Ten Surprising Things that Affect Blood Sugar Levels

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As the mother of two children with type 1 diabetes, I’ve learned for certain that carbohydrates raise blood sugar and insulin brings it down.  And I’ve also learned that there are about 800,000 things that affect blood sugar, and many times they are things that aren’t in our control. So, today we’re taking a look at some of the factors you might not realize can throw off  your blood sugar levels. If you have things to add to the list, let us know in the comments!

 

Stress

Sometimes there’s really no way to avoid stress, and I know it, pardon my language, sucks to hear that it can affect your blood sugars. While stress may be unavoidable, learning to cope with and handle it may be able to help to decrease its effect. 

 

The Weather

When I first heard that the weather can cause blood sugar changes, I thought it was silly, so I understand what you’re thinking while reading this. But it’s true: hotter and colder temperatures put additional strain on the body.

Lower blood sugars can happen when the temperature rises or drops because your body will begin to use extra energy to stay warm or cool off. When on vacation at the beach this year, we had times when both of my kids’ blood sugars were higher than normal and a couple when they were lower.

 

Being Under the Weather

If you’re sick or have an infection, your body sends out hormones to fight off the illness. Those hormones can cause a rise in blood sugar levels. Having an illness that causes vomiting or causes you to eat less can lead to low blood sugar levels. For more on this, read: What to Do with Diabetes and the Flu.

 

Hormones

Hormones. We can’t control them, but boy do I wish we could. Have you ever gone to bed within range and woke up much higher than normal? Or put your little one to bed in-range and noticed a rise overnight? This happens frequently to some people with diabetes. The dawn phenomenon, as we refer to it, is a surge of hormones around 4:00-5:00 a.m. It’s something that’s typically unavoidable, especially in children with Type 1. Not to mention children’s hormones during puberty are changing, which often means blood sugars are doing the same.

 

Caffeine

Caffeine affects everyone differently, and in excessive amounts, it can change the way insulin works. According to the Mayo Clinic, “the impact of caffeine on insulin action may be associated with higher or lower blood sugar levels.”

 

Sleep

Getting a full night of sleep is good for everyone, but it’s incredibly important for those with diabetes. A lack of sleep can cause blood sugar levels to rise. Trying to make sure you and your kids get a good night of sleep is crucial to keeping your blood sugar levels within range. I understand fully how this can be a challenge because diabetes doesn’t sleep. Try to make sleep more of a priority by going to bed earlier. When you get a few extra hours of shut eye you will feel better mentally and physically.

 

Exercise

Okay, well this one isn’t necessarily surprising but the way exercise affects your blood sugar levels can be one of the most frustrating things about diabetes. Yes, I understand that when my daughter is cheering and doing cartwheels like crazy there is a chance that her  blood sugar levels could drop from the increased activity. Or when my son is out marching on the football field with the band, this could cause him to go lower.  So, we take this into account and try to plan better. We decrease basal insulin during the activity, and sometimes increase carbs before the activity. What we have to keep in mind is that exercise can also affect blood sugar levels hours after the activity. This is where it gets really frustrating. We can have stellar levels during activites and the hours after, but sometimes at 2 a.m. when I’m checking blood sugars of the kids, we suddenly have a surprise 50. See here for more on exercise and diabetes.

 

Excitement

Yes, yes, being happy can affect your blood sugar levels. When kids get excited for Christmas morning and seeing what Santa left under the tree, their blood sugar levels can rise. Why? Just like stress, getting too excited causes adrenaline to be released which can cause sugar levels to keep increasing.

 

Artificial Sweeteners

This one took me a little while to figure out. My older son loves hot tea and since being diagnosed we’ve tried many types of artificial sweeteners to sweeten his tea because some of them can cause his blood sugar levels to increase. Most sources will tell you that artificial sweeteners don’t raise blood sugar levels, but if you talk to people with diabetes, you are likely to hear otherwise. It’s not the same for everyone, and it’s really been a game of trial and error when it comes to figuring out which ones cause blood sugar levels to go higher and which ones don’t. It’s always a good idea to do a blood sugar check when trying out a new sweetener. See here to learn more about baking with artificial sweeteners.

 

Dehydration

Drinking water is always a must for those with diabetes. It can help to lower blood sugar levels when they are high, and it’s important to keep those nasty ketones away. Being dehydrated can cause an increase in blood sugar levels. High blood sugar levels can also cause you to pee more often which can lead to  increased dehydration.

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