7 Unexpected Reasons for Blood Sugar Fluctuations

Have you ever had a day when you feel like you’re totally on top of your diabetes management game? When you feel like you’ve done everything right—you’ve eaten the right foods and taken your medication exactly as directed? You’re feeling great and are totally confident in your ability to control your diabetes.

But then…you test.

And the number that’s revealed blows you away because it’s not a number you like. And it’s definitely not the number you expected.

You ask yourself what you could’ve done better. You re-examine all of the usual suspects (diet, exercise, insulin) and are at a loss for what’s causing your numbers to fluctuate the way they are. You’re stumped.

Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/mthipsorn
Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/mthipsorn

Well, you’re not alone. And you’re not wrong in feeling blindsided by your numbers when you think you’ve done everything right. The thing is: there are a lot of surprising factors that can play a role in your blood glucose levels. Things that you wouldn’t necessarily assume would affect your numbers can actually cause them to fluctuate significantly.

Let’s take a look at what some of those factors are so that you’re prepared to combat them the best you can!

1. Medication

If you’re taking medication to control a non-diabetes-related condition, there’s a chance it could be affecting your numbers. Some over-the-counter medications can cause an uptick in blood sugar levels. Even prescription drugs like steroids, birth control pills, and antidepressants can cause your blood sugar levels to spike.

Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/cassis
Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/cassis

Additionally, some drugs have a dehydrating affect, which can also cause unpredictable fluctuations. You might even find that certain medications make it harder to recognize the symptoms you normally associate with a change in blood sugar.

If you’re noticing fluctuations in your numbers, this might be a good place to look. Talk to your doctor about what you’re seeing. Also, remember to discuss any new medications with your pharmacist. Inform him or her of your condition and ask about potential side effects.

2. Caffeine

Your morning cup of joe might be helping you rise, but it might be doing the same thing for your blood sugar levels. It feels essential. We get it. However, keep in mind that it could be causing a boost to your blood glucose.

Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/phatpc
Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/phatpc

While we’re not telling you to say goodbye to caffeine altogether, it’s never a bad idea to examine your consumption and look for patterns. Don’t forget that an excess of caffeine can actually increase anxiety and leave you feeling jittery when it’s time for bed, making it harder to fall asleep. If this is a pattern you see emerging, it might be time to consider cutting back or cutting yourself off at a certain time.

3. Stress

Often referred to as the “stress hormone,” cortisol regulates the body’s responses to stress. Responsible for the fight-or-flight response, cortisol causes the body to release energy in the form of glucose. If you find yourself consistently stressed, this can wreak havoc on your numbers. Further, prolonged elevated levels of cortisol are also associated with weight gain, increased belly fat, insulin resistance, and blood sugar metabolism.

Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/Syda Productions
Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/Syda Productions

Fortunately, there are some things you can do to alleviate stress. Consider talking to a friend, loved one, or professional about the things that are causing you stress, setting aside time for relaxation, or taking up a new hobby!

4. Lack of sleep

Unfortunately, people with diabetes are significantly more likely than non-diabetics to be faced with sleep issues. In addition to being at higher risk of developing sleep-related health problems (i.e. sleep apnea), people with diabetes are often faced with pain (neuropathy) and stress associated with the condition.

Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/mitarart
Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/mitarart

A lack of sleep or frequently interrupted sleep can cause a spike in blood sugar levels. Additionally, research suggests that individuals who regularly experience sleep disturbances report higher fasting blood glucose levels.

The good news: if you’re struggling with sleep, there are things you can do to improve the quantity and quality of sleep you’re getting. Take a look at the simple tips offered here.

5. Sleep

If you’re seeing higher-than-average numbers when you wake up, it could be your body releasing hormones while you sleep. Commonly called the “dawn phenomenon,” this hormone release can cause an increase in insulin resistance.

Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/Rido
Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/Rido

It’s also not uncommon to wake up with lower-than-average glucose levels. This may be attributed to not eating enough in the evening or over-medicating. If you begin to notice a pattern, or if your numbers are wildly fluctuating from day to day, it’s probably time to talk to your physician to establish a correction plan.

6. PMS

Just in case pain, bloating, and nausea weren’t bad enough, you can add a spike in blood sugar levels to your list of monthly woes. In the week leading up to a woman’s period, it’s not uncommon for insulin resistance to be increased. Fortunately, this typically stabilizes once menstruation actually begins.

Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/Piotr Marcinski
Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/Piotr Marcinski

So, what can you do? Well, for starters, you can try to adjust your consumption of carbohydrates during that week to compensate for the spike. Also, consider talking to your doctor about potential adjustments you can make to your management program during the week prior to your period.

7. Weather

That’s right: whether it’s hot or cold weather we’re talking about, extreme temperatures can have an effect on your numbers. Temperature has a serious affect on our bodies, and everyone reacts differently. For instance, some people may experience a spike in blood sugar levels when temperatures rise and heat stresses their systems, while others find themselves low as a result of dilated blood vessels that are apt to absorb more insulin.

Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/Ivan Kruk
Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/Ivan Kruk

It’s important to remember that in addition to potential blood glucose fluctuations, weather changes can disrupt your ability to manage your diabetes in a variety of ways. But there are things you can do! Whether you’re trying beat the summer heat or combat the cold, we’ve got some tips and tricks here and here.

L.D.

L.D. and her eleven-year-old lab, Eleanor Rigby Fitzgerald, moved from Seattle to Grand Rapids earlier this year, and are currently enjoying exploring their new city! She likes books, music, movies, running, and being outdoors as much as possible.

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