14 Words That Describe how Glucose Tablets Taste

My shaky hands pop the lid off the tube of glucose tablets. A puff of dust floats out from the tube – a cloud of sugary residue from the ten tablets stacked neatly on top of each other. A friend watches me remove two tablets. Unfazed by their gaze, I chew them quickly, knowing that they’ll kick in soon and give my blood sugar the boost it needs. My friend waits until I’ve put the tube away to ask me what glucose tablets taste like.

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Ugh…I can practically taste the sugar dust by just looking at this photo.

This exact scenario has unfolded a number of times over my years with diabetes. I don’t know why people are so fascinated by glucose tablets and their taste. Is it because I describe them as sugar pills? Is it something about the way they’re encased so tidily and conveniently? Do the pastel colors look especially appetizing to some people?

Whatever the case may be, I’ll put an end to all the curiosity surrounding glucose tablets right here, right now. Here’s my list of 14 words that describe the taste and texture of “magic sugar pills”, also known as glucose tablets.

  1. Chalky.
  2. Dusty.
  3. Artificial.
  4. Dry.
  5. Fruity.
  6. Slightly medicinal.
  7. Mildly acidic.
  8. Sweet.
  9. Brittle.
  10. Dissoluble.
  11. Powdery.
  12. Tangy.
  13. Stale.
  14. Crumbly.

So based on those descriptors…do they still sound remotely appetizing…? Probably not. Though I didn’t use the most flattering language to describe them, they’re still responsible for saving my butt – literally – countless times. And for that, I can forgive glucose tablets for not being the most palatable things.

Must Be Hypo, Super Low

Today’s blog post is part 2 of my re-imagining of two classic Christmas carols! Last week’s rendition was all about high blood sugar, so of course, this week has to be about the opposite: low blood sugar, also known as hypos!

This blog post is for my extended family, who will simultaneously appreciate and cringe at my spin on the holiday classic, “Must Be Santa”. Unfamiliar with the tune? Click this link to listen to the original, and maybe even sing along using my oh-so creative lyrics, below!

Must be hypo, super low
Must be Santa – I mean, hypo.

Must be Hypo

Who’s got a blood sugar that’s dropping quick?
I’ve got a blood sugar dropping quick
Who needs a juice box to do the trick?
I need a juice box to do the trick
Dropping quick, do the trick
Must be hypo, must be hypo
Must be hypo, super low
Who’s got too much insulin on board?
I’ve got too much insulin on board
Who has a massive candy hoard?
I have a massive candy hoard
Insulin on board, candy hoard
Dropping quick, do the trick
Must be hypo, must be hypo
Must be hypo, super low
Who’s got a red sweaty face that glows?
I’ve got a red sweaty face that glows
Who is cursing at their CGM, “no, no, no!”
I’m cursing at my CGM, “no, no, no!”
No, no, no, face that glows
Insulin on board, candy hoard
Dropping quick, do the trick
Must be hypo, must be hypo
Must be hypo, super low
Who very soon will come back up?
I very soon will come back up
15 carbs, perhaps a Reese’s cup?
I ate 15 carbs, thanks to my Reese’s cup
Reese’s cup, come back up
No, no, no, face that glows
Insulin on board, candy hoard
Dropping quick, do the trick
Must be hypo, must be hypo
Must be hypo, super low
Must be hypo, must be hypo
Must be hypo, super low
Must be hypo, must be hypo
Must be hypo, super low

 

An Incident I Won’t Forget

Low blood sugars are funny. Not ha-ha funny, but peculiar in how they affect me physically and mentally.

A few weeks ago, I had an experience with a particularly scary low. It frightened me so much that I’m only just getting around to writing about it now, because I needed some time to gather my thoughts on what happened.

I’ll set the scene: I was home alone. I had eaten a carb-heavy dinner and decided to do a 30-minute, high-intensity workout. This was definitely far from my best idea ever, because due to the high-carb intake, I had a lot of insulin on board. That, coupled with the exercise, meant that my blood sugar was bound to crash soon after completing the workout.

And it sure did.

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Falling rapidly.

I had just stepped out of the shower and wrapped myself in a towel when I began to feel it. That sudden wave of weakness, shakiness, and dizziness. I walked to my bedroom, grabbed all of my diabetes supplies and my cell phone from my purse, and sank down to the floor with everything in front of me. I knew it would be wise to just sit there for as long as I needed, because I was afraid to go down the stairs (and possibly fall down/hurt myself in the process) in that state.

I checked my CGM, which confirmed that I was dropping quickly. I stared at the screen, panic flooding throughout my body. It occurred to me that I should probably do a finger stick check to make sure I was really that low, so I did, and saw that I was 60 mg/dL.

 

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The scene of the incident.

Now, I’ve absolutely been lower than 60 before. It’s never a pleasant experience. But rather than using that as a comforting thought, I couldn’t help but dwell on how terrible I felt and how frightened I was to be home alone with at least four more units of insulin still working in my system.

All I could do was chew four glucose tablets, suspend my insulin delivery, and wait.

In that period of time, I was totally immobilized.

I’ll never forget how alone I felt, how out of control I felt.

I felt powerless against my diabetes. My own body.

I’ll never forget the fear that consumed me, that nearly prevented me from helping myself in this situation.

I’ll never forget texting my mother and my boyfriend, telling them what was happening, and expressing how scared I felt.

I’ll never forget bursting into tears when they didn’t reply quickly enough.

I’ll never forget turning to my T1D Twitter buddies for help by sending a tweet about what was happening, or how swiftly and comfortingly they responded to me.

And I’ll never forget how I let my mind drift as I wondered whether I’d be okay.

It sounds totally dramatic, especially for a low that, in the grand scheme of things, could’ve been much worse. I can admit that.

But I can also admit that this is one of the few times in my life that I felt truly terrified of my diabetes, and swept up in the fact that things can change so quickly with this condition that it can quite literally knock you off your feet.

Obviously, I recovered just fine that night. The glucose tablets did their trick and my low symptoms subsided. It took longer for me to calm myself down, to breathe normally, non-panicky breaths. At least my puppy was around to soothe me.

I was fine, I will be fine. But I won’t forget this incident, ever.

The Emotions of Low Blood Sugar

Previously, I’ve written about what it feels like to have low blood sugar. While many people with T1D feel the same symptoms as me when they experience a low, there are even more who experience a wider variety of emotions and sensations.

Renza, a T1D Twitter friend of mine, did a little investigating into how others would describe what it’s like to have a low blood sugar. She sent a tweet that read:

friends. I’m crowdsourcing (again). If you had to use ONE WORD to describe how hypos/lows feel to you, what would it be. Go!! #Hypoglycaemia

She received nearly 100 responses, which I’ve compiled into the below graphic.

Capture

Looking at this word collage is a bit startling because it represents the vast array of feelings associated with low blood sugar. Most of them are negative. A handful of them start with the prefix “dis”, which describes something with an opposing force. A couple of them relate to feelings associated with eating. And just about all of them can be summed up as sensations that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

To me, this graphic serves as a stark reminder that diabetes is more than just a chronic illness that affects the body: It affects the mind, too.

What’s Worse than High or Low Blood Sugar?

High blood sugar and low blood sugar are both incredibly draining. One turns me into a grump who can’t drink enough water and the other turns me into a shaky, sweaty, slurring hot mess who can’t string a simple sentence together. Needless to say, neither situation is fun.

But there’s one even worse than that: the roller coaster situation. It’s best illustrated using a CGM graph like this:

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I added the little graphic of psychedelic teddy bears riding a roller coaster – it seemed to illustrate my point well. 

It’s what I use to describe blood sugar that won’t level out to my target range. It just goes up, up, up, and falls dramatically – just like an actual roller coaster – once the high is corrected. And boy, does that drop down take my breath away.

But then wait, there’s more! After the crash and the inevitable need for lots of sugar (and fast) is satisfied, the blood sugar soars back up again, leaving me frustrated as I take another bolus to fix it…

…only for it to happen again. And again.

Get me off this ride!

When I’m stuck on these blood sugar roller coasters, it’s mentally and physically exhausting. I question my every action over and over again as I try to do the “right thing” and make my numbers level out, only to end up berating myself for getting into this situation in the first place.

I’ve never been a fan of roller coasters in real life – they make me a combination of anxious and nauseous that I’ve dubbed “nauxious” – but I’d rather ride one that goes upside down than experience the T1D roller coaster situation again any time soon.

Favorite Things Friday: Mini Boxes of Yogurt-Covered Raisins

One Friday per month, I’ll write about my favorite diabetes products. These items make the cut because they’re functional, fashionable, or fun – but usually, all three at once!

Mini boxes of yogurt-covered raisins is an oddly specific kind of food, but they’ve literally saved my life (and my mom’s) hundreds of times.

I’m almost certain that I introduced these raisins into our low supply kit because I was looking for something that 1) was portable 2) had 10-15 grams of carbs 3) could be quick and easy to consume and 4) wasn’t glucose tablets (I get sick of them). I must’ve been browsing through the aisles of the grocery store when I found a bag containing 10 mini boxes of raisins. Clocking in at exactly 10 grams of carbs per box, they seemed to fit the bill nicely. I brought them on a trip to Disney World soon after buying my first bag, and that sealed the deal for me. They proved to be super convenient throughout the trip and helped prevent me from over-correcting my lows, which was huge for me.

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A box of raisins adjacent to my OmniPod PDM. I can easily fit several boxes of raisins into my purse, along with my other diabetes supplies.

Since that trip, the raisins have become a go-to low treatment for me and my mom, who agrees that they work just as well as glucose tablets. They’re much tastier than glucose tablets, and qualify as a healthier way to treat a low. As tempting as it might be to treat with Skittles or Starbursts, I struggle to control my intake of the candy when dealing with a particularly icky low. The raisins are already perfectly portioned, so that eliminates the can’t-stop-won’t-stop (eat ALL the foods!) feeling that can make dealing with low blood sugars difficult.

The raisins are excellent on the go, too. I can pop a box of them in the car, at my office desk, in the gym, or at church. I’ve even whipped them out at bars, and my friends get a bit of a chuckle when I down them like a shot of alcohol. But honestly, they’re so discreet and go down so easily that most of the time, people don’t even notice that I’m eating them. And if people aren’t noticing yet another part of my otherwise very prominent diabetes care kit, then that suits me just fine!

The T1D Taste Test: My Unofficial Ranking of Drugstore Glucose Supplements

You may have heard of glucose tablets, but what about glucose gummies? Or liquid glucose, or glucose gel? Have you tried any of these forms of glucose?

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The four forms of glucose (that I’ve tried).

I’ve used them all, and I’ve formed some pretty strong opinions about each of them. I thought it’d be fun to rank them in order of most appetizing to least appetizing, because while they can effectively and efficiently correct low blood sugar, they certainly aren’t created equally:

  1. Best Tasting: Glucose Tablets. I can hardly believe that the most boring variety is the winner here, but it blows the competition out of the water for several reasons. For starters, glucose tablets come in an array of flavors. Orange, raspberry, fruit punch, grape, tropical, and sour apple are among the flavors I’ve tried over the years, and most of them are palatable. Plus, glucose tablets are most akin to actually candy: I’ve described them as giant Smarties to inquiring friends in the past. While actually Smarties are more fun to eat, glucose tablets are their closest counterpart in the diabetes world, making them a number-one choice in low blood sugar situations.
  2. Runner-Up: Glucose Gummies. I’m awarding second place to glucose gummies, mainly because of their novelty. It’s not particularly a standout in other categories like taste and texture. The gummies only come in three flavors: grape, orange, and apple, leaving something to be desired in terms of variety. And all three of those flavors taste a little…off, like there’s a little too much artificial additives going on. Maybe this was done deliberately to distract from the texture of the gummies, which tends to be hard/stale in my experience. It’s nice that the gummies have a layer of sugar on them to convey the likeness of real gummies, but that stuck-to-your-teeth feeling makes it harder to appreciate the gummies for what they are.
  3. Third Place: Glucose Gel. I’ve only ever found glucose gels in the fruit punch flavor at Walgreens – do they actually come in other flavors? Besides being one-note, the gel is a unique texture situation…not quite a liquid, not quite a solid. Gels aren’t a mainstay in my low blood sugar kit because I’m not fond of having to slurp them out of the pouch like a tube of Go-Gurt; in fact, I’d much rather have yogurt from a plastic tube than a gel because the yogurt is much tastier. The gel is just too artificial, with a medicinal aftertaste. And it doesn’t help that the consistency of it reminds me of hand sanitizer.
  4. The Loser: Glucose LiquidIt’s surprising that the glucose liquid wound up in last place, because on the surface, it had a lot going for it. I liked that it came in a small bottle and it seemed like it would be super easy to consume. All I’d need to do is pop the cap off and swig it down. But MAN, the taste was HORRIBLE! I thought I’d like the mixed berry flavor, but it tasted so supremely saccharine and fake that I could scarcely force myself to swallow it. I know, I know, it’s liquid glucose, it’s supposed to be very sweet. But this stuff was just over the top. I definitely will not be buying glucose liquid again any time soon. I’ll stick with my tried-and-true tablets.

Do you agree with my rankings? Did I miss any form of glucose that can be bought in most drugstores, and you think I should give it a try? Let me know in the comments!