If you have diabetes, blood glucose monitoring is an integral part of managing your condition. You likely check your blood sugar several times a day to ensure you’re within the normal range.
Another essential part of managing your diabetes is understanding what factors affect blood glucose. This allows you to know why dips and spikes occur — you may even be able to prevent them altogether.
So what factors significantly affect your blood sugar? Here’s what to look out for.
As you probably already know, exercise is a critical part of good health, especially for diabetes patients. However, it can have a significant impact on your blood sugar levels. Our bodies are powered by glucose, making sense that frequent activity (or inactivity) can influence our blood sugar. But not to worry — with the right information and vigilant blood sugar monitoring, you can exercise while maintaining safe glucose levels.
Increased Physical Activity
Physical activity uses up glucose as our bodies draw on the supply in our livers. As a result, your blood sugar levels will likely be low after an intense workout; your body will need several hours to rebuild its stores by pulling glucose from your bloodstream.
Fortunately, you can prevent a significant blood glucose drop by planning your meals and snacks accordingly. In this instance, carbohydrates are your friend, as they allow you to replace your blood glucose.
Lack of Physical Activity
On the other end of the spectrum, lack of physical activity can result in high blood glucose. Our bodies are continually maintaining a balance between the glucose stores in our livers and our bloodstream; they do so with insulin. However, lack of regular exercise can reduce your cells’ sensitivity to insulin, making them slower to absorb the glucose in your bloodstream. This can result in higher blood sugar levels.
Medications can significantly impact your blood sugar levels, even if they’re not specifically to treat diabetes. Certain medications can change your metabolism or your body’s response to insulin. Because of this, you must review the side effects of new medication with your doctor before starting a regimen.
Two medications that can result in higher blood glucose levels are antipsychotics and steroids. Antipsychotics are often prescribed for mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and can result in weight gain. This, in turn, can make the body less sensitive to insulin, leading to higher blood sugar levels. Similarly, a common side of steroids, which are used to treat asthma, is insulin resistance.
How you administer your prescribed insulin can also affect your blood sugar. Your body absorbs insulin at a different rate depending on where you inject it. The stomach is the best place to inject, as it has the fastest absorption rate. The faster your body absorbs insulin, the quicker it can balance your blood sugar.
One of the most significant factors in controlling your blood sugar is your diet. What you eat and drink, and when you partake, has a considerable impact on your blood glucose—understanding how your body processes certain foods can help you avoid dips and spikes in your blood sugar.
Alcohol may not be the first thing that comes to mind when we talk about blood sugar, but the truth is it can result in hypoglycemia if consumed in excess. This occurs because while the liver is processing the alcohol, it stops creating glucose. This means glucose can’t be released into your bloodstream to balance out your blood sugar levels.
Food and drink are how your body accesses sugars, which are its power source. After eating, you’ll notice a spike in blood sugar as your body naturally processes food and distributes energy. Gradually, your levels will even out as your bloodstream sugar is converted to glycogen for storage.
However, after a while, your body will start burning energy and need to convert the glycogen back into glucose. When the supply is depleted, your blood sugar levels dip. Missing meals or otherwise not eating when you’re hungry means those sugars aren’t being replaced, resulting in low blood glucose and the following symptoms:
- Impaired Vision
- Coordination Problems
- Lack of Energy
- Clamminess and Chills
The body breaks down carbohydrates into sugars, so it stands to reason that consuming a lot of carbohydrates at once can cause a spike in blood glucose levels. It’s important to note that carbohydrates aren’t bad in and of themselves; instead, they are an essential part of your daily caloric intake that should be carefully managed to balance your blood sugar.
Another factor that can cause high blood glucose is dehydration. Water is the major component of blood; when you’re dehydrated, there’s less water in your bloodstream, making the glucose concentration rise. For this reason, individuals with diabetes must stay hydrated, especially if they’re exercising or drinking alcohol.
Hormones are the body’s way of communicating between cells; hormone fluctuations can affect several bodily functions, including blood sugar management. For example, individuals going through menopause may notice more dips and spikes in glucose levels. Both male hormones (such as testosterone) and female hormones (such as progesterone and estrogen) can impact cells’ responses to insulin.
The menstrual cycle consists of several hormone fluctuations over 28 days. Where individuals are in their cycle can influence their bodies’ insulin resistance. As a result, people who menstruate often see predictable changes in their blood sugar levels correlating with their periods.
The primary role hormones play in pregnancy also means pregnant individuals can expect changes to their blood sugar levels. Pregnant people are often at risk of gestational diabetes due to the high blood glucose induced by placental hormones. As a result, blood sugar monitoring is an integral part of prenatal care to ensure parents and children stay healthy.
Many times, diabetic health is discussed in terms of weight, diet, and exercise. However, there are other factors — some of them are temporary — that can have an impact on your blood glucose. If your daily routine hasn’t changed, but you’re seeing a rise or fall in your average blood sugar levels, one of these may be the culprit.
Stress puts a lot of strain on the body, which isn’t always visible. When we’re under pressure, our bodies release cortisol, which keeps us ready to respond to dangerous situations. One way it does so is to increase blood sugar, giving our cells ready access to energy.
However, prolonged stress is detrimental, leading to high blood pressure and increased insulin resistance.
Similarly, illness prompts our bodies to produce hormones to fight the infection. These hormones also increase blood sugar to fuel the immune response. This occurs even if you have nausea or vomiting and cannot consume more carbohydrates, which means you may have a drop in blood glucose levels upon recovery. With so many factors to account for, managing your diabetes can seem overwhelming. However, with the proper tools, you can accurately track your blood sugar and identify patterns, making it easier to maintain good health. Here at MedEnvios Healthcare, we offer a variety of diabetic supplies, including glucose monitoring systems. To shop our selection, visit MedEnvios online today today
Featured Image: Shutterstock /Julia Pankin