Why Does My Blood Sugar Drop?
If you have ever experienced hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), you may be wondering, “Why does my blood sugar drop? Does this mean I have diabetes?” While diabetes is the most common cause of hypoglycemia, it is possible to experience blood sugar drops related to other conditions or factors. Hypoglycemia needs to be treated immediately when it occurs, so if you are experiencing blood sugar drops you should see your doctor right away to identify the cause and develop a treatment plan.
What is Blood Sugar Regulation?
When you eat, your body breaks down carbohydrates into various sugar molecules, including glucose (the main energy source for the body). Glucose enters cells with the help of insulin, a hormone secreted by the pancreas. Any excess glucose is stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen. If you go for several hours without eating and your blood sugar drops, the pancreas secretes a different hormone that signals the liver to break down the glycogen and release it back into the bloodstream as glucose. This helps keep blood sugar stable until you eat again.
What Causes Blood Sugar to Drop?
Diabetes is the most common cause of hypoglycemia. Patients with diabetes either don’t make enough insulin (Type 1) or their bodies are less responsive to insulin (Type 2). Without sufficient insulin, glucose builds up in the bloodstream, causing dangerously high blood sugar levels. To correct this, patients take insulin or other medications to lower their blood sugar levels. However, taking too much of these medications, eating less than usual after taking diabetes medication, or exercising more than normal can cause these medications to trigger hypoglycemia.
Blood sugar drops in people without diabetes are much less common, but they can occur. They can be caused by:
- Medications – Some medications, such as quinine, can cause hypoglycemia, particularly in people with kidney failure.
- Liver or kidney illness – Severe liver illnesses (such as cirrhosis or severe hepatitis) can cause hypoglycemia by not allowing the release of stored glucose. Kidney disorders can prevent your body from properly excreting medications and can thereby affect glucose levels because of a build-up of those medications.
- Insulin overproduction – A rare pancreatic tumor can cause an overproduction of insulin, resulting in hypoglycemia. Other tumors can produce insulin-like substances, while enlargement of cells in the pancreas that produce insulin can also result in excessive insulin release.
- Endocrine disorders – Certain adrenal gland deficiencies and pituitary disorders can result in deficiency of the hormones that regulate glucose production.
Symptoms of Low Blood Sugar (Hypoglycemia)
Most people experience symptoms of hypoglycemia when their blood sugar is 70 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or lower. Symptoms of low blood sugar can occur suddenly and range in severity depending on how low your blood sugar drops. These symptoms include:
- Blurry vision
- Difficulty concentrating or thinking clearly
- Irregular or rapid heartbeat
- Pale skin
- Sudden mood changes or nervousness
- Tingling or numbness of the lips, tongue or cheeks
As hypoglycemia worsens, a person can develop:
- Abnormal behavior
- Loss of consciousness (passing out)
Learn to Control Your Blood Sugar Levels with Functional Medicine
If you are experiencing the signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia, see a doctor right away. They can identify the cause of your blood sugar drops and help you develop a course of treatment. At Anchor Wellness Center, Dr. Minni Malhotra, MD, FAARM, ABAARM and her team are committed to helping patients achieve optimal health through patient education and functional medicine principles.
A typical office visit with us ranges from 30-90 minutes, and we educate you at length about food and nutrition. We provide you with a personal health coach to help you through the sometimes difficult dietary changes that need to be made. We carefully monitor your labs to ensure you are moving in the right direction, and we can use physician-grade, scientifically proven nutraceuticals as needed to boost your body’s ability to respond to the dietary and lifestyle changes you are making.
As a Board Certified physician, both in Family Medicine and with the American Board of Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine, Dr. Malhotra will create a personalized health plan for you. For more information on how to control blood sugar naturally, call us at (832) 246-8437.