Blood Sugar Ups And Downs

      134 Comments on Blood Sugar Ups And Downs

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.


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134 thoughts on “Blood Sugar Ups And Downs

  1. eddie watts

    very interesting stuff, been reading your blog for a while now and am always entertained by your writing.
    my mother was diagnosed diabetic type 2 diet controlled and then found out that my sister has serious wheat allergy (previously diagnosed as IBS).

    when wheat was cut out she found improved health generally and a year later the doctor retested her and found she was no longer diabetic…said it was the first time he’d even heard of reversal of diabetes!

    thanks t=for the update, might get me a tester kit!

    Wheat seems to produce autoimmune reactions in some people, beyond just the damage from the carb load. I pretty much avoid it altogether, save for a rare pizza indulgence. And when I do eat the pizza, I have to take an ibuprofen within two hours because my joints start to ache, especially my surgically-repaired shoulder.

  2. Bruce

    I am noticing the same thing this week. I am on week one of a two week vacation. I do not measure my glucose at all, and the past 4 months I have been trying to lay off of the carbage that I would normally eat. Especially beer. Now in my day, 8 beers was a normal serving when the weekend rolled around or it was vacation time. Now, after a week of having bread, and some candy, and some potatoes, and 4 beers in one day…I felt like sh%% last night before going to bed. My body ached. I was in a lousy mood. Not a good way to feel on vacation. This was the third night of feeling like this too. So today, it’s back to eating the right way. It will be tough to do in a resort area, but it needs to be done.

    Maybe it is a good thing to know how good I feel not eating the carbage.

    I drank red wine on the low-carb cruise — and more of it than I drink at home — and felt fine. I think beer provides too much sugar in addition to the alcohol.

  3. Felix

    The reason why you react that strongly to eating carbs is that you’ve been low-carb for so long. I’d bet that after a month of high-carb, your reaction to a potato would be within the normal range.
    There is a nice paper online about Steffansson’s one-year-only-meat experiment. They did glucose-tolerance-tests with them right after the experiment, where they had pretty much diabetic responses to any form of carbs. A few weeks later on a “normal” diet (higher in carbs, I guess), their carb metabolism caught up again and they had normal blood glucose levels after carb-eating again.
    Here’s the link:
    http://www.jbc.org/content/83/3/747.full.pdf

    This falls in line with Julian Whitaker’s book “Reversing Diabetes”, where he treats type-2 diabetics with a low-fat high-carb diet, based on the idea that it’s not the carbs, but the insulin-resistance that causes high-blood sugars by keeping the glucose in the blood. Apparently a high-carb low-fat diet lowers this condition with success if you judge by the Amazon Reviews. Same goes for guys like Terry Shintani, who has published papers on the very same phenomenon.
    I doubt this would works with type-1 diabetics, though, since they don’t make insulin at all.

    So there are two schools with completely opposite views on the subject, which both have success in treating diabetes. This is still strange to me.

    To make things even worse, I’ve personally lowered my fasting glucose from 103 to 95 through a High-Everything-Diet within a month and lowered it to around 85 by incorporating sugar, refined carbs and Omega-6, too, which meant unrestricted high-calorie eating. I still can’t wrap my head around this…

    Okay, I’ve gained about 30 pounds during the experiment (I’ve lost 15 again, already, so that’s no problem), but it was still interesting (and tasty – in the name of science, of course 😀 ).

    So, I’m pretty much disillusioned about healthy eating right now.

    I should get a glucose test-set again to see where I’m at now. Those damn strips are more expensive than a starter-kit.

    I think it’s possible a high-everything diet would retrain my body to handle the carbs, but I don’t see any compelling reason to try it. Starches make me hungry and always did, so I’m happy to live without them. I also don’t seem to have much of a tolerance for wheat; I get arthritic pains if I eat more than a little bit, so there’s no reason to eat any at all.

  4. Byron

    Really interesting to see your various levels with different foods.
    Since Dr. Davis article I know about the importance and will buy also a BS meter. Till now I oriented my food choice in regard to binge attack. But I think if you´re extremly sensitive you might even collapse with too much protein or even fatty coconut cream.
    I´m keto since 6 months and never want to return to starchy, fruity or alcohol binge attacks. HDL is 200, trygliceride 35. No question what is healthier. Have a nice weekend.

    That’s why I checked my reaction to the protein shake, which provides 50 grams of protein. I know for some people, a big serving of protein can produce a bit of a spike.

  5. Ane

    Hi Tom,

    Yes, it is a good idea to check how our bodies react to carbs …I’m also naturally thin, but my grandfather was diabetic, so I reduced the amount of carbs in my diet in order to prevent the disease….

    Did you ever check what the effect on your blood sugar is, when you add a salad with fresh vegetables to your meal? I remember that I read in a Montignac book that a raw carrot has a glycemic index of 30, but a cooked carrot has a glycemic index of 80…. Also, some say that fibers have a good effect on the glycemic impact of a meal because sugar is passing into the blood more slowly….

    Returning to your example with the small potato on St. Patrick’s Day, I wonder what difference would make on your blood sugar adding a small raw salad (let’s say one small carrot, a piece of celery, a small piece of apple and olive oil) to your meal ….

    I will check it after a fresh salad sometime. A few bits of cooked carrots don’t seem to have a dramatic impact. My wife puts carrots in her (awesomely delicious) beef stew, and I don’t get any spikes from it.

  6. mrfreddy

    I wonder what your blood sugar would look like if you tried eating according to the Ornishes and Furhmans of the world?

    I’d try it on myself but it looks like it might hurt!

    Judging by the mood swings I experienced on lowfat diets, I’d say it would look like a roller-coaster ride.

  7. Mary

    We went to the town health fair last night, which boasted “Learn all about healthy snacking with FREE SAMPLES!”

    Their idea of healthy?

    *Popcorn
    * Pretzels
    * Teddy Grahams (?? oh they are made with whole grains….now I see.)
    *Reduced fat wheat thins
    * Sugar free, low fat yogurt
    *Apples

    Next year I might have my own booth and give out free bones so people can suck the marrow out. 😛

    If you do, my daughters would be happy to work as demonstrators.

  8. Ed Terry

    I suspect the pancreas is like skeletal muscle in that if you don’t use it, you lose it. After I lost my taste for sweets (natural or artificial), my pancreas took off to Cancun, where it’s sipping on a Corona. I received a postcard from it yesterday.

    If my pancreas spots yours on the beach, I’ll make sure it says hi.

  9. eddie watts

    very interesting stuff, been reading your blog for a while now and am always entertained by your writing.
    my mother was diagnosed diabetic type 2 diet controlled and then found out that my sister has serious wheat allergy (previously diagnosed as IBS).

    when wheat was cut out she found improved health generally and a year later the doctor retested her and found she was no longer diabetic…said it was the first time he’d even heard of reversal of diabetes!

    thanks t=for the update, might get me a tester kit!

    Wheat seems to produce autoimmune reactions in some people, beyond just the damage from the carb load. I pretty much avoid it altogether, save for a rare pizza indulgence. And when I do eat the pizza, I have to take an ibuprofen within two hours because my joints start to ache, especially my surgically-repaired shoulder.

  10. Matt Stone

    Just remember that there are always two ways to look at an “intolerance” or “weakness.” What drives me and my research is identifying that your blood sugar spikes too high after eating carbohydrate, figure out what is the cause of your glucose metabolism problems, and then implement strategies that help you overcome the core problem and get to a point where carbohydrates can be consumed without ill effect. To me, the true sign of improvement is being able to watch your blood sugar reaction to a meal where glucose once spiked at 174 fall to 170, then 160, then 140… All the way back to 110 or less. I DO think this is achievable, and have had many reports from my followers that this precise improvement has been witnessed.

    I’ve wondered about that myself. One theory is that if I ate more carbs, I’d retrain my body to handle them. The other theory is that I severely damaged my ability to handle them a long time ago, so eating more of them now would be like trying to heal my hearing problem by listening to loud music. Since I feel better burning mostly fat for fuel, and since carbohydrates always seem to ramp up my appetite, I’ll just limit them for now.

  11. Amy Dungan

    I think I’m the same way Tom. A couple of weeks ago I went out to buy fresh testing strips for my meter, then have spent the time since trying to find my meter. It’s been so long since I’ve used it that I can’t remember where I put it. I do know that I feel pretty icky after any meal containing starches or grains. If I ever find my meter, I’ll run some tests to see exactly what is happening. I spent so many years on low-fat or fat-free foods that my body will probably never recover from the damage. But I’m happy with the way I eat now, so I’m not disappointed at all that I can’t eat carby foods.

    It’s worth picking up another meter. I was surprised to learn, for example, that the gyros salad I order at a local fast-food Greek place pushes my blood sugar to 152. There’s sugar or starch in there somewhere.

  12. Bruce

    I am noticing the same thing this week. I am on week one of a two week vacation. I do not measure my glucose at all, and the past 4 months I have been trying to lay off of the carbage that I would normally eat. Especially beer. Now in my day, 8 beers was a normal serving when the weekend rolled around or it was vacation time. Now, after a week of having bread, and some candy, and some potatoes, and 4 beers in one day…I felt like sh%% last night before going to bed. My body ached. I was in a lousy mood. Not a good way to feel on vacation. This was the third night of feeling like this too. So today, it’s back to eating the right way. It will be tough to do in a resort area, but it needs to be done.

    Maybe it is a good thing to know how good I feel not eating the carbage.

    I drank red wine on the low-carb cruise — and more of it than I drink at home — and felt fine. I think beer provides too much sugar in addition to the alcohol.

  13. Felix

    The reason why you react that strongly to eating carbs is that you’ve been low-carb for so long. I’d bet that after a month of high-carb, your reaction to a potato would be within the normal range.
    There is a nice paper online about Steffansson’s one-year-only-meat experiment. They did glucose-tolerance-tests with them right after the experiment, where they had pretty much diabetic responses to any form of carbs. A few weeks later on a “normal” diet (higher in carbs, I guess), their carb metabolism caught up again and they had normal blood glucose levels after carb-eating again.
    Here’s the link:
    http://www.jbc.org/content/83/3/747.full.pdf

    This falls in line with Julian Whitaker’s book “Reversing Diabetes”, where he treats type-2 diabetics with a low-fat high-carb diet, based on the idea that it’s not the carbs, but the insulin-resistance that causes high-blood sugars by keeping the glucose in the blood. Apparently a high-carb low-fat diet lowers this condition with success if you judge by the Amazon Reviews. Same goes for guys like Terry Shintani, who has published papers on the very same phenomenon.
    I doubt this would works with type-1 diabetics, though, since they don’t make insulin at all.

    So there are two schools with completely opposite views on the subject, which both have success in treating diabetes. This is still strange to me.

    To make things even worse, I’ve personally lowered my fasting glucose from 103 to 95 through a High-Everything-Diet within a month and lowered it to around 85 by incorporating sugar, refined carbs and Omega-6, too, which meant unrestricted high-calorie eating. I still can’t wrap my head around this…

    Okay, I’ve gained about 30 pounds during the experiment (I’ve lost 15 again, already, so that’s no problem), but it was still interesting (and tasty – in the name of science, of course 😀 ).

    So, I’m pretty much disillusioned about healthy eating right now.

    I should get a glucose test-set again to see where I’m at now. Those damn strips are more expensive than a starter-kit.

    I think it’s possible a high-everything diet would retrain my body to handle the carbs, but I don’t see any compelling reason to try it. Starches make me hungry and always did, so I’m happy to live without them. I also don’t seem to have much of a tolerance for wheat; I get arthritic pains if I eat more than a little bit, so there’s no reason to eat any at all.

  14. Byron

    Really interesting to see your various levels with different foods.
    Since Dr. Davis article I know about the importance and will buy also a BS meter. Till now I oriented my food choice in regard to binge attack. But I think if you´re extremly sensitive you might even collapse with too much protein or even fatty coconut cream.
    I´m keto since 6 months and never want to return to starchy, fruity or alcohol binge attacks. HDL is 200, trygliceride 35. No question what is healthier. Have a nice weekend.

    That’s why I checked my reaction to the protein shake, which provides 50 grams of protein. I know for some people, a big serving of protein can produce a bit of a spike.

  15. Ane

    Hi Tom,

    Yes, it is a good idea to check how our bodies react to carbs …I’m also naturally thin, but my grandfather was diabetic, so I reduced the amount of carbs in my diet in order to prevent the disease….

    Did you ever check what the effect on your blood sugar is, when you add a salad with fresh vegetables to your meal? I remember that I read in a Montignac book that a raw carrot has a glycemic index of 30, but a cooked carrot has a glycemic index of 80…. Also, some say that fibers have a good effect on the glycemic impact of a meal because sugar is passing into the blood more slowly….

    Returning to your example with the small potato on St. Patrick’s Day, I wonder what difference would make on your blood sugar adding a small raw salad (let’s say one small carrot, a piece of celery, a small piece of apple and olive oil) to your meal ….

    I will check it after a fresh salad sometime. A few bits of cooked carrots don’t seem to have a dramatic impact. My wife puts carrots in her (awesomely delicious) beef stew, and I don’t get any spikes from it.

  16. nonegiven

    You may need to test the low carb ice cream later than one hour. The sugar alcohols break down in the gut later than real sugar so any spike may come several hours later.

    I wasn’t aware of that. Good idea; I’ll give it a two-hour check next time.

  17. Diana

    Hi Tom!
    Great post! I am a Type 2 myself, and when I first started testing blood sugars, it was quite a suprise to me also, what different foods could do to my readings. I follow low-carb to keep those numbers in line.
    One thing I have heard about, from various sources, one may have been Dr Eades, is when you don’t eat carbohydrate often, your body down-regulates it’s production of enzymes. (or something like that) If you do then eat some carb, your body will not handle it well at all, alot worse than if you ate carbs regularly. Thats why, if you are going for an Oral Glucose Tolerance Test, they tell you to make sure you eat 150g carbs for at least 3 days before. Now, if you normally don’t eat much carbs, like you and I, then you really don’t have to worry what might happen when you do.
    Just my 2 cents

    That sounds right. I’d rather just avoid the carbs instead of trying to train my body to handle them.

  18. mrfreddy

    I wonder what your blood sugar would look like if you tried eating according to the Ornishes and Furhmans of the world?

    I’d try it on myself but it looks like it might hurt!

    Judging by the mood swings I experienced on lowfat diets, I’d say it would look like a roller-coaster ride.

  19. Mary

    We went to the town health fair last night, which boasted “Learn all about healthy snacking with FREE SAMPLES!”

    Their idea of healthy?

    *Popcorn
    * Pretzels
    * Teddy Grahams (?? oh they are made with whole grains….now I see.)
    *Reduced fat wheat thins
    * Sugar free, low fat yogurt
    *Apples

    Next year I might have my own booth and give out free bones so people can suck the marrow out. 😛

    If you do, my daughters would be happy to work as demonstrators.

  20. Ed Terry

    I suspect the pancreas is like skeletal muscle in that if you don’t use it, you lose it. After I lost my taste for sweets (natural or artificial), my pancreas took off to Cancun, where it’s sipping on a Corona. I received a postcard from it yesterday.

    If my pancreas spots yours on the beach, I’ll make sure it says hi.

  21. David

    The timing of the post-prandial test matters, as was mentioned above. The ice cream also combined fat with sugar which might also delay the rise in glucose. Similarly, a pizza will have a much larger effect 2 to 4 hours after a meal than earlier. Diabetics are advised to check around 2 hours after a meal because their phase 1 insulin response is not the same as a healthy person’s. As for potatoes, I would have a lower glycemic response to pure sugar than I would to a baked potato (I’m a diabetic of 25 years).

    I may run the ice cream test again and check the two-hour response as well. For starches, I had the big peak at one hour. The two-hour results were back down near 100, so at least my glucose wasn’t elevated for a long stretch.

  22. CindyD

    I have never tested my blood sugar, but maybe I will start. My husband (a pharmacist) was given a few free testing meters from a drug rep. I do know that I can’t handle wheat, though. I tried Dreamfields pasta the other day and my intestines were in knots for two days. Same happens with low-carb tortillas. For the longest time I thought I had IBS and then thought I was lactose intollerant. Not true at all. Since I have gone low carb, I can eat cheese with no side effects.

    It’s amazing how much better I feel eating low carb. No stomach cramping, no gas, no bad breath (trust me, my husband lets me know!). I feel like I have so much energy following low carb. I would never try to retrain my body to eat lots of carbs again.

    The sound engineer for Fat Head gave up bread and cereal after watching the film, and his IBS went away. He’d been on Prilosec for years.

  23. Matt Stone

    Just remember that there are always two ways to look at an “intolerance” or “weakness.” What drives me and my research is identifying that your blood sugar spikes too high after eating carbohydrate, figure out what is the cause of your glucose metabolism problems, and then implement strategies that help you overcome the core problem and get to a point where carbohydrates can be consumed without ill effect. To me, the true sign of improvement is being able to watch your blood sugar reaction to a meal where glucose once spiked at 174 fall to 170, then 160, then 140… All the way back to 110 or less. I DO think this is achievable, and have had many reports from my followers that this precise improvement has been witnessed.

    I’ve wondered about that myself. One theory is that if I ate more carbs, I’d retrain my body to handle them. The other theory is that I severely damaged my ability to handle them a long time ago, so eating more of them now would be like trying to heal my hearing problem by listening to loud music. Since I feel better burning mostly fat for fuel, and since carbohydrates always seem to ramp up my appetite, I’ll just limit them for now.

  24. David

    One other point of interest, at least to me. Its possible to have normal blood sugars but still have an impaired insulin function. As you become more insulin resistant, in many cases the pancreas pumps out more and more insulin to achieve normal sugars. So if one suspects they are having issues, testing the amount of insulin in the blood stream can also be useful, though most people don’t need to do this.

    Very good point. A reading of 100 doesn’t tell you how hard your body is working to achieve that level. But when you get a reading of 174, you know you’ve eaten something you don’t handle very well.

  25. Amy Dungan

    I think I’m the same way Tom. A couple of weeks ago I went out to buy fresh testing strips for my meter, then have spent the time since trying to find my meter. It’s been so long since I’ve used it that I can’t remember where I put it. I do know that I feel pretty icky after any meal containing starches or grains. If I ever find my meter, I’ll run some tests to see exactly what is happening. I spent so many years on low-fat or fat-free foods that my body will probably never recover from the damage. But I’m happy with the way I eat now, so I’m not disappointed at all that I can’t eat carby foods.

    It’s worth picking up another meter. I was surprised to learn, for example, that the gyros salad I order at a local fast-food Greek place pushes my blood sugar to 152. There’s sugar or starch in there somewhere.

  26. Dave, RN

    One thing to consider when getting a meter…
    Check the insert for the accuracy. I have one (one of those tiny ones that fits on the top of the strip bottle) that says it’s accurate to within 15%. So a reading of 115 might in reality be 100. I know it reads high because I was getting afternoon readings of high 90’s, and then had a random glucose done at a lab in the afternoon where is measured 80.

    I have another one (Advance microdraw) that is more accurate. I’ve done a fingerstick seconds before the actual lab draw and it was only 5 points different. I stopped using the small one. Too inaccurate.

    Then there’s blood glucose as opposed to plasma glucose. Some meters measure one, some the other. Most newer ones do the plasma level. Plasma will measure a bit higher than whole blood glucose.

    A good bet is to get an A1C, which will measure your glucose as an average over the past 30-90 days. The ADA recommends no more than 7 for diabetics (which in my opinion is suicidally high. If it’s abnormal for me, why is it OK for diabetics?) I believe a 5 is an average of 90. Add 3 points for each tenth. For example a 5.2 would translate to 96 as an average.

    I tried one of those tiny meters and the results varied rather dramatically. I’ve since picked up a more expensive unit, which seems to be more consistent.

  27. nonegiven

    You may need to test the low carb ice cream later than one hour. The sugar alcohols break down in the gut later than real sugar so any spike may come several hours later.

    I wasn’t aware of that. Good idea; I’ll give it a two-hour check next time.

  28. Diana

    Hi Tom!
    Great post! I am a Type 2 myself, and when I first started testing blood sugars, it was quite a suprise to me also, what different foods could do to my readings. I follow low-carb to keep those numbers in line.
    One thing I have heard about, from various sources, one may have been Dr Eades, is when you don’t eat carbohydrate often, your body down-regulates it’s production of enzymes. (or something like that) If you do then eat some carb, your body will not handle it well at all, alot worse than if you ate carbs regularly. Thats why, if you are going for an Oral Glucose Tolerance Test, they tell you to make sure you eat 150g carbs for at least 3 days before. Now, if you normally don’t eat much carbs, like you and I, then you really don’t have to worry what might happen when you do.
    Just my 2 cents

    That sounds right. I’d rather just avoid the carbs instead of trying to train my body to handle them.

  29. David

    The timing of the post-prandial test matters, as was mentioned above. The ice cream also combined fat with sugar which might also delay the rise in glucose. Similarly, a pizza will have a much larger effect 2 to 4 hours after a meal than earlier. Diabetics are advised to check around 2 hours after a meal because their phase 1 insulin response is not the same as a healthy person’s. As for potatoes, I would have a lower glycemic response to pure sugar than I would to a baked potato (I’m a diabetic of 25 years).

    I may run the ice cream test again and check the two-hour response as well. For starches, I had the big peak at one hour. The two-hour results were back down near 100, so at least my glucose wasn’t elevated for a long stretch.

  30. CindyD

    I have never tested my blood sugar, but maybe I will start. My husband (a pharmacist) was given a few free testing meters from a drug rep. I do know that I can’t handle wheat, though. I tried Dreamfields pasta the other day and my intestines were in knots for two days. Same happens with low-carb tortillas. For the longest time I thought I had IBS and then thought I was lactose intollerant. Not true at all. Since I have gone low carb, I can eat cheese with no side effects.

    It’s amazing how much better I feel eating low carb. No stomach cramping, no gas, no bad breath (trust me, my husband lets me know!). I feel like I have so much energy following low carb. I would never try to retrain my body to eat lots of carbs again.

    The sound engineer for Fat Head gave up bread and cereal after watching the film, and his IBS went away. He’d been on Prilosec for years.

  31. monasmee

    My understanding is that all food converts to glucose, albeit at different rates, depending.

    However, I occasionally work for a pharmacy school as a simulated patient, and when I posited my glucose theory, I was told by one doctor/professor that only the fat in a steak will convert to glucose, whereas the remaining protein will not. Huh?

    I also took a glucose tolerance test many years ago to discover that I’m hypoglycemic. Such a test requires drinking eight ounces of pure glucose on an empty stomach! As you can imagine, I fell asleep after two hours with a waking butt-kick hangover.

    Suffice it to say, if I indulge in high carbs (rare), or sugar (rarer), my blood sugar will rise dramatically, then crash, lower that when I started.

    The timing of the insulin response may also be something to consider for some folks when measuring blood sugar levels.

    Say whuuuut? Fat turns to glucose but protein doesn’t? Has the doctor never heard of gluconeogenesis? From Wikipedia:

    Fatty acids cannot be converted into glucose in animals with the exception of odd-chain fatty acids, which yield propionyl CoA, a precursor for succinyl CoA. … Glycerol, which is a part of all triacylglycerols, can also be used in gluconeogenesis. In organisms in which glycerol is derived from glucose (e.g., humans and other mammals), glycerol is sometimes not considered a true gluconeogenic substrate, as it cannot be used to generate new glucose.

  32. Anna

    I echo the sentiments of a few of the other posters urging caution. I think this is a risky strategy. By eating progressively fewer carbs, your body could get even worse at handling them than it already is. You may not handle potatoes now, next it could be carrots and onions. Plus what is eating fewer carbs going to do to your thyroid? I would be very careful with this strategy. You’re may find yourself having to restrict more and more…not a way to live.

    If that happens, I’ll re-evaluate. In the meantime, it means giving up wheat, which doesn’t agree with me anyway, and giving up potatoes, which I don’t need to be healthy.

  33. David

    One other point of interest, at least to me. Its possible to have normal blood sugars but still have an impaired insulin function. As you become more insulin resistant, in many cases the pancreas pumps out more and more insulin to achieve normal sugars. So if one suspects they are having issues, testing the amount of insulin in the blood stream can also be useful, though most people don’t need to do this.

    Very good point. A reading of 100 doesn’t tell you how hard your body is working to achieve that level. But when you get a reading of 174, you know you’ve eaten something you don’t handle very well.

  34. Dave, RN

    One thing to consider when getting a meter…
    Check the insert for the accuracy. I have one (one of those tiny ones that fits on the top of the strip bottle) that says it’s accurate to within 15%. So a reading of 115 might in reality be 100. I know it reads high because I was getting afternoon readings of high 90’s, and then had a random glucose done at a lab in the afternoon where is measured 80.

    I have another one (Advance microdraw) that is more accurate. I’ve done a fingerstick seconds before the actual lab draw and it was only 5 points different. I stopped using the small one. Too inaccurate.

    Then there’s blood glucose as opposed to plasma glucose. Some meters measure one, some the other. Most newer ones do the plasma level. Plasma will measure a bit higher than whole blood glucose.

    A good bet is to get an A1C, which will measure your glucose as an average over the past 30-90 days. The ADA recommends no more than 7 for diabetics (which in my opinion is suicidally high. If it’s abnormal for me, why is it OK for diabetics?) I believe a 5 is an average of 90. Add 3 points for each tenth. For example a 5.2 would translate to 96 as an average.

    I tried one of those tiny meters and the results varied rather dramatically. I’ve since picked up a more expensive unit, which seems to be more consistent.

  35. Jason Sandeman

    I live my life now with testing blood sugar. I was recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, so I test test test. I test before I eat something, 1 hour after, then 2 hours after.

    With that, I have discovered what it is that spikes my glucose. When I was diagnosed, my level was 38 (the equivilent of 960 I believe) my A1C was 17.0%. (That means I was hovering around 850)

    I never really bought into low carb until it was too late. Now I live low carb, and I have gained control of glucose. I now enjoy an average of 6.1 (I believe that is 118)

    To the tolerance of carbs, your body (moreso your pancreas and liver) work together to eat glucose. Living low carb actually gives your body a break. The most important thing is preserve the function of your beta cells. Once they are gone, that is it. They never come back. I know that as truth.

    I feel it is criminal how “heart smart” items are really carbs. There are so many ways that carbs are disguised. They are filler in our foods, a way to cut costs. A scary statistic is that 1 iin 6 are diabetic, and 66% don’t know it yet.

    That number is bound to rise, and we will then be told that we need more and more carbs. (I have been told that I need them to survive. Bah!)

    We have been domesticated by the companies selling us these products. We are too stupid to cook, or so they have us believe. It is now convenient to consume their pre-made product. It is cut with carbs to cut costs, but no matter, they get rich by cutting their bottom line while we get sick.

    Finally, diagnosis of diabetes is unreliable with A1C. An oral glucose tolerance test is the best way. How you deal with starch after a meal is the best diagnosis.

    Tom, you need to be careful. You were pre-diabetic, so control is vital. See, pancreatic function fails by a threshold. Once you pass it, there is no going back.

    Absolutely, Jason. That’s why I’m not interested in trying out any theories that I could regain my tolerance for carbs by eating more of them. If that theory is wrong (at least in my case), I would just be doing more damage. Not worth the risk. I live on meats, eggs, vegetables, raw-milk cheese, low-sugar fruits and nuts. That’s enough variety to keep me healthy.

  36. monasmee

    My understanding is that all food converts to glucose, albeit at different rates, depending.

    However, I occasionally work for a pharmacy school as a simulated patient, and when I posited my glucose theory, I was told by one doctor/professor that only the fat in a steak will convert to glucose, whereas the remaining protein will not. Huh?

    I also took a glucose tolerance test many years ago to discover that I’m hypoglycemic. Such a test requires drinking eight ounces of pure glucose on an empty stomach! As you can imagine, I fell asleep after two hours with a waking butt-kick hangover.

    Suffice it to say, if I indulge in high carbs (rare), or sugar (rarer), my blood sugar will rise dramatically, then crash, lower that when I started.

    The timing of the insulin response may also be something to consider for some folks when measuring blood sugar levels.

    Say whuuuut? Fat turns to glucose but protein doesn’t? Has the doctor never heard of gluconeogenesis? From Wikipedia:

    Fatty acids cannot be converted into glucose in animals with the exception of odd-chain fatty acids, which yield propionyl CoA, a precursor for succinyl CoA. … Glycerol, which is a part of all triacylglycerols, can also be used in gluconeogenesis. In organisms in which glycerol is derived from glucose (e.g., humans and other mammals), glycerol is sometimes not considered a true gluconeogenic substrate, as it cannot be used to generate new glucose.

  37. Melissa

    Oh I also wanted to mention
    Isn’t it possible that being on a “high everything diet” could also eventually have the reverse effect over time where you again become sensitive to carbs as it builds up in your system again as inflammation?

    That’s one of the things that would worry me. I had a lot more aches and pains, some arthritis, a bit of asthma, etc. when I was a starch-eater. If a big dose of starch does that, I’m afraid smaller portions may just cause inflammation that I don’t actually feel as pain.

  38. Jason Sandeman

    I live my life now with testing blood sugar. I was recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, so I test test test. I test before I eat something, 1 hour after, then 2 hours after.

    With that, I have discovered what it is that spikes my glucose. When I was diagnosed, my level was 38 (the equivilent of 960 I believe) my A1C was 17.0%. (That means I was hovering around 850)

    I never really bought into low carb until it was too late. Now I live low carb, and I have gained control of glucose. I now enjoy an average of 6.1 (I believe that is 118)

    To the tolerance of carbs, your body (moreso your pancreas and liver) work together to eat glucose. Living low carb actually gives your body a break. The most important thing is preserve the function of your beta cells. Once they are gone, that is it. They never come back. I know that as truth.

    I feel it is criminal how “heart smart” items are really carbs. There are so many ways that carbs are disguised. They are filler in our foods, a way to cut costs. A scary statistic is that 1 iin 6 are diabetic, and 66% don’t know it yet.

    That number is bound to rise, and we will then be told that we need more and more carbs. (I have been told that I need them to survive. Bah!)

    We have been domesticated by the companies selling us these products. We are too stupid to cook, or so they have us believe. It is now convenient to consume their pre-made product. It is cut with carbs to cut costs, but no matter, they get rich by cutting their bottom line while we get sick.

    Finally, diagnosis of diabetes is unreliable with A1C. An oral glucose tolerance test is the best way. How you deal with starch after a meal is the best diagnosis.

    Tom, you need to be careful. You were pre-diabetic, so control is vital. See, pancreatic function fails by a threshold. Once you pass it, there is no going back.

    Absolutely, Jason. That’s why I’m not interested in trying out any theories that I could regain my tolerance for carbs by eating more of them. If that theory is wrong (at least in my case), I would just be doing more damage. Not worth the risk. I live on meats, eggs, vegetables, raw-milk cheese, low-sugar fruits and nuts. That’s enough variety to keep me healthy.

  39. Melissa

    The theory of regaining your tolerance by slowly putting the carbs back into your diet, as mentioned in the comments, I think really depends on your own personal history.
    I was raised with fruit juices, canned crap and soda pop. Some people tolerate that stuff better and if you look at your genetic background I’m sure the answer is there!

    I don’t think I’ll ever be able to incorporate wheat, most dairy, and sugars back into my diet regularly again, as I come from a heritage where the main staple of the diet was things like organ meats, fat and cow tongues. Those were delicacies for them and much valued.

    Thanks for pointing out the importance of blood sugar testing, I’ve done it before and always tested in the okay range mostly, but I don’t do it at home regularly!

  40. Melissa

    Oh I also wanted to mention
    Isn’t it possible that being on a “high everything diet” could also eventually have the reverse effect over time where you again become sensitive to carbs as it builds up in your system again as inflammation?

    That’s one of the things that would worry me. I had a lot more aches and pains, some arthritis, a bit of asthma, etc. when I was a starch-eater. If a big dose of starch does that, I’m afraid smaller portions may just cause inflammation that I don’t actually feel as pain.

  41. Sarah

    #1: do you think how starch and sugar effect blood sugar levels in people can depend on metabolic types? Undergroundwellness’ sean croxton recommends doing a metabolic typing test/diet since everyone is different. although based on the fact that starch makes me go pretty much insane, breaks me out, and makes me eat more, and my bloodlines are mostly european (irish, scottish, german, polish, english, italian (hence why I miss spaghetti…)) that low-carb is right for me. I don’t think going on the “Japanese diet” is really very smart for me.

    #2: You should totally put your recipe for fauxtatoes up!

    Yes, I believe the degree to which you can tolerate starches is probably based on your ancestry.

    One head cauliflower, chopped up. Put it in a covered microwave-safe dish with a little water, nuke it for 10 minutes. Drain the water. Put it in a bowl with 1/2 stick butter, a couple tablespoons of sour cream, a pinch of garlic salt, and beat it up. Adjust ingredients to taste. It’s also good if you add some feta or parmesan cheese while mixing.

  42. ScottR

    Hey Tom. I’m beginning to wonder if there is not a connection between a damaged intestine and carb tolerance. Most people like yourself who are carb intolerant seem to suffer cealiac like symptoms from wheat (ie the arthritic pains) and if someone like Matt Stone is saying he has seen people eventually be able to eat carbs again after a period of time avoiding them it seems similar to results found using the Specific Carbohydrate Diet.

    I think that’s a definite possiblity. I used to reach for the Pepto-Bismal fairly regularly when I ate grains. I remember being doubled up with stomach pains as a teenager, which I wrote off as a “weak constitution.” Now I literally can’t remember the last time I took anything for a digestive upset. If I ever add more carbohydrates back into my diet, they won’t come from grains.

  43. Chris

    Have you heard about the insulin index?
    http://terveys.blogspot.com/2006/08/insulin-index.html
    It’s like the glycaemic index, but foods are ranked by how much insulin the body creates as a result.
    There’s an interesting part in there saying that carb heavy foods like potatoes and pasta, produce very different insulin responses, with the potato’s one being huge, and the pasta having a much lower insulin response.
    Even more interesting, beef and cheese, with no carbs in them, had a higher insulin score than the pasta.

    Yup, I’ve seen those figures before. Protein raises insulin, but it also raises glucagon, insulin’s counter-regulatory hormone. More importantly, at least for my interests, beef doesn’t spike my blood sugar, but pasta does.

  44. Jimmy Moore

    Great experiment, Tom! I may do this sometime soon myself, although my reactive hypoglycemia will never allow my blood sugar levels to rise above around 100. I think that’s a good thing. 🙂

    At least you know you’re not suffering vascular damage from too much blood sugar.

  45. Ned Kock

    Tom, the response to the high carb. meals that you experienced is probably because your body has been primed for fat-burning; a physiological (benign) insulin resistance response.

    If you carb.-load for a few days or so, my guess is that you’ll see much lower blood glucose levels postprandially in response to high-carb. meals.

    The physiological insulin resistance response I mentioned above seems to be dependent on your level of glycogen depletion.

    If you are showing ketones in the urine, your body should be tuned to fat burning; meaning your muscle cells would be rejecting glucose and taking in ketones and free fatty acids.

    This response makes perfect evolutionary sense. Otherwise half-empty glycogen stores would be consumed too quickly, and your brain would not like it at all, possibly putting in a coma!

    Yes, it occurred to me that since I rarely eat starch, I may have a stronger reaction to the stuff. But I don’t see any reason to “fix” that problem (not that you’re suggesting I should). When I was a big drinker, I could tolerate a lot more alcohol. Now I don’t tolerate it as well, but nobody would suggest I need to retrain my body to reach its former level of alcohol tolerance.

  46. Jim Jozwiak

    Have you ever seen this study: http://www.jacn.org/cgi/content/full/23/4/351 “Effects of Acute Chromium Supplementation on Postprandial Metabolism in Healthy Young Men”. Basically, 400 mcg. of chromium picolinate taken about 30 minutes before each meal lowers postprandial blood sugar substantially for a “responder” by greatly increasing muscle glycogen synthesis. This works for me, and helped me to figure out several aspects of my response to carbohydrate. For instance, if I have high fasting insulin, this chromium regimen gives me a headache until I lower the carb level and thereby reduce fasting insulin. If I keep carbs very low, my mood is poor as the chromium gradually increases my insulin sensitivity and thereby “demands” more carbohydrate. Thus I can titrate my carbohydrate intake to achieve an optimal result, and I find my mood and exercise tolerance are far better this way.

    Interesting. I take 200 mcg chromium as part of my daily supplementation.

  47. Ned Kock

    > I don’t see any reason to “fix” that problem …

    I think you are absolutely right. Nothing to fix.

    Some people with high concentrations of ketones early in the morning experience high fasting glucose levels, again, due to physiological insulin resistance.

    Growth hormone peaks just before dawn, increasing blood glucose levels. Since the body is tuned to ketones and fat as sources of energy, due to low glycogen levels, blood glucose goes up. It is like trying force someone who is not thirsty to drink water.

    The nonsensical advice we see often to “fix” this problem is to eat some carbs. right before going to bed, to avoid this benign version of the “dawn effect”. Those who follow this advice lose the opportunity to burn some fat from night till dawn, and also end up with a higher area under the glucose curve during that period, which generally means a bit more glycation.

    Just improve their fasting glucose numbers …

  48. Mitch

    Tom

    Do you know whether or not having elevated blood sugar responses from foods is in any way connected with having high blood pressure? Thanks

    I haven’t heard anything about that. (If anyone else has, chime in.) I clearly react pretty dramatically to starch, but my blood pressure is consistently on the low side, usually around 110/75.

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