What High Blood Sugar Feels Like

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One of the continuous discussions in the diabetes community – to carb or not to carb – tends to peak each year around Halloween. It’s the low carbers vs. the cover it with insulin-ers. Logic vs. the need to be just as unhealthy as everyone else. 

Plenty of people with diabetes make the choice to indulge on sweets during Halloween. Some doctors even endorse eating candy and covering it with a “rage” bolus. Well, it turns out, rage is an apt adjective, because when I reached out to the TypeOneGrit community to ask what high blood sugar feels like, many respondents said they get angry when high. Others said it feels like the flu, brain fog, body aches, sluggish, unable to focus, headache, exhausted, nauseated, slow death, like the life is being sucked out of them, and tearful. Mike Aviad, type 1 for 16 years, said he never eats sugar because, “I’ll enjoy myself for five minutes and then I’ll feel terrible for two days.”

But, what’s really at stake isn’t this single holiday (that wasn’t always about candy!). We need to talk about how high blood sugar affects quality of life and long-term health. Diabetes really means you can’t eat like everyone else. Covering “it” with insulin is an imprecise solution that leads to immediately dangerous highs and lows, and long-term complications. On a low carb diet, however, it’s very possible to live without riding the rollercoaster. And there’s a lot less fear of hypoglycemia when you’re bolusing five units at a meal instead of 20. There’s a lot less fear of complications when you’re eating food that has minimal effect on blood sugar, and you see your blood sugar staying between 70-120 all the time. There’s a lot less of feeling like a failure, when you’re on a diet that makes normal blood sugar levels achievable. But still organizations like the American Diabetes Association and JDRF have not acknowledged how powerful a tool a low carb diet is in diabetes care.  A recent study published in Pediatrics showed that children with diabetes can thrive on low carb diets. And since the following statements from T1D kids describe what high blood sugar feels like to them, there’s very little justification for giving them food that makes them feel sick. RD Dikeman, founder of TypeOneGrit says, “Decisions without consequences both short and long term do no exist. Sustaining a false belief system that choices without boundaries of consequences is equated with happiness will only create future disappointment, entitlement, hopelessness and anger. It is not innate that children and adolescents are proficient in flexible problem solving. As parents we need to explicitly teach and model successful decision-making.”

And here’s what the kids have to say:

Ian (12),  “Tired and my head hurts.”

Kaity (11),  “High blood sugar makes me feel tired, grouchy, and you want to cry a lot for no reason. So basically, you feel like poo.”

Tommy (13),  “High blood sugars make me feel tired and dizzy with double vision, and I am super thirsty.”

Matthew (9), “When my blood sugar is high I feel hot and angry. It’s hard for me to keep my temper. I feel like I can’t move without getting tired and I start breathing hard.”

Mikayla (10), “Hungry, hot, agitated, and stomachache.”

Beau (7), “You get angry and it gives you a headache!”

Brody (7),  “I feel hungry, thirsty, and my legs feel wompy.” 

Lauren (7),  “When I’m high I feel slow and heavy. My legs feel like they have weights on them and my tummy hurts.”

Lara (5), “When I’m high, I feel sick.”  

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kristina blake
kristina blake

T1D for close to 40 years. When the bg starts to climb, I get terrible heartburn – it is kinda like a second CGM! I kaim for a narrow range 660-120 so I am sensitive to high bg’s now. I think at Dx I was off the charts, sin a coma from DKA – initially Dx’d as T2 cuz I was in my late 20’s (no risk factors for T2, but I didn’t know anything -who does until they face the diabeast themselves). So I went untreated – basically – until I was found by a neighbor and got the… Read more »

Tom
Tom

Kristina, Like you I was Dx’d when I was 31 back in 1982. Here in Michigan, that year, we had a terrible Flu going around. It wiped out our entire department and I was the last to get it. Up until then I was very healthy and active. After I got over the flu my wife and son got it so I was caring for them and didn’t notice the symptoms. It was one of our neighbors that mentioned to my wife that I looked like I had lost weight and I had. I was thirsty all the time, hungry… Read more »

T1d 50 years
T1d 50 years

“Logic vs being as unhealthy as everyone else”? How judgmental! Also, there is such a thing as moderation. Parents can model moderation, and even a child who experiences high BG after excessive sugar can learn to moderate.

Type 1
Type 1

I couldn’t disagree more. Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) is worse. Ask an endocrinologist. Death can be instantaneous.

I believe the children. It isn’t all that simple with low carbs (unless Type 2). Parents do the best they can. Also its not just a Halloween situation. It’s 24/7.

Im a type 1 diabetic for 35 years.

Type 1
Type 1

People without diabetes are not at all the same as people whose pancreas does not make insulin. I would suggest you google American Diabetes Association and get the truth.

Larkspur
Larkspur

I am type 1 diabetic for 22 years. I discovered TypeOneGrit and low carb approach to treating my diabetes 2 years ago. This article doesn’t give all the details, but it is definitely referring to people who know all about type 1. and we, myself and all TypeOneGritters are well aware of the dangers of Low blood sugar. However, the ADA and dr.s often recommend that children have much higher b.s. than adults, to be on the “safe” side. These lead to complications and are simply unnecessary. Low carbing means less insulin and less constant risk of low b.s. I… Read more »

Ray s
Ray s

I had over 400 when diagnosed and I didn’t feel a thing. I’m 48 and I guess I got used to having high sugar levels. I’m on a low carb diet and feel the same as when I had 400.

Larkspur
Larkspur

I was 580 sometthing when dx and had been high for three months prior. What I noticed a bout aweek after starting insulin and bringing sugars into the normal range is that suddenly I could form an entire sentence in my head (I hadn’t noticed that I’d lost that ability, only that I got it back). Sure, I had adjusted somehow to even teaching a college level class with crazy high bs, but I was definitely not functioning at my usual level. Keep paying attention, there are many many changes that happen with sugars over 200. yes, you can adjust… Read more »

RD
RD

The children that commented about how awful they feel are not used to running high blood sugars. If you are running very high for a long time the body ‘gets used to’ the toxicity. The mistreatment of diabetic children is outrageous and so sad.

Stephen
Stephen

I was recently diagnosed with LADA (late onset type-1 Diabetese). I’m still finding out which foods effect my blood sugars more than others. EVERYONE is different, and their response is different. I’ve been pretty well stricked with my diet, and it’s worth it. Yes, eating is no longer fun, for the most part, but life is more than food, so it could be worse.

Jim Shepard
Jim Shepard

Are you telling me that all these kids aged 5 to 13 have diabetes? Is that why their comments are here? If so, then good freaking grief, man! Unbelievable! That is really sad; and I frankly would have had no idea things are quite that bad. At 57 years old, I don’t have diabetes, but eating candy has always made me feel lethargic even as a kid. That’s probably why I very rarely eat candy. I also very rarely eat sugary sodas; and in recent years, I avoid foods containing high fructose corn syrup, just because I’ve heard it’s resistent… Read more »

Brandon
Brandon

Its not unbelievable. Its type one diabetes that they are talking about. Not type two. Type one is a disease that happens not thru diet and exercise. There bodys produce no insulin whatsoever.

gll
gll

hey jim, don’t be so smug, the kids are not at fault at all, and you could get adult onset diabetes anytime…

Zimoss
Zimoss

Correct me if I’m wrong Jim, but i believe you typed the following statement. “At 57 years old, i don’t have diabetes…” you lost all credibility after that point giving advice to people who actually live with the disease 24/7 and don’t get the option to just say kids shouldn’t eat any sugar at all…

I think we can all agree that a typical diet contains too much sugar, but to say kids should follow your diet is just as bad. Please don’t post “this is the cure” just do what i do, that is irresponsible.

Ed W
Ed W

I think that a little clarification is appropriate here. High blood sugar doesn’t feel any different than regular levels. That’s why so many people don’t know they have it.
What does feel different is eating something different. Eating a hamburger is normal for many people, but feed one to a vegan and they indeed feel bad, maybe sick.
Same for candy.

jem
jem

I’m a bit confused by your comment. Are you saying that all of these ‘feeling bad’ descriptions are due to diabetics eating Halloween candy and not due to an elevated blood glucose level?

jem
jem

If I understood correctly, can you explain why someone might feel these things when eating the same foods they always eat?

Adam Folickman
Adam Folickman

Not true. When my blood sugar is high I definitely feel it.

Deanna
Deanna

I beg to differ. Extremely high blood sugars for someone with type 1 diabetes feels VERY different from normal blood sugars. Extreme fatigue, increased thirst, excessive urination, and blurry vision are thankfully not normal for me when my blood sugar is controlled.

553fkdf
553fkdf

Your exactly right I’m a type 1 diabetic and I’ve had it a little under a year and high blood sugar makes me feel like I haven’t sleep in years and I get so thirsty and hungry.

Sysy Morales

Ed, if one is consistently high, symptoms are A) harder to notice and B) your body acclimates to a certain extent (this often happens in type 2s and also in type 1s who tend to be high much of the time). High blood sugar symptoms are most notable in those who normally have tight blood sugar control. So many people don’t know they have diabetes–that’s true, but none of these folks feel great and great is how we’re supposed to feel if we’re healthy.

Robert
Robert

Not everyone is the same, I am 57 and still considered pre diabetic
But I feel sick as soon as I eat something just as the glucose is being absorbed I my blood stream. I can feel the difference My levels go up around 200 and back around 115 two to three hours after eating.
Symptoms: headache and a sensation of not being well.

Wen
Wen

Everyone must react differently after reading some of the comments and replies here and I’m not looking to second guess or challenge anyone here, just sharing my experiences. I hadn’t felt good for a few years at least. Long story short, I couldn’t get off the couch last summer, completely exhausted and no energy, it was drastic! Did nothing I always enjoyed doing. When I had pre-op blood work in the fall, I found out my A1c was 8.4. They couldn’t do surgery until I lowered it. Also my optician noticed a change during eye exam who sent letter to… Read more »

Ivan
Ivan

I feel none of this.

Jesslyn McGill
Jesslyn McGill

I dont feel any of this either

Sara Pomish
Sara Pomish

Can you hear me applauding from Michigan? <3

Rachel Rafelson
Rachel Rafelson

Raf18
Yes that describes me when I have high sugar. Tired, sluggish, all the limbs are heavy and all I want to do is sleep.

Toni
Toni

When my blood sugar is high, I feel tired, dizzy, double vision and jittery.

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