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What is a Hypoglycemic Effect?

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  • Written By: Kathie Scheidler
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 29 November 2016
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A hypoglycemic effect takes place when an agent, such as a food, herb or medication, causes the insulin in the blood to quickly drop. This usually happens only in diabetics. A hypoglycemic effect can be very harmful to the body.

Hypoglycemia is commonly referred to as low blood glucose or low blood sugar. This condition normally takes place as a side effect of diabetes, because of unstable blood sugar levels. When it does happen in a non-diabetic, it is the result of a disease, a medication, a tumor or a deficiency of an enzyme or hormone.

When the glucose in the blood has dropped below a normal level, hypoglycemia has occurred. This happens if an agent with a hypoglycemic effect is ingested into the bloodstream. When this happens, an individual's blood glucose level will rise at such a fast rate that the pancreas overreacts. This produces large amounts of insulin, causing the glucose in the blood to spiral dramatically downward.

There are many symptoms of hypoglycemia. These generally include headache, fatigue, hunger, nervousness and irritability. In extreme cases, symptoms include muscle pain, fainting, excessive sweating, memory loss and hallucinations. There have been cases, although rare, when death has occurred.

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There are many foods that have a hypoglycemic effect. Foods high in simple carbohydrates, or simple sugars, normally have this effect on the body. Common sugars range from honey, corn syrup and table sugar to items such as fruit and milk.

Foods with a high starch content also tend to cause a hypoglycemic effect. Some examples of these foods are potatoes, white rice, corn and popcorn. Beverages containing alcohol or caffeine usually have this effect as well.

There also are herbs with a hypoglycemic effect. Examples are aloe vera, ginger root, American ginseng, turmeric and cinnamon bark. Many doctors, on occasion, will purposefully use herbs in small doses to treat diabetes. This is because herbs normally do not create side effects.

Practitioners also will intentionally give medications with a hypoglycemic effect. These are called oral hypoglycemic agents. The five classes of these agents are sulfonylureas, meglitinides, biguanides, thiazolidineodiones and alpha-glucosidase inhibitors. They are used for patients who have diabetes but are not insulin-dependent.

Diabetes is the cause of many types of health problems. It therefore is extremely important for individuals who have the disease to maintain a proper blood sugar level. It can be very helpful for a diabetic to consult with a registered dietitian or nutritionist and create a specific diet plan to follow. As a result, a hypoglycemic effect probably will be avoided.

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