Updated: Oct 25, 2022
Glucose level fluctuations affect your brain more than any other organ: if your blood sugar (or glucose) levels are on a roller coaster and therefore fluctuating all day, that affects your brain (often people complain about brain fog or trouble concentrating) and can cause headaches and migraines. Everything that affects the brain, will also affect our other organs as the brain is the center that's directing all our organ functions in one way or the other.
Sugar also causes hormonal changes that will affect blood vessel behavior in the brain and that again can cause a headache.
Blood sugar imbalance can be tricky to identify as you don’t really feel sick and even your symptoms might be very subtle so that you might not even notice them. In fact, most people are unaware that they have blood sugar issues.
Here are some of the common (but often overlooked) high blood sugar symptoms to watch for:
Feeling hungry and ‘hangry’ - When your blood sugar is imbalanced, its levels tend to go up and down. A high in blood sugar is usually followed by a low, causing symptoms like shakiness, hunger and irritability. This causes cravings especially for high carb or sugary foods (chips, pasta, bread, muffins, chocolate…) and many people think that the best way to relieve their blood sugar crash is by getting in some sugar. And this will indeed relieve your blood sugar low, but it creates a vicious cycle of a blood sugar roller coaster that can raise blood sugar levels over time. Actually, the best way to stabilize your blood sugar levels is to include Fat, Fiber & Protein in every meal. Especially your breakfast should be high in fat and protein and contain very few carbs.
Lack of energy - Blood sugar ups and downs have an impact on your energy levels. Although sugary and starchy foods give you a temporary lift, the resulting dip in blood sugar can make it feel like you are wading through mud the whole day. And over time, this will impact your body’s ability to process energy from the foods you are eating.
Urinating frequently & increased thirst - Well you might say that if you drink a lot you have to pee a lot right!? If you notice though that it is happening on a regular basis, it may be time to pay attention. When the body cannot lower blood sugar effectively anymore, it will flush out the excess glucose through urine. Frequent urination of course, leads to increases in thirst. But don’t reach for that sugary drink or fruit juice—you are just making it worse!
Yeast infections and urinary tract infections - Candida or yeast organisms feed off glucose, so what you eat and drink can encourage a Candida infection. Candida live in your digestive tract and the vagina, but are normally kept in balance. If you are suffering from recurring yeast and/or urinary tract infections, this is usually an indicator that your body’s immune system, and possibly blood sugar are out of whack.
Feeling irritable or depressed - Blood sugar ups and downs can actually contribute to depression, anxiety and irritability. Too much sugar and starch will have a negative impact on the ecosystem (microbiome) in your gut, which produces 80% of your happy hormone, Serotonin. Too much sugar will also stimulate the release of your stress hormone, Cortisol and that again has an impact on your brain and mood. So if you are suffering from depression, anxiety or irritability a change in diet might actually help relieve your symptoms!
Bleeding gums - Higher than normal blood sugar levels can also encourage bacteria to live in the mouth and gums, causing tender, swollen inflamed areas that will bleed when you brush or floss.
Slow wound healing - and a tendency to develop inflammation or infections is a big indicator that you may have high blood sugar. What is considered slow healing? Most cuts and scrapes will normally resolve within a week to ten days. If it takes 2-3 weeks or more and stays red, swollen and possibly infected, it may be worth checking blood sugar levels, as well as getting your wounds treated.
Blurry vision - Higher than normal levels of glucose can cause blood to thicken, and can actually build up in the eye, temporarily changing its shape, and making it harder to focus. While this can be a chronic, ongoing issue, it can also only happen after eating a high-carb meal or a sugary drink or dessert. The blurriness can resolve quickly but may take up to 3 to 6 months.
Tingling in hands or feet - Elevated sugar levels can cause numbness in your feet or hands. Because elevated glucose damages small peripheral capillaries in the hands and feet, nerve damage results from the lack of blood flow and oxygen. A frequent feeling of ‘pins and needles’ in hands and feet can signal damage of the nerves. Nerve damage is extremely serious and very important to manage, before there is a loss of sensation.
All of the above symptoms can be attributed to other things as well, so don’t panic if you experience any of these for just a few days. Many of these symptoms for instance are also linked to hormone imbalance, but consider that blood sugar imbalance will cause hormone imbalance too!
In any case, you might want to have your HbA1C levels (blood sugar stability over about three months’ time), fasting glucose and insulin levels checked.
Your fasting glucose should be between 70-90mg/dl, your HbA1C not over 5.4% and insulin between 2-8uU/ml.
Diet and lifestyle changes are key and can reverse or prevent blood sugar issues. A diet high in green vegetables, naturally raised meats/poultry/fish and healthy fats is the base for balanced blood sugar levels.