I’m not exactly obsessed with checking my blood sugar, but I’ve certainly become more diligent about it since returning from the low-carb cruise.  As I mentioned in a previous post, Dr. William Davis gave an excellent presentation on why we should monitor blood-sugar levels.  Here’s a quote from one of his blog posts on the subject:

If you’re not a diabetic, why bother checking blood sugar? New studies have documented the increased likelihood of cardiovascular events with increased postprandial blood sugars well below the ranges regarded as diabetic. A blood sugar level of 140 mg/dl after a meal carries 30-60% increased (relative) risk for heart attack and other events. The increase in risk begins at even lower levels, perhaps 110 mg/dl or lower after eating.

We use a one-hour after eating blood sugar to gauge the effects of a meal. If, for instance, your dinner of baked chicken, asparagus brushed with olive oil, sauteed mushrooms, mashed potatoes, and a piece of Italian bread yields a one-hour blood sugar of 155 mg/dl, you know that something is wrong. (This is far more common than most people think.)

This makes perfect sense to me, for all kinds of reasons.  We know that high blood sugar damages organs and blood vessels, and yes, that includes the coronary arteries.  That’s why diabetics can lose limbs, suffer kidney failure, or go blind.  It’s why they have such a high rate of heart disease. We also know that glucose feeds cancer and accelerates the aging process by encouraging the formation of advanced glycation end-products, or AGEs. 

Dr. Uffe Ravsnkov, who believes heart disease begins with infections, pointed out in our interview that glucose competes with vitamin C and depresses the immune system.  Even if you don’t buy the hypothesis that infections cause heart disease, you don’t want your immune system depressed.  One source I checked online stated that when your blood sugar reaches 120 mg/dl, your body’s ability to swallow up viruses, bacteria and cancer cells is reduced by 75%.

How high is too high?  That depends on who you ask.  I’ve read articles that claim anytime your blood sugar is over 200 mg/dl, you’re being damaged — and by the way, it’s common for people to reach that level after a bowl of Cheerios.  Others put the number at 140.  Dr. Davis prefers to see post-meal blood-sugar levels below 125, and ideally closer to 100.

So after returning home from the cruise, I bought a blood-sugar meter to check my response to different meals.  There’s good news and bad news.

The good news is that most of the meals I now enjoy don’t have much of an impact.  I’ve checked my fasting blood sugar a few times in the morning, and it’s consistently in the 85-90 range.  A little lower might be better, but that’s where I’m at.  So with that as a baseline, here are the one-hour results after some meals:

  • Chopped ham & three eggs scrambled in butter:  92
  • Two burger patties with raw-milk cheese and sautéed onions, mustard, a dollop of mayonnaise:  101
  • Homemade stew (beef, onions, carrots, red wine, beef bullion):  105
  • Chicken and broccoli with pesto sauce:  109
  • Protein shake with whey protein and heavy cream:  102
  • Sausage with whipped cauliflower “fauxtatoes” (my low-carb version of bangers ‘n’ mash): 98

I was also pleased to learn that low-carb ice cream doesn’t produce much of a spike.  When I first switched to a low-carb diet, I consumed a bowl of Carb Smart ice cream or a couple of their ice cream bars at least a few nights per week.  Since then, I’ve lost much of my taste for desserts, so I rarely eat the stuff.  I’ve also read that sugar alcohols can produce a bit of a blood-sugar spike some people.

I don’t plan to become a regular ice-cream eater again, but as an experiment, I had a full cup of Carb Smart ice cream earlier today.  An hour later, my blood sugar stood at 112.  That’s not great, but it’s less than I would’ve predicted.  I’ve also found that iced tea sweetened with three packets of Truvia has virtually no effect on my blood sugar … the meter showed 93 mg/dl when I checked.

That’s the good news.  The bad news is that I don’t seem to tolerate sugars and starches very well at all.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, on St. Patrick’s Day I added one small potato to my meal of corned beef, carrots and cabbage.  An hour later, the meter showed a blood-sugar level of 162 mg/dl.

I had an even bigger surprise a couple of days ago.  I was busy and didn’t feel like cooking, so I threw together a meal of Costco meatballs with a 1/2 cup of marinara sauce and a wee small serving of spaghetti left over from a meal my wife had served to my daughters and my niece.  (My niece doesn’t like most meats, but loves pasta.)  By “wee small,” I mean perhaps 1/2 cup of cooked spaghetti.  The meatballs also had a few carbs in them thanks to the bread crumbs.  Adding up the counts from the labels, I estimated that my meal included about 40 grams of carbohydrate.

The result:  an hour later my blood sugar stood at 174 mg/dl. Back when I thought meat and fat were bad, I used to live on pasta and potatoes.  No wonder I started showing signs of pre-diabetes and felt lousy so often.  I suppose if I hadn’t screwed up my metabolism with too much sugar as a kid and too much starch as a vegetarian adult, small servings of potatoes and pasta wouldn’t produce such dramatic spikes, but they do.  I just shouldn’t be eating them.

That’s why it’s important to test your own reactions to various foods:  we’re all different.  What’s right for you may not work for me, and vice versa. 

I saw an example of that last night.  My sister-in-law was in town to pick up her daughter.  Like my wife, my sister-in-law is naturally thin … if anything, she’d like to gain a few pounds.  She saw me testing my blood sugar, and it piqued her curiosity, especially since their naturally-thin father is a type 2 diabetic.  So an hour after dinner — which for her included chicken, a sweet potato, and a generous serving of pasta — I gave her the finger stick.  Her blood sugar was only 112 mg/dl.  Feed me the same dinner, and I’d probably be looking at something closer to 200.

So the bottom line for me:  no starchy foods.  And I’m perfectly happy living without them.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Share/Bookmark
72 Responses to “Blood Sugar Ups And Downs”
  1. Jill says:

    I’m curious as to what effect nuts have on blood sugar, like raw, natural nuts…pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts. I’ve read that nuts have a high fat/protein/Carb combo.

    I think it depends on which type of nut. I mostly eat almonds, which are very low in carbs and high in fiber.

  2. Jen B says:

    This post has blown my mind. I changed my entire diet about 1.5 years ago and lost a good amount of weight. I don’t eat low fat anything (or anything processed), and I don’t worry about fat intake. I get enough, but don’t stress on the days I probably get too much. My cholesterol levels are low, and so is my BP.

    What I have noticed however is how carbs knock me on my butt energy wise. I keep them at a dull roar and avoid the pale ones, like white bread etc., only because they make me so tired an hour later. And now I know why. Aha!

    Light bulb moment.

    You came to the correct conclusion. Some people feel that energy drop and decide they’ve got low blood sugar and should eat a candy bar.

  3. Rachael says:

    Hi Tom,

    I’ve been browsing your blog with great interest.

    I am a 25 year old, very lean woman with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). You should look into it. It’s kind of a fascinating disorder. Most women with PCOS are overweight and have or are on their way to type II diabetes. About 20%, like myself, have normal or low BMIs. PCOS is believed to be due to insulin resistance, but the IR can take a very subtle form. Lean women who pass a GTT are still believed to have peripheral insulin resistance, and we suffer from a variety of complaints — in my case, high testosterone, wicked high cholesterol (during my vegetarian days!), and annovulation due to other hormonal issues.

    I can tell you that I have never eaten much processed or refined food, although, as a former vegetarian, complex carbohydrates in the form of whole grains and beans were the staple of my diet. I exercise regularly. The origin of my condition was a complete mystery to me until I got the guts to ask my mom what she ate when she was pregnant with me. Her answer? Two chocolate milkshakes a day. Aha. There you have it. In utero priming for insulin resistance. When I removed carbs from my diet, I felt incredible. (I should also add that my father is a celiac, but I have not noticed the symptoms in myself).

    I am pregnant now. I took a 3hr OGTT with the following results: 86, 140, 141, 139. My doctors were so pleased that I was “perfectly normal!” (repeat ad nauseum). It took some pain in the ass insistence on my part before anybody paid attention to the fact that I couldn’t clear a mg of glucose in three hours: that is NOT normal. I bought a glucose meter and have discovered that even small amounts of carbs send my blood sugar up to 150 or 170, and it stays there for hours. My fasting glucose is always 70-80. If I could self diagnose, I would say that my pancreas is still functioning, but that my peripheral tissues are displaying a low tolerance to glucose… so my body can clear a bit of glucose, and then it takes a long, long time to get the rest cleared.

    Anyway, I only share my story because I thought it might interest you. I am furious with my doctors for insisting I am “normal” and not gestationally diabetic. The blood sugar readings I am getting would have serious health consequences for my baby, and this, from a diet that is currently low carb — imagine if I took their advice and ate “normally” (a panini sandwich the other day, used as a test meal, sent me up to 200 in an hour, and I was 140 3 hours later!). My glucose meter rocks, and I recommend home blood sugar testing to anyone.

    I took a GTT before getting pregnant and they told me it was “normal”, too, but I never got the numbers. Now I’ll be very interested to see what happens when I am no longer pregnant. (Pregnancy induces some mild insulin resistance in almost every woman)

    You’ve learned an important lesson at a young age: just because you’re lean, it doesn’t mean you can’t be on your way to insulin resistance. Best of luck with the pregnancy.

  4. Dana says:

    Rachael’s story is why I get so mad at folks who make fun of or rant about fat people for being “unhealthy.” If slender people think their weight will save them, they should go get a glucose meter. I now think I was suffering derangement of my glucose metabolism when I was a teenager and young adult even though I was thin as a rail. I was moody, impulsive, not a clear thinker, and it wasn’t all hormones–plenty of women my age were more rational in their approach to life than I was.

    Weight is an imperfect measure of health, definitely. I’ve spoken with several lean people whose health and mood improved when they kicked the sugar and starch habit.

  5. Kathleen says:

    My One Hour Blood Glucose Monitor Play (with food) Day:

    Fasting = 78 mg/dl

    4 slices of bacon, 2 egg plain omelette = 102 mg/dl

    Mighty Kids Double Cheeseburger Meal, Coke, Ice Cream Sundae (McDonald’s) = 143 mg/dl

    2 glasses of Bistro Pinot Noir and 6 slices of Brie = 90 mg/dl

    FUN and Informative! Thanks! :O) I’m turning 50 this year and FREAKiNG OUT!!!!! I’m all of a sudden feeling FAT!!!!! I’d always been a size 2/4 to 6 (USA) and now I’m an 8!!!!! :O( with one of those extra (f)laps I’d sworn I’d never get!!!!! ARGH!!!! Here’s hoping I still have time to do something about this!!!! ;O)

    If you keep testing and keep it to the foods that don’t give you the spikes, you’ll probably be fine. I would’ve gone a lot higher than 143 with a Coke and a sundae.

  6. Kathleen says:

    You’ve inspired me to blog my personal anecdotal observations! Thanks and keep up the good work!

    I’m telling you this because I linked you and am not sure of the proper protocol for that. If it’s a problem, let me know and I’ll undo it.

    http://web.me.com/kathleenstein/Site/Home.html

    Quite a difference in how you and your husband react to oatmeal. More evidence that the key is to measure for yourself.

  7. Darth Chaos says:

    I stopped using Truvia when it gave me the dreaded “leakage”…the same kind of “leakage” CSPI whined about over Olestra. Yeah…..too much information lol.

    Anyway, I have been using stevia powder for the last few months in addition to using flaxseed oil, fish oil, garlic tablets, and a multivitamin. I feel great.

    Truvia causes leakage? You must have problems with the erythritol.

  8. Darth Chaos says:

    I figured it was the erythitol which did it. I switched to Stevita Supreme which is mostly stevia but it uses xylitol as a bulking agent. I also use Nature’s Bounty stevia powder, and neither product gives me the problem that Truvia does. Yet for some reason, I can tolerate the PureVia in SoBe LifeWater fine. I guess my body has adjusted to the erythitol. (PureVia also contains erythitol.)

    Getting ready to watch Fat Head again. It’s awesome!

    I appreciate that.

  9. Ray says:

    Could you tell me what you bought to test your blood sugar? I am interested in starting to do this. Thanks for your insight!

    I watched a lecture by Dr. William Davis in which he explained the importance of testing your own reactions to different foods. While the glycemic index and glycemic load tables provide a general guide, individual reactions can vary dramatically.

    Dr. Davis suggests avoiding any food that sends your blood sugar over 125 an hour after eating.

  10. Sarah says:

    Happy to have found this post. I’ve been trying to sort out my symptoms for a while now. Much of my digestive stuff has resolved on a grain-free, sugar-free diet, but I still experienced these energy crashes sometimes that would just flatten me. Also, I am frequently hungry shortly after meals, even when I have eaten plenty. I am 31 years old, and a slim-to-average weight for my height (though with a tendency to hold any excess weight around my belly).

    I started home-testing my blood sugar when I realized my symptoms might be related to insulin regulation, and was shocked at what I found. It is ALL OVER THE MAP. I have seen readings everywhere from 56 to 217. The 217 happened one afternoon after I ate a peach and a few strawberries on an empty tummy. Seriously? I was horrified – and shocked, because I never would have suspected this for myself. The worst effects for me seem to happen after a big spike, because then I get reactive hypoglycemia and will end up feeling completely crashed out. I have found that caffeine can significantly worsen this whole cycle.

    I definitely agree that everyone should try monitoring their blood sugar levels for a while. It can reveal a lot that you might not have suspected. And it’s far better to learn to regulate it now, then down the road when you’re well on your way to Type 2 diabetes.

  11. Rocky says:

    I always get strange looks when I say this, but whenever I’m pulled into a discussion of what diet is best or what foods to avoid, I tell people that no matter how they’re eating, unless they’re checking their postprandial glucose levels regularly, they’re not really informed about how well their diet is serving them. The typical reaction seems to be, “I’m not diabetic, why would I want to check my blood sugar?”

    I want to shout, “Just stick your head back in the sand, people. Keep believing that it’s better to wait until 90% of your beta cells are dead before you get a clue that your pancreas has been taken into a dark alley and beaten five times a day for the past 20 years.”

    Checking postprandial glucose is a great idea. You don’t know which foods are giving you spikes until you test.

  12. Melissa says:

    I’m 41, 204 lbs and 5ft8. I’ve never had my blood sugar levels checked and caught myself earlier wondering if I should start checking. I’ve been on a relatively low carb diet for over a year now. By low carb I mean no potatoes, rarely any pasta, a rare slice of bread, little to no sugar and so on. I’ve dropped 55 pounds in the last year. however, now, when I decide to indulge in a potato or a bowl of cereal, icecream, or a bit of pasta I find that I become incredibly sleepy to the point I can’t hold my head up. What seems to counter it is consumption of protein. Today I ate some potato chips, woke up still groggy from the 3 hour nap it induced and consumed a baked chicken breast. I’m starting to come out of the fog nearly an hour later. I still feel like I could sleep another couple of hours but even that sensation is starting to wear off. After this rather frightening episode (I’ve never slept this long after consuming carbs and I’m here at the house by myself) I think it’s time to a) see my doctor b) get a meter c) stay away from the carbs…

  13. shutchings says:

    I’m wondering if you’ve ever tried the Zone bread products and then measured your blood sugar with a glucose monitor. They claim that their products won’t raise your blood sugar more than a strawberry would. I couldn’t figure out if they used anything like Einkorn, but they say there’s a lot more protein in their products than normal bread products.

    I haven’t tried them. I eventually realized I don’t do well with grains, even if the carbs are reduced.

  14. Larry says:

    I was told by my doctor that my A1c test indicated a small rise and he wanted to test me 4 months later. My older brother found out he was diabetic 3 years ago. This it a fire under me so I started exercising, changing my eating habits, and testing my blood sugar. I found trends in certain foods as I would write down everything I ate and tested regularly. I average mid 90s Morning before meals, 95-109 post meal lunch. This is typical in the evening also. I have lost about 12 – 15 pounds and try to keep to a low impact exercise schedule, walking and riding bicycle. even after 3 months of lifestyle changes I still see ups and downs in my blood sugar. My goal is <86 morning reading and <100 post meal. This morning I tested myself. I had a morning before meal reading of 100, not good. I ate an egg with avocado slice and 1/2 sugary muffin and coffee. One hour later my blood sugar was 147. I felt jittery for about an hour and a half. I checked 2 hrs. later it was 143. then three hours later it was 80. This confirms that I cannot handle sugar and or foods containing wheat. I am not on meds. and I hope to beat this by making these changes and know what I can and cannot eat. Low carb. veges. seem to be my ticket because I tried a no carb. diet and my blood sugar levels were over 100. I believe my liver was making glucose to make up for the lack of available carbs. I conclusion, My best regiment is to include complex carbs in my diet with protein to slow down the digestion. Hopefully my blood sugar levels will stay low and i can meet my goal.

  15. Michael says:

    Being a type II diabetic on an insulin pump; and having several members of my family die from diabetes as early as 19 years old. Seeing others loose limbs and eyesight I can tell you that blood sugar levels are nothing to take for granted. Constantly high levels WILL damage your body, shorten your life, and greatly reduce your quality of life. If you even suspect your body is not processing sugars like it should see an endocrinologist (diabetes doctor) Log what and when you eat, and when you test and make sure your body is not being damaged.

    Diabetes does NOT have to be a death sentence. It can be managed and controlled with careful dietary and medicinal maintenance. The choice is ours to make. Deal with it, or it will deal with you

  16. redian says:

    One-hour post prandial check on blood sugar is very important. One liitle thing missing from the knowledge is that when you check your blood sugar at precisely one hour after meal, the number may or may not be the peak of your sugar spike. So, occasionally also check to see how high your number after 90 minutes, and 120 minutes. If you check 140mg/dl at 1 hour, check again at 90 minutes, it could be 150mg/dl. Then it is your peak.

    My blood sugar after a typical high carb meal will be about 145mg/dl at one hour and remained so until two hours after meal where it slowly drops to 120mg/dl and then to 110mg/dl the third hour. Mine is very slow to drop down below 100 after meals although my fasting is around 90s.

    On a high fat meal, my blood sugar is a lot better. One hour usually 110mg/dl, but remained so the next two hours.

    To understand the effects of certain food to blood sugar, I really check to see which time it is best to see the peak. One hour is not neccessarily always the peak. I’ve seen my peak at 70 minutes after meal.

    Don’t trust all the pop-science of what food is good to eat, just trust your meter! cheers

  17. Kimberly Murphy says:

    Do we need to figure out the peak for each food? Or is the general rule remain one hour after eating? What if blood sugar is 166 at 30 minutes, but 112 at one hour? Does that mean that food is OK? Thank you.

    I try to keep my glucose below 125, period. If it goes above that very briefly, I wouldn’t be too concerned, but I’d still adjust.

  18. Jo-E says:

    Does taking a beta blocker for high b.p. have anything to do with the beta cells in your pancreas? My dr. said no then I saw another dr. who said as a diabetic you should not be taking a beta blocker.

    I’m not sure on that one.

  19. Dusty says:

    Well, Tom Naughton I do not know who you are from Adam, just happened across this on a google search…

    I hate to be the person to break it to you, but you’re diabetic.

    I can tell you that with certainty because I was told I had Syndrome X 10 years ago… a term that was used for roller coaster blood glucose levels. My A1C looked if anything low and my sugar could be 50 and 400 in the same day, so no meds for me.

    So the bottom line is I had to take the same approach to finding out what I could and could not eat… test a lot… and I also took that approach x2 and tested someone normal in the family.

    The truth to the matter is that normal people can eat any of that stuff you mentioned and be fine, while diabetics cannot. Matter of fact if they ate such a low carb diet they would likely feel crappy and in some cases have elevated blood sugar levels as a result.

    As someone who can’t medicate I commend you for your control measures. But you are diabetic and controlling it as most diabetics could without medication. So I think maybe you should write more in that direction instead. Also if you are always elevated some and never low, you might want to consider a trail medical treatment. For as much as I don’t like the idea either, sometimes I wish I could, and I think it is possible you may be able to tolerate a lot more of the foods you wish you could enjoy occasionally.

    For me though, I don’t have that option and assume that some day a discovery will be made for me that uncovers the underlying cause of my roller coaster metabolism. I feel sure that there is one because sometimes I will feel bad and have high numbers with no food intake to blame for it, and consumption of something I should not eat will cause it to drop back towards normal. So I think I have some cell reception issues and possibly a liver pumping out stuff that is a quality my cells resist,

    Lots of “normal” people who aren’t diabetic go low-carb to lose weight or for other health reasons. They only feel crappy during the transition from being sugar-burners to fat-burners. Then they feel great. My naturally-lean, non-diabetic wife eats low-carb now and feels better than ever.

  20. Jean says:

    I was told that I was a pre-diabete I drank a little beer last night and my blood sugar shot up to 166. This morning it was 108 What cause this? Am I a diabetes?

    Beer contains sugar. If you’re pre-diabetic, stop drinking beer.

  21. Jane says:

    Just came across your post. I was wondering if you or your doctors consider yourself to be diabetic, pre-diabetic, or insulin resistant due to the spike in your blood sugar after consumption of carbs? I had gestational diabetes and always checked my 2 hour postprandial numbers – which were always below 120 – but then recently, post -pregnancy, checked a 1 hour postprandial number and it came back at 160 (after having 2 slices of whole grain high fiber bread) but then at 1 hour it was under 100. I am obviously concerned and since you have had a similar spike, I was wondering what you consider it to be. Thanks!

    I didn’t know to buy a glucose meter back in the day, but in retrospect, I was exhibiting signs of pre-diabetes: weight gain around the middle, difficulty losing it, frequent carb cravings, sluggish after meals, waking up several times per night to urinate, etc.

    • Jane says:

      So you do not have diabetes even though your blood sugar spikes higher than it technically should after carbs?

      Diabetes is defined as fasting glucose above 125. Mine is usually around 90.

  22.  
Leave a Reply