Monday, March 28, 2011

What causes blood sugar spikes?

For non-diabetics, a normal blood sugar range is between 70-120.

Diabetics have a "target range" that they try to maintain for optimum health. That said, often times diabetics can experience low blood sugar reactions, as well as high blood sugar reactions.

In this post, I would like to explain a little about what can cause high blood sugar reactions.

High blood sugar reactions can occur for many different reasons. They can be due to stress, incorrectly counting/dosing for injested carbohydrates, high fat and/or high protein meals, illnesses, inactivity... the list goes on.

Stress can play a major role on maintaining good blood sugar control. I talked a little about stress and diabetes in two previous posts, that you can feel free to check out anytime. They are...
"Let's Talk About Stress, Baby!" and "Kids Can Have Stress, Too!".

Incorrectly counting/dosing for injested carbohydrates:
Sometimes if we don't know what the total carbohydrates are in a given meal or snack, we can accidentally underestimate the amount, and not give enough insulin for said meal. I think often times, for our family, this is more the case when we go out to eat and a said restaurant does not have a nutritions fact sheet for their meals. While, this is pretty rare for us, and usually we find this problem when we are wanting to take the kids out for ice cream moreso than when we take them out to eat at a restaurant, it does happen. Another time that we are having to guess-timate at carb counting would be at birthday parties and holiday meals. I am so lucky to have my husband around for these type of events, because, as a former dietitian in the military, he is much better at guessing the amount of carbs in a dish than I am! Never-the-less, we are still human, and sometimes we do make mistakes, even with counting carbohydrates.

High fat/high protein meals:
High fat and high protein meals are often the culprit when experiencing a high blood sugar reaction to foods, atleast for us. When Lenny was first diagnosed, the CDE/dietitian at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh had us on what I considered a pretty strict dietary regimine. He was only allowed so many carbs, proteins, and fats per meal and snack. Now that he is on a pump, we still typically follow that format, though we are more lenient with his carb intake now... but not so much with the fat and protein intake, unless we are using proteins and fats to our advantage. I talked briefly about how food affects diabetes in a couple previous posts, and explained how simple carbs, complex carbs, proteins, and fats work in the body and with/against blood sugars. If you would like to read that post, click here.

Sick days can be very stressful for any parent, whether their child has diabetes or not. It can be especially stressful for those with children with diabetes though. With sick days, especially those that accompany vomiting and/or diahrea, there is a constant battle of managing blood sugars, ketone levels, as well as helping your child feel better and regain better health. There are even times when our child's blood sugars are within a decent range, but their little bodies are still battling to fight off ketones. Those times are extremely stressful, to me, because often times, Lenny doesn't really feel like eating when he has large ketones, regardless of what his blood sugar is doing. And if he is vomitting, even if he really is hungry, he will tell me he's not because he's too afraid to eat for fear he will just throw it up! This makes my job a little harder because, in order for me to flush out the ketones, not only do I need to get him to drink something so he will go potty... but I also  need him to eat something so i can give him extra insulin for those nasty ketones!
Illnesses make your body work harder to fight off the infection. That said, it can in turn cause your blood sugar to spike or drop because your body is "working overtime".
You can learn more about sick days and diabetes reading a previous post of mine by clicking here.

Everyone knows that exercise is good for your body. It helps you burn calories, maintain good weight control, releive stress, feel energized, and so much more. But, what many people don't realize is that it also helps maintain good blood sugar control! Because exercising helps you burn calories.. it also helps you burn carbohydrates, which is what causes the immediate and (depending on the type of carb injested) prolonged blood sugar rises and drops. By exercising, you are naturally helping your body burn calories and carbohydrates. On the flip side.. if you don't exercise, you are not burning calories or carbohydrates naturally and effectively... which can lead to weight gain, high blood sugar, increased stress levels, feeling unenergized, etc. Your body digests and breaksdown the foods you eat much slower with inactivity than it does with exercise. This is why it is so important for people with diabetes, regardless of the type, to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle!

I'm sure there are dozens of reasons to what causes high blood sugar spikes, but this is a few that come to mind that I find are the major culprits for our family. I hope this helps in understanding some aspects of managing blood sugar. Remember, though, what works for our family, and what causes various effects with Lenny's blood sugars, may be very different for you and  your family. It takes time, and trial and error, to find what works, what doesn't, and to find a balance between the two... and sometimes life "throws us curve-balls" and what once worked a year ago, may not work the same a year from now. Managing diabetes is an ongoing learning experience. Just roll with the punches, look for that silver lining, and learn from mistakes and various blood sugar readings. And most importantly, don't beat yourself up over a single high or low blood sugar!


Jules said...

good post. sometimes the things i know about diabetes get all jumbled up in my head.. overwhelmed if you like. thanks! also, yay for the dietition husband!

Wendy said...

Highs make me cringe. Lows scare me, but highs feel like there's so much more brainpower needed to figure them out!!!!

Dawn said...

Jules... I know whatcha mean hun. Us D-moms have so much on our plates, so much to remember, it's easy to forget something, overlook something, and/or become overwhelmed with the amount of responsibilities and information we must take on. But, as they say, God never puts more on your plate than he believes we can handle!

Wendy.. I agree. I dont worry too much about highs unless ketones are present also. The lows are what I start panicing over the most LOL! Especially on the days I have a hard time keeping him up.