Fifth Thing I Hate About Low Blood Sugars

Image of Scott's Dexcom CGM with crazy highs, and a sudden dropThe rebound.

There are a number of things that happen when you experience a low blood sugar. These are things that your body does to defend itself from the low. This includes dumping a couple fast acting hormones (glucagon and epinephrine (adrenaline)) and a couple of slow acting hormones (growth hormone and cortisol).

According to Medscape, the primary defense is the epinephrine because our glucagon secretion systems don’t work like they should. The article gives many more “medspeakly” correct details, if you are interested. The adrenaline comes and goes pretty quick (relatively speaking).

The growth hormone and cortisol responses are really tough because they can wreak havoc on any attempts to keep blood sugars in range later in the day.

So, not only do you have this “late to the party” glucagon and “first to arrive” adrenaline, which can spike you up after dealing with a low, you’ve also got these “missed the party altogether” double whammy of growth hormone & cortisol which mess with you hours later.

I once heard a doctor at a meeting say that the goal of diabetes is to keep blood sugars in range as much of the time as you can, AND AVOID LOWS. It was these “delayed response” hormones that he said cause so many problems later in the day.

I’m not exactly clear on whether these hormones are all released every time you have a low, or if the lows have to be of a certain severity or a certain duration. Based on my personal experience, I don’t think it happens every time.

I think this just about wraps up my mini-series of things I hate about lows. Tomorrow? Back to your regularly scheduled blogging.

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Scott K. Johnson

Patient voice, speaker, writer, advocate, and Senior Community Manager at Blue Circle Health. Living life with diabetes and telling my story. All opinions expressed are my own and do not necessarily represent my employer’s position. Read more…

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