Difference Between Panic Attack And Low Blood Sugar
When youre feeling unwell and lightheaded, how you can tell if its because of low blood sugar or youre having a panic attack? It can be quite confusing.
Both these conditions can manifest with the same symptoms, which can lead to a common misdiagnosis. Some diabetics tend to confuse their symptoms with a panic attack, which might be actually due to hypoglycemia.
When a person feels unwell, lightheaded, sweaty, and has an increased heart rate, he might think its a panic attack. However, this is not only the case every time. Low blood sugar is another cause of these symptoms.
How to differentiate between them? Lets discuss them individually.
Panic Attack- this is usually an attack of sudden intense fear and anxiety. It can happen due to any stressful situation such as bereavement or sometimes without any apparent cause.
Low Blood Sugar- this condition, also known as hypoglycemia, occurs when your blood glucose level drops to a very low level. It can have various causing factors, such as skipping a meal, intense physical activity, etc.
While they both have different causes and factors, symptoms such as trembling, sweating, racing heartbeat, dizziness, etc. are common in both. They both tend to drain the energy out of a person, leaving them helpless.
An important characteristic that can differentiate between them is that blood sugar level fluctuates with diet and the symptoms of hypoglycemia can reverse.
What Happens To My Blood Sugar Levels When Im Stressed
During stressful situations, epinephrine , glucagon, growth hormone and cortisol play a role in blood sugar levels. Stressful situations include infections, serious illness or significant emotion stress.
When stressed, the body prepares itself by ensuring that enough sugar or energy is readily available. Insulin levels fall, glucagon and epinephrine levels rise and more glucose is released from the liver. At the same time, growth hormone and cortisol levels rise, which causes body tissues to be less sensitive to insulin. As a result, more glucose is available in the blood stream.
When you have type 2 diabetes, low blood sugars from too much medication or insulin are a common cause of stress. The hormonal response to a low blood sugar includes a rapid release of epinephrine and glucagon, followed by a slower release of cortisol and growth hormone. These hormonal responses to the low blood sugar may last for 6-8 hours during that time the blood sugar may be difficult to control. The phenomena of a low blood sugar followed by a high blood sugar is called a rebound or Somogyi reaction.
When you have type 2 diabetes, stress may make your blood sugar go up and become more difficult to control and you may need to take higher doses of your diabetes medications or insulin.
During times of stress, individuals with diabetes, may have more difficulty controlling their blood sugars.
How To Lower A Blood Sugar Spike
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The Symptoms Of Stress
Stress can manifest differently in one person from the next. For some, positive or negative stress may produce immediate tears, for example. In others, it may cause them to be silent and speechless. And others may become easily angry and irritable.
Depending on the severity of the stress level, your symptoms can vary. Here are some examples of stress symptoms:
Mild to moderate stress
Research suggests that stress also can bring on or worsen certain symptoms or diseases. Stress is linked to 6 of the leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, and suicide.
Before we move on to how stress can affect your blood sugar and what you can do to reduce stress, lets take a closer look at the hormones involved in a stress reaction.
Testing For Hypoglycemia As A Cause For Anxiety
How would you go about testing for hypoglycemia? Generally speaking, you would just do a fasting blood sugar test. You fast for 12 hours and you see what the glucose is. If it’s low, you have hypoglycemia. What you want to look at more closely at is the intervals around after eating. You can test one hour after eating, two hours after eating, and three hour after eating etc. You are looking to see what’s happening with your insulin and what’s happening with your glucose during those times. Those are the times when your insulin is at its peak, usually an hour or two hours after eating. This is the time when you will be more susceptible to hypoglycemia.
Glycemic index or GI foods are the foods that are going to have more carbohydrates. They will raise the blood sugar higher than other foods. High glycemic and high glucose foods are the types of foods that are also going to raise your insulin levels high. It’s always important to test for these things, if you think it could be there. You can see if this is a contributing factor and what to do about it. There are lots of ways to lower blood sugar and balance it out. If you already know you have insulin resistance, then for sure this is something that could be contributing to your anxiety. If you don’t know, I recommend testing and not making assumptions. Do the testing that shows you, maybe a two-hour postprandial glucose test or multiple serial testing for your blood sugar after eating.
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Not Surprisingly The Microbiome Is Also Involved In Anxiety And Blood Sugar Balance
What is even more interesting is that higher cortisol levels are associated with the development of type 2 diabetes. For starters, stress can affect how we think and regulate our emotions, which means it naturally influences our eating patterns and sleep habits. It also can influence the gut microbiome, which is the ecosystem of trillions of bacteria, viruses, and fungi that live inside of our gastrointestinal tracts. All of these things taken together can lead us to develop conditions such as obesity, diabetes, fatty liver, stroke, and heart disease.
Poor dietary choices and chronic stress are definitely risk factors for blood sugar imbalance. These are also risk factors for an imbalance in the gut microbiome. This is where the root cause of many chronic diseases comes from, including anxiety and depression. In fact, a recent study showed that there was a particular pattern of imbalance in the gut microbiome in those people who had generalized anxiety disorder.
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Preventing Low Blood Sugar
For someone with diabetes, the best way to prevent low blood sugar is to check your blood sugar often. You can check your blood sugar with a continuous glucose monitor or glucometer. Discuss with your healthcare provider how often you should be checking your blood sugar.
Your healthcare provider might suggest checking before and after meals, before and after exercising, when changing your routine or schedule, when traveling across time zones, and more. By checking your blood sugar, you can identify when your sugar is falling and enact steps to normalize your levels.
For people both with and without diabetes, another tried-and-true way to prevent low blood sugar is to eat regular meals. Avoid skipping meals or fasting. When you do eat, research indicates that eating a diet low in refined carbohydrates, and inclusive of omega-3 fats and adequate protein, can help regulate blood sugar and lower anxiety levels.
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Does Cold Water Lower Blood Sugar
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A Brief Overview Of The Ketogenic Diet The Real Type 2 Diabetes Diet
For those who dont know, the ketogenic diet restricts daily carbohydrates to around 20-30g of net carbs . Restricting carbohydrates to this degree forces your body to burn fat for fuel a process called ketosis. Once your body is in ketosis, your blood sugar levels will decrease and your A1C levels will drop.
For more information on how to start a ketogenic diet to lower blood sugar read our beginners guide to the ketogenic diet.
Here is a brief list of what you should and should not eat on a ketogenic diet:
Do Not Eat:
- Meats fish, beef, lamb, poultry, eggs, etc.
- Leafy Greens spinach, kale, etc.
- Above ground vegetables broccoli, cauliflower, etc.
- High Fat Dairy hard cheeses, high fat cream, butter, etc.
- Nuts and seeds macadamias, walnuts, sunflower seeds, etc.
- Avocado and berries raspberries, raspberries, and other low glycemic impact berries
- Sweeteners stevia, erythritol, monk fruit, and other low-carb sweeteners
- Other fats coconut oil, high-fat salad dressing, saturated fats, etc.
If youre new to keto, you can always see our more detailed ketogenic food list >
Before you start, it is important to know that your blood sugar wont drop instantly. Some studies suggest that you may have to stay on a ketogenic diet for 16 weeks before your blood sugar is under control.
However, this doesnt mean that you will have to wait that long. You can lower your blood sugar today especially if you eat the ten foods that lower your blood sugar naturally.
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Can Anxiety Cause High Blood Sugar
Yes! Stress and anxiety may play a role in causing high glucose levels in the blood. It has been reported that those who had frequent symptoms of anxiety and stress, their blood sugar levels were quite high.
In recent research, it was found out that anxiety can be a significant factor for developing hyperglycemia.
How and why does anxiety cause high blood sugar can be due to the hormonal change during stressful conditions.
When we are stressed or face a distressing situation, our body goes into fight-and-flight mode and stress hormones are released in the blood. Cortisol, the main stress hormone is diabetogenic, causing the blood sugar levels to rise.
Moreover, epinephrine , growth hormone, and glucagon are also released during stressful conditions and anxiety. They also may be responsible for the high blood sugar levels during anxiety.
Summary: How Stress Affects Your Blood Sugar
In short, stress will generally cause your blood sugar to rise. It will also be difficult to bring it down because of the insulin resistance created by stress hormones and the production of glucose from your livers response to adrenaline.
The larger majority of stressful situations arent something we can easily predict, but once youre experiencing stress, you can predict that your blood sugar might spike.
Remembering to check your blood sugar during and after stressful situations is an important part of diabetes management, but dont add to your stress by expecting to be able to easily correct any high blood sugars during a stressful state.
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What Is High Blood Sugar
Hyperglycemia is the medical term describing an abnormally high blood glucose level. Blood sugar is measured in a sample of blood taken from a vein or from a small finger stick sample of blood. It can be measured in a laboratory either alone or with other blood tests, or it can be measured using a handheld glucometer, a small device that allows frequent monitoring of blood glucose levels without the need for a doctors office or laboratory.
Hyperglycemia or high blood sugar is a hallmark sign of diabetes and prediabetes. Normal ranges for blood glucose measurements can vary slightly among different laboratories, but in general a fasting glucose level is considered normal if it is between 70-100 mg/dL. Glucose levels may rise slightly above this range following a meal. Random blood glucose measurements are usually lower than 125 mg/dL.
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Stress And Blood Glucose Levels
When the body is under stress, the adrenal glands trigger the release of glucose stored in various organs, which often leads to elevated levels of glucose in the bloodstream.
For people with diabetes, this can be particularly problematic as they find it harder than non-diabetics to regain normal blood glucose levels after a bout of stress.
The common misconception with stress is that it is an emotional problem, often disguised as anxiety, worry, or depression.
However, the reality is that stress can also be physical, nutritional, and chemical.
For example, stress can be experienced as physical pain or illness, and can also be triggered by situations such as an accident, the death of a friend or relative or confrontations with other people.
Essentially, stress can be considered as anything that tends to change the control that you have over our body and our emotions
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Fear Of Low Blood Sugars
A fear of low blood sugars is a very common and justified form of anxiety that anyone taking insulin or other medications that decrease blood sugar levels could develop.
Often, severe anxiety and fear around lows develop after experiencing an intensely severe low blood sugar that left you unconscious, in need of a glucagon injection, seizing, or occurred during a situation like when you were driving.
A traumatic low blood sugar experience can completely rob a person of their confidence in their ability to manage and treat the average low blood sugar. A severe low could happen to any of us and coming back from that experience psychologically isnt easy.
The biggest challenge with a fear of hypoglycemia is that you will inevitably experience low blood sugars again in your future unless you purposefully run your blood sugars high all the time in an effort to avoid them altogether. This doesnt, however, appease your anxiety because now you are putting your long-term health and safety in danger with consistently high blood sugar levels.
Rebuilding your confidence in your ability to manage your low blood sugars and bring your blood sugars back into a healthy range overall takes time.
Diabetes psychologist Dr. Mark Heyman from the Center for Diabetes and Mental Health works with his patients on exactly this.
Talk to your healthcare team! Explain to them how youre feeling, how youve been coping by restricting insulin to keep your blood sugars higher and ask for help.
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