Surprising Things That Can Spike Your Blood Sugar
When you first found out you had diabetes, you tested your blood sugar often. Doing so helped you understand how food, activity, stress, and illness could affect your blood sugar levels. By now, youve got it figured out for the most part. But thenbam! Something makes your blood sugar zoom up. You try to adjust it with food or activity or insulin, and it dips really low. Youre on a roller coaster no one with diabetes wants to ride.
Do you know all these blood sugar triggers?
Knowledge is power! Look out for these surprising triggers that can send your blood sugar soaring:
Tips To Avoid Sugar Spikes
Your body works hard to keep the sugar in your blood at a safe level. As soon as you eat that cookie or bowl of pasta, your pancreas starts putting out the hormone insulin to process the sugar youve taken in.
Too much sugar in your blood makes it thick and syrupy, which is not good. Imagine how much extra work that is for your heart as it tries to pump goopy blood around your body.
In the short term, a spike in your blood sugar will cause a sugar rush, followed by a sugar crash, with all the cravings and lethargy that go along with that.
In the long term, repeated spikes in your blood sugar can cause heart problems, kidney problems, problems with eyesight, and nerve issues like neuropathy, where you lose feeling in fingers and toes.
When we work our pancreas too much by consuming simple sugars that cause sugar spikes, its going to tell us, Im tired, and I need a break, says dietitian Kendall Stelwagen. It cant keep up with the amount of insulin needed to deal with the sugar, and thats when were going to see insulin resistance, prediabetes, Type 2 diabetes and related heart problems.
Here are four things Stelwagen and dietitian Sheila Vo want you to know about keeping your blood sugar in check.
The insulin your body releases to control the sugar actually makes us hungry, so after your sugar spike, youre going to be reaching for more things to eat, says Stelwagen.
Lack of sleep will also affect your bodys ability to use insulin to keep blood sugar down.
What Is Low Blood Glucose
Low blood glucose, also called low blood sugar or hypoglycemia, occurs when the level of glucose in your blood drops below what is healthy for you. For many people with diabetes, this means a blood glucose reading lower than 70 milligrams per deciliter .1 Your number might be different, so check with your doctor or health care team to find out what blood glucose level is low for you.
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Preventing Low Blood Sugar Levels
Here are some other tips to help you avoid low blood sugar levels:
- Eat all your meals and snacks on time and try not to skip any.
- Take the right amount of insulin.
- If you exercise longer or harder than usual, have an extra snack.
- Dont take a hot bath or shower right after an insulin shot.
- Stick to your diabetes management plan.
- Check your blood sugar levels regularly, so you can tell if your blood sugars are running too low and your treatment plan needs adjustment.
- Carry something containing sugar with you at all times and take it right away if you have symptoms. Dont wait to see if the symptoms will go away they may get worse!
Alcohol and drugs can cause major problems with your blood sugar levels, so avoiding them is another way to prevent diabetes problems. Drinking can be particularly dangerous even deadly for people with diabetes because it messes up the bodys ability to keep blood glucose in a normal range. This can cause a very rapid drop in blood glucose in people with diabetes. Drug or alcohol use is also dangerous because it may affect someones ability to sense low blood sugar levels.
Learning how to recognize the signs of low blood sugar levels and get them back to normal is an important part of caring for diabetes. Keeping track of your blood sugar levels and recording lows when they occur will help you and your diabetes health care team keep your blood sugar levels in a healthy range.
Artificial Sweeteners May Alter Blood Sugar Response
Many people with diabetes reach for diet drinks as a substitute for regular soda or juice because they assume that sugar-free beverages won’t raise their blood sugar. But a review published in January 2021 in Frontiers in Nutrition suggested that artificial sweeteners may not be completely neutral after all, and may contribute to impaired glucose homeostasis.
But the research isn’t definitive most government and medical institutions maintain that most artificial sweeteners have no effect on blood sugar. So what could be going on? Mayo Clinic suggests that people can experience a rebound effect when consuming artificial sugars. They consider the sugar-free food healthy, so end up consuming excessive amounts or eating other carb-filled foods because they think the diet drink lets them afford it. The clinic also notes that some noncaloric sweeteners can cause diarrhea, which can contribute to dehydration.
“If you drink a lot of diet soda then you might want to cut back and see if it has an impact on your blood glucose,” says Patty Bonsignore, RN, CDCES, a nurse educator at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston. Keep things sugar-free by turning to water or seltzer as opposed to regular soda or juice.
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Adrenaline Can Raise Blood Glucose Levels
Using your muscles helps burn glucose and improves the way insulin works. Thats why blood glucose levels usually come down during exercise. But you might see blood glucose go up after exercise, too. Some workouts, such as heavy weightlifting, sprints, and competitive sports, cause you to produce stress hormones . Adrenaline raises blood glucose levels by stimulating your liver to release glucose.
The food you eat before or during a workout may also contribute to a glucose rise. Eat too many carbs before exercising, and your sweat session may not be enough to keep your blood glucose within your goal range.
Excessive Salt Raises Blood Pressure
Too much sodium can cause water retention that puts increased pressure on your heart and blood vessels. People with high blood pressure and those at a high risk for developing hypertension, including adults over 50 and black men and women, should have no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium daily of salt.
Even people with normal levels should eat salt in moderation. Stick to no more than 2,300 mg of sodium , per day.
Most dietary sodium comes from processed foods. Rules of thumb are to choose foods with 5% or less of the daily value of sodium per serving and opt for fresh poultry, fish and lean meats, rather than canned, smoked or processed. Similarly, fresh or frozen vegetables are better than canned.
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that if people cut just 1/2 teaspoon of salt per day, it could help lower the number of new cases of heart disease per year by up to 120,000.
Further, potassium found in foods like sweet potatoes, spinach, bananas, oranges, low-fat milk and halibut can counterbalance the pressure-increasing effects of sodium by helping to rid the body of excess sodium.
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What Causes Low Blood Glucose In People With Diabetes
Low blood glucose levels can be a side effect of insulin or some other medicines that help your pancreas release insulin into your blood. Taking these can lower your blood glucose level.
Two types of diabetes pills can cause low blood glucose
- sulfonylureas, usually taken once or twice per day, which increase insulin over several hours
- meglitinides, taken before meals to promote a short-term increase in insulin
The following may also lower your blood glucose level
Can I Prevent Blood Sugar Spikes
While it’s normal for your blood sugar to go up to some degree after a meal, you want to avoid these more dramatic glucose spikes and crashes as much as possible. Low-carb diets can be a helpful way for some people to manage their blood sugar levels, but if you’re not ready to go there, you have other options, too.
Inchauspe says one way to manage blood sugar is by “putting clothing on your carbs.” In other words, pair carbs with protein, fiber, or some healthy fats. Doing so can slow down the absorption rate of glucose and help reduce the severity of blood sugar spikes .
The order in which you eat your food can also play a role. Inchauspe explains that eating foods in a specific order can reduce the blood sugar spike from that meal by as much as 75%, even when you’re eating the exact same foods. “The correct order is vegetables first, proteins and fats second, starches and sugars last,” she says.
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Learn About The Glycemic Index
The glycemic index is a tool used for blood sugar management that measures how much a specific food will affect glucose levels. Foods are classified using the glycemic index, where they are ranked on a scale of 0 to 100 and classified as low, medium, or high. The higher the glycemic index, the more that food will cause blood sugar spikes.
Treating Low Blood Glucose If You Take Medicines That Slow Down Digestion
Some diabetes medicines slow down the digestion of carbohydrates to keep blood glucose levels from rising too high after you eat. If you develop low blood glucose while taking these medicines, you will need to take glucose tablets or glucose gel right away. Eating or drinking other sources of carbohydrates wont raise your blood glucose level quickly enough.
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Don’t Shortchange Your Sleep
Getting enough sleep at night is crucial for overall health and wellbeing, but especially for blood sugar control. Sure, one night of shortened or interrupted sleep may not have a detrimental effect, but don’t kid yourself that you can get away with too little shut-eye regularly without it causing an imbalance in blood sugar levels.
“It’s recommended that we snooze for seven to nine hours per night, and missing out on quality sleep can trigger stress hormones that increase blood sugar levels,” Harris-Pincus explains.
Plus, stress is unhealthy in general, and it can lead to an increase in cravings, moodiness, physical discomfort, GI distress, and higher risk of disease, among other various concerns.
Why Does Blood Sugar Go Up At Night
There are many factors that can cause your blood sugar to increase at night. For example: what food you ate during the day, how much and when you exercised, whether you ate snacks before bed, the timing of your insulin doses, and your stress level. You can experience different patterns of high blood sugar at night. You may start with high glucose when you go to bed, start the night in range but go high several hours later, or spend most of the night in range until the hours just before you wake up. By identifying your bodys patterns, you can figure out what is causing your high blood sugar and how to address it.
Common causes of a glucose increase at night include:
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How Can We Alter Our Meals To Prevent A Blood Sugar Spike
Lets take the example we just talked about a plate of pasta with a side of garlic bread.
KEY POINT: eating a more balanced meal will help to prevent blood sugar spikes.
How To Lower High Blood Glucose Levels
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Reduce Your Sugar Intake
The average American consumes 22 teaspoons of added sugar per day. That translates to around 350 calories .
While some of this is added as table sugar, most of it comes from processed and prepared foods, such as candy, cookies and sodas.
You have no nutritional need for added sugar like sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup. They are, in effect, just empty calories.
Your body breaks these simple sugars down very easily, causing an almost immediate spike in blood sugar.
Studies show that consuming sugars is associated with developing insulin resistance.
This is when the cells fail to respond as they should to the release of insulin, resulting in the body not being able to control blood sugar effectively .
In 2016, the US Food and Drug Administration changed the way foods have to be labeled in the US. Foods now have to display the amount of added sugars they contain in grams and as a percentage of the recommended daily maximum intake.
An alternative option to giving up sugar entirely is to replace it with sugar substitutes.
Sugar is effectively empty calories. It causes an immediate blood sugar spike and high intake is associated with insulin resistance.
How To Prevent Hyperglycaemia
There are simple ways to reduce your risk of severe or prolonged hyperglycaemia:
- Be careful what you eat be particularly aware of how snacking and eating sugary foods or carbohydrates can affect your blood sugar level.
- Stick to your treatment plan remember to take your insulin or other diabetes medications as recommended by your care team.
- Be as active as possible getting regular exercise can help stop your blood sugar level rising, but you should check with your doctor first if youre taking diabetes medication, as some medicines can lead to hypoglycaemia if you exercise too much
- Take extra care when youre ill your care team can provide you with some sick day rules that outline what you can do to keep your blood sugar level under control during an illness.
- Monitor your blood sugar level your care team may suggest using a device to check your level at home, so you can spot an increase early and take steps to stop it.
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Eat The Majority Of Your Calories Early In The Day
Dinner may be thought of as the biggest meal of the day, but if you have elevated blood sugar, you should stop thinking of things that way. And don’t “save” your calories for a big meal either.
“Eating more of your calories earlier in the day can improve blood sugar levels since our bodies follow a circadian rhythm where we process food better during daylight hours,” Harris-Pincus explains. “People who eat a larger breakfast and lunch with a smaller dinner have been shown to improve blood sugar more than people consuming the same amount of calories but during evening hours.”
Plus, when you jam everything in later in the evening at dinner, especially if you eat dinner close to bedtime, your belly might feel too full, and GI distress could prevent you from falling asleep comfortably.