Are you maintaining a healthy diet but still having trouble managing your diabetes? Many of my clients come to me frustrated by this same dilemma, which prompts us to explore other aspects of their lifestyle that might be influencing their numbers. As you may have experienced, blood glucose values can vary greatly throughout the day, sometimes seemingly without rhyme or reason. Perhaps you’ve found yourself waking up with spiked blood sugars after a full night’s rest, wondering how that could be possible after you had eaten a healthy dinner the evening before. Or maybe you’ve wondered why it’s so much harder to stabilize your blood glucose when under a stressful deadline. Often, my frustrated clients are putting in the effort – maintaining an active lifestyle and keeping a generally healthy diet – but still having trouble, so what gives?
The truth is, while healthy eating is a key element in helping to manage your diabetes, several of your other normal daily habits may be affecting your blood glucose levels as well. Take that morning Americano for example; even a sugarless cup of joe may leave your blood sugars out of whack. Or that afternoon run that leaves you feeling less invigorated than when you started? It could be a result of exercise-induced low blood sugar.
See if any of these factors may be interfering with your blood glucose stabilization:
1. Caffeine: Although coffee has been shown to have a variety of health benefits, you may want to lay off the caffeine buzz if you are having difficulty stabilizing your blood sugars. Some research suggests that caffeine may interfere with the body’s ability to manage blood sugar-regulating hormones, leading to increased blood glucose levels. Try monitoring your blood sugar levels after you consume your usual java or other caffeinated beverage. If it is higher than desired, start cutting back gradually and see if levels improve.
2. Exercise: Regular exercise is undoubtedly great for diabetes management. Even so, you may want to pay attention to blood sugar levels after workouts to make sure your numbers aren’t dipping too low. To prevent a severe drop in blood sugar during and/or after exercise, make sure to check blood glucose levels prior to exercise. Try keeping a healthy, carbohydrate-rich snack on-hand, such as a piece of fruit, in case you see blood sugar levels falling too low. Finally, remember to stay hydrated during physical activity and stop immediately if you begin to feel dizzy or light-headed.
3. Stress: Both physical and emotional stress can take a toll on the body’s ability to naturally regulate blood sugar levels. Try limiting the effects of surging stress hormones by incorporating stress-reducing activities into your daily routine. Deep breathing exercises, regular physical activity or taking time for your personal hobbies have all been shown to help manage moderate stress levels. If you feel like your stress is taking a serious toll on your health, speak with your doctor or seek out a therapist who may be able to help you better manage your stress and improve your overall wellbeing.
4. Sleep: Ongoing sleep deprivation can make regulating blood sugar levels even more difficult to control. This is likely due to the fact that sleep loss can lead to increased stress hormone production and appetite that can result in weight gain and further insulin resistance. Sleep issues seem to be more common in people with diabetes, so if you find yourself continually feeling fatigued, consider speaking with your doctor or meeting with a sleep specialist to rule out more serious conditions, such as sleep apnea. Other tips include maintaining a normal sleep routine, refraining from caffeinated beverages late into the afternoons and avoiding large meals close to bedtime.
5. Dawn Phenomenon: Quite often I have clients coming to me concerned with elevated glucose levels early in the morning before they’ve even attempted to eat breakfast. This might be due to something known as the dawn phenomenon where a surge in hormones can result in raised blood glucose early in the mornings. If this appears to be a common occurrence, consider speaking with your doctor about the best treatment approach for you. They might recommend adjusting your medications or having a high protein snack at bedtime, depending on the timing of your elevated glucose levels and current diabetes management plan.
There are many factors that play role in stabilizing blood glucose levels. Sometimes figuring out what is causing your blood sugar spikes or lows can feel like a guessing game. It can be helpful to keep a blood glucose journal to track any patterns between your lifestyle and glucose numbers. And if you are still unsure about what might be keeping your numbers out of a healthy range, talk to your doctor to see what adjustments you may need to make to your current diabetes management plan.
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