What is Reactive hypoglycemia?
Reactive hypoglycemia, or postprandial hypoglycemia, is a medical term describing recurrent episodes of symptomatic hypoglycemia occurring within 4 hours after a high carbohydrate meal (or oral glucose load) in people who do not have diabetes. It is thought to represent a consequence of excessive insulin release triggered by the carbohydrate meal but continuing past the digestion and disposal of the glucose derived from the meal.
The prevalence of this condition is difficult to ascertain because a number of stricter or looser definitions have been used. It is recommended that the term reactive hypoglycemia be reserved for the pattern of postprandial hypoglycemia which meets the Whipple criteria (symptoms correspond to measurably low glucose and are relieved by raising the glucose), and that the term idiopathic postprandial syndrome be used for similar patterns of symptoms where abnormally low glucose levels at the time of symptoms cannot be documented.
To assist diagnosis, a doctor can order an HbA1c test, which measures the blood sugar average over the two or three months before the test. The more specific 6-hour glucose tolerance test can be used to chart changes in the patient's blood sugar levels before ingestion of a special glucose drink and at regular intervals during the six hours following to see if an unusual rise or drop in blood glucose levels occurs.
According to the U.S. National Institute of Health (NIH), a blood glucose level below 70 mg/dL (3.9 mmol/L) at the time of symptoms followed by relief after eating confirms a diagnosis for reactive hypoglycemia.