You know that eating an extra-large order of fries with your meal or taking too much diabetes medicine can wreak havoc with your blood sugar. But you may be surprised to find out about other things that can drive blood sugar to spike or drop. Read on to learn about less well-known blood sugar disrupters and what to do about them.
Physical activity and exercise can make your body more sensitive to insulin, which can lower your blood sugar. You may need to check your blood sugar levels more often or be on the lookout for low blood sugar when you exercise. Exercising in really hot or cold conditions also may change how your body absorbs insulin. Your healthcare provider can tell you what your blood sugar levels should be before and after exercise and signs of low blood sugar to watch for.
Tips: Keep quick snacks at hand during exercise to treat blood sugar lows and have water or sugar-free sports drinks on hand to stay hydrated.
2. Illness or Injury
When you’re sick with a severe cold or flu or are in pain, your body releases hormones to fight the illness. The downside is that these hormones can send your blood sugar levels in either direction, making it hard to keep them in your target range.
Tips: Talk with your diabetes healthcare provider about a “sick day plan” so you know what to do when you aren’t feeling well. Understand how to take your medicines and stick to your regular meal plan as closely as possible. If you check your blood sugar, check it more often when you are ill. If you have problems or are unsure what to do when you are sick, contact your healthcare team immediately. Consider training a friend, family member, or caregiver to test your blood sugar when you aren’t feeling well.
When you are stressed, your body has a “fight-or-flight” response and releases hormones that can raise blood sugar levels. Also, most people under stress tend not to take good care of themselves — working long hours, eating or drinking too much, and exercising too little — which also affects blood sugar levels.
Tips: Do your best to reduce stress by exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, learning relaxation techniques or meditation, and participating in enjoyable hobbies. If your stress feels out of control, consider joining a support group or speaking with a trusted friend or a counselor.
4. Medicines and Supplements
Steroids, cold medicines, birth control pills, and other medications may interfere with the effectiveness of prescription diabetes medicines and can cause changes in your blood sugar levels. Some supplements and natural remedies can also affect blood sugar levels.
Tips: Always ask your doctor or Rite Aid Pharmacist about whether any new medicines that are prescribed or supplements you take could affect your diabetes management.
Did you know that alcohol can cause low blood sugar shortly after drinking and for up to 24 hours afterward? In general, it’s recommended limiting alcohol to one drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men.
Tips: If you do choose to drink alcohol, ask your healthcare provider about whether drinking alcohol is safe for you. Never drink on an empty stomach. Be aware of symptoms of low blood sugar, which include blurred vision, headache, and rapid heartbeat, feeling nervous, shaking, sweating, and unclear thinking. If you monitor your blood sugar, check your level before, during, and after drinking for up to 24 hours. You should also check your blood sugar before you go to bed to make sure it is at a safe level. If your blood sugar is low, eat something to raise it.
These articles are not a substitute for medical advice, and are not intended to treat or cure any disease. Advances in medicine may cause this information to become outdated, invalid, or subject to debate. Professional opinions and interpretations of scientific literature may vary. Consult your healthcare professional before making changes to your diet, exercise or medication regimen.
Diabetes, Medline Plus, National Institutes of Health: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/diabetes.html
Living with Diabetes, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/living/index.html
Factors Affecting Blood Glucose, American Diabetes Association: http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/blood-glucose-control/factors-affecting-blood-glucose.html
Stress, American Diabetes Association: http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/mental-health/stress.html
Illness, American Diabetes Association: http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/whos-on-your-health-care-team/when-youre-sick.html
Alcohol, American Diabetes Association: http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/making-healthy-food-choices/alcohol.html
Self-Care Behavior Handouts, American Association of Diabetes Educators: