In short: When your muscle, fat and liver cells stop properly responding to insulin, they can no longer use the glucose in your blood for energy or store it. Think: a car losing its ability to properly use gasoline. This results in your pancreas overcompensating and producing even more insulin (like when someone with oily skin stops using moisturizer, resulting in even oilier skin), which leads to elevated blood sugar, which can ultimately cause pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes.
How does blood sugar affect your health otherwise?
Type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes aren’t the only reasons to keep your glucose levels in check. According to Darian, unstable blood sugar can lead to sleep disorders, poor sleep over all, dizziness and lightheadedness, blurred vision, excess weight gain, fatigue and low energy, and most well-known of all, mood swings. “An inefficient metabolism can affect energy production and hormone regulation in ways that lead to mood disorders,” she says. Many people also report simply feeling “off.”
Dr. Teitelbaum actually references the impacts of low blood sugar as the primary cause of “hanger” (angry hunger). “For low blood sugar, presume low blood sugar and adrenal fatigue if you get irritable when hungry, or ‘hangry,” he says. “Make clear to your loved ones that when you get this way, they should not try to comfort, hug or console you. Instead, they should just feed you.”
But what you eat matters too, or else you only delay the inevitable (crash). “Elevated blood sugar after consuming a high-carbohydrate meal like a bowl of pasta or rice, or a sugary drink or snack or candy bar, is often followed by a significant drop in blood sugar due to rapid release of insulin, causing weakness, fatigue, hunger, anger, and a jittery feeling,” says Dr. Comite. “Over time, chronic hyperglycemia can damage the lining of your blood vessels, leading to conditions affecting your brain, kidneys, heart, skin, nerves, eyes, and feet and, as well as contributing to aging and chronic, common, diseases of aging like diabetes, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer.”
Hyperglycemia, or high sugar, also interferes with healing from infections, like COVID, both viral and bacterial diseases, challenging responses to treatment and contributes to getting sicker as well, according to Dr. Comite.
What causes blood sugar spikes?
Glucose always rises and falls throughout the day, but certain habits and foods can make the spikes larger and more frequent than others. “Glucose normally fluctuates throughout the day, particularly after meals. They also fluctuate in response to what we eat and when we eat, exercise, stress, sleep, and more,” she says. “This is a normal response to your blood sugar. Higher glucose spikes and lower glucose valleys can increase fasting blood sugar over time, so it’s best to address them.”
Of course, for individuals without diabetes, occasional fluctuations and spikes within an acceptable range are generally not a cause for concern. “However, consistent or severe fluctuations warrants attention and are likely indicative of underlying health issues. It’s important for individuals, especially those at risk for diabetes, to be mindful of their lifestyle choices to help maintain stable sugar levels,” says Dr. Comite.