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Health Chatter: Keeping your blood sugar in check

Updated: Mar 8, 2022

Blood sugar, also known as blood glucose, is the sugar found in our blood. It is a natural component of human blood, and gives us the energy we need to function.

The level of sugar in your bloodstream varies throughout the day according to what and when you eat and drink. It is also affected by how much activity you do and whether you are experiencing any stress.

In the right amounts glucose gives you energy but having too much or too little can cause problems with your health.

Managing your blood glucose levels

Healthy weight and healthy eating: Maintaining a healthy weight is important, but so is eating a range of foods from the different food groups, (carbohydrates, fats and proteins) in the right proportions. They all supply our bodies with different nutrients to help it work as well as it can. Check whether you are eating the right balance of foods.

Choose “complex” carbohydrates over refined or processed foods, for example:

  • whole grain options (such as whole grain bread, pasta, cereal)

  • starchy vegetables (such as potatoes)

  • non-starchy vegetables (such as courgettes, asparagus, leeks)

  • pulses (such as lentils, chickpeas, beans)

A selection of vegetables in a store
Choose "complex" carbohydrates over refined or processed food

Reduce Peaks and Troughs

Keep your blood glucose levels stable by eating smaller main meals but introduce healthy snacks in between so that you are eating little and often. This will also help to manage food cravings that might derail any weight loss plans.

Don’t skip meals, this is likely to make you feel tired, irritable and affect your concentration. If you suffer with low mood, this can make you feel worse.

Some foods and drink can affect your blood glucose; e.g. caffeine and having sugar free food or drinks that contain sorbitol and xylitol can raise your blood glucose, whilst probiotics in yoghurt can lower it.

Alcohol causes a blood glucose spike and then causes it to drop, which is why after drinking too much you may get “the munchies” and end up over-eating.


Muscle cells take in glucose to help them contract and relax during exercise. They don’t need insulin to do this, so it reduces the likelihood of any excess being converted to store as fat.

If you exercise intensely or over a long period, this can cause a drop in blood glucose levels and affects your energy levels. Having a snack before and after exercise will help to keep your levels balanced.

Manage stress

When you feel stressed or anxious, your body gears up to deal with it, referred to as our “fight or flight response”. You produce less insulin and release more glucose into your blood stream. If stress is prolonged it can result in you having too much glucose in circulation.

Take time out to do things that you enjoy to relieve stress or learn new ways to cope with stressors that aren’t likely to go away by talking to someone or seeking support to help to manage this situation.

Understanding insulin

When you eat, you produce a chemical called insulin. It is like a key that unlocks the cells in your body and allows them to take in the fuel they need to work well.

When you gain too much weight and fat builds up around your organs, the cells start to become resistant to insulin and they can’t take enough fuel on board. Your blood sugar levels rise signaling to your pancreas (the organ that produces insulin) to produce more insulin but it also encourages the left over glucose to be stored as fat, so your weight increases. This is the part of the vicious circle that leads to the development of type 2 diabetes.

The longer you tend to have high blood glucose levels the greater the risks to your health and you may not become aware of these changes until their effect becomes more serious.

Keep your blood glucose levels stable by eating smaller main meals but introduce healthy snacks in between so that you are eating little and often.

Signs of diabetes

It is important to know what to look out for as changes can creep up on you:

  • Going to the toilet more frequently, day or night

  • Feeling very thirsty

  • Low energy, feeling tired more than usual

  • Clothes feel looser without trying to lose weight

  • Itchiness, particularly around your genitals

  • Prone to infections and slow to heal from wounds

  • Changes in your eyesight

These symptoms are not unique to diabetes so it is important to talk to your doctor as soon as you become aware of them so that you can be tested. Early recognition and treatment of diabetes can help to prevent many of the serious complications that can arise if it is left unchecked.

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Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

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