Many people love sweets and chocolate. One of the misconceptions is that eating chocolate is going to cause high blood sugar. Actually, the sugar is present in many more foods than the chocolate (such as the white flour and white flour-based products which are also high in sugar). Nevertheless, it’s an essential thing to talk about the signs of high blood sugar, because that is one of the most troublesome diseases of the 21st century. The thing that is terrible is that children today suffer from diabetes, and it’s all caused by bad eating habits and having an unhealthy diet and lifestyle. Every diabetes treatment plan includes control of the blood sugar.
So, let’s take a look at the problem, the causes, and the signs of high blood sugar that you should not ignore.
What are high blood sugar levels?
With the intention to understand what classifies as high blood sugar levels, first we should understand the normal levels. These numbers are for those persons who don’t have diabetes. Normal blood sugar could be divided into 3 groups: fasting, before meals, and after meals. Normal fasting blood sugar level on awakening needs to be under 100 mg/dl. A before-meal blood sugar level is normal when it’s around 70 – 99 mg/dl. About two hours after your meal, the blood sugar level needs to be less than 140 mg/dl. Therefore, just as there are 2 types of normal blood sugar levels (fastening and before a meal are almost the same), there are also 2 types of high blood sugar.
- Postprandial hyperglycemia (after a meal), is when the sugar levels are higher than 180 mg/dl 2 hours after the meal.
- Fasting hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) is when the sugar is higher than 130 mg/dl on awakening, before meals, or after not drinking or eating anything for whole 8 hours.
While a person may have high blood sugar occasionally (for example, after some big, fatty meal), it’s not normal to frequently have a high blood sugar level. Constant hyperglycemia might also lead to damage to the blood vessels, the organs, and damage to the nerves. Type 2 diabetes could be a deadly condition.
Signs of high blood sugar are divided into 2 groups: mild and severe high blood sugar symptoms. Mild symptoms are increased thirst, urination, fatigue, weight loss, increased appetite, dry mouth, and dry skin. Severe high blood sugar symptoms are extreme thirst, blurred vision, dry and hot skin, drowsiness, weak pulse, belly pain, fast heart rate, and fruity breath odor.
It’s medically called “polyuria,” excessive urination is one of the 3 main symptoms of high blood sugar (along with excessive hunger and thirst). Excessive urination occurs as a chain reaction to the 2 other symptoms. It all starts in the blood, where, caused by a high blood concentration, intracellular fluids are pulled into the bloodstream. Think of it like your body’s reaction to balance the concentration of the glucose. The body is diluting the blood, and the glucose concentration is then brought to normal. However, this is increasing the volume of fluid in your blood. At the same time, your kidneys are not able to work properly, and that’s why, they discharge large amounts of urine.
So, the body cells are pumping water into the bloodstream, and the only organ that has the ability to reabsorb that fluid—the kidneys—is not working properly. Therefore, you have an urge to urinate. The excessive urination is classified as over 2.5 quarts per day. This doesn’t apply to those persons who drink a lot of water (such as bodybuilders when they need to remove fat from their body). The normal urine output is about 1.5 quarts per day.
We mentioned earlier that there is a chain reaction in your body, and that urination goes along with hunger and thirst. As you might assume, due to the fact that your body is throwing away fluids, you have to replenish those fluids. If not, you are going to dehydrate. Thirst signals are triggered in the brain as soon as you start urinating more frequently. People with diabetes very often misunderstand and misinterpret the link between thirst and urination. Many people think that urination is a result of thirst. Actually, it works the other way around. Therefore, a common misconception is that you are urinating because you “drink a lot of water lately.”
This is the third common and early sign of high blood sugar. However in reality, hunger is more caused as a result of a low insulin level. There are 2 types of low insulin levels. In type 1 diabetes, the persons experience an absolute deficiency of insulin. Those patients with type 2 diabetes experience a relative deficiency of insulin.
In both of these cases, there is not enough insulin to move the glucose molecules from the bloodstream to the cells. As a result, our body lacks energy and fuel for its processes, and then the body cells send hunger signals to the brain through several hormones. It’s worth noting that the body cells cannot understand that they are “starving in the land of plenty.” however, there is more than enough glucose in your bloodstream, but they just are not able to access it because of the low insulin levels.
There are 3 main reasons why you are losing weight, although you are eating like crazy. The good news is that if you want to lose weight, you will actually do so. However, jokes aside, losing weight as a result of high blood sugar is not something that you would like. Here’s why.
- The first reason why you lose weight is as a result of excessive urination. The result is a low level of fluids in the body, and thus you weigh less. For example that is exactly what happens when you get a diuretic. Some people actually consume diuretics for weigh loss.
- The second reason is the low insulin levels, when your body switches to burning fat more rapidly. The more fat that you burn, the more weight you will lose.
- Third, your urine is rich with glucose. Said in the simplest way possible: you are peeing your calories.
Slow healing of cuts and wounds
When the blood sugar levels are high, the healing processes of your skin are slowed down. Neutrophils, which are one of your body’s best tools to fight against diseases, are vulnerable to high blood sugar. These are leukocytes that your body is using in order to fight infections and injuries. And when you have high blood sugar, the control system that is signalizing your brain to send neutrophils to the injury is then disrupted.
One more reason for the slow healing of cuts and wounds is the lack of oxygen. When the blood sugar levels are high, oxygen delivery is reduced because of the blood vessel disease and nerve damage. Additionally, if you ignore the high blood sugar levels, some infections such as cellulitis might result from diabetes complications.
Dry and itchy skin
We mentioned previously that you feel thirsty because excessive urination. In addition, that is caused by dehydration. For those persons who are a little more into skin care, the hydration is very important for healthy skin. The excessive urination is completely dehydrating the system to the point that your skin tissues are drying out. Nevertheless, that’s not all. Because of high blood sugar, the body circulation is poor. Then there is the nerve damage that interferes with the normal functioning and operation of the sweat glands, the skin’s natural moisturizers.
We mentioned earlier dehydration and cell starvation. Without oxygen, nutrients, and blood, our brain is not able to function properly. Headaches happen and you have trouble concentrating, which is all because the starving cells signal that they are not able to access glucose in the bloodstream. One thing to consider: the brain devours almost 1/4 of the glucose that you consume. And because your brain has difficulty to access the fuel, the brain function is reduced. You can’t finish tasks such as staying focused, thinking, remembering, or reasoning. Moreover, the eventual result is painful and constant headaches.
Anytime when you feel dehydrated, tiredness and fatigue are normal side effects. Simply put, you cannot create energy. We all need a certain amount of energy in order to function properly during the day. And when you don’t produce enough energy, the body is slowly dying. To make matters worse, because of the constant and excessive urination, you are not able to sleep properly. The result is even less energy and feeling more tired than you have ever been.
One more result of excessive urination is blurred vision. The body is trying to dilute the blood by pulling fluids from the cells, which is a process that happens mostly through the cells of the eyes. And as the lens in the eyes are drying out, they become temporarily warped. The end result is that your eyes lose their ability to focus properly. In case you ignore the initial signs, chronic high blood sugar levels could lead to diseases such as retinopathy, which is damage to the back of the eye that could lead to blindness.
Chronic constipation or diarrhea
These are positioned at opposite sides of the spectrum. However, they are both caused by high blood sugar. Everything depends on which section of the bowel the sugar affects. For instance, when your sugar levels affect the small intestine, you are going to get diarrhea. On the other hand, when the sugar levels affect the large intestine, you get constipation.
Some statistics show that males older than 50 are extremely prone to erectile dysfunction. Actually, half of them suffer from this condition. A healthy erection requires blood flow and healthy nerves, as well as the right balance of hormones. Now, to not get too scientific, let’s just say that if you want to get an erection, your body needs to fulfill a number of hydraulic processes and events. The result is that your penis is filled with blood, and you need much more processes in order to keep the blood trapped inside the penis. All of that is impossible if you have high blood sugar levels.
People with diabetes are known to be irritable (in some ways, like the women with PMS). Not to stereotype, but that is the comparison that even women use. The biological reasons for the mood swings are not well understood and documented, although there have been several theories which explain it. But people living with someone with diabetes are well aware of the irritability and mood changes.
What can you do?
All of the signs of high blood sugar have a specific goal in common: to signal you that you have to start making changes in your lifestyle. If you ignore the signs at your own peril; in the long run, the high blood sugar levels will cause permanent damage to your body, and only you can stop it.
There is a saying: the best way to cure a disease is to prevent it. In case you notice the signs of high blood sugar, it may be the time to make one of the following lifestyle changes:
- Control your carb intake (as it was said at the top, chocolate is not the only reason for high blood sugar).
- Start exercising at least 2-3 times per week.
- Drink a lot of water and stay hydrated at all times.
- Increase your fiber intake in order to promote healthy digestion.
- Look for foods that have a low glycemic index. Now might be the time to look at the labels!
- Last, but not least, control the stress levels. Stress eating is among the biggest causes of high blood sugar.