Hypoglycemia refers to an excessive reduction in blood glucose, which should be between 70 and 99mg / dl when fasting.
Blood sugar naturally rises after meals and is lowered with fasting or prolonged motor activity. However, the healthy body is able to counteract both the surge and the collapse of blood glucose, ensuring the restoration of normalcy quickly.
The circulating sugars serve to feed the cells of the whole body, which is why their defect can cause the malfunction of various tissues. The most serious decompensation is constituted by the suffering of the brain.
Symptoms of hypoglycemia are: hunger, nausea, groans and stomach cramps, blurred vision, tingling, headache, paleness, hypotension, mood disturbances, fatigue, drowsiness, confusion, movement disorders, etc. In very severe cases, usually related to other diseases or severe fasting, fainting, convulsions, transient paralysis and death also arise.
Sensitivity to hypoglycemia is highly subjective, and not all people complain of the same symptoms or the same level of severity.
The causes of hypoglycemia are many and range from simple individual tendencies to real diseases (functional malabsorption, anorexia nervosa, renal failure, etc.) or pharmacological errors (eg excess of exogenous insulin).
In the absence of disease, hypoglycemia can be caused by one or more of the following factors:
- Fasting: within certain limits, fasting is effectively counteracted by the homeostatic regulation of certain hormones. However, this effect can be harmful if:
- Fasting is prolonged
- Liver glycogen stores (glucose reserve) are already compromised
- Motor activity is also practiced.
- Sports activity beyond the body's tolerance limits: this is the case of marathons, long cycling stages, triathlon etc.
- Hypoglucidic diet: there are various dietary regimes that are based on the drastic reduction of carbohydrates. If adopted for long periods, these predispose the body to the onset of hypoglycemia due to the depletion of glycogen stores.
- Reactive hypoglycemia: this is a lowering of blood glucose caused by a meal that excessively stresses the release of insulin. This happens if the glycemic / insulin index is too high compared to the total amount of sugar. In practical terms, in predisposed subjects, reactive hypoglycemia can occur if the meal is:
- Rich in carbohydrates
- Very digestible
- Easy to absorb
- Free from metabolic conversions.
- Food intolerance to fructose and galactosemia: obviously, ONLY in the absence of other sugars in the diet.
Foods Against Hypoglycemia
From a nutritional point of view, the molecules capable of promoting the increase in blood sugar are mainly those of a carbohydrate nature; Also referred to as sugars or glycides or carbohydrates, these molecules are part of foods in various forms or chemical structures.
The only sugar that can be absorbed and released into the blood directly is free glucose, while the others require digestion and / or metabolic conversion:
- Glycides to digest: Sucrose (table sugar), Starch (cereals, potatoes, legumes), Dextrins (they are a part of Starch), Maltose (produced by the almost elementary breakdown of starch), Lactose (contained in milk)
- Glycides to be converted into glucose: Fructose (fruit sugar) and Galactose (a molecule contained in the lactose of milk).
The products that contain the most carbohydrates belong to the III, IV, VI and VII basic food groups. However, remember that even milk, despite belonging to group II, contains a good dose of carbohydrates.
To combat hypoglycemia, if the diet is not rich enough in carbohydrates, the body is able to:
- Break down the reserve glycogen in the liver (glycogenolysis) and release it into the blood
- Produce glucose from scratch starting from: amino acids (of proteins), glycerol (which structures glycerides), lactic acid and pyruvic acid (products of anaerobic glycolysis)
- Promote the consumption of other energy molecules, depending on the specific capabilities of the tissue (ketone bodies and fatty acids).
However, even these "fallback" mechanisms have a limit, which is why dietary carbohydrates are defined as "fundamental, albeit not essential".
Rules Against Hypoglycemia
Scientific research maintains that a sedentary person should consume at least 120g of carbohydrates per day; this value corresponds to the minimum glucose requirement of the central nervous system.
However, in practice, the demand for carbohydrates varies according to subjectivity and the level of physical activity.
Diet to Prevent Hypoglycemia
Below we will summarize the basic rules for the prevention of hypoglycemia (assuming the absence of diseases):
- Share the total calories respecting the criteria of the Mediterranean diet:
- 55-65% carbohydrates (≤ 16% simple)
- 25-30% lipids
- 10-15% protein.
|CARBOHYDRATES IN FOODS AND CONTEXTUALIZATION IN THE MEAL|
|Breakfast||Breakfast Cereals, Bread or Other Derivatives (Rusks, Dry Biscuits, etc.)|
|Snacks||Bread or other derivatives (Rice cakes, Wasa bread, etc.)|
|Lunch and dinner||Pasta, Polenta, Whole Cereals (Rice, Barley, Spelled, etc.), Legumes (Beans, Chickpeas, Lentils, etc.), Potatoes, Bread and Other Derivatives (occasionally, Crackers and Breadsticks without salt and hydrogenated fats)|
|≤ 16% SIMPLE SUGARS||Breakfast||Honey, Jams with few added sugars, Milk|
|Snacks||Sugary fruit (Apples, Pears, Oranges, Kiwis etc.)|
|Lunch and dinner||Vegetables (Tomatoes, Zucchini, Pumpkin, Onion, Carrots, etc.), Sugary fruit in moderation.|
|Note: despite the tendency to hypoglycemia, the frequent use of junk foods rich in added sugars, such as: sweet drinks, candies, sweet snacks, etc. is not recommended.|
- Eat at least 5 meals a day, avoiding spending more than 3 hours between one and the other: the most correct caloric distribution of meals includes:
- 15% of the energy at breakfast
- 5-10% in the two snacks (mid-morning and afternoon)
- 30-45% for lunch and dinner.
- Abolish alcohol, especially on an empty stomach
- At each meal, consume a food source containing at least a small portion of carbohydrates.
- Reduce the glycemic index of the meal by choosing foods with the following characteristics:
- Containing fructose or lactose rather than glucose or maltose
- Rich in fiber and water
- Also containing proteins and / or lipids.
- Practicing regular physical exercise (in the presence of a correct diet): sports activity promotes optimal glycemic maintenance. In fact, despite the increase in caloric expenditure, sports practice favors the release of hyperglycemic hormones such as catecholamines and somatotropin (GH).
What to do in case of a Hypoglycemic Crisis
- If symptoms of hypoglycemia appear, it is advisable to take the following action:
- Sit comfortably, preferably in a reclined chair
- Consume about 15g of simple carbohydrates, which can be found in the following foods:
- 3 sugar cubes: NOT less; the risk would be to worsen the hypoglycemia due to the already mentioned reactive hypoglycemia. Absolutely avoid glucose syrup!
- 200-250ml of milk (preferably partially skimmed or skimmed)
- 200ml of fruit juice or orange juice
- 1 large spoonful of honey or maple or agave syrup
- 6-8 fruit candies
- 1 slice of toast (NOT stale).
- After 15 ', if the symptoms do not disappear completely, consume another 15g of carbohydrates.