6 Simple Ways to Prevent Blood Sugar Spikes After Meals
Maintaining stable blood sugar levels is essential for overall well-being, especially for individuals with diabetes or those at risk of developing the condition. Let’s talk about blood sugar, or blood glucose. Maybe you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes and you’re not sure where to start. Or maybe you’ve just been hearing some buzz about “blood sugar-friendly foods” and you’re wondering if you should pay attention.
When blood sugar spikes after eating, it can leave you feeling tired, lethargic and moody. Over time, chronic blood sugar issues can put you at risk for conditions like kidney disease, heart disease and even dementia.
What Causes Blood Sugar Spikes?
First, let me define what a blood sugar spike is and how it happens. A blood sugar spike occurs when your blood glucose level rises right after eating. This is actually a normal occurrence in all people after eating foods that contain carbohydrates. When this happens, two important reactions take place in the pancreas: an immediate release of insulin and an immediate release of a hormone called amylin.
Insulin works quickly to move glucose out of the bloodstream and into cells. This takes just a matter of minutes. The amylin helps prevent food from reaching the small intestine too fast (where most nutrients are absorbed). Most of the time, the after-meal blood glucose rise is temporary, even hardly noticeable.
But for people with diabetes, these normal post-meal reactions are hampered. In people with Type 2 diabetes, the pancreas makes insulin, but the cells don’t respond to it as they should. This is referred to as insulin resistance.
Since the glucose can’t get into cells, the blood sugar level quickly rises. Diabetics (Type 1 or Type 2) who are on insulin therapy typically experience a significant delay in the reduction of blood sugar because it can take up to 15 minutes for the insulin to begin working. Diabetics also either do not produce amylin at all, or not in sufficient quantities. This causes their food to be digested much faster.
As a result of delayed insulin release and a faster digestion rate, blood sugar levels can rise very high right after eating. Once the insulin finally kicks in, a rapid drop in blood sugar can occur.
Also see: 7 Tips to Lower Blood Sugar Naturally
How These Blood Sugar Spikes Affect Your Health
Over time, recurrent spikes in after-meal blood sugars, can raise your HbA1c level. HbA1c is a measure of your average blood sugar over a three-month period. Having an elevated HbA1c has been shown to increase the risk of other health complications.
Research has shown that frequent high blood sugar levels after a meal can exacerbate the onset of kidney disease and accelerate the progression of retinopathy. Type 2 diabetics may experience more cardiovascular problems when post-meal blood sugar spikes occur frequently.
Cognitive decline, including an increased risk of dementia, has also been associated with after-meal sugar spikes and large variations in blood sugar levels. Other short-term complications can include fatigue, cognitive impairment (also called brain fog), reduced physical ability and changes in mood.
One study conducted on the effects of acute high blood sugar on cognitive function and mood in type 2 diabetics found that the speed of information processing, memory, and some features of attention were all impaired during elevated blood sugar readings. It was also noted that participants experienced a reduction in energy and increased sadness and anxiety.
Preventing After-Meal Blood Sugar Spikes
Reducing after-meal blood sugar spikes can be achieved with medication management and dietary changes. First and foremost, for anyone looking to change their diabetes medication or insulin therapy, it is imperative to consult with your primary care physician or diabetes specialist.
Ensuring that you are on the best medication treatment plan can significantly improve your ability to control after-meal sugar spikes. However, medicine is only one piece of the puzzle to controlling blood sugar. Diet and exercise play a big role too.
In this article, we'll explore six simple yet effective ways to prevent blood sugar spikes after meals, helping you make informed choices for a healthier lifestyle.
Also see: 6 Most Common Diabetic Emergencies
1. Choose Complex Carbohydrates
One of the fundamental aspects of controlling blood sugar levels is selecting the right carbohydrates. Opt for complex carbohydrates like whole grains, legumes, and vegetables instead of refined grains and sugars. These foods release glucose more gradually, preventing sudden spikes in blood sugar. Swap white bread for whole grain options and incorporate brown rice or quinoa into your meals.
2. Mindful Portion Control
Keeping an eye on portion sizes is a key strategy for preventing blood sugar spikes. Be mindful of your plate and avoid overeating, as larger meals can lead to a rapid increase in blood glucose levels. Consider using smaller plates to help control portion sizes and listen to your body's signals of fullness.
3. Include Lean Proteins
Combining lean proteins with your meals can help stabilize blood sugar levels. Proteins slow down the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates, resulting in a more gradual release of glucose. Include sources of lean protein such as poultry, fish, tofu, and legumes in your meals to promote balanced nutrition and prevent spikes in blood sugar.
4. Fiber-Rich Foods
Increasing your intake of fiber is another effective way to manage blood sugar levels. Fiber slows down the absorption of sugar, helping to maintain a steady blood glucose profile. Include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts in your diet to boost fiber intake and promote overall digestive health.
5. Stay Hydrated
Hydration plays a vital role in blood sugar regulation. Drinking an adequate amount of water can help flush out excess sugar through urine and prevent dehydration, which may lead to higher blood sugar levels. Aim for at least eight glasses of water per day, and consider herbal teas or infused water for added variety.
6. Regular Physical Activity
Engaging in regular physical activity is a powerful tool for managing blood sugar levels. Exercise helps cells use insulin more efficiently, promoting better blood sugar control. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week. Activities like walking, cycling, or swimming can have a positive impact on your overall health and help prevent blood sugar spikes.
Here are a few easy ways to get moving after a meal:
- Avoid sitting for long periods of time after eating.
- Avoid reading, watching TV or working on the computer after meals or snacks.
- Try going for a walk or walking the dog.
- Do a few chores.
- Go shopping
- Use a standing desk while working after meals
- Schedule longer exercise sessions for after meals that typically cause higher blood sugar spikes.
Remember this blog provides general information and should not replace professional medical advice. If you’re worried about your HbA1c or blood sugar control, talk to your doctor or please visit or call the Closest Emergency Room for a immediate medical help.
We have ER locations across the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area that are open and here to help you 24/7 If you or your family have a medical emergency.
We have 9 facilities spread across the DFW area with average wait times of less than 10 mins that are OPEN 24/7 located in Hurst, Colleyville, Frisco, Highland Village, Hillcrest, Uptown, Little Elm, Mansfield, and Texoma.