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Blood Sugar Spikes: What They Are, What Is Normal & What to Watch Out For

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Blood sugar or blood glucose can become elevated throughout the day, but it shouldn’t be an unexpected occurrence. We typically know that your levels will rise in specific circumstances — for example, after you eat a meal or drink a sugary drink. It can also happen when you feel stressed. Learn more about these spikes, what they are and what to watch out for in this article.

What is a postprandial blood sugar spike?

Postprandial is a clinical term that means after eating.  A postprandial spike is a sharp rise in blood sugar that occurs after eating.
It’s important to understand that it is normal for blood sugar to rise after eating. Unfortunately for many with type 2 diabetes spikes can go above the recommended range and stay high long after you are done eating. When sugar levels go above 180mg/dL it is common to feel sluggish and irritable. And if you’re experiencing these spikes frequently, it can keep you from making progress on health goals like weight loss or lowering your A1C.

How high is too high for post-meal spikes?

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 Level2 care team and doctor to see what is recommended for your body, especially if you are taking meal-time insulin.
The exact timing of blood sugar spikes 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 sugar?

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

Other signs and symptoms of a spike 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 sugar has fallen below 70mg/dL.

Understanding Your Levels

As a member of Level2, it’s easy to look back and see if you are experiencing postprandial spikes. Your CGM, or continuous glucose monitor, is a tiny device that measures glucose through your skin every five minutes making 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 1 – 2 hours after a meal. This is another way to see if your levels are outside of a healthy range.

Lifestyle tips for keeping post-meal spikes under control

Move your body after meals.

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

Consider what’s on your plate.

Processed carbohydrates cause blood sugar spikes. You can avoid these spikes by staying mindful of servings. Pasta, pizza, bread and rice are common culprits during lunch or dinner while bagels, muffins and fruit can be culprits at breakfast.

Look at what’s in your glass.

Sweet beverages are a common culprit for blood sugar spikes. A typical 20oz sports drink, juice and soda contain 8 – 20 teaspoons of pure sugar. Not only will these sugary beverages spike your blood sugar, but you may also feel the negative side effects, like mental fog or moodiness, minutes after drinking them.

Eat 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 spikes.

Drinking enough water.

Staying hydrated throughout the day helps the kidneys remove excess sugar 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.

Protein and fiber first.

Another tip to consider is paying attention to the order in which you eat your food. Research has shown that eating a few bites of protein and vegetables first is the best solution. Eating protein before eating your carbohydrates can have a significant impact on post-meal glucose levels.

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