Hypoglycemia Introduction

Hypoglycemia is a condition caused by an abnormally low level of blood sugar. Glucose is broken down from the digestion of carbohydrates and is the main energy source of the body. Glucose is absorbed into the bloodstream but can’t enter the cells of the body without the assistance of insulin. If the pancreas, an organ located behind the stomach that manufactures insulin, is working improperly and is not releasing adequate amounts of insulin, hypoglycemia can result. Hypoglycemia affects about one out of every 1,000 people in the U.S., many of whom have diabetes. [1] However, other conditions may cause low blood sugar levels. Among the contributing factors of hypoglycemia in people without diabetes are; medications, alcohol, certain cancers, critical illnesses, hormonal deficiencies and hormonal disorders that result in the overproduction of insulin.

Hypoglycemia is divided into two main categories: reactive hypoglycemia and fasting hypoglycemia.

  • Reactive hypoglycemia is the development of symptoms about 3-5 hours after a meal, or can occur from an overdose in medications such as insulin.
  • Fasting hypoglycemia is usually due to missing meals or more serious conditions such as various cancers, liver damage, and pancreatic tumors that change insulin secretion.

Symptoms of low blood sugar can be early signs of diabetes (high blood sugar). The standard American diet that is high in simple carbohydrates, processed foods , and sugar-laden snacks is often the main culprit in the development of hypoglycemia. Sudden increases in blood sugar levels cause rapid changes in brain chemistry, which may also result in the signs and symptoms of the condition.

Hypoglycemia Signs & Symptoms

Because glucose is the main fuel for the brain, many of the signs and symptoms associated with hypoglycemia are related to brain chemistry. Symptoms can vary from mild to severe, and are constantly changing. The most common symptoms are fatigue, dizziness (especially with sudden changes in position), headache, irritability, cravings for sweets, depression, anxiety, excessive sweating, and development of bizarre behaviors. The onset and severity of the symptoms can be related to the timing and type of foods that were last eaten.

Testing for hypoglycemia involves checking normal fasting blood glucose levels. A normal fasting glucose is between 70-110 mg/dl, with levels above this being indicative of diabetes. [2] Levels below 50 mg/dl are considered hypoglycemic. Another test that is superior to a general fasting blood glucose is the oral glucose tolerance test, or GTT. [3] This test involves the consumption of a sugar drink that allows the physician to monitor the change in glucose over a five-hour period.

Conventional Hypoglycemia Treatment

Hypoglycemia is not usually considered a valid diagnosis in many conventional medical circles until it has become a pre-diabetic situation. Lifestyle, diet and exercise may be discussed when treating a patient dealing with hypoglycemia.

Alternative Treatment

Lifestyle modification is very important in preventing hypoglycemia. Diet changes that include eating more complex carbohydrates rather than simple carbohydrates and simple sugars is the most important factor in dealing with hypoglycemia. Increasing fiber is also essential to help regulate the absorption of sugars.[4]

Supplements for Hypoglycemia treatment


Chromium is an essential mineral that acts by increasing the sensitivity of insulin receptors and regulates blood glucose levels. For years it has been understood that chromium is necessary to help move insulin into the cells so that the body may utilize it for its normal functioning. Since insulin facilitates the brain’s ability to control satiety, it helps to deal with overeating and cravings for simple carbohydrates. It helps to regulate sugar cravings and is very effective for diabetics and people dealing with hypoglycemia.[5] The dose is often 200-300 micrograms three times a day. A chromium deficiency may be an underlying contributing factor in the development of diabetes and obesity.[6] Chromium has also been found to help regulate blood cholesterol levels.


Biotin helps with glucose utilization and helps to reduce sugar cravings. Using 1,000 micrograms three times a day is the standard dose.[7]

B complex vitamins

B complex vitamins improve carbohydrate metabolism and can help with withdrawal symptoms associated with sugar cravings. Niacin (vitamin B3) helps chromium lower blood glucose.[8] Extra vitamin B3 (niacinamide) can help with the anxiety and depression associated with hypoglycemia and stress. It helps to protect pancreatic cells and the insulin response noted with hypoglycemia because of its ability to act as a free radical scavenger, reducing the complications from damage to the DNA of the cells.[9] Thiamin (vitamin B1) is also very useful since it has an important role in regulating glucose metabolism and pancreatic functioning. Recent studies have shown that lower levels in the blood can contribute to the development of diabetes.[10]


Magnesium helps with the breakdown of glucose in the body and helps to prevent the development of diabetes.[11] The American Diabetes Association has now recommended that those at risk for type two diabetes should receive magnesium supplementation since they are often at deficiency levels before diagnosis.[12]


Zinc deficiency is common in individuals who have poor blood glucose regulation. It helps to regulate insulin production by the pancreas and glucose use by the muscles.[13] In a recent study it was shown to reduce the onset of diabetes by 60% in animals that were genetically susceptible to developing the disease. It helped to lower serum glucose and triglyceride levels as well.


Garlic has many uses in natural medicine and is considered and important supplement in the treatment of many conditions ranging from cardiovascular disease and the prevention of cancer. It helps to lower serum lipid levels and has an anti-microbial effect on bacteria and yeast. Concentrated extracts have been shown to have a mild hypoglycemia effect, lowering fasting and post-prandial (after meals) hyperglycemia.[14]


Glutathione is found in two main antioxidants found in the body and is important in the removal of toxins such as pollutants and chemicals from the body. It helps in reducing free radical damage and plays a role in preventing oxidative stress in conditions such as hypoglycemia. One study showed that when the body is experiencing hypoglycemia, the ability to protect the DNA of the cell is dramatically reduced. The energy deprivation during hypoglycemia results in higher levels of free radicals that then trigger DNA damage.[15]


1. Brindley DN. Introduction: Perspective on molecular mechanisms of insulin action. Canadian Journal of Diabetes Care. 1998; 22(3s): 31.

2. US Preventative Services Task Force, Guidelines from Guide to Clinical Preventative Services: Third Edition (2000-2003).

3. SA Chalew et al. Diagnosis of Reactive Hypoglycemia: Pitfalls in the Use of the Oral Glucose Tolerance Test, Southern Medical J 79 (1986): 285-7.

4. Egede L, Zheng D, Ye Xiaobou, et al. The prevalence and pattern of complementary and alternative medicine use in individuals with diabetes. Diabetes Care 2002; 25: 324-9.

5. Sun Y, Ramirez J, Woski SA, Vincent JB. The binding of trivalent chromium to low molecular weight chromium sub unit (LMWCr) and the transfer of chromium to transferring and chromium picolinate to LMWCr. J Biol Inorg Chem 2000; 5(1): 129-36.

6. Anderson RA, Polansky MM, Bryden NA et al. Effects of supplemental chromium on patients with symptoms of reactive hypoglycemia. Metabolism 36 (1987): 351-8.

7. Maebashi M, et al. Therapeutic evaluation of the effect of biotin on hyperglycemia in patients with non insulin dependant diabetes mellitus. J Clin Biochem Nutr 1993; 14: 211-8.

8. Elam MB, Hunninghake DB, Davis K, et al. Effects of niacin on lipid and lipoprotein levels and glycemic control in patients with diabetes and peripheral arterial disease: The ADMIT Study: A randomized trial. JAMA 2000; 284(10): 1263-70.

9. Knip M, Doek IF, Moore WPT, et al. Safety of high dose nictinamide: a review. Diabetalogia 2000; 43: 1337-45. 10. Valerio G. Lipophilic thiamine treatment in long-standing insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. Acta Diabetol 1999; 36 (1-2): 73-6.

11. Lal J, Vasudev K, Kela AK, Jain SK. Effect of oral magnesium supplementation on the lipid profile and blood glucose of patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. J Assoc Physicians India. Jan 2003; 51: 37-42.

12. Kas WH, Folson AR, Nieto FJ, et al. Serum and dietary magnesium and the risk for type 2 diabetes: The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study. Intern Med 1999; 159: 2151-9.

13. Tobia MH. The role of dietary zinc in modifying the onset and severity of spontaneous diabetes in the BB Wistar rat. Mol Genet Metab. Mar 1998; 63 (3): 205-13.

14. Day C, Bailey CJ. Traditional use of Allium cepa in the treatment of diabetes mellitus (abstract). Diabetic Medicine 1986: 3: 361a.

15. Singh P, Jain A, Kaur G. Impact of hypoglycemia and diabetes on CNS: correlation of mitochondrial oxidative stress with DNA damage. Mol Chem Biochem 2004; 260 (1-2): 153-9.


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