Managing Blood Sugar Spikes

Glucose testing


Carbohydrates are the main sources of energy in our bodies. After the consumption of carbohydrates, our bodies take responsibility for breaking them down into the simplest form of sugar - called glucose - to be utilized by the body. 

High consumption of carbohydrates causes an increase in glucose levels in the bloodstream, causing blood sugar to spike. Afterwards, a signal is sent to the pancreas and the hormone insulin is produced, which acts as an open door for the glucose accumulated in the bloodstream to pass through and enter the cell environment. This process allows carbohydrates to be used as an energy source [1]. 

For diabetic individuals, the process is slightly different due to insulin impairment [2]. Without insulin, glucose will continue to build up into the blood, causing damage to the body’s organs, nerves, and even blood vessels after a long period of time [2].  

This article will describe the reasons for blood sugar spikes, the symptoms someone might experience, and tips for preventing spikes in the future. 

Causes of Blood Sugar Spikes

Blood sugar, also called blood glucose, is the main type of sugar found in our blood. Glucose is our body’s main source of energy and is obtained from the foods we eat [3]. Our blood is responsible for carrying and supplying the glucose to every cell type in the body.

There are many reasons why someone’s blood sugar can spike. They include: 

Symptoms of Raised Blood Sugar

It is important to know the symptoms of elevated blood sugar, as they can act as a guide to successful management and control. 

The following symptoms are indicators that the body is experiencing or reacting towards a blood sugar spike: 

If you are personally experiencing any of these symptoms, remember to manage the blood sugar spike in the moment and then work towards preventing them in the future. You can and should reach out to your healthcare provider if these symptoms persist. 

How to Prevent Blood Sugar Spikes

Lifestyle management and proactive interventions are useful ways to avoid sudden increases in blood sugar. Some of the actions you can take include: 

1. Blood Glucose Monitoring Regular monitoring of blood glucose levels is essential. A fundamental step in prevention is to know the amount of glucose content accumulated in the blood. Remember, you can not act on something without knowing what you’re acting on first [7].  

The best time to consider checking blood glucose levels is during the morning. This is called fasting blood glucose, because the amount of sugar in the blood is tested after a period of not consuming any food or drinks (overnight). The aim of this is to measure the glucose in your blood when it is expected to be at its lowest point. 

2. Dietary Modification What we put into our bodies makes a huge difference in how we feel and respond. With diabetes, it’s important to avoid simple sugars and prioritize complex sugars. Complex sugars are better because they provide the body with long-term energy as they contain long carbon chains and bonds that slowly break down. Whole grains (brown rice, oatmeal, etc.) are complex sugars, whereas refined grains (white rice, white breads, cakes, etc.) are simple sugars [8]. 

It is also important to include fats and proteins into your diet because they help slow down the breakdown and absorption of carbohydrates.

3. Hydration  Staying hydrated has many benefits for your physical and mental processes and helps with regulating body temperature, carrying glucose and other nutrients through the bloodstream, and neurotransmitter function. If you become dehydrated, the existing glucose in your bloodstream becomes more concentrated. Maintaining adequate hydration by drinking 6-8 glasses of water per day will help ensure normal glucose functions [6, 9].

4. Adjusting Meal Times Food eating patterns can differ from person to person depending on various factors including circadian rhythm, work routine, and preferences [10]. Regardless of the pattern, it is important to have reasonable intervals between meals in order to provide enough room for proper digestion and absorption of foods, as well as glucose regulation. Additionally, making sure that there are not extended periods of time between meals will help with managing glucose levels and avoiding crashes. Working with a nutritionist for proper meal planning can also be beneficial if you need support with determining eating intervals. 

Tips to Remember 

Blood sugar levels vary from person to person throughout the day, however spikes in blood sugar (when glucose levels go higher than expected), can be harmful to your body. Knowing the symptoms and triggers for spikes in blood sugar can help you better manage the problem when it happens [2].

Adapting to a healthy lifestyle is an important adjustment that can have positive outcomes for blood sugar control. Actions like staying hydrated, monitoring blood sugar, getting good sleep, reducing stress, and developing a good eating plan all play an important role in managing a healthy lifestyle.