If you are someone living with Type 2 Diabetes, management can be difficult to master. There are many things that go into your blood sugar levels, including what you eat and drink, how much you move, sleep and stress, hormonal changes, and so much more.
Here are 16 things to keep in mind if you’re seeing big fluctuations in your blood sugar numbers.
Food items that are listed as “sugar-free” often still contain carbohydrates. Just because there is no added sugar, does not mean there isn’t naturally occurring carbohydrate in that food. These foods also sometimes contain sugar alcohols - these are sweeteners that can still affect blood sugar in some people. Two common examples are sorbitol and xylitol.
Remember to read your nutrition labels to make sure you’re staying on track. An even better way to stay on track? Learn how different foods affect your blood sugar and eat for your specific needs. If you need help with this, visit my free training video here.
High fat, high carb meals
Fat slows the digestion of your meal, which in many cases is a good thing. However, when you choose a high fat AND high carbohydrate meal (such as pizza, Americanized Chinese food, fried foods, etc.), this can cause a large delayed spike in blood sugar. This elevation can last for a long while before coming back down.
Juice cleanses & detoxes
Detoxes, cleanses, skinny teas, and fads are big no-no’s in long term health and longevity for Type 2 Diabetes. It may sound logical to do a juice cleanse or a long fast to “rid your body of sugars” but this is simply not scientifically sound. These types of quick fixes can cause dangerous fluctuations in blood sugar levels, and harm your gut health (hint: good gut health helps stabilize metabolism and blood sugar). I explain this further in this instagram post.
Too few carbs
It’s easy to get caught in the cycle of thinking that carbs are the enemy - but not all carbs are created equal. If you see low blood sugars often, your body may be needing MORE carbohydrate. There is a delicate balance here and every body is different. Find your ideal carb level! Your body will thank you.
Not fueling well before or after exercise
It is all too common to see a low blood sugar after being physically active. You may feel panicked by a low, and consume more carbohydrate than needed to bring yourself back up, causing a rebound high. Be sure to check your blood sugar before exercise and keep emergency snacks on hand to ensure safety in exercising.
Have you ever seen a raise in blood sugar after an intense workout? This may seem counter-intuitive, but it is certainly true. This brief raise in blood sugar is caused by a stress response in your muscles after using them strenuously
While that sounds like a negative thing, it’s quite the contrary. This is necessary for muscle building and toning, which improves insulin resistance and stabilizes blood sugar levels. Don’t worry - the raise in BG (blood glucose) that you see will go down soon after your cool-down.
Lack of sleep
Getting enough sleep is crucial in blood sugar and weight control, as well as a a number of aspects of overall health. With 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night, your hormones stay regulated, your body heals better, your metabolism steadies, and your brain functions better. Getting enough sleep is even linked to lower risk of memory related illnesses later in life.
Feeling under the weather
When you have a cold, feel sick, or are healing from an injury, you’ll likely see higher blood sugar as the body fights to get healthy again. To stabilize this, stay well hydrated, keep up with electrolytes, and choose complex carb foods to avoid getting up into that “danger zone”.
Drinks that are marketed as sports drinks, health drinks, “superfood” smoothies, protein shakes, etc. often contain weird ingredients that aren’t wholesome. Specifically refined sugar, corn syrup, and processed veggie concentrate that provide very little nourishment and could increase BG. Instead - eat the real thing!
When it comes to supplements, try to think of them as the “cherry on top” of a healthy eating pattern, versus replacing good wholesome foods with them.
It is a well known fact that stress raises blood sugar. Use good coping strategies for regulating your stress level. These include physical activity (try going for a walk on your lunch break, or stretching and breathing each evening), meditation, taking time for things you enjoy each day, doing a “brain dump”.
The refining process essentially takes a wholesome grain and strips it of most of the fiber and nutrition it naturally has. This in turn makes the food digest more rapidly, and can raise BG too high (and too quickly). Refined grains such as white bread and white pastas are easy to overindulge in as well, causing them to spike blood sugar. Check out this post to learn more about how to eat high quality carbohydrate foods that stabilize blood sugar, rather than spike it.
You may find that even if you’re doing everything right - eating the right foods, staying active, and taking care of your body - and yet you’re seeing high fasting numbers, or the occasional random high BG. Hormone fluctuations, especially for females, can make your levels go all over! Monitor your BG long term, and see if there are any trends. This is how you can pinpoint any areas that need attention. Consistent physical activity and proper sleep are two ways to combat hormonal swings.
Heat and hydration
If you are exposed to high heat for a long period of time, you can easily become dehydrated. Dehydration raises blood sugar quickly, but can also cause big swings. If you are working outside during warm months, spending your leisure time outdoors, or exercising, be sure to stay well hydrated and keep both protein and carbohydrate snacks on hand.
Alcohol actually lowers blood sugar levels - it’s the mix-ins that are often high in sugar. So be sure to drink in moderation if you choose to do so, monitor your BG when you are, and choose low sugar mix-ins such as diet soda in small amounts, a splash of fruit juice, club soda and twist of lemon or lime, or flavored sparkling waters to avoid spikes.
Best ways to keep BG consistent
Keep a consistent eating pattern
Type 2 Diabetes is a metabolic disorder. In order to see consistent blood sugars and reduce metabolic shifts, your body needs to trust you. This will keep a more stable metabolic rate throughout the day and less hormonal fluctuations, leading to more stable blood sugar.
One way to ensure this? Find a consistent eating pattern. Choose wholesome foods in appropriate amounts for your needs, and time them in a way that fits in with your daily routine. As your body begins to trust you more, you’ll even become more in tune with hunger queues, leading to gradual healthy weight loss.
Nurture good gut health
Wholesome foods contain pre-biotics AND probiotics. Both are important in gut health. Having a healthy gut significantly improves digestion and absorption of essential nutrients, helping to stabilize blood sugar, weight, and overall health. Improving pancreas and liver function helps to improve or reverse Type 2. Choose plenty of veggies and fruits daily - they contain pre-biotic fibers that help to feed the good bacteria in your gut. Work in things like yogurt and fermented foods that contain probiotics, to add more good bacteria (probiotics) to your system.
Skip fad diets and detoxes
As I previously mentioned, detoxes, cleanses, skinny teas, and fads are big no-no’s in long term health and longevity. It may sound logical to do a juice cleanse or a long fast to “rid your body of sugars” but this is simply not scientifically sound. It can cause very dangerous highs and lows because these are not solutions to the problem, only short term fixes that lead to other problems. On top of being hard on your body, they’re also hard on your wallet. What can you do instead? Learn to truly understand nutrition and blood sugar control!