Beaufort News

Professional Opinion: Feeling sluggish or 'hangry'? It could be low-blood sugar

Holly Mlodzinski is a registered dietitian and the health promotions coordinator at Hilton Head Hospital.
Holly Mlodzinski is a registered dietitian and the health promotions coordinator at Hilton Head Hospital. Submitted photo

This week, Holly Mlodzinski, a registered dietitian and health promotions coordinator with Hilton Head Hospital, talks about the sluggish feeling we sometimes get in the mornings or afternoons. Could it be low blood sugar?

Question. I sometimes feel a little fatigued in the mornings or 'hangry' (hungry and angry) in the afternoons. I have a friend who says this could be related to low blood sugar. What does that mean exactly and what can I do to prevent it?

Answer. Low blood sugar or hypoglycemia is a condition characterized by an abnormally low blood sugar or glucose which is your body's main source of energy.

Similar to the way a car needs gas to run, your body and brain need a constant supply of glucose to function properly.

During digestion, your body breaks down carbohydrates from foods such as pasta, rice, bread and fruit into sugar molecules. One of these molecules is glucose.

Non-diabetic hypoglycemia can happen for several reasons including diet, medications, certain medical conditions and exercise. If your glucose levels become too low, it can cause several signs and symptoms.

Those are:

- Hunger

- Fatigue

- Shakiness

- Irritability

- Anxiety

- Sweating

- Heart palpitations

In certain cases, hypoglycemia can worsen and cause confusion, abnormal behavior, blurred vision, seizures and loss of consciousness.

Sometimes hypoglycemia occurs after meals because the body produces more insulin than is needed. If your glucose drops after a meal that includes a lot of sugar, you need to change your diet.

Avoid sugary foods and eat small frequent meals during the day. Do not skip meals. Eat every 3 to 4 hours. Have small snacks between meals including protein and complex carbohydrates.

If you need to treat a low blood sugar condition quickly because of worsened symptoms, eat or drink 15 grams of fast-acting carbohydrates. Fifteen grams of carbohydrate is equal to 4 ounces of juice, 1 cup of skim milk, or 4 to 6 pieces of hard candy.

Your blood sugar should return to normal after 15 minutes. It is important to follow up with a healthy snack including protein and complex carbohydrates. Peanut butter crackers, cheese and crackers, and apple with peanut butter are examples of snacks with carbohydrates and protein.

If you get hypoglycemia, write down when it happened and what you did. Timing of meals and a healthy meal plan are important. Check out www.eatright.org for more information on meal planning.

If your symptoms progress past the point of being fatigued in the morning and afternoon, talk to your doctor.

Follow reporter Mindy Lucas at twitter.com/MindyatIPBG.

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