Sweet highs and lows

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An occasional mid-afternoon sugar slump isn’t necessarily a problem. But if you’re reaching for a chocolate bar every day to keep your energy up, it may be time to trade in that quick fix for a healthier alternative.

When it comes to sugar, too much or too little of the sweet stuff isn’t always a good thing. While it’s true that blood sugar levels must be monitored closely by people with diabetes, all of us can benefit from keeping our blood sugar levels in check. Why? Because even if you’re completely healthy in every other way, ongoing low or high blood sugar counts can lead to serious problems and may cause unexpected energy slumps.

Not just a mid-day slump

When your blood sugar levels drop too low you are hypoglycemic. And when this happens, you can experience any number of unpleasant side effects, including:

  • Becoming light-headed, nauseous, weak, drowsy or hungry
  • Having headaches or numbness or tingling in your tongue or lips
  • Being nervous, irritable, anxious, or experiencing a racing heart

And if you become severely hypoglycaemic, things get much worse: You can become confused, disoriented, lose consciousness or even have a seizure.

These are serious problems, especially if they happen repeatedly. And unfortunately it doesn’t take much to drop your blood sugar count into the danger zone. For example, too much exercise, not eating regularly or eating less than you should can all lead to the dreaded drop.

From low to high

When you get a short spike in your blood sugar level, insulin in your system should return the level back to normal. However, if your body cannot regulate a high blood sugar level, then you may have a serious health complication. If this is the case, then you may feel thirsty and tired, and you may feel the need to urinate more often than usual.

You should also know that being sick or stressed, overweight or obese could contribute to an increase in blood sugar count, as can an imbalance in nutrition, physical activity and medications.

Eating well does make a difference

Eating well is one of the best ways to keep your blood sugar level on track. Here are some smart eating tips to help keep your blood sugar levels steady throughout the day:

  • Don’t skip meals — especially breakfast — and eat regularly throughout the day
  • Eat balanced meals and snacks
  • Load your diet with fruits and vegetables
  • Eat whole grain breads, pastas and rice, and fibre rich foods
  • Keep fried and fatty foods to a minimum — try baking, poaching or grilling instead
  • Drink enough water — for most of us this means a minimum of eight 8-ounce glasses each day
  • Drink alcohol in moderation — 1 to 2 drinks per day should be your limit
  • Get familiar with the glycemic index of foods. Glycemic index refers to the rate at which a particular foods causes sugar levels to rise in the blood. For example, most fruits, vegetables and legumes (like beans and lentils) have a low glycemic index, which won’t cause a spike in your blood sugar levels. On the flip side, foods like white breads, cereals and rice have a high glycemic index.

Bigger problems

Low blood sugar can be fixed in the short term, but it may be an indicator of a serious underlying health concern that needs the attention of your healthcare professional.

Likewise, chronic high blood sugar can also be a serious health concern — like heart disease and diabetes — and can lead to other complications that may require medical intervention.

If you have any questions or concerns about your blood sugar levels, speak to your healthcare provider.


 

References
  • Canadian Diabetes Association, Lows and highs: blood glucose levels, website
  • Dietitians of Canada, Glycemic index, website
  • HealthyOntario.com, Impaired glucose tolerance (Dangerous sugar high), website
  • Kids Health, Blood sugar, website
  • Mayo Clinic, Hypoglycemia (definition), website
  • Medical News Today, Healthy blood sugar levels, website
  • The Hypoglycemia Support Foundation, Hypo diet, website

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