10 surprising reasons for blood sugar swings

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10 surprising reasons for blood sugar swings

Anyone living with diabetes knows all too well the challenge of maintaining good blood glucose or sugar control.  You think you have it all figured out but then for whatever reason, some days your blood sugar will fluctuate having a mind of its own.  You could be doing everything right from making healthy food choices, to always taking your medication and even fitting in exercise but sometimes there seems to be no rhyme or reason for the inevitable fluctuations.

The more you understand and know about the various things that can influence highs and lows, the more you can gain that control and be the master of achieving good blood sugar levels.  Doing so is important as it will ultimately lead to a healthier you avoiding unnecessary diabetes complications.

Here are 10 surprising reasons that you may not have thought of, some obvious and some not so, that could be causing a roller coaster ride of your blood glucose levels.

1.  Food residue on your hands

How many of you always each and every time thoroughly wash your hands before testing?  If not, you could be getting a false reading.  Failure to wash hands before testing, especially after handling of sugary foods, can contaminate the blood sample producing a high reading.  One study had participants peel a banana or slice an apple before pricking their finger.  Eighty-eight percent of the participants had a blood sugar reading at least 10 percent higher after touching the fruit and not washing their hands.  Lotions and creams can also give inaccurate readings.  The blood glucose meters of today are highly sensitive as they only require a tiny drop of blood to take a reading making it easy to give a false number.  If you cannot wash your hands before testing, improve testing accuracy by using the second drop of blood after wiping away the first.

2.  Weather extremes

Extreme weather conditions from sweltering hot or frigidly cold, can mess with your blood glucose numbers.  Everyone’s body reacts differently to the weather but very hot weather seems to affect it the most.  When it is hot and muggy outdoors, this puts extra stress on a person.  The high temperatures and humidity causes blood vessels to dilate which enhances insulin absorption that can lead to a drop in blood sugar.  It is advisable to stay in a cool place indoors avoiding the hottest part of the day and keep a close eye on your blood sugar levels.

3.  Sugar free foods

Just because a food package states “sugar free” does not mean it is carbohydrate free.  Check the carbohydrate amount listed on the Nutrition Facts Label before you dig in.  Remember, all carbohydrates, no matter what food source they come from, still break down into glucose or sugar.

4.  Alcohol

Alcoholic drinks have plenty of carbs so initially they will raise your blood sugar.  But your levels may drop for as long as 12 hours after drinking.  Always have a beverage containing alcohol with food to prevent hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. The American Diabetes Association advises no more than one drink a day for a woman and two drinks for a man. One drink is 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or 1½ ounces of liquor like vodka or whiskey.

5.  A woman’s menstrual cycle

The hormonal changes all women experience during menstrual cycles can also affect blood sugar levels.  About a week or so before her period starts, some women may have less sensitivity to insulin making blood sugar readings go higher than usual.  If this happens, it helps to cut back on carbohydrate intake or get in some extra exercise or do both. 

6.  Medications can mess with diabetes control

Both prescription and over-the-counter medications can trip up your blood glucose readings. Be careful taking steroids for conditions such as asthma, or inflammatory or autoimmune disorders as they can cause blood sugar to rise dramatically.  Other meds that mess with diabetes control can be birth control pills, antidepressants, antipsychotics, diuretics, and nasal decongestants, all which also cause a spike in blood sugar.  Check with a pharmacist before taking any new medications on whether they might interfere with your diabetes. 

7.  Dehydration

If you are not drinking enough fluids the sugar in your blood will become more concentrated.  But if your blood sugar is already high, this will cause you to urinate more which could lead to dehydration.  The rule of avoiding this situation is not to become dehydrated to begin with.  Generally drinking at least 8 cups of fluid daily is recommended to stay hydrated.  If drinking plain water is not your cup of tea, try adding in slices of citrus such as lemons or limes, frozen berries or fresh mint leaves.  Unsweetened tea or herbal teas can be another refreshing option and they come in a variety of flavors.

8.  Artificial sweeteners

An occasional diet drink composed with an artificial sweetener most likely won’t have an effect on your blood sugar.  But if you are downing several cans a day of diet sodas it could be having an impact on your blood sugar levels.  Artificial sweeteners are not supposed to influence blood sugar numbers but a study in Diabetes Care found participants who drank a beverage sweetened with sucralose (Splenda) prior to taking a standardized dose of glucose, saw their blood sugar and insulin reach higher levels than when they drank plain water. 

9.  Lack of sleep

Not getting enough sleep-eye can result in reduced sensitivity to insulin.  This was found in a study by Cedars-Sinia Medical Center who had people with type 1 diabetes only sleep for 4 hours which caused their sensitivity to insulin be reduced by 14 to 21 percent compared to after getting a full night’s sleep.  Lack of sleep is a form of chronic stress and added stress can cause higher blood sugars.  A consistent sleep pattern is essential to maintaining good blood sugar control and improving overall health. 

10.  Job/life stress

The stress of an overwhelming job or life in general can take a toll.  When you're under stress, your body releases hormones that can make your blood sugar rise. It's more common for people with type 2 diabetes. Learn to relax with deep breathing and exercise. Also, try to change the things that are stressing you out, if that's possible.