Uncontrolled blood sugar is one of the most common health problems in the world. It can either be too low or too high.
Low blood sugar — or hypoglycemia — commonly affects people with type 1 diabetes. However, it can be experienced by almost anyone due to under-eating, over-exercising, or eating a low-nutrient diet.
Symptoms of hypoglycemia can include sudden hunger, brain fog, irritability, dizziness, and shakiness. And if hypoglycemia is severe enough, it can even cause someone to pass out.
Fortunately, there are many ways to bring blood sugar levels back up. One popular option includes glucose pills. Glucose can be quickly used up by the body, leading to a quick increase in blood sugar. But what is it that makes glucose pills so effective?
This guide from Sweetkick explains what glucose pills are and how they work. Plus, we review other ways to manage hypoglycemia symptoms if they should ever hit you.
What Is Glucose?
A type of sugar found in carbs, glucose is the body’s main source of energy. It works with insulin to break down food into energy and get it delivered to your cells.
Here’s a brief overview of this process:
When we eat glucose-containing foods (fruit, starchy vegetables, and sugary snacks), the digestive system breaks them down into glucose molecules. The glucose molecules then get carried into the bloodstream.
For the glucose to enter the cells and be used for energy, the hormone insulin has to be present — it acts like a lock-and-key, literally helping glucose enter the cells. The glucose that isn’t used immediately is stored in muscle tissue as glycogen or in the rest of the body as fat.
If blood glucose levels get too low — such as during a fast — a hormone called glucagon helps release stored glycogen. If this process becomes impaired, blood sugar levels can remain low, eventually leading to hypoglycemia.
What Is Hypoglycemia?
Hypoglycemia happens when the body can’t tap into stored glucose stores, requiring someone to get a steady supply of glucose from their diet.
Symptoms of hypoglycemia are our body’s unique reactions to having low blood sugar. These can vary depending on the person and may range from mild to severe.
Here are some common symptoms of hypoglycemia:
- Sudden hunger, which can also be intense
- Symptoms of anxiety (e.g., nervousness, shakiness, restlessness)
- Muscle weakness
- Heart palpitations
- Trouble sleeping
- Irritability/Mood swings
- Blurred vision
- Brain fog
- Seizures (rare)
- Coma (rare)
As blood sugar levels drop, adrenaline — the “fight-or-flight” hormone — gets released. It can cause symptoms that so closely mimic anxiety. If blood sugar levels drop, the brain may not get enough to function as it should. This may lead to brain fog, blurred vision, and extreme tiredness.
If blood sugar levels stay extremely low, this can starve the brain of glucose. While it is rare, some serious symptoms of hypoglycemia can include seizures, coma, and even death.
What Are Glucose Tablets?
When someone has hypoglycemia, they need to raise their blood glucose levels quickly — before it leads to something more serious. Glucose tablets don’t need to be broken down by the body, so they can be absorbed quickly by the cells.
Glucose tablets are essentially pure sugar with some flavor added to them. They’re easy to carry, so people prone to hypoglycemia can carry them at all times. Most glucose pills are available over the counter, so you don’t need a doctor’s prescription to get them.
How Do You Use Glucose Tablets?
Glucose pills should only be used by those with hypoglycemia who feel their blood sugar levels dropping.
Of course, tons of foods are great sources of glucose, but it takes the body a long time to break it down. So, if eating regular meals isn’t possible, people with hypoglycemia can quickly pop a glucose tablet to stabilize their blood sugar.
You should take a glucose pill if your blood sugar drops below 80 mg/dL. If it’s higher, then you can get away with getting your glucose from a whole food source, like a piece of fruit.
However, glucose tablets are the most reliable option if you need sugar ASAP. In addition to working quickly, glucose pills can give you just the right dose. Most tablets contain 15 grams of sugar, which is the amount that doctors recommend to their patients. When it comes to whole food sources, it’s a little harder to get this exact amount.
If you take glucose tablets, check your blood sugar again in 15 minutes. You can take another glucose tablet to raise it further if it's still low.
What Are Some Tips To Manage Hypoglycemia?
While glucose pills are definitely effective, there are ways to keep your blood sugar stable — so you don’t have to rely on them too much.
Here are some of our favorite tips for balancing low blood sugar.
1. Eat a Balanced Diet
To prevent dramatic drops in blood sugar, it’s important to eat consistent meals with snacks in between. But just as when you eat matters, so does the actual content of your diet.
Try to incorporate the following into most of your meals:
- High-quality protein: Grass-fed beef, pasture-raised poultry, wild fatty fish, and free-range eggs are awesome protein sources. Plus, they take a while to digest, keeping your blood sugar levels steady for hours.
- Complexcarbs: Carbs are the main source of glucose. But not all carbs are created equal. Refined carbs, like white bread, should be avoided. Instead, prioritize slow-digesting carbs like sweet potatoes, butternut squash, sprouted grains, and legumes.
- Healthyfats: Fat is incredibly satiating and may even play a role in balancing blood sugar levels. Avoid industrial seed oils (like canola) and go for healthy fats like coconut oil, grass-fed butter, and avocado.
If you feel your blood sugar dropping, slow-digesting food may not be your best bet. But unless your blood sugar is really low, you can increase it with a whole food source, such as a piece of fruit. This can raise your blood sugar and give you some extra nourishment, unlike a glucose pill.
2. Avoid Refined Sugar
Unless you’re having a blood sugar emergency, try to avoid refined sugar.
There are plenty of names that refined sugar goes by, making it important to check the ingredient label on food packages.
Avoiding refined sugar can help you prevent a huge blood sugar spike, which is often followed by a dramatic drop — a major cause of hypoglycemia.
If you struggle with curbing your sweet tooth, Sweetkick’s Sugar Reset can help you quit in as little as 14 days.
3. Rethink Skipping Meals
Going too long without food can make those with hypoglycemia feel weak and dizzy. So, it’s best to have regular meals with snacks for maintenance.
That said, intermittent fasting may be helpful for those with hypoglycemia. One study found that periodic fasting may help stabilize blood sugar levels — even in those with type 1 diabetes.
But, as always, talk with your doctor before starting any new diet regimen.
Time To Kick That Sugar Habit
Glucose tablets can be an effective way to manage low blood sugar, but it’s just as important to keep blood sugar levels stable throughout the day.
Cutting out refined sugar can help balance blood sugar, and Sweetkick can make that process easier.
If you have a serious sweet tooth, not to worry: Sweetkick is here with our 14-Day Sugar Reset, no glucose tablets needed. After just two weeks, your sugar habit will be behind you, replaced with a more balanced and nutritious diet.