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A man riding a line out of control on a spike in their blood sugar graph.

15 Things That Can Spike Your Blood Sugar

As we all know, type 2 diabetes is hard to live with. An understatement, right? Right. But one of the things that puzzles me is, what causes the spikes in blood sugar? You know, the highs.

What causes a blood sugar spike?

As I read more evidence-based information, I’m surprised by some of the things that cause hyperglycemia. Here’s a list I’ve compiled. Some are obvious and some, not so much.

15 reasons you may see your blood sugar spike

  1. The amount of carbs: too many or too few. It can go either way. For some people, low carbohydrate or micro-low carbohydrate ways of eating can keep blood sugars in line. For me, too few carbs sends my blood sugars through the roof. For others, too much indulgence in carbs beyond what their body can handle can cause high blood sugar spikes. Suggestion: Find your balance and live within it.
  2. Skipping meals. Which is somewhat different than the one above I just mentioned. What I’m referring to is skipping meals with intent because we are ‘too busy’. Not eating cannot stabilize your blood sugars. If anything it messes with them and can be dangerous especially if taking insulin. I’m not referring to fasting either. Most of us do fast when we decide to avoid eating in the evening and then we sleep all night. That’s not the same as skipping a meal. Suggestion: Make time for your meals. Prepare ahead. Remember, food is medicine.
  3. Illness. This is a biggie. Diarrhea, viruses/infections, vomiting; all the things that can cause dehydration. Things that affect our body, how we are able, or not, to eat, and how our body copes with temporary or more chronic illness. Suggestion: Wash your hands frequently, stay home if sick and drink plenty of fluids.
  4. Stress. How can we possibly look after ourselves if our stress level is out of control? We all have more than diabetes to deal with. We have life to deal with. Even folks who ‘control’ their stress well, still can experience the silence of high blood sugars. Suggestion: Find a new way to cope with your stress if the old way isn’t working. Try not to let stress get out of hand.
  5. An evening out involving alcohol.Alcohol is technically a toxin. There is no amount that is considered safe even though it is socially acceptable to drink. Like many other social habits, we can ignore what the substance truly is but our liver and kidneys cannot. They prioritize what to filter out first. They want to filter out toxins first. The kidneys and liver can be kept quite busy getting rid of the alcohol toxin instead of the blood sugars after an ‘alcohol’ evening out. Suggestion: If you choose to drink, drink within reason when having a social night out.
  6. High unhealthy fat meals. Not only do unhealthy fat meals cause a spike in blood sugars that can take hours to come down, but they are also a major problem for those of us with diabetes because of the impact on blood vessels and the potential for heart disease. Suggestion: Avoid a diet that consists of unhealthy fats such that you would find in fast foods. Include healthy fats in your diet in moderation for diabetic and cardiac health. See a registered dietitian.
  7. Medications. There are many medications that impact and influence our blood glucose. Examples are some nasal sprays, some heart and cholesterol meds, diuretics, asthma meds, and many over the counter medications such as cough medicine. We cannot always help that we need certain medications for health; those ones we take. Suggestion: Keep a diary of your blood sugar tests and have a discussion with your healthcare team if you think your meds are affecting them. There may be other meds you can try that won’t create or will minimize the spikes.
  8. Dehydration. When we are dehydrated we have less fluid in our body. Less fluid = less pee = less removal of sugars = high sugars. Simple. We have to be extra careful not to be in a state of dehydration when we are diabetic. Suggestion: Try to drink throughout the day to avoid feeling waterlogged by drinking your daily amounts all at once. Sipping works best.
  9. Hypoglycemia. Yes. Believe it not, when we try to correct after a low we can easily end up with a high blood sugar. Our sugars can rebound sometimes with a vengeance. Suggestion: Do what you need to correct the low at the time and speak to your health care team to see what they can do to help you avoid the lows.
  10. Smoking. Studies have shown that the more our blood is exposed to nicotine the higher the A1c will be over time. A high A1c affects blood vessels in all the major organs in the body. Suggestion: Cut down on smoking. When you’re ready, quit. Talk to your health care team about options to help you quit.1
  11. Coffee. Hmmm. I never thought of coffee in relation to my blood sugars. Apparently researchers are not sure why but for some people, caffeine will give a spike to blood sugars. Suggestion: If you find your blood sugars spike with caffeine from any source, cut down or cut it out to see if it makes a difference. You never know, it might help.2
  12. Pain! It will raise your blood sugar sometimes despite your best efforts to control the pain. Suggestion: See your doctor or nurse practitioner if you cannot manage your pain easily.
  13. Lack of sleep.Our body needs sleep. When we get less than an optimal amount of sleep, our bodies become stressed. Stress leads to an increase in blood sugars. Suggestion: Try to get at least 6-8 hours of good sleep to help support your blood sugars. Turn off the tech and the TV. Meditation before bed may help too.
  14. Time of day or night. Sometimes we have an explanation that fits as to why our sugars go up such as 'dawn phenomenon' where we expect our sugars to rise as our body gets ready for the day. Sometimes we have no explanation. I know from testing, my sugars are the highest mid-morning. I have no idea why but this is when my sugars spike. The rest of the day if I eat according to knowing my body, my sugars are pretty good. Because diabetes is so individual, our sugars can spike at any time. Spikes are not usually a good thing. Suggestion: Talk to your health care professionals to see what they can offer to help smooth out those spikes.
  15. Lack of exercise. Ever notice your sugars going up when you’ve missed your exercise routine? Exercise can level out blood sugars nicely. And despite what you may read, sometimes all it takes is a simple walk a few times a week. Suggestion: Move more. It’s really that simple.

I’m no authority on your diabetes but I know that spikes in blood sugar lead to no good. The less twitchy we can make our blood sugars, the better it is for our health. It makes diabetes less hard to live with.

Besides the references noted in the article above, I have included some good (short) references below for you to read in case you’re interested.

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