Foods for Reactive Hypoglycemia

by Maura Shenker

About Maura Shenker

Maura Shenker is a certified holistic nutritionist and health counselor who started her writing career in 2010. She leads group workshops, counsels individual clients and blogs about diet and lifestyle choices. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Rhode Island School of Design, a Master of Fine Arts from The Ohio State University and is a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.

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If your blood sugar drops after eating, you may have reactive hypoglycemia, a condition unrelated to diabetes that may be caused by the hormone epinephrine or a glucagon deficiency. Regular exercise and changes to your diet should treat and prevent reactive hypoglycemia without medication. Your doctor will diagnose reactive hypoglycemia without using the standard glucose tolerance test, which actually can trigger symptoms.

Understanding Reactive Hypoglycemia

Reactive hypoglycemia, also known as postprandial hypoglycemia, is a low blood sugar level that occurs within four hours after eating. This condition isn't caused by diabetes, nor does it necessarily lead to diabetes, although there is some evidence that reactive hypoglycemia is a precursor to type 2 diabetes, notes NetDoctor. The University of Illinois' McKinley Health Center reports that as many as three out of every 10 women under age 45 may experience reactive hypoglycemia. The symptoms are the same as those of diabetic hypoglycemia: hunger, confusion, dizziness, anxiety, mood swings, headache and fatigue.

Avoiding Reactive Hypoglycemia

Although regular physical activity is important, your diet is your best tool to treat reactive hypoglycemia, also called postprandial hypoglycemia. Eat every two to three hours to keep a consistent glucose level, stabilizing blood sugar; it shouldn't always be a big meal. Avoid simple sugars, such as soda, cake and candy, that can make your hypoglycemia worse. Limit your alcohol and caffeine consumption, and make sure to eat one hour before exercising. You may need a sports drink while working out to keep you glucose levels up.

Choosing Foods

It's important to eat a complex carbohydrate, such as whole grain bread, potatoes, legumes or brown rice, combined with fat and protein. Your goal is to choose carbohydrates that raise your blood sugar slowly -- your body needs glucose for energy -- but are absorbed over a longer period of time. Never eat just carbohydrates by themselves. Fat, protein and fiber all help slow your digestion and help keep glucose levels stable.

Examples of Good Food Choices

Look to combine high-fiber whole grains with lean protein and unsaturated fats. Multigrain bread with peanut butter and apple slices, a whole grain bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon, a baked potato with chili and cheese, a salad that includes protein from legumes, chicken, turkey, eggs or cheese, a tuna salad sandwich, carrot sticks and hummus or yogurt with fruit and nuts are all good choices. If you're eating every two to three hours, you won't be eating a lot of food at each sitting.

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.