If you follow the keto diet, or a low carb way of eating you might be wondering what the best way to treat a low is. My answer is: as efficiently as possible. Treating a low while keto doesn’t mean not treating the low. The low needs to be addressed, but don’t worry about being knocked out of ketosis… You’ll find that it takes a lot less carbs to bring you back into range when you aren’t riding the high/low roller coaster that come along with high carb eating. Here are my 5 tips on treating a low while keto.
Treating a Low While Keto
1. Don’t Treat A Low with Keto Foods
This one might seem obvious, but in my experience, treating a low with a minimal amount of slow-acting carbs is pure torture. It almost always ends up with me having an even lower blood sugar than when I started out and me gorging myself. It’s like my survival instincts take over and turn me into an unstoppable eating machine.
However, some people swear by this way of treating low’s. But for me personally it doesn’t work. That’s why when my blood sugar is low I avoid foods like:
- Granola Bars/Protein Bars
- …and even moderate-low carb baked goods
2. Use Fast Acting Carbs!
The faster you can resolve that feeling of being low the less likely you are to over treat it. That’s why when I’m treating a low while keto I reach for non-keto foods. Typically I only need small amounts of these non-keto foods… We’re talking a measly 10-15 carbs, which is nowhere near enough to throw me out of ketosis. That’s why when my blood sugar is low I bring it up fast with simple sugars like:
- Orange Juice
- Glucose Tablets
- Real Maple Syrup
- Raw Honey
If I can bring the low up fast and efficiently then I am far less likely to overtreat.
3. Test Every 15 Minutes
Another tip to not over treating is to test your blood glucose (BG) every 15 minutes while low. This is because, often, that low feeling can linger, even when your BG has come back into normal range. So while you may think you’re still low because you’re still sweating and have the shakes, your BG may very well be back up to 80 or 100 mg/dL and you don’t need another treat/snack.
4. Don’t Be So Jumpy. Even Fast-Acting Carbs Take Time
When I’m low, 10 minutes can feel like an hour. And since I panic when I’m low I get even more nervous when my BG doesn’t come up as fast as I’d like it to. That’s why it’s important to understand that even fast-acting carbs take time.
Having patients and not being so jumpy will help to not over treat a low.
One of the things that has helped me the most in this area is to NOT expect to see a rise in BG after 15 minutes. My only goal after 15 minutes is to stop the drop. As long as the drop has significantly slowed down/stopped after 15 minutes I don’t worry quite yet about being back in range.
I’ll test again 10-15 minutes later. My goal at this point (which is 20-30 minutes after treating the low) is to see a rise. I don’t even have to be back into range at this point, though I most likely am. As long as I see my blood sugar coming back up I know I probably don’t need another snack.
5. BG only needs to come back up to 80 mg/dL
This was easily the hardest obstacle for me to overcome. When I’m low I panic. I want to bring that blood sugar up to 140 mg/dL or higher to feel “safe”. However, this is a horrible mindset that was allowing me to over treat, and often I ended up A LOT higher than 140 mg/dL.
It wasn’t until I got pregnant and needed to be more strict with my BG range that I realized I needed to be okay with only coming back up to 80 mg/dL.
This made me more mindful of amount of juice or glucose tablets I was consuming. Instead of eating 4 glucose tablets (16g carbs), which could bring me up to 120-130mg/dL depending on how low I am, start with eating 2 (8g carbs) and test every 15 minutes and see where that brings me.
Most of the time I’m fine with the smaller amount of carbs and it brings me right up to the lower side of my range.
Just like with any type 1 diabetes (T1D) advice/tips, you need to do what works for your body. So often with T1D we find that there is not a one size fits all approach to anything. The best way to find out what works for you is to experiment; find your own groove and your own method.
Hopefully these tips will help you be more mindful when treating a low while keto.
The key is to not over treat which can lead to consuming upwards of 30-40g carbs, while mindfulling treating a low typically only calls for 10-15g carbs.
…And if you accidentally over treat your low, don’t stress!
And if it’s a bad low and you’ve gone way over your carb limit for the day, don’t stress. Just look at it as a carb-up day and move on.
The important thing to remember is to be safe and never put your life at risk for the sake of a diet.
Interested in learning more about Keto and Type 1 Diabetes? Check out my blog post on Everything You Need to Know About Keto and T1D.
Question of the Day
What is your favorite way to treating a low while keto?
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