How to maintain normal blood sugar
What is blood sugar?
You might have heard people say ”my blood sugar is low”, but what exactly does this mean? What are the symptoms associated with low or even high blood sugar?
Blood sugar also referred to as glucose, is the main sugar found in a person’s blood.
Glucose is sourced from foods and drinks that are consumed, which provides an important source of energy for the body’s organs. The body has to maintain a healthy level of glucose in the blood to function optimally.
The endocrine system is a network of glands responsible for keeping balanced levels of hormones for organs regulating the body’s metabolism, growth and development, sexual function and reproduction, sleep, moods and more.
The endocrine system is also responsible for keeping the pancreas in check, which produces insulin. Insulin is created by the pancreas and controls the amount of glucose available in your blood at any given moment. It also helps store the glucose in your liver, fat and muscles.
If there is an imbalance of insulin in your body, it might lead to your body not being able to store glucose in vital organs such as your muscles or liver and can’t make fat either. Instead, the fat breaks down and creates keto acids, where high levels can lead to a fatal condition known as diabetic ketoacidosis.
So, what does all of this have to do with your blood sugar level?
Keeping your blood sugar level normal is very important to aid in preventing long term health problems which include heart disease or kidney disease. Keeping your blood sugar in a normal range can help improve your mood and energy levels.
According to diabetes.co.uk, these are the normal ranges for blood sugar levels:
Blood sugar levels are different for everyone but generally speaking, if you test your blood sugar level yourself at home, with a self-testing kit the normal target range should be 4 to mmol/l before eating a meal and under 8.5 to 9mmol/l after eating a meal.
We have looked at the role blood sugar plays in the body but let’s look at a few more reasons why you should consider testing your blood sugar levels, besides managing your diabetes.
Reasons you might want to check your blood sugar:
- to be able to learn how blood sugar levels influence exercise and diet
- to understand how other factors such as stress and illness affect sugar levels
- to monitor the effect diabetes has on your blood sugar levels
- to track your progress in reaching your goals with diabetes treatments
When you are diabetic, it is important that you regularly test your blood sugar levels to make sure that you’re in a normal range. As there are a few factors that influence your blood sugar level, you need to be aware of the conditions under which you test yourself as these will influence your range.
If you’ve been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, you might need to test:
- Before meals and snacks
- Before and after exercise
- Before bed
- When you are ill
- Whenever you change your daily routine
- More often when you start a new medication
If you’ve been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and you’re using insulin to manage your diabetes, your doctor might suggest testing yourself several times a day, depending on the amount of insulin you are prescribed to you.
If you’ve never tested your blood sugar levels but you have reasons to suspect something is not right, look at the following symptoms that might indicate high sugar blood levels.
- The need to urinate frequently – this is often an overlooked symptom of high glucose levels. When glucose builds up in your blood, your kidneys will begin to work harder to try and regulate the glucose level in the blood. If your kidneys aren’t able to regulate the glucose level, the excess sugar will be flushed out through your urine. In many people this can lead to you becoming dehydrated and even dizzy.
- Blurred vision – When you have high levels of sugar in your blood, this causes the lens of the eye to swell, which changes someone’s ability to see. This isn’t permanent and getting your sugar level in the normal range should restore your vision within a few weeks.
- Unintentional weight loss – You might notice that you have an increased appetite but you are constantly losing weight. This signals a symptom called polyphagia. Polyphagia is the medical term used to describe excessive hunger or increased appetite and is one of the 3 main signs of diabetes. In this instance, your body is not able to get enough energy from its preferred source, which would be glucose and therefore it will start breaking down muscle and fat to convert to energy.
- Breath that has an unusual smell – Having high sugar levels can cause ketoacidosis, which is where the body burns fat instead of glucose when there is too little insulin present in the body. When insulin resistance is too high, Ketones then form as a waste product which causes a strange smell on someone’s breath, which has been compared to pear drops.
- Increased thirst and a dry mouth – Dehydration or constant thirst caused by an imbalance of glucose in the body, is a symptom known as polydipsia. Having a thirst that won’t go away no matter how much fluids you drink, could be an indication that you have polydipsia.
Symptoms of low blood sugar
Having a sugar blood level that is below the normal range, is also known as having hypoglycemia. Symptoms might be felt when someone’s sugar level is 70mm(mg/dl) or lower. This often occurs as a side effect of medications someone might be using or diabetes.
Symptoms of low blood sugar can be experienced differently by various people and these symptoms can start quickly. The symptoms are unpleasant and should be heeded as a warning to take action before the glucose level drops any further.
- Pale skin
How to control your sugar levels
Whether you have been diagnosed with diabetes or whether you are trying to live a more healthy lifestyle, it is important to know which factors or habits are within your control to regulate your blood sugar levels.
- Stay away from the potato chips
When you have a high carb intake and your body has an insulin function problem, your body will not be able to break down the carbs into sugar to store energy.
It is important that you reduce your carb intake as this will help you improve the ability of your body to regulate your blood sugar level. Try to minimize your intake of foods like sugars, starches and bread.
- Water, water, water
Drinking water and staying hydrated is important when you are making a conscious effort to regulate your blood sugar levels. Drinking reduces blood sugar by diluting the amount of glucose in the blood that the body has to process. The European Food Safety Authority advises that we take in the following quantities of water on average each day:
- Women: 1.6 litres – around eight 200ml glasses per day
- Men: 2 litres – around ten 200ml glasses per day
If you don’t like the taste of water and can’t bring yourself to drink the recommended daily amounts, try to get creative by adding a slice of citrus fruit to add some flavour.
However, be careful of substituting your water intake with flavoured waters as many of them contain high amounts of sugar.
- Make sure your eyes aren’t bigger than your stomach
Avoid eating large meals. Portion control when it comes to your diet and regulating your carbohydrate intake is important for a healthy lifestyle.
According to ShareCare, on average 3 meals and 2 snacks should be eaten throughout the day as eating frequent, small nutrient-dense meals promote stable blood sugar and satisfaction to prevent over-eating which can lead to an unhealthy weight.
- Get some shut-eye
Poor sleep patterns affect the body’s chemistry and more sleep helps with blood sugar control. According to a study conducted by Diabetologia People who only slept for four hours for three nights in a row had a higher level of fatty acids in their blood. So the lack of sleep reduced the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar by about 23 percent. Make sure to get into good sleeping habits to reap the long-term benefits for your health.
Paying attention to your body and any signals that it gives you is important. Make sure that your eating habits aren’t doing damage to your body and preventing it from performing optimally. No matter what your age is, it is never too early to start looking after yourself and testing things like your blood sugar levels to make sure that you’re taking the proper care of your body.