Monitoring is the only way to tell if your blood sugar is consistently staying with in range. Even non-diabetics should check their blood sugar every once in awhile to catch the potential development of the disease early. For non-diabetics, checking post-meal blood sugars is a good way to keep an eye on the potential developing disease. For diabetics, keeping an eye on after meal blood sugars is critical for to make sure the correct amount of insulin is being administered with meals.
What is Blood Sugar?
Blood sugar describes the molecule glucose that circulates in the blood. Glucose is the energy source that we get from the food you eat, specifically carbohydrates, and required by the body's tissues to perform all of its basic functions. Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas that allows cells to take in glucose from the blood to use as energy. The tissue cells do not take in all of the sugar in the blood though; there is a specific amount that bodies like to keep in the bloodstream, according to the Blood Sugar Diabetic website.
How Food Affects Blood Sugar
When you eat, digestion breaks down food into smaller molecules to be absorbed into your tissues. Even before you take your first bite, your pancreas produces insulin in preparation for increased blood sugar and therefore energy absorption into cells. Carbohydrates are the main source for glucose, but protein can increase blood sugar, as well. But not all carbohydrates are created equal. Simple carbohydrates such as white bread, fruit, milk, and candy raise blood sugar more quickly than complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, vegetables, and beans.
Post Meal Range for Non-Diabetics
A non diabetic's blood sugar level should be between 70 and 140 mg/dL one to two hours after a meal, according to the American Diabetes Association. If it is lower than this, you could have a condition called hypoglycemia, in which blood sugars drop below 70 mg/dL after eating. A blood sugar reading slightly above 140 mg/dL after a meal does not necessarily indicate diabetes, but an oral glucose tolerance test should be performed at a later date to test for an elevated post-meal blood sugar to confirm any diagnosis.
Post Meal Range for Diabetics
If you are diabetic, the American Diabetes Association suggests your blood sugar be less than 180 mg/dL one to two hours after a meal. A blood sugar lower than 70 mg/dL usually means that too much meal time insulin was injected compared to the amount of food eaten. A blood sugar reading higher than 180 mg/dL suggests that not enough insulin was taken for all of the carbohydrates eaten at meal time. When either a lower or higher blood sugar occurs, make sure to note whether you may have over or underestimated the amount of carbohydrates eaten and double check your insulin to carbohydrate ratio.
A low blood sugar under 70 mg/dL in both non-diabetics and diabetics can be very dangerous. Low blood sugar causes shakiness, confusion, loss of coordination, and if low enough, can lead to a coma. A high blood sugar reading over 180 mg/dL are rare and can indicate pre-diabetes, type 1, and type 2 diabetes. In the short run, high blood sugar levels can causes excessive hunger, thirst, urination, and dehydration, but consistently elevated blood sugars over a long period of time can lead to other diseases such as kidney failure and amputations, warns the American Diabetes Association. Non diabetics should be screened for diabetes according to a doctor's recommendations. Diabetics can keep their blood sugars in check by testing often and learning what insulin dosages work for you.
- Blood Sugar Diabetic.com: How the body regulates blood sugar
- Pre-diabetes.com: How eating food affects blood sugar and insulin levels
- American Diabetes Association: How to tell if you have pre-diabetes
- National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive, and Kidney Diseases: Hypoglycemia
- American Diabetes Association: Checking your blood sugar
- American Diabetes Association: Complications