How Diabetes Can Cause Low Blood Sugar after Eating

Diabetes affects an individual’s ability to breakdown, absorb and utilize glucose. Because the body is unable to complete this process through the lack of insulin (found in type 1) or is insulin resistant (characterized by type 2), high sugar levels are experienced immediately after eating meals or small snacks. While this condition triggers hyperglycemia or high glucose, it can also cause low blood sugar after eating. But how is this reversal caused, and can it be avoided?

See this post for an overview of the dangers of low blood sugar levels.

The Source of Sugar Lows

A diabetic experiencing a sugar low is said to have a case of the “hypos.” When this disease is appropriately monitored and controlled through routine home testing, medication and diet, the incidence of low glucose or hypoglycemia is minimal. However, if an individual does not perform these routine checks and consumes a diet high in simple sugars, the risk of triggering low blood sugar increases.

Why are Simple Sugars the Culprit?

Also called simple carbohydrates, these sugars are composed of simple molecule strands that are quickly broken down and converted into glucose. In a healthy individual, glucose is either used as fuel to perform the bodies’ functions or stored in the liver as glycogen. In a diabetic the pancreas is unable to produce insulin, or the body has become insulin resistant – which prevents or inhibits the conversion process.

Because the molecular strands are broken down at a faster rate than complex carbohydrates, a sudden spike or increase in blood sugar levels is experienced. Once glucose levels have peaked, an erratic drop in glucose occurs, and symptoms of hypoglycemia will be noticed 1 to 4 hours after eating.

What Foods can Cause a Glucose Low in Diabetics?

The easiest way to avoid low blood sugar after eating is to avoid foods that can trigger reactive hypoglycemia, or consume them in moderation. A diabetic’s diet should moderate the consumption of:

  • Sweets – Cookies, cakes, and pastries can curb the urges of a sweet tooth, but are the most common trigger of reactive hypoglycemia.
  • Fruits – Eating fruits should be part of a balanced diet, but the fruit juices contain high levels of sugar, additives, artificial sweeteners, corn syrup and/or high fructose corn syrup.
  • Honey – Even though many individuals feel this is a healthy way to sweeten food, it is actually a simple sugar, not a complex carbohydrate. As a result, this natural food sweetener is converted to glucose at an increased rate.
  • Dairy Products – Lactose is a simple sugar, and can cause a case of the “hypos” in diabetics

This post covers some simple low blood sugar diet tips in more detail.

Overmedication: The Other Danger

The administration of too much insulin into the bloodstream can trigger hypoglycemia. In most cases this occurs when an individual is new to insulin dosing or trying to compensate for a rapid increase in sugar level. Also, friends or family members may also measure an insulin dose that is too large to aid someone who has become incoherent due to high sugar levels. This situation can be easily corrected (in most cases) by consuming a snack containing complex carbohydrates or glucose tablets.

While it is uncommon for a diabetic to experience low blood sugar levels after eating a meal or snack, there is a moderate risk is simple sugars are consumed. Knowing which foods to consume in moderation, how to avoid reactive hypoglycemia and how to correct low glucose is essential to avoid unforeseen risks and complications.


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