NutriSense Blog
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Blood Sugar Imbalance: Signs and Causes of Imbalances

January 3, 2022
Written by
Team NutriSense
Brooke McKelvey
Reviewed by
Cheri B.
RD

You may already know that blood sugar levels affect you whether you suffer from diabetes or not, but do you know why? Blood sugar is produced when you eat foods with carbohydrates, and your body breaks those down into glucose to use as fuel [energy]. 

Your blood sugar levels will change throughout the day based on your activity and the foods you consume. Those diagnosed with diabetes are familiar with monitoring and maintaining blood sugar levels regularly, but what if you aren't diabetic? Does it matter?

Yes, it does! Keeping your blood sugar levels in a good range will prevent long-term health effects and keep your body running more efficiently on a day-to-day basis. 

Why Keeping Your Body's Blood Sugar Balanced is Important 

A person cutting a pear in the kitchen

Blood sugar balance is essential because it can affect your energy levels, weight gain/loss, mental performance, and mood. Blood sugar [or glucose] is regulated by hormones called insulin, which is produced by the pancreas. When you consume food or drinks, your blood sugar naturally rises due to the sugars and carbs. Your insulin will then get to work in a big way to maintain your blood sugar levels. 

If you consume too much sugar or too many carbs [that will break down into sugar] too quickly, your body will release too much insulin. This is because your blood sugar levels are rising too fast in these instances. As a result, your blood sugar level will be too low. And in case you didn't already know: when blood sugar levels are too high, you experience what's known as hyperglycemia. When they're too low, you can experience what's known as hypoglycemia

Many seemingly healthy adults experience blood sugar imbalances due to an unbalanced diet and certain lifestyle habits. Maintaining a lifestyle that prevents blood sugar imbalances will help improve your energy levels, sleep, moods, and athletic performance. It can also prevent insulin resistance from developing and keep you from getting various associated chronic conditions.

Signs of a Potential Blood Sugar Imbalance

A person asleep near a glass of water

Your brain needs the right amount of glucose to provide energy to maintain proper body function. It's essential to maintain a steady blood sugar range as your brain could cease to function properly if your levels are too high or too low. A "normal" blood sugar range is between 70 mg/dl and 140 mg/dl. Clinical hypoglycemia occurs when blood sugar drops below 55 mg/dL and a person has symptoms like tiredness, dizziness, difficulty concentrating, confusion, blurred vision, hunger, shakiness, elevated heart rate, anxiety, and sweating. Remember there is some nuance here—some people can have low blood sugar but be symptom-free. Things like consuming too much or too little sugar can affect this too. Here's a handy chart to help you figure out if this is the case for you: 

Signs You're consuming too much sugar
Signs That you aren't consuming enough sugar

These are just some symptoms that indicate that you are consuming either too much or too little sugar. Many people with blood sugar imbalances may experience both due to an unbalanced diet. This can lead to swings in-between symptoms that may seem unexplainable until you balance your diet. Want to know why certain symptoms of blood sugar imbalances occur? Here's a little more about some of the most common symptoms of frequent blood sugar imbalances:

Anxiety, Depression, and Moodiness

Do you feel anxious or depressed regularly? Is your mood suddenly up-and-down, but you can't tell why? Your brain is fueled by glucose, so it makes sense that it can react poorly when you don't give it enough fuel (or overfuel it with excess sugars). Glycemic regulation has been shown to have links with mental health symptoms. Depression, irritability, and anxiety are all symptoms that are related to glucose regulation. By regulating the glucose in your body, you may find that those symptoms go away. Dietary and lifestyle changes may help with some of these symptoms. However, if you're struggling to manage your mental health, it's a good idea to consult a healthcare professional. 

Struggling to Lose Weight / Seeing Excess Fat Around The Belly

A person holding tummy flab


When your blood sugar levels are imbalanced, you may struggle to lose weight or begin to gain weight. Both low blood sugar and high blood sugar can result in weight gain. When your blood sugar is frequently too low, your body will begin to store fat and sugar. You may also start to crave carbs and sugary foods more often.

When your blood sugar is frequently too high, your insulin works in overdrive. Essentially, your cells are receiving more glucose than they need. As your body works to store those nutrients and fuel sources, you may discover that you have an increased appetite.

Experiencing Sugar Cravings

We've already told you how blood sugar or glucose is one of your body's primary fuel sources. Your body depends on it for everyday functions. Low blood sugar often leads to sugar cravings because your body isn't getting enough fuel to properly function. As a result, your brain will overcompensate and tell you that you need more sugar than you really do. 

Experience Fatigue or a High After Eating Carbs

blueberries in a wooden dish, next to a wooden board with raspberries and blueberries

Foods rich in carbohydrates can often lead to a sleepy post-meal feeling. Carbohydrates directly break down into sugar, which releases a chemical called serotonin. Serotonin is an essential chemical that your brain releases to make you feel happy. 

Uncontrollable Hunger or "Hanger"

Low blood sugar levels directly affect your brain. As a result, your brain may release hormones such as cortisol or adrenaline. Your brain does this to raise your blood sugar levels and rebalance your body. So while "hangry" may be a trendy term, the feeling it's derived from is actually a chemical reaction caused by your brain due to low blood sugar levels.

Factors that Impact Your Body's Ability to Balance Blood Sugar

A person holding a cheeseburger next to a plate with a cheeseburger and a box of pepperoni pizza

These are some of the factors that will impact your body's ability to properly balance its blood sugar levels:

  • Being overweight: Having too much visceral fat in your body may prevent the insulin you create from working improperly. This may lead to the long-term effect of insulin resistance. 
  • Having an unbalanced diet: Having a diet that is either too high or too low in carbs and sugars can lead to prolonged periods of blood sugar imbalance.
  • Stress [prolonged stress in particular]: Prolonged periods of stress may cause a hormone release that elevates your blood sugar levels. 
  • Nutrient deficiencies [think: Vitamin D, magnesium, chromium]: Vitamin deficiencies have been linked to diabetes. If you are not getting the recommended amount of vitamins in your diet, you can consider supplements. Remember to consult with your doctor before adding any supplements to your diet.
  • Living an inactive lifestyle: Physical activity can lower blood sugar for up to 24 hours after exercise. If your blood sugar is too high and you don't have a set exercise routine, you should consider creating one. 
  • Unreliable sleep schedules: When you sleep, your body takes that time to reset your hormone levels. If you don't get enough sleep, your brain may be led to compensate for your lack of energy by consuming more sugar. 

How to Test For Imbalances

A person scanning a NutriSense CGM on her arm with a smartphone

There are several different ways to monitor and test your blood sugar levels, and here are some of the most common:

Blood Glucose Meter

Blood glucose meters often come to mind first when thinking about testing your blood sugar levels. This device requires you to pick a finger and place a sample of blood on a test strip. 

Continuous Glucose Monitor

Continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) may be the most accurate and thorough way to begin understanding any blood sugar imbalances that you may have throughout the day. CGM's are applied to your skin and stay on for about two weeks, reading your blood glucose levels every few minutes. With the NutriSense CGM, you can see those data points in an innovative app that helps you track and monitor your blood sugar fluctuations all day long.

Urine Test

Urine tests can also be an effective way to test your blood sugar levels. You will need to put a test strip into a urine sample. This method is one of the least reliable methods of testing your blood sugar levels. It can also be one of the most inconvenient due to the need for a fresh urine sample. 

A1C Test

An A1C test is a test done in a laboratory. Your doctor will take a blood sample, and the lab will then analyze the results for you.

Engage with Your Blood Glucose Levels with Nutrisense

Your blood sugar levels can significantly impact how your body feels and functions. That’s why stable blood glucose levels can be an important factor in supporting overall wellbeing.

With Nutrisense, you’ll be able to track your blood glucose levels over time using a CGM, so you can make lifestyle choices that support healthy living.

When you join the program, our team of credentialed dietitians and nutritionists are available for additional support and guidance to help you reach your goals.

Ready to take the first step? Start with our quiz to see how Nutrisense can support your health.

Click here to listen to the podcast.
Listen to the full podcast:
Blood Sugar Imbalance: Signs and Causes of Imbalances
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The Positive Impact Weight Lifting Has on Blood Sugar
The Positive Impact Weight Lifting Has on Blood Sugar

Here is everything you need to know about the relationship between weight lifting and blood sugar.

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The Relationship Between Cholesterol and Blood Sugar
The Relationship Between Cholesterol and Blood Sugar

Cholesterol plays a very important role in the human body, contributing to the structure of the cells, helping with vitamin D synthesis, and also promoting the production of steroid and sex hormones, like cortisol, aldosterone, testosterone, and estrogen. But how exactly is cholesterol connected to blood glucose levels?

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The Link Between Sleep Apnea and Diabetes
The Link Between Sleep Apnea and Diabetes

NutriSense dietitian Katrina Larsen, MS, RD,N, LD, CDCES discusses the risk factors for sleep apnea and how this disorder is linked to other health conditions.

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The Paleo Diet and Blood Glucose Levels
The Paleo Diet and Blood Glucose Levels

The premise of the paleo diet is that the body can handle a mix of meats, fruits and vegetables, eggs, fish, and complex carbohydrates better than processed meats, refined fats, grains and simple carbohydrates because it evolved to eat the first category as hunter-gatherers.

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The Health Benefits of Winter Squash
The Health Benefits of Winter Squash

A common ingredient in cozy winter recipes, winter squash is one of our favorite foods this time of year. Read on to learn more about how it can benefit your health.

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The NutriSense Holiday Gift Guide: Stocking Stuffers We Love
The NutriSense Holiday Gift Guide: Stocking Stuffers We Love

Haven't finished your holiday shopping yet? Pick from this list of NutriSense-approved holiday gifts to find some great last-minute stocking stuffers for everyone on your list!

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The NutriSense Holiday Gift Guide: Health-Focused Gifts They’ll Love
The NutriSense Holiday Gift Guide: Health-Focused Gifts They’ll Love

Still haven't bought all your holiday gifts this year? Don't worry—there's still time to find the perfect gift for everyone on your list. Read our guide for some great ideas!

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9
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The Link Between Inflammation and Blood Glucose
The Link Between Inflammation and Blood Glucose

Learn more about inflammation, how it affects blood glucose levels and what you can do to prevent and manage it.

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9
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The Health Benefits of Adding Fermented Foods to Your Diet
The Health Benefits of Adding Fermented Foods to Your Diet

Fermented foods have a range of health benefits. Read on to learn more about what they are and why you should be adding them to your diet.

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9
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The Health Benefits of Potatoes, Yams, and Sweet Potatoes
The Health Benefits of Potatoes, Yams, and Sweet Potatoes

Potatoes, yams, and sweet potatoes are similar in usage, but pretty distinct in taste, texture, appearance, and even nutritional content! Read on to find out more about each one.

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8
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The Health Benefits of Living With Pets
The Health Benefits of Living With Pets

Did you know that living with a pet can do more than just put a smile on your face? Read on to learn all the ways living with pets improves your wellbeing.

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7
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The Health Benefits of Cooking With Herbs and Spices
The Health Benefits of Cooking With Herbs and Spices

Herbs and spices are a great way to add flavor to dishes, and also have a range of health benefits. Learn more about a few of our favorites.

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12
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The Health Benefits of Beans
The Health Benefits of Beans

Learn about the health benefits of beans and how they can help you live a healthier, longer life.

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6
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The Guide to Metabolic Diets: What Are They, Do They Work, And Who Should Try Them?
The Guide to Metabolic Diets: What Are They, Do They Work, And Who Should Try Them?

Review our guide to metabolic diets to help get a better understanding of what they are and whether they might be right for you.

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The Foods and Traditions of Kwanzaa
The Foods and Traditions of Kwanzaa

Learn about the traditions and nutrient-dense food commonly enjoyed during Kwanzaa. 

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9
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The Blood Sugar and Joint Pain Connection
The Blood Sugar and Joint Pain Connection

Have you ever wondered how your glucose levels might be connected to joint pain? We'll take a deep dive into this connection and share tips for reducing pain.

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10
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The Best Diet for Non-Diabetic Hypoglycemia
The Best Diet for Non-Diabetic Hypoglycemia

This article explores hypoglycemia in non-diabetics, how to manage symptoms through diet, and the advantages of glucose monitoring.

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The Effect of Aging on Your Blood Glucose Levels
The Effect of Aging on Your Blood Glucose Levels

Take a look at how aging can affect your blood glucose levels.

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9
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The Best Diet to Increase Your Vitamin D Levels
The Best Diet to Increase Your Vitamin D Levels

Read on to learn more about vitamin D-rich foods and what you should include in your diet to make the most of this vitamin’s health benefits.

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10
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The Best Diet for Menstruation
The Best Diet for Menstruation

When it comes to your menstrual cycle, what you eat can significantly impact how you feel. Read on to learn more about the best foods to add to your diet to help during that time of the month.

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8
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The Benefits and Risks of Popular Ayurvedic Herbs and Spices
The Benefits and Risks of Popular Ayurvedic Herbs and Spices

Ayurveda is an ancient Indian holistic healing system that dates back over 5,000 years. In the second installment of our series on the practice, review the benefits and risks associated with popular Ayurvedic herbs and spices.

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9
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The Beginner’s Guide to the Low FODMAP Diet
The Beginner’s Guide to the Low FODMAP Diet

In this article, we break down what a low FODMAP diet looks like for beginners, and its potential benefits and drawbacks for gastrointestinal health.

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8
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The 6 Worst Foods for Osteoporosis
The 6 Worst Foods for Osteoporosis

When it comes to bone health, good nutrition is absolutely critical. Read on to learn what osteoporosis is and why some foods may increase your risk of or worsen the condition.