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Understanding Blood Sugar Spikes

Knowing how to maintain healthy blood sugar levels is important for everyone – but for those with diabetes, understanding blood sugar spikes can be a matter of life or death. The good news is that the causes of most blood sugar spikes are well known. Get to know these triggers, and you’ll be in better shape to avoid alarming spikes in blood sugar.

The Basics of Blood Sugar

Glucose is a type of sugar naturally found in many foods. While glucose isn’t a bad thing – the body converts it into energy – having too much of it at once can be problematic. Some folks are able to break down glucose more effectively than others, with insulin playing a big role in this process. A blood sugar spike occurs when too much glucose builds up in the bloodstream.

Common Symptoms of a Spike

Knowing the symptoms of a blood sugar spike can be crucial for understanding the unique needs of your body. Blurry vision, fatigue, and headache are some of the most noticeable symptoms, though these can sometimes have other root causes. When these symptoms are combined with frequent urination, increased thirst, and numbness in the hands or feet – a blood sugar spike may be to blame.

Surprising Causes of Blood Sugar Spikes

It’s natural for the body’s blood sugar level to rise and fall throughout the day, with elevation usually occurring at every meal. But there are some other distinct triggers that can cause a spike in blood sugar – some of which are quite surprising!

  • Coffee – caffeine triggers an acute blood sugar response in some people
  • Sunburn – painful burns cause stress, which can increase blood sugar
  • Poor Sleep – a disruption in your sleep cycle can make it harder for the body to use insulin effectively
  • Skipping Breakfast – waiting till noon to take your first bite can actually make blood sugar levels rise higher after lunch and dinner
  • The ‘Wrong’ Carbs – white rice, pasta, and processed foods are more likely to cause a blood sugar spike than healthy carbs like whole-grain breads and cereals

Fast Fix for Blood Sugar Spikes

For most, a minor rise in blood sugar after mealtime isn’t dangerous, since blood sugar levels usually return to pre-meal levels about two or three hours after eating. But for those with diabetes or pre-diabetes – without an active treatment plan in place – a blood sugar spike can be quite dangerous.

Fast-acting insulin is one way to calm an acute blood sugar spike quickly. Exercise is also known to help the body’s blood sugar level stabilize. For some, additional help may be necessary, so don’t shy away from seeking assistance if your blood sugar spike seems out of control.

How to Avoid Blood Sugar Spikes in the Long Run

For long-term blood sugar maintenance, healthy diet, sleep, and exercise plans are pivotal. As mentioned, avoid processed foods, fried foods, carbs, and other items high in sugar. It’s okay to eat fruit – but keep it in moderation, since many fruits have a high sugar content. Work with a professional to find an exercise regimen that works for you. Develop a routine sleep cycle.

The healthier your lifestyle, the better position you’ll be in to manage blood sugar spikes.

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Dr. Candice Seti


California-licensed Clinical Psychologist, Certified Nutrition Coach, and Certified Personal Trainer

Dr. Candice Seti

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