Managing Low Blood Sugar after Bariatric Surgery

April 28, 2017 — by Fernando Garcia
Tags: Bariatric Surgery

A woman meeting with a doctorBariatric surgery can help those who struggle with obesity to lose weight and enjoy a more active lifestyle. As with any surgery, there are some risks involved. One of the possible risks of bariatric surgery is low blood sugar. Drs. Fernando Garcia and David Vazquez explain the risks of bariatric surgery and low blood sugar during patient consultations at their Tijuana, MX practice. If you would like more information about bariatric surgery, we encourage you to schedule a consultation at Tijuana Bariatrics.

Understanding Low Blood Sugar and Bariatric Surgery

When low blood sugar is caused by bariatric surgery, it is referred to as reactive hypoglycemia. This form of low blood sugar is not related to diabetes but is a result of the body adjusting to its ever decreasing weight following bariatric surgery. It is characterized by low blood sugar 1.5 to 3 hours after eating. Low blood sugar may occur after bariatric surgery as the body continues to produce the same amount of insulin it would produce for a person's pre-surgical weight, leading to excess insulin and low blood sugar. Low blood sugar may also occur after bariatric surgery due to an increase in certain hormone levels that increase insulin production.

The Symptoms of Low Blood Sugar

Reactive hypoglycemia can take a year or more to develop following bariatric surgery. Some notable symptoms include:

  • Hunger
  • Dizziness
  • Shakiness
  • Confusion
  • Cold sweats
  • Loss of consciousness

Treating Low Blood Sugar after Bariatric Surgery

Treating low blood sugar after bariatric surgery depends on the severity of symptoms and should be discussed with your doctor. Generally, if symptoms are mild and it's time to eat another meal, simply eating your normal meal may be sufficient to raise blood sugar and alleviate symptoms. If it's not time for a full meal, eating a small snack of a healthy carbohydrate and protein, like Greek yogurt or a few crackers with peanut butter or cheese, can help stabilize the blood sugar.

When symptoms are more serious, like feeling faint or sweating profusely, blood sugar levels will need to be raised quickly. Generally, drinking a glass of orange juice or taking two glucose tablets can help boost blood sugar enough to treat symptoms. With that said, if you are experiencing low blood sugar after bariatric surgery, it is important to see a physician to ensure you have the right dietary guidelines for your needs.

What Can You Do to Prevent Low Blood Sugar?

The best way to manage and prevent reactive hypoglycemia is to maintain a constant blood sugar level throughout the day by eating a healthy, balanced diet. Also, eating a small, healthy snack between meals can help prevent blood sugar dips. Stick to lean proteins and foods high in fiber, like grains, fruits, and vegetables. Limit sugary foods, which can lead to an increase in insulin production and trigger a blood sugar drop. Alcohol should also be avoided, as it can interfere with the liver's ability to regulate blood sugar levels. For those who have difficulty keeping blood sugar stable, using a glucometer to take regular blood sugar readings is often recommended.

Learn More about Managing Blood Sugar Levels after Bariatric Surgery

If you are having difficulty managing your blood sugar levels after bariatric surgery, or would like more information about bariatric surgery in general, we encourage you to schedule a consultation with Dr. Garcia or Dr. Vazquez today.