“What’s with the random blood sugar spikes?! I’m doing everything right!”
Have you said that to yourself lately?
As you may know, diabetes is a disease that requires you to monitor your blood sugar daily to keep it at the suggested reading as told by your doctor.
There are many different types of blood glucose monitoring devices on the market to help you in achieve this. You probably already have one.
Normal blood sugar levels for an adult with diabetes will differ at various times of the day and depending on daily activities. The general target level is less than 100 mg/dL for fasting or morning readings, 100-140 mg/dL before bedtime, and less than 180 mg/dL 1-2 hours after meals.
Readings of 70-100 mg/dL before a meal and at least 100 mg/dL prior to exercise (if taking insulin) are also considered to be within the normal range.
Failing to keep the levels in check may cause blood sugar spikes that can, in turn, lead to short-term hyperglycemia side effects such as
- excessive thirst
- dry mouth
- frequent urination
- blurry vision.
Ketoacidosis due to severe hyperglycemia is an emergency condition that can also happen. Adverse long-term health complications include
- kidney problems
- heart disease
- nerve damage.
10 Ways Blood Sugar Spikes Sneak Up on You
In adults without diabetes, the body produces enough insulin and is able to use it sufficiently to move glucose out of the bloodstream and store it for energy use. Foods and physical activities do not typically throw their glucose levels off course.
This function is interrupted in people with the disease due to lack of insulin, insulin resistance, or insulin sensitivity. Without the hormone insulin, glucose becomes concentrated in the bloodstream causing hyperglycemia symptoms.
Here are 10 factors that influence the increase in blood glucose.
Even if you’ve been living with the disease for years, you may not realize that some common lifestyle habits are responsible for those spikes you get.
Number 3 and 7 you probably don’t hear everyday!
1) The foods you eat
Eating meals and snacks that are rich in carbohydrates, sugars, and starch is not recommended for type 2 diabetics and those at risk of developing the illness.
They include foods such as white rice, bread, sugary fruits, and ground provisions. Such foods have a medium to high glycemic index (GI), that is to say, a rating of 55 or more.
The GI is a system used to rank foods on a scale from 1 to 100 based on their ability to raise blood sugar levels. You can control blood sugar by eating foods with a low glycemic index, e.g., whole oats and kidney beans.
These foods are less likely to spike blood sugar.
Other examples of foods with a glycemic index of 55 or less are peas, beans, lentils, corn, sweet potato, and carrots.
2) Side effects from medications
Missing a dose of insulin or taking too much or too little of the medication can also cause similar effects.
Prescription and over-the-counter drugs can also drive sugar levels up. You should tell your doctor or healthcare provider of any other medications you’re taking.
Although they are prescribed to treat certain conditions, drugs such as glucocorticoids, antipsychotic medications, diuretics (water pills), niacin, and blood pressure tablets, e.g., beta-blockers, may cause a rise in blood glucose.
To help control blood sugar more effectively, your doctor may tell you to stop using any of the medications, adjust the dose, or substitute it with another drug.
Stress is the body’s fight or flight response mechanism when it senses a threat of physical or emotional harm.
The response causes a rush of adrenaline that raises blood pressure and heart rate. A release of the primary stress hormone, cortisol, also occurs.
Cortisol is known to increase sugars in the bloodstream.
You may notice this effect more if you have type 2 diabetes.
You can identify stress triggers and make lifestyle adjustments to reduce stress and prevent diabetic health complications.
Stress can come from where you least expect it. Work, home life, people cutting you off on the road, money, watching the news. Take a closer at what riles you up. While we cannot control everything in our life, we can choose how to react to it.
Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, yoga, and low-impact exercises are other ways to keep stress levels as well as sugar levels down.
Diabetes itself increases the risk of dehydration and dehydration can raise blood sugar.
Reduced fluids in the body from not drinking enough water or too much exercise may lead to a build-up of glucose.
Frequent urination is a symptom of sugar spikes which can, in turn, result in further dehydration. Drinking at least 8 cups of water or calorie-free liquids throughout the day helps to keep you hydrated and prevent hyperglycemia.
Active people usually need to drink more water. To add healthy varieties, you can try unsweetened or caffeine-free herbal teas such as peach and raspberry.
5) Menstrual period
Hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle can interfere with normal glucose range. Some women with diabetes notice this happens a few days prior to the beginning of their period. It helps to closely track your cycle and blood glucose levels in the week leading up to it.
Your doctor may decide to change your medication or recommend hormone therapy to calm the effects of hormonal changes on your health. You can also cut back on carbs, exercise, and drink plenty of fluids to offset the increase in sugar levels.
6) Lack of sleep
Few hours of sleep at night, restlessness, and insomnia are problems that can lead to sleep deprivation.
Lack of sleep can lead to various symptoms including stress, mood swings, irritability, daytime sleepiness, lethargy, and problem concentrating.
Studies found that being sleep deprived can also increase insulin sensitivity and result in blood glucose spikes in people with type 2 diabetes.
Having a regular sleep schedule and ensuring you get 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep helps to regulate glucose in the body, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
7) Harsh weather conditions
Do you live in Death Valley? Alaska? Extreme hot or cold weather temperature is shown to adversely affect diabetes control.
Excess body heat and sweating can cause blood sugar to fluctuate and rise. Consequently, you should keep your body hydrated by drinking plenty of water or unsweetened liquids and stay in an air-conditioned room.
Also, remember to monitor your blood glucose closely during this time.
Note that high temperatures can reduce the accuracy of testing strips and give false readings, so it is important to keep them stored at room temperature.
Is it possible that your morning cup of Joe is actually impacting your blood glucose?
Americans love their morning coffee. It boosts energy and helps you to start your day “right.”
However, the caffeine in your coffee may contain substances that cause a rise in glucose levels.
This may be due to their ability to lower insulin sensitivity. The effect may be the same if you drink other caffeinated drinks such as black tea, diet cola, or energy drinks.
While some people may get away with 1 to 2 cups of coffee, others may experience a spike in blood sugar because of the way their body metabolizes caffeine.
The increase may occur in people with type 2 diabetes immediately after taking the beverage.
Ironically, habitual coffee drinking by people without the disease is said to reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
9) Too much alcohol
The carbohydrates in sweet wines and beers can raise blood sugar where excess alcohol is consumed.
According to Medical News Today, this happens because alcohol reduces the effectiveness of insulin.
It can also raise blood pressure and interact with diabetes medication leading to adverse side effects. The severity of its effect depends on how much alcohol is consumed and whether it was taken on an empty stomach.
Blood sugar can also drop to dangerously low levels from drinking alcohol.
10) Sedentary lifestyle
Regular exercise is an important way to manage type 2 diabetes.
Besides helping you to maintain a healthy weight, it can lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.
Staying active and getting enough exercise works to increase insulin sensitivity so that the body can remove glucose from the bloodstream more efficiently and use it for energy.
According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), physical activity and a good workout can reduce blood glucose for 24 hours or longer.
Note, however, that too much exercise can result in dehydration as well as hypoglycemia. As such, you should assess and find out how your blood glucose responds to exercise.
Other Factors That Can Cause a Spike in Blood Sugar
- Other illnesses
- Taking steroids
- Skipping breakfast
- Artificial sweeteners
- Eating excess fatty foods
- Blood sugar test mistakes
Bringing Your Blood Sugar Levels Down to Normal
As a type 2 diabetic, you’ll need to be able to recognize and manage blood sugar spikes to prevent health complications associated with persistent, elevated glucose.
Also actively watch out for symptoms of ketoacidosis due to extremely high blood sugar. Symptoms include:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Fruit-smelling breath
- Severe dry mouth
Regular glucose monitoring is key to preventing glucose levels from rising too high.
You can even consider using a continuous glucose monitoring device to track glucose levels in real-time.
In addition, ensure you check your A1C at least twice a year to find out your average glucose levels over the past 3 months.
The ADA also recommends effective meal planning and regular exercise to help keep the levels within a healthy range.
Feel free to log the readings in a notebook or a diabetes blood glucose tracking app.
If you do experience hyperglycemia, you should check your blood sugar right away and follow your doctor’s directions to bring the levels down.
This may include taking insulin or other diabetes medications, drinking water, exercising, and avoiding high-carb foods for a certain period of time.
The Bottom Line
Preventing blood sugar spikes require you to make lifestyle changes, if you haven’t already done so.
Eating right, regular exercise, stress control, keep your weight down, and drinking plenty of water can help to control your blood sugar as well as provide other healthy benefits.
As always, check with your healthcare provider before you make any extreme changes to your life.