Continuing from How to Fix Low Blood Sugars Without Going High (Part 1 of 2)…
“There’s no way that’s going to be enough,” said Nicole. She then gulped down the carefully measured glass of juice I had presented her with.
It was 2am, two years ago. My type-1 diabetic wife’s blood sugar had dropped in the middle of the night. I was so excited. I had been eagerly waiting for her to go low ever since I had read chapter 20 in Dr. Berstein’s Diabetes Solution. It outlines a precise protocol to correct low blood sugars. I couldn’t wait to test it out.
“According to the chart in Bernstein’s book,” I said, “for your body weight that should be enough sugar.”
Nicole’s blood sugar was 3.2 mmol/L (57 mg/dL). I had determined she needed 4g of sugar to get it back up to 4.2 mmol/L (76 mg/dL). Prior to this, she’d have drank an entire bottle of juice – not 1/3 a cup.
I set the timer for 45 minutes. We both went back to sleep (or at least I did). Before I knew it the alarm was dinging, the lancet was snapping and the glucometer was beeping. 3.9 mmol/L (70 mg/DL) Not bad for a first try.
Of course, back then, we were still using fruit juice. Organic grape juice to be precise. Which is why we didn’t hit the target blood sugar on the first try. Fructose (the main sugar found in most fruit juice) takes longer to raise the blood sugar level. The glucose component of the juice acts quickly, however.
We later switched to glucose tablets – disgusting but effective. One tablet contains 4g of glucose. We confirmed, though a little trial and error, that 4g of sugar raised Nicole’s blood glucose level between 0.9 and 1.2 mmol/L (16 and 22 mg/dL) To make life simple we rounded that up to 4g of glucose = 1 mmol/L (18 mg/dL) rise in the blood sugar.
From there we created a simple chart on the back of a business card that stated:
- 3.7-4.2 mmol/L = 1/2 tab
- 3.2-3.6 mmol/L = 1 tab
- 2.7-3.1 mmol/L = 1.5 tabs
- 2.2-2.6 mmol/L = 2 tabs
- 1.7-2.1 mmol/L = 2.5 tabs
- 1.2-1.6 mmol/L = 3 tabs
- 0.7-1.1 mmol/L = 3.5 tabs
- 0.2-1.6 mmol/L = 4 tabs
- 0.0-.01 mmol/L = 911
When Nicole’s blood sugar is 2.2 mmol/L it’s hard to perform reliable math. This chart fit in the glucometer pouch. It made it easy to determine how much tabs to take. Of course, don’t use this chart for yourself. You need to figure out exactly how much effect 4g of pure glucose has on your blood sugar. If your the same weight as Nicole (54kg or 120 lbs.) then it’s likely going to be similar.
Later, we switched to Glucolift tablets because they contained no chemical additives. They are also made from European corn that hasn’t been genetically modified. And they also taste good.
Of course, Glucolifts are still highly refined sugar (that’s why they work so fast). Refined sugar is said to pull minerals out of the body. So we prefer to use carrot juice when we can. Unlike fruit juice, carrot juice contains no fructose. 1 cup has 12g of glucose. So 1/3 cup contains as much glucose as one glucose tablet.
Whether we use the sugar pills or the juice bar, this method works very well to get her blood sugar back into the 4.2-5.2 mmol/L range. We never correct if she’s only slightly lower than 4.7 mmol/L because we find the glucometer isn’t always that accurate. If she is 4.3 mmol/L she’ll usually recheck her blood sugar in 45 minutes to make sure that insulin hasn’t pushed her down lower.
Of course, after taking some type of sugar, she’ll recheck her blood sugar in 45 minutes. In some rare instances (especially if the blood sugar was quite low) she’ll still need another round of sugar to get her back into normal range. But it’s pretty rare she ever requires a second shot.
It’s surprising how little sugar is needed to get back to normal. The challenge, of course, is that when your blood sugar is half what it should be, it feels like you need to paw honey out of the hive like Winnie the Pooh. Not only do you have to rely on logic and math to dictate your needs, you must also embrace patience. Until the sugar leaves the stomach it will have no effect on blood sugar. This can take anywhere from 10-45 minutes to take place. Consuming more sugar does not seem to speed the process up (and may even slow it down for type-1 diabetics with gastroparesis). The only thing I know that speeds up glucose tablets is warm water.
Since digestion is a parasympathetic process, the less one moves the arms and legs, the faster the sugar will get into the bloodstream. Nicole’s now pretty disciplined about laying down until her blood sugar recovers. Her digestion is hardly what you’d call fast and often needs the entire 45 minute period. I’ve heard of others who are back to their target blood sugar level in 5-10 minutes.
And, yes, occasionally, for unexplained reasons, she’ll overshoot a little. She might hit 5.2 or 5.5 mmol/L. The only reason I can think that this happens is because the initial reading on the glocumeter was inaccurate. Possibly, also the concentration of sugar in the tablet or juice was too high. Nonetheless, the system is precise enough that the margin for error is small and easy to correct. And it is certainly nicer than those days when her blood sugar would rebound to 8 or 10 mmol/L.
–John C. A. Manley
P.S. For more detailed instructions on how to correct low blood sugars check out chapter 20 of Dr. Berstein’s Diabetes Solution. Page 342 includes a chart showing how much sugar you would need based on your body weight (more weight, more blood, more sugar). Oh, and those GMO-free glucose tablets are available from Amazon.com.
P.P.S. And for more information on the strange dangers of low blood sugar check out: Man Almost Kills Girlfriend Over Low Blood Sugar. For more about using carrot juice to correct low blood sugars you can read: Orange Ice: 7 Problems With Using Carrot Juice to Treat Hypoglycemia.