If you’re feeling a little nauseous, it might be the lingering effects of watching the edge-of-your-seat season finale of The White Lotus. But chances are, it’s something else—I mean it has been weeks since you-know-who has been…never mind.
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Back to the topic at hand. Yes, if you’re feeling nauseous, it could be your blood sugar levels. Blood sugar imbalances can cause a host of issues, including nausea, dizziness and sleepiness, just to name a few potential issues.
So, let’s dig in.
Can Blood Sugar Cause Nausea?
If your blood sugar levels are in the normal range, your feeling nausea is probably not a result of your blood sugar. However, if your levels are too high (hyperglycemia) or even too low (hypoglycemia), nausea could be a signal to your body that you may have diabetes.
Of course as you know, nausea (sometimes accompanied by vomiting, sometimes just by itself) can be caused by any number of things, including morning sickness (if you’re pregnant), motion sickness, stomach flu, irritable bowel syndrome—and the list goes on and on. (Actually, the list might make you nauseous!)
Nausea is not a pleasant feeling and not everyone experiences it in the same way. Mainly it’s that sick-to-your-stomach feeling that makes you want to vomit (or makes you actually vomit). For some, nausea may be accompanied by feeling lightheaded, feverish or sweaty. That clammy-skin feeling can also be a nausea sidekick.
You don’t need to immediately jump to the conclusion that your nausea means you now have diabetes; however, at the same time, if your nausea is persistent, don’t rule it out. Especially if your nausea is frequent, sticks around a while, or keeps returning, and if you have other signs of diabetes, it’s something you’ll want to discuss with your doctor. Other symptoms of diabetes include excessive thirst, frequent urination or urge to urinate, blurry vision, very dry skin, tingling or numbness in your hands and feet, and more. There are blood tests that can determine whether your blood glucose levels are too low, too high, or in the normal range. Learn more about blood sugar levels here.
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On the other hand, if you already have diabetes, nausea could be your body telling you that your blood sugar levels are not where you want them to be. And that’s good to know, so you can get a handle on it before it becomes more serious.
As this article explains, if your blood sugar remains high and isn’t treated, you may experience diabetic ketoacidosis, which, in itself, if ignored can result in a coma or death.
When your diabetes is not managed—meaning your blood sugar levels will be too high or too low—there can be digestive causes which will result in nausea and vomiting, such as pancreatitis or gastroparesis. Even some medications used to improve your blood sugar control may cause nausea.
Can Blood Sugar Cause Dizziness?
Although dizziness is not something anyone wants to experience, in some cases, dizziness can be your friend. And that’s because, similar to nausea, dizziness can be a signal that your body is not properly metabolizing blood sugar, which is a hallmark of diabetes. Knowing that may be the case gives you the opportunity to get yourself checked out with a simple blood test that can determine whether or not your blood glucose levels are normal.
This may surprise you, but according to this Mayo Clinic post, dizziness is among the more common reasons that adults go see their doctor. The sensation of dizziness is described by different symptoms, including a loss of balance, wooziness, feeling lightheaded, or feeling like the room is spinning (commonly known as vertigo).
High, or low, glucose levels are not the only reasons why you might feel dizzy. Heart issues, problems with circulation or unexpected and abrupt drops in blood pressure could be the issue. Motion sickness, infection, or a reaction to your medications are other reasons. Inner ear infections are also known to cause dizziness. But for the purposes of this blog, let’s go through how diabetes may lead to that uncomfortable, sometimes scary feeling.
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One reason people with diabetes (or those with undiagnosed diabetes) may experience dizziness is urine related. Or lack of it. When you have too much glucose in your blood, the body’s reaction is frequent urination, meaning that you may be peeing excessively, possibly to the point of dehydration. Guess what. Dehydration is another potential cause of dizziness.
Low blood sugar levels can also lead to dizziness. When your blood glucose levels are below the normal range, your brain lacks the drive to do the job. In other words, hypoglycemia can make you confused, fuzzy-headed and dizzy.
If you’re not sure whether your dizziness is related to your blood sugar levels, keep an eye out for the other signs of diabetes as discussed earlier in this piece. This article shares some tips for quickly lowering or elevating your blood sugars, as a means to helping the dizziness subside, if blood levels are the cause.
When you have diabetes, it’s not just the out-of-range blood sugar levels causing dizziness. In addition to hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia, people with diabetes have a higher risk of other complications, like hypertension and dehydration that may cause dizziness. Even more reasons to be on top of your blood sugar and your blood sugar numbers—as a way to take steps to prevent or manage your diabetes or potential diabetes before the complications of the condition become overwhelming. Testing your blood sugar levels is integral to that process.
Can Blood Sugar Cause Sleepiness?
The answer is yes. Are you starting to see a pattern here?
Blood sugar, whether high or low, can cause many problems with your health, and sleepiness is yet another one of them. But what you may not realize is that even with normal or not-yet-diabetes blood sugar levels (aka pre-diabetes), blood sugar spikes—those times when your blood sugar goes up then rapidly goes down following a snack or a meal—can be responsible for what’s known as diabetes fatigue.
What does diabetes fatigue feel like? As this article explains, when you have diabetes, your life can be one long movie of feeling tired, lethargic, exhausted—maybe all the time. Even if you get enough sleep. And too high, or too low, or spikes in blood sugar levels might be the reason for this fatigue, whether you have diabetes or not.
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Although exhaustion can be a result of stress, or sleep apnea or poor sleep habits, it’s commonly the imbalance of blood glucose levels that prohibits your body from properly using insulin that results in so many health issues, including extreme fatigue.
Here’s why. Insulin is supposed to carry glucose from our blood to our cells, so it can be used for energy. But if you lack insulin, or if you’re insulin-resistant or if your body can’t efficiently regulate the insulin, then your cells go without energy and when we don’t have energy, we’re tired.
Blood sugar can impact sleep but, interestingly, your sleep habits, too, may impact your blood sugar.
The Sleep Foundation expounds on the complicated relationship between sleep issues and glucose problems in discussing what researchers are uncovering about the underlying mechanisms between the two. For example, cortisol increases glucose and is, itself, increased by sleep deprivation. Oxidative stress and inflammation impact glucose and are increased by sleep deprivation. Insulin sensitivity impacts glucose and is reduced by sleep deprivation.
How Can These Issues Be Corrected?
The good news is that dietary changes, lifestyle changes, finding the right dietary supplements regimen and/or the appropriate medications can help you manage your blood glucose levels and hopefully reduce or eliminate some of the nagging (at best) and potentially life-threatening (at worst) spectrum of problems that come along with abnormal (and unhealthy) blood glucose levels.
Some of these tips are not new news, but more common sense and certainly things we talk a lot about on this blog. Lead a healthy lifestyle that combines these healthy habits: a balanced diet (with fruits and vegetables, protein, fiber, healthy fats like omega-3s, complex carbs instead of simple carbs), regular exercise, vitamin and mineral sufficiency or optimization, proper sleep habits, staying hydrated, and stress management.
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And know your numbers. Knowledge is power and power is necessary to proactively understand, manage and maintain your blood sugar at healthy levels. That’s why regular testing of your blood sugar levels is key. Read more in this blog about blood sugar testing.
Finally, find knowledgeable, compassionate, communicative healthcare practitioners (at least one!) who will work with you to help you get—and stay—healthy. It takes a team—but your health is worth the time and effort.