Maintaining healthy blood sugar levels with diabetes can be tricky. When levels fall too low (hypoglycemia), it’s all too easy to overcorrect and end up with high blood sugar (hyperglycemia).
In most cases, patients can treat their hypoglycemia themselves. The goal is to get sugars back in the bloodstream to bring blood sugar levels within a healthy range. This usually involves eating or drinking something with simple or fast-acting carbs.
But this does not mean quickly ingesting as many carbs as you can. “[Patients] tend to correct with a lot of sugar very quickly. Candy bars [and] big meals should be avoided,” says Ana Kausel, MD, endocrinologist in New York City. “That will always lead to spiking in the blood sugars after.”
The American Diabetes Association recommends the “15-15 Rule.” That means consuming 15 grams of carbohydrates, and then checking your blood sugar levels after 15 minutes. Repeat until your blood sugar levels return to a healthy level, or above 70 mg/dL. (FYI, a standard sized Snickers bar has a full 35 grams of carbs, which could boost blood sugar levels too much.)
As soon as you notice symptoms of hypoglycemia or see that your blood sugar levels are below 70 mg/dL, here are the foods and drinks Dr. Kausel recommends when blood sugar falls too low:
4 ounces of orange juice (1/2 cup)
3 glucose tablets
3-4 pieces of hard candy
Maintaining healthy blood sugar levels can help prevent hypoglycemia complications, which can be a medical emergency. “It's very important to have a balance between your medications and your food to make sure your sugar is, as much as possible, within a normal range,” says Dr. Kausel.