Q. I almost blacked out some years ago while driving with my two young daughters. I had drunk a glass of orange juice with a vegetarian Thanksgiving meal. The only way I could find to stay conscious long enough to drive to my nearby babysitter was by asking my toddler to engage in a “yelling contest” with Mom. Imagine the looks we got from other drivers as Mom and daughter yelled at the top of our lungs, windows down, so I could stay awake!
Needless to say, after that I learned as much as I could about “brittle hypoglycemia.” Others may have a similar condition without knowing it unless they’ve had a dramatic event like mine.
What I’ve learned is to live, eat and drink daily in a mindful, balanced way to stave off further quick and scary episodes.
A. Doctors call the condition you have described “postprandial reactive hypoglycemia.” It happens when a meal high in quickly digested carbohydrates (mashed potatoes, bread, pizza, white rice, etc.) pushes both blood sugar and insulin up too fast (Case Reports in Medicine, online Jan. 10, 2013). In some people, this results in blood sugar crashing not long afterwards, with symptoms of shakiness, nausea or even near black-out.
It may seem odd, but the best way to avoid these problems is to follow the same diet that helps people with diabetes: a low glycemic index diet rich in protein, fat and low-carb veggies. We offer details on this approach in our Guide to Managing Diabetes. The same diet that helps avoid blood sugar spikes also reduces the likelihood of undesirable drops.