There is a common misconception that you should worry about your blood sugar levels only if you have diabetes; peaks and crashes can be nonetheless worrying for the average person. Such blood sugar spikes occur when your blood sugar rises and then falls sharply after you eat, causing lethargy and hunger.
In the long run, your body may be unable to reduce blood sugar efficiently, leading to an accumulation of sugar in your bloodstream. Sugar levels can remain high either when your pancreas does not manufacture sufficient insulin, the hormone that converts glucose to carbohydrate stores in our body, or when your cells become immune to its effects. This condition is known as prediabetes, a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
What Affects our Blood Sugar?
A sugar-loaded drink, meal or snack. The word “sugar” immediately brings to mind images of cookies, ice cream and soft drinks. These can indeed cause blood sugars to peak but also watch out for those hidden sugars in white rice and bread. Consuming protein and fat with your sugar helps slow your body’s absorption of sugar and helps fill you up, decreasing the chances you’ll eat too much sugar to feel satiated.
Starving yourself. Not eating for hours significantly lowers your sugar levels, sometimes to the extent that you feel shaky or weak. Generally, going more than five hours without eating can wreak havoc on your blood sugar. If it’s been more than three hours since your last meal and you’re beginning to feel weak, have a snack that is a fast-acting carbohydrate. No, not a bar of chocolate; opt for an apple or some whole-wheat toast instead.
Too much alcohol. Carb-loaded alcohol like beer, cider and sweeter varieties of wine can lead to a dramatic increase in blood sugar, so be mindful not to have too much. Moreover, binge drinking on an empty stomach can prevent your liver from releasing stored glucose into your blood and trigger a drop in blood sugar. If you feel a crash coming on, having a balanced meal can fix the problem.
Working out without eating. Having an intense workout session on an empty stomach may cause your blood sugar to drop, leaving you weak, so remember to fuel up before and after exercise with these tips.
Warning signs that you have whacky blood sugar levels
- Sugar and carb cravings
- Irritability upon missing a meal
- Feeling hungry all the time
- Mood swings, anxiety or crying without reason
- Fatigue and lethargy, especially in the afternoon.
- Weight gain and subsequent difficulty losing weight
- Trouble concentrating, and sometimes feel detached.
- Waking up several times at night.
- Slow healing wounds and bruises
- Blurred vision
- Dry skin
- Excessive thirst
- Frequent urination
Managing Blood Sugar
Eating three regular meals with an allowance for one or two healthy snacks usually prevents dramatic spikes. Prevention is better than cure; so here are a few tips for you to avoid blood sugar spikes:
1. Eating Less Sugar, Refined Carbs and Processed Foods.
Ditch packaged food, white bread, white rice, refined sugar, soft drinks, sugary sweets and desserts. Aside from having no nutritional value, they can also increase the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Don’t cut out carbs completely; simply switch to better carb sources such as whole-grain foods, fruits and sweet potatoes. Non-starchy vegetables, legumes, nuts, meat and fish are also better options to manage blood sugar spikes.
2. Fuel Up on Fibre
Fibre has two parts, soluble and insoluble. The former is particularly beneficial in controlling blood sugar spikes as it helps slow the absorption of carbs in our intestines. This means that our blood sugar is more likely to rise and fall gradually rather than spike. Fibre keeps you full longer, therefore reducing the need for your to constantly eat. Include nuts, oats, legumes, leafy greens, peas, apples, pears and oranges (among others) to ensure you get your dose of soluble fibre.
3. Maintain a Healthy Weight.
Studies have shown that your body struggles to control blood sugar levels when you’re overweight or obese. Just a slight bit of weight loss can improve your blood sugar control.
4. Get More Exercise
You don’t need to get started on a strict training regimen. Just some moderate to high-intensity exercise 3 to 4 times a week can make a difference. Not only does it aid your muscles to absorb sugar from the blood, it also increases cell sensitivity to insulin, stimulating them to remove sugar from the blood. Plus, what better way to maintain a healthy weight than sweating it out a little? Remember to grab an adequate snack first though!
5. Consider Adding Apple Cider Vinegar & Cinnamon
While we don’t suggest you chug down apple cider vinegar by the bottle, it has been found to have numerous health benefits. Studies have shown that consuming vinegar may elevate insulin action, while cinnamon increases insulin sensitivity, both of which reduce spikes in blood sugar. However, the jury is still out there and more research is needed to confirm this.
6. Have Heavier Meals Earlier in the Day
Having that big dinner at the end of the day might create chaos on your blood sugar levels. Our bodies become more insulin resistant as the day progresses, meaning that blood sugar tends to spike more towards the evening.
7. Drink More Water
Without sufficient water, blood sugar tends to peak as water tends to flush excess sugar out of your system. So make sure you get sufficient water throughout the day, especially as soon as you feel thirsty or dehydrated.
8. More Sleep, Less Stress
You’ve heard this one many times – reduce stress and get enough sleep. Increase in stress releases the hormone cortisol, which raises blood sugar. Couple seven to nine hours of sleep with some stress-busting habits like meditation and yoga to help control blood sugar levels.
No Single Cure…
Your blood sugar can be stabilised with some of the natural solutions mentioned above. A simple way to start would be by taking small steps to change your diet and lifestyle. There is no magical cure but a holistic approach can prevent any serious health complications that can result in blood sugar spikes. Remember to check out our post on shaking off sugar by Dr Arora for more information and tips.
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