Susan B. Sloane, BS, RPh, CDE, has been a registered pharmacist for more than 20 years and a Certified Diabetes Educator for more than 15 years. Her two sons were diagnosed with diabetes, and since then, she has been dedicated to promoting wellness and optimal outcomes as a patient advocate, information expert, educator, and corporate partner.

Aside from causing inflammation, blood sugar spikes can cause headaches, blurred vision, and exhaustion. Low blood sugars can also cause headache and confusion, which can last a while beyond the actual event.

The key to managing diabetes is to minimize blood sugar swings. It is not always an easy task, but it is manageable once you understand your body and how it responds.

Let's look at what may cause blood sugar spikes and valleys and how to help control them.

Post-meal spikes

Blood sugar spikes can be damaging to blood vessels and nerves, causing an inflammatory response in the body.

Blood sugar spikes can be caused by too much food or the wrong kind of food. If you tend to have post-meal blood sugar spikes—which are among the most common types of spikes—look at the foods you are consuming at mealtime to try to find the culprit. Keep in mind that your meals should be balanced. In other words, don’t have a bagel for breakfast along with pancakes. Try a low-carb bagel or whole grain toast with a piece of fruit and/or a few slices of tomato. Every diet is very individual depending on your health issues, but balance is critical. It may be beneficial to consult with a glycemic index reference sheet because foods with higher glycemic indexes raise blood sugars more rapidly. A banana, for example, has a higher GI than an apple. Increasing fiber at mealtime can also help keep blood sugars from rising too quickly.

Avoid insulin stacking to treat high blood sugar

If you have a high blood sugar and use insulin, remember that the higher the blood sugar, the longer it will take to come down. The worst thing you can do in this case is be impatient. If you have a high blood sugar and use a correction bolus of insulin as per your doctor’s instructions, wait an hour or two. If your blood sugar still remains high, don’t rush to inject even more insulin. This process, called insulin stacking, can result in hypoglycemia and create a cycle of highs and lows that can be difficult to break. Give your body time to respond to the correction insulin. Rapid-acting insulin can last for up to four hours. If your blood sugar remains high, do not give yourself more insulin if four hours has not elapsed unless your healthcare team instructs you otherwise.

Treat low blood sugar without rebounding

Treating low blood sugar can get tricky as well. First of all, hypoglycemia can cause ravenous hunger as your body struggles to get itself back on track. Some people grab every high-sugar, high-carb snack and chow down. Besides making you gain weight, this excessive treating of low blood sugars can cause a rebound spike in blood sugars that can bring you rapidly from 50 to 350 if you are not careful. The key is to use fast-acting sugar, such as glucose tablets, to treat a low. Follow that with a high-protein snack if your blood sugar starts to rise. All recommendations of treatment, should, of course be from your own healthcare team.

Keeping balance can be challenging, but it can be achieved. Unexpected events will happen, but as long as you are prepared with solutions, you can stay in control.