There are many different ways blood sugar (glucose levels in the blood) can be affected and cause problems with sugar control in people with diabetes. Each person reacts differently to various items that influence blood sugars. There are some compounds individuals with diabetes may want to examine to see how they influence their own blood sugar levels. For example, blood sugar levels can rise after drinking coffee, black tea, and some energy drinks due to the presence of caffeine. There are other compounds that may alter blood glucose levels and methods people with diabetes can use to see what compounds and actions influence their own blood sugar levels.
Upswing: Sugar-Free Foods
A number of foods claim to be "sugar-free," but these foods raise blood sugar levels because many of them contain carbohydrates in starches, fats, and even fiber. Sugar alcohols such as sorbitol and xylitol add sweetness to foods but still may have enough associated carbohydrates to raise blood sugar levels. Foods with high levels of carbohydrates are likely to raise blood sugar levels very high, and eventually may cause organ damage over time in people with diabetes.
Upswing: A Bad Cold
Dehydration can elevate your blood sugar so it is wise to stay well hydrated. If you are sick, diarrhea and vomiting for more than two hours, or illness longer than a few days may alter your blood sugar. Moreover, blood sugar rises as your body tries to fight any type of illness. Medications such as antibiotics and decongestants may alter your blood sugar. Check your blood sugar levels during these intermittent special situations so you can help determine how your body will react to these illnesses and treatments.
Upswing: Job Stress
Stress may cause your body to release hormones that can cause rises in your blood sugar. Although this is more common in people with type 2 diabetes, practice relaxation techniques with deep breathing and exercise, if possible, to reduce stress.
Upswing: Cold Medicines
Cold medicines often contain the decongestants pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine; they also may contain sugar and/or alcohol. These components may raise your blood sugar levels. Antihistamines don’t cause a problem with blood sugar levels. If you decide to purchase over-the-counter cold medicines, ask the pharmacist about the possible effects it may have on your blood glucose levels.
Caution: Birth Control Pills
Estrogen in birth control pills can affect the way a person with diabetes may respond to insulin. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) advises women with diabetes to use a birth control pill containing norgestimate and a synthetic estrogen. The ADA also suggests birth control injections and implants are safe for women with diabetes, but suggest they still have some effects on blood sugars levels. If women elect to use these birth control methods, they should monitor their blood sugar levels, especially for several weeks when these agents are first administered. Women with diabetes should discuss their birth control options with their doctor.
Probiotic foods may help people with diabetes by improving digestion. Yogurt, for example, is reported to contain "healthy" bacteria that may help protect against gastrointestinal problems. The best yogurt choice is plain yogurt or "light yogurt" with no added sugar or fruit.
Lower: Household Chores
Normal activities such as mowing the lawn or cleaning the house count as moderate physical activity for a person with diabetes (and for other people, too!). This type of activity may help lower the blood sugar in a person with diabetes. People with diabetes should participate in mild to moderate physical activity because the activity may lower blood glucose and increase overall fitness.
Roller-coaster: Female Hormones
Another roller coaster effect of high and low blood sugar occurs due to hormone changes. Female’s blood glucose levels fluctuate during the menstrual cycle and during menopause. Frequent blood sugar level determinations can help people with diabetes manage this roller coaster effect due to hormonal changes. Your physician may provide hormone replacement therapy, but should discuss with you the risks and benefits of this therapy and how it may interact with your blood sugar levels.
Being overly hot or sweating makes your blood sugar more difficult to control. Going in and out of air conditioning can have a roller coaster-like effect on your blood glucose levels. Staying in air-conditioned environments during the heat of the day and drinking plenty of water to avoid dehydration is a good way to avoid heat–related problems in controlling your blood sugar. In addition, people with diabetes should know that their medications, the glucose meter, and test strips could be affected by high heat such as the type of heat that can occur in a hot car or on a windowsill in the sun. Keep these items at room temperature.