Sugar Crash: Spike and Crash

Sugar Crash: Spike and Crash

It happens at many family functions.  That one little kid gets hold of some Mountain Dew or eats several slices of cake and starts to go a little crazy.  He’s running around aggravating everyone with his hyper behavior.  Yet, his parents say that within 30 minutes of leaving, he’s withdrawn, irritable and almost unbearable.  It’s so bad that they swear he’ll get no more sodas or cakes at the next function and this time they mean it!!!   

What just happened?

That little kid just had a sugar crash.  This can happen in two different ways.  First – like the little kid in the story - when a high amount of sugar or carbohydrates get introduced into the body in a very short time and then suddenly withdrawn.  Second – when the blood sugar in the body drops to a very low level because the body isn’t producing insulin correctly. 

In the first case, the little kid caused his own sugar crash. When someone eats a lot of simple sugars, refined sugars or simple carbohydrates (which are more easily converted to sugar in the body), it causes a spike in the glucose level in the blood.  The body then starts secreting insulin in an effort to combat the high glucose.  The higher levels of insulin cause the glucose to drop and if it drops a little too low, the sugar crash symptoms can start.

In the second case, the body is simply not functioning properly and doesn’t require that initial huge hit of sugar.  The second case is most often reported to happen when someone is pre-diabetic or diabetic. 

What happens to your body?

When the blood sugar drops below 70 mg/dL, the body starts to produce some symptoms:  dizziness, irritation, headaches, sweating, pale skin, anxiety, increased heart rate or a feeling of weakness.  Should the blood sugar drop too low for too long a period of time, a person could literally pass out or go into a coma. 

A non-diabetic person who causes his own sugar crash is unlikely to see serious symptoms; however, someone who is pre-diabetic or diabetic must be very careful when seeing signs of a sugar crash. 

When someone is in the middle of a sugar crash, very small amounts of sugars, like a small glass of orange juice or a few pieces of chocolate may be enough to help raise the glucose level and cause the symptoms to stop. 


The best way to handle a sugar crash is to prevent it.  Certainly, limiting or eliminating the amounts of simple sugars or simple carbohydrates is the best first step.  If you do have a little bit of a sweet tooth, opt for natural sweets that come complete with higher fiber and protein.  Your best options are fruits, such as apples or oranges.