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Why You Should Pay Attention to Your Glucose After Eating

Older woman

Blood glucose can become elevated throughout the day, but it shouldn’t be an unexpected occurrence. While you’re in phase 2, you’ll learn that sometimes glucose can rise sharply — especially after you eat a meal or have a sweet drink, but also when you feel stressed. Learn more about sharp rises in glucose (which a lot of people refer to as “spikes” or “peaks”), what they are and what to do about them in this article.

What is a postprandial rise in glucose?

Has your provider talked to you about postprandial glucose peaks, spikes or rises in glucose? Postprandial is a clinical term that refers to a high rise in glucose that occurs after eating. It’s important to understand that it is normal for blood glucose to rise after eating for any of us. Unfortunately, if you have type 2 diabetes, these rises can go above the recommended range and stay high long after you are done eating. When glucose levels go above 180mg/dL it is common to feel sluggish and irritable. And if you’re experiencing this frequently, it can keep you from making progress on health goals like lowering your A1C or losing inches in your waist.

How high is too high?

For many people with type 2 diabetes, it’s recommended for blood sugar to return below 180 mg/dL within two hours of eating. It is best to check with your provider or care team to see what is recommended for your body, especially if you are taking meal-time insulin.
The exact timing of blood glucose rises can vary based on the person and the meal. On average, post-meal peaks tend to occur about an hour to 75 minutes after starting a meal.

Experiencing symptoms of high blood glucose?

As mentioned earlier, if you find yourself feeling sluggish or irritable after a meal, you may be experiencing high blood glucose (or hyperglycemia).

Other signs and symptoms of a rise in glucose are:

  • Excessive thirst and frequent urination
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Blurry vision

If you experience a combination of these common symptoms, it’s time to check your glucose levels. Some of these symptoms are also common in one experiencing hypoglycemia – when blood glucose has fallen below 70mg/dL.

Understanding your glucose levels

Your continuous glucose monitor (CGM) makes it very easy to see how your glucose levels respond to meals. If you ever question your CGM’s reading, you can confirm your levels using a traditional fingerstick and blood glucose meter.
If you do not have access to your CGM, it is recommended to use your fingerstick and meter to check your glucose levels one to two hours after a meal. This is another way to see if your levels are outside of a healthy range.

Tips for keeping post-meal glucose under control

Move your body after meals.

Being active about 30 minutes after a meal is a great strategy to keep glucose levels from getting too high and help them return to a healthy range when they do.

Reconsider the carbs you eat.

Processed carbohydrates typically cause blood glucose to go higher than other foods. Pasta, pizza, bread and rice are common culprits during lunch or dinner while bagels, muffins, cereal and fruit can be culprits at breakfast.

Look at what’s in your glass.

Sweet beverages often cause blood glucose to rise beyond healthy levels. A typical 20 oz sports drink, juice and soda contain 8-20 teaspoons of pure sugar. Not only will these sugary beverages spike your blood glucose, but you may also feel the negative side effects, like mental fog or moodiness, minutes after drinking them.

Add more fiber.

Fiber-rich foods help to slow down digestion leading to feeling full faster and resulting in slower, lower, blood sugar spikes. Some of the best choices for fiber are green leafy veggies, certain fruits (raspberries or blackberries), and cruciferous veggies (broccoli or Brussel’s sprouts). Fiber not only helps you feel full and reduces your appetite, but it also helps control glucose.

Drink enough water.

Staying hydrated throughout the day helps the kidneys remove excess glucose from the blood through urination. While there is no one consensus on how much water should be consumed in a day, 6-8 oz per hour is a common recommendation. Talk to your Level2 care team to determine how much is right for you.

Eat protein and fiber first.

Another great tip is to change the order in which you eat the food on your plate. Research has shown that eating a few bites of protein and vegetables before carbohydrates can make a significant impact on post-meal glucose levels as it slows the process of glucose going into your body.

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