of carbs.
Drinking milk to raise blood sugar is a problem because the lactose in milk needs digestion. The problem with using orange juice, which is what most doctors recommend, is that there is so much sugar in orange juice, that unless you are severely hypo, you are likely to get far too much carbohydrate and end up with a nasty spike. When your blood sugar goes way up after it has gone low, you will find yourself ravenous and you may also end up more insulin resistant than usual, afterwards.
Eating food to raise your blood sugar has another serious negative side effect: weight gain. There are only 4 calories in a gram of glucose. So even if you take 12 grams, you are only going to get 48 calories. But if you start eating food to correct a low, you are likely to eat far more calories, and over time those calories add up.