What Causes Your Blood Sugar to Rise? Causes, Symptoms, Prevention

Posted August 7, 2020 by Clint Kelly - See Editorial Guidelines

Individuals that have been struggling with diabetes need to understand what exactly causes blood sugar to rise. Carbohydrates are often seen as the only thing that can cause blood sugar to rise, but there is much more to it.

So, in this article, we will help you better understand how different factors can spike blood sugar levels and the complications that come along with blood sugar spikes. Here is a quick summary to get you started before we get into the details.

What Causes Your Blood Sugar to Rise? Blood sugar spikes often occur in those with diabetes, as their body cannot process glucose properly. Many factors can cause your blood sugar to rise other than the types of foods you eat. The types of drinks we consume, the medications we take, and our physical condition all affect blood sugar levels.

Chronic high blood sugar levels can be detrimental to one’s health, which makes understanding the different factors that spike blood sugar crucial.

Factors That Can Cause Your Blood Sugar to Rise

What Causes Your Blood Sugar to Rise

Below you will find a list of factors that can cause blood sugar to rise, along with an explanation. How much each factor raises your blood sugar levels will vary from person to person, as it depends on how well one’s condition is controlled.

Food

Food is the most obvious factor that causes your blood sugar to rise. The most common foods that cause your blood sugar to rise are carbohydrates. More specifically, simple carbohydrates. Foods that have a higher glycemic index will be more likely to spike blood sugar levels dramatically. Therefore, diabetes patients seeking to prevent spikes in their blood sugar should seek out foods with a low glycemic index.  

Dehydration

When a person with diabetes is dehydrated, the glucose in their bloodstream becomes more concentrated. More concentrated glucose in the bloodstream results in a rise in blood sugar. This is because the body is made up of mostly water. So, the less water you have in your body from dehydration, the greater the concentration of glucose. Therefore, patients should strive to stay hydrated by drinking water throughout the day.

Sunburn

This may surprise you, but sunburn can cause your blood sugar to rise significantly. The sunburn can cause pain, which triggers stress hormones to be released, leading to a rise in blood sugar. Patients may struggle to get their blood sugar levels under control for a couple of days following their sunburn. It is essential to mention that being out in the heat where you are susceptible to sunburn can cause your blood sugar to go low. 

Caffeine

Those with diabetes may be affected by caffeine. Caffeine may impact how the body responds to insulin, which can result in a rise in blood sugar levels. A person’s levels of epinephrine are often raised after consuming caffeine. Epinephrine can affect the way cells process sugar and can limit the production of insulin.

Sleep Deprivation

Lack of sleep is often overlooked as being a potential cause of health complications or a rise in blood sugar. Sleep deprivation is actually a risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Sleep is crucial for helping regulate the hormones in your body. The less sleep you get, the more cortisol is produced to help you stay awake during the day, which decreases the effect of insulin. On top of this, individuals that do not get enough sleep often crave carbohydrates and other sugary foods. Thus, the result is elevated blood glucose levels.

Artificial Sweeteners

More research needs to be done around artificial sweeteners and how exactly that can cause a rise in blood sugar. However, some studies have shown that artificial sweeteners can increase plasma glucose concentrations.

Medications

Certain medications have the potential to cause your blood sugar to rise. These medicines include steroids (corticosteroids), ADHD medications, anxiety drugs, birth control pills, beta-blockers, statins, and some HIV and hepatitis C medicines. Some over-the-counter medications can spike blood sugar levels, such as some cold and flu medicines and cough syrups. Talk to your doctor about all of the medications you are taking to ensure you are not at risk of hyperglycemia.

Alcohol

A moderate amount of alcohol can dramatically raise blood sugar levels. Alcoholic drinks, such as beer and wine, often contain carbohydrates, adding to the impact they have on your blood sugar levels. It is important to mention here that excessive alcohol consumption can actually cause your blood sugar levels to fall rapidly, which is life-threatening.

Illnesses

When a person with diabetes becomes ill, even with the common cold, their blood sugar levels can be difficult to manage. Being sick places stress on the body, which causes fluctuations in various hormones that affect blood sugar levels.

Physical Injury

What Causes Your Blood Sugar to Rise

Just like with being sick or having sunburn, having a physical injury can cause your blood sugar to rise due to stress placed on the body. Physical injuries can also cause inflammation, which largely contributes to insulin resistance.

Symptoms

Having chronically high blood sugar levels and continuous spikes in blood sugar is terrible for overall health and longevity. So, knowing the signs and symptoms of hyperglycemia are crucial to help you make corrections. Therefore, here are the symptoms of high blood sugar:

  • Fatigue
  • Tiredness
  • Frequent urination
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • Very dry mouth
  • Blurred vision
  • Fruity breath odor
  • Weight loss
  • Headaches
  • Shortness of breath

If your blood sugar exceeds 250 mg/dL, then you should check your urine for ketones. The presence of ketones in your urine shows that your body has started to burn fat for energy instead of glucose. This can be very dangerous for those with diabetes and can lead to DKA. You must call your doctor right away if you have the presence of ketones in your urine.  

Treating Unexplained High Blood Sugars

As someone that has type 1 diabetes, there have been countless occasions where my blood sugar has risen due to an unknown reason to me. This is extremely frustrating, and not knowing the root cause of the spike in glucose makes it difficult to gain control over your blood sugars.

So, the first step in treating unexplained high blood sugar levels is to diagnose the problem. Are you experience cold-like symptoms, do you have a sunburn, what foods have you eaten, have you lacked sleep? Asking yourself these questions can help you determine the root cause of your spike in blood sugar.

After finding the cause, you can then take steps to treat your high blood sugar and prevent it from happening again. This may include taking medicine for a cold that won’t affect glucose levels, catching up on sleep, limiting your carbohydrate intake, or getting into an exercise routine.

Conclusion

We hope that this article has helped you better understand what causes your blood sugar to rise. Always consult your doctor for specific questions regarding your condition.

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