We’ve all had it- when hypoglycaemia strikes at 2 n the morning and after stumbling to the kitchen the first sweet thing to hand is what we’re going to damn well treat our hypo with- whether it be 4 chocolate bars, 2 big bowls of sugary cereal, or enough soda to take a bath in. It tastes great at the time and gets us out of the hole, but inevitably the next 2 hours are spent combating the effects of the abundance of sugar we over-consumed and if we’re lucky we’ll get a few hours of regretful hypoglycemic sleep.
I’ve done this more times than I’d care to admit, and can attest to how bloody difficult it can be to limit yourself to weird suggestions like Half a can of Coca Cola or 1 Small Banana. Heck, even the NHS recommends strange things like a glass of fruit juice or non-diet soft drink. Not only are these usually difficult or frustrating to accurately measure when your head isn’t working at full capacity, but they’re mostly going to have different Glycemic Indexes, different types of sugar and definitely different results, not to mention they’re things most diabetics wont regularly buy anyway. So what are some better solutions?
To answer that we need to get nerdy and define what we want. For me, over the years I’ve realised the ideal hypo treatment should be-
The same shape, size and weight every time with the same results, but measurable and easily adjustable.
As fast acting as possible, so a very high GI.
Not overly tasty- this is important because otherwise I tend to eat at my supply when I’m not low.
Easy to transport.
Cheap, and last a long time.
All these things point towards dextrose tablets. Initially designed and marketed towards athletes and runners, dextrose has the property of being the fastest acting sugar, meaning it goes to the liver and the blood stream faster than even sucrose or fructose from typical sugar sources. They don’t contain fats or fibre that might affect GI, and although they come in a variety of flavours they’re just not that tasty, I’m never tempted to binge on dextrose tablets! Furthermore, they’re accurately carb measured- brands vary but most have 4g of carbs per pill. If you take note how much one pill raises your blood-sugar by when you’re low then it becomes easy or even thoughtless to measure how many you need just by taking a reading on your glucometer. Finally, they’re cheap, last as long or longer than granulated sugar (several years) without detriment, and are specifically designed to be compact and easy to travel with or store away for later use.
If you still rely on whatever is to hand or buy something you tend to eat when you’re not low then I highly recommend you give dextrose tablets a try, they make hypos a lot more consistent to deal with and take away some of the complication. My favourite brand is Glucotabs as they’re softer and quick to swallow, I’ve also found you can order in bulk online- they come in a bunch of flavours. The tablets are all identical in size so filling up small tubes for transport and for keeping at work, in your bag and at home works great too.