We’ve all been in the position of having a bad low, where all you want to do is eat everything in sight. There’s no reasoning with yourself. It’s like a demon has hijacked your self-control!
It makes perfect sense–your body just wants to get your blood sugar back up to a safe level, and it’s doing its best to ensure that the low is corrected. But eating your weight in carbs is just going to result in a high blood sugar, and then you are dealing with the opposite problem. What’s a person with diabetes to do?
First of all, fix the low. Get your blood glucose level above 70 mg/dl (4 mmol/L). It’s best to use a dextrose-based treatment, like glucose tablets or gel, to get the BG up to a safe level. Using something high glycemic index is important when you are very low and need to quickly raise the blood glucose, especially if you have a lot of insulin on board.
Be careful to treat with the right amount of carb, as opposed to over-treating. If you weigh less than 60 lbs, a gram of carb will raise your BG about 6 points. If you weigh 100-160 lbs, a gram of carb should raise your BG about 4 points. If you weigh 160-220 lbs, a gram of carb might raise you 3 points. And give the carbohydrates 15-20 minutes to raise the BG. Do a follow-up fingerstick because there is a lag time with sensors, and the BG you get with a fingerstick will be a more accurate reflection of your response to your treatment. If you are still low, repeat the treatment.
I remember a low where I munched my way through the pantry, and I neglected to count my carbs as I was doing it. I had absolutely no idea how much to bolus for! Boy, did I learn my lesson. I never did that again – I’ve always made sure to carb count and take insulin to cover whatever I eat that’s in excess of what I needed to do to control the low blood glucose levels. Sometimes experience is the best teacher.
I was driving when I had the worst low I’ve ever had. Thank God I had glucose gel in the center console and glucose tablets on my key chain. I was sucking down the gel as I was pulling off the road. Ordinarily, I would have wanted to eat (and eat and eat) after that. But I had to sit in my car and wait for my BG to come up, so food wasn’t readily available. And do you know what? By the time I got home, the desire to eat had passed! I was very surprised, but it did. That was a good lesson for me, too.
If your blood glucose is rising and getting higher than you’d like after you’ve treated your low, you can choose to exercise and get yourself away from your tempting kitchen. Take a little walk to use up some of that food you ate for the low BG and avoid the need to take corrective insulin to bring it down again – vicious cycle, no?
Another strategy to avoid overeating after a low? Enlist the help of the people around you. Sometimes we all need a little support. Who knows, they might just be willing to sit with you while you wait for the low to come up or they may go on that walk with you.