Dextrose is a type of sugar that can be found as a powder or as dextrose tablets. While regular table sugar is half fructose and half glucose, dextrose is completely pure glucose. Glucose is absorbed at a very fast rate, which makes it a common option for diabetics in case of a hypoglycemic episode.
Hypoglycemia is the term used to describe low blood sugar. Many diabetics experience hypoglycemia, often due to being more active than usual, skipping or delaying a meal or taking more medications or insulin than you need. If your blood sugar drops too low, you can feel tired, hungry, shaky, irritable, nervous, dizzy or have trouble concentrating. If you experience hypoglycemia, the best treatment consists in taking rapidly absorbed sugar, such as dextrose.
Whenever you feel like something is not quite right, check your blood sugar levels. Many diabetics make the mistake of going for sugar as soon as they feel funny, but their symptoms could be the result of hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar levels. If you have dextrose or sugar and your blood sugar levels are already high, you risk feeling even worse and causing damage to your body with the high levels of sugar in your blood. When in doubt, take a few minutes to check your blood sugar levels. If your result is below 70 mg/dl, it is hypoglycemia and you should treat it with the adequate amount of dextrose or sugar. If you have hypoglycemia symptoms and do not have access to your blood sugar meter, treat as if you were having a hypoglycemic episode.
Because dextrose is 100 percent glucose, it is absorbed quickly and has a high glycemic index, which makes it a popular treatment for hypoglycemia. A dose corresponding to 15 g of carbohydrates is recommended to treat hypoglycemia, according to the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse. This corresponds to about 1 tbsp. of dextrose that you can mix in some water or three to five dextrose tablets. Dextrose tablets can be found at drugstores and are easy to carry with you in your purse or in your case in case of hypoglycemia. Read the instructions to know how many dextrose tablets to take.
Dextrose shouldn't be used as a sweetener because of its high glycemic index. If you use dextrose instead of sugar in your baked goods or other recipes, your blood sugar level will peak quickly, which could negatively impact your diabetes control. Talk to your registered dietitian for help choosing the best sweetener for you and the right amount to use.
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