Have you seen the video going viral on Facebook right now where four amazing women with type 1 diabetes talk about what low blood sugar feels like?
I love this video, and it inspired me to think about what a low blood sugar feels like for me and to put it into words in this post. I think this is particularly useful for friends and family who may not know or understand what it’s like.
Please watch the video and consider sharing this post with your loved ones if you feel that it helps explain how you feel when your blood sugar is low.
What low blood sugar feels like
Trying to explain a feeling is always hard, and trying to explain something as unique as the feeling of low blood sugar (or hypoglycemia) is even harder.
The physical aspects of a low are easier to describe, so let’s start with those. I almost always feel the signs of a low blood sugar before it becomes critical. I’ll feel it when my blood sugar is around 60 mg/dl (3 mmol/l). I’ll start shaking a little, my cognitive function goes out the window, I get weak, and I typically start sweating (these are the most common low blood sugar symptoms). A cup of juice or 2-3 glucose tabs will usually get me right back to normal pretty quickly and I’ll move on with my day.
But when I don’t catch my symptoms before they get severe, and my sugars dip lower, then that’s a whole other story. This rarely happens during the day, since I can catch them before they get this bad, but it will sometimes happen in my sleep. I’ll wake up in the middle of the night and know it’s bad if I’ve had a stress dream (things will move excessively fast in my dream or I’ll be caught in a loop of some sort), I’m sweating profusely, and shaking.
And then there’s the feeling! It an urge, an almost primal instinct to eat! I’ll stand in the kitchen, drenched, shaking, and all my instincts scream “FEED ME!!!”
It makes sense. At this point, my brain isn’t getting enough glucose to function as it should so the instincts take over in order for me not to, well, die.
It’s extremely uncomfortable, to put it mildly, and if you don’t have a plan in place, a strategy for what to do during lows, you will quickly have emptied the fridge, cabinets, and eaten anything you can get your hands on. The normal signals that tell you to stop eating are simply put on standby when your blood sugar is low.
I have written an entire post about how I treat lows at night and I always try to follow that strategy. And no, it doesn’t always work.
How to avoid low blood sugar
For some people, lows can be very scary, but I’ve never passed out from a low or had a seizure, so lows don’t scare me as such. But I will still do everything I can to avoid them!
I rarely have lows, and I think there are several reasons for that. Most importantly, I wear a CGM. Since my CGM warns me before I go low, I can be proactive and prevent it from happening. I also test my blood sugars frequently and have spent a lot of time figuring out my insulin needs for different times of the day, types of exercise, and types of food. It didn’t happen overnight, but I’m happy to say that for me, low blood sugars are rarely severe and they are far apart.
We all experience lows differently, but I think anybody who has ever experienced what low blood sugar feels like will agree that it’s beyond uncomfortable!
Next time one of your loved ones asks “how do you feel when your sugar is low?” consider showing them this post and the video. It’s impossible to fully understand if you have never tried it yourself, but at least this post should give them some understanding of what you are going through.
Suggested next post: Are Exercise-Induced Lows Making You Gain Weight?
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The awesome girls in the video:
- Laura Pavlakovich from You’re Just My Type (@yourejustmytype1 on Instagram)
- Elida Berry-Donat (@badgallida on Instagram)
- Reny Partain
- Sara Rose