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5 unusual things that drive blood sugar through the roof

October 30, 2015 by Scott Johnson

Take it away, Ilka!

Ilka Gdanietz: If I asked our team of diabetics what raises their blood sugars the most, I’d get as many different answers as there are people with diabetes on the team. Lots!

Carbohydrates, a forgotten bolus … we know these things will shoot your sugar up quickly. The diabetes monster acts like a delicate flower sometimes, right?

But there are also a bunch of things we never knew about, don’t think about at the moment, or simply forget. Here’s a small selection:

  1. Stress/excitement: You know the feeling. Whether it’s an appointment with the dentist, an argument with someone, or a jolt from a horror movie. Your body releases stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol that do not get along with blood sugar at all. Stupidly, stressful situations often occur unexpectedly, and it’s hard to react to the blood sugar spike fast enough. Additionally, stress means something different for each of us, and we don’t react the same to the same situations. In my case, for example, the sight of a nasty hairy spider is enough to make my blood sugar spike. Scott had the same thing when he saw a spider!
  2. Medications: Certain medications can increase blood sugar. These include, for example, beta-blockers, diuretics, or steroids like cortisone. Which meds may do what, the treating physician should know. This interaction is why it’s important to be thorough on your medication lists when at the doctor’s office or hospital.
  3. Caffeine: Yes, your beloved coffee can raise your blood sugar. Of course, the amount of caffeine ingested plays a role. And it applies equally to coffee, cola, energy drinks, or your favorite caffeine source of choice. Why caffeine raises blood sugar is not exactly clear, but it’s assumed it prevents the removal of glucose from the blood, or that it stimulates the release of adrenaline.
  4. Infections/fever: As soon as your body “detects” an infection, your BG’s may be on the rise. Once a pathogen has been spotted, the body reacts to fight it off. Along for the ride, and helping in the fight, is our buddy adrenaline. As we’ve already seen, when there are enough stress hormones around it’s tough to manage blood sugars. In some cases, 2-3 times your regular amount of insulin is necessary (insulin adjustments should be discussed with your doctor)!
  5. Fat and protein: this could be a chapter in itself because there are several things to consider. But one thing is sure; high amounts of fat or protein can sneak up on you with high BG’s many hours (3-5 or more) later.

High blood sugars frustrate me, especially when the cause is a complete mystery. Therefore, if I can’t pin it on the usual suspects, it’s worthwhile to think through a few of these things. These are always harder to quantify, but having some sense of reason helps put me at ease and build some strategies.


Thanks, Ilka! I can identify with all of these points, and it’s well worth a good reminder every now and again. 

What surprising sources of BG spikes have you guys found?  I’d love to hear about them! Maybe by sharing more of these in the comments, we can help each other.

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