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12/3/2021
Glucose

10 Causes of Blood Sugar Rises in Non-Diabetics [Non-Diabetic Hyper and Hypoglycemia]

Written by
Team Nutrisense
Reviewed by
Kara Collier
RDN, LDN, CNSC
a person wearing CGM and looking at their glucose chart in the Nutrisense app

What's the first thing you think of when you hear the term 'blood sugar'? If you think of diabetes, you're not alone. And while blood sugar does go hand-in-hand with the condition, it's not the only time you should be thinking of it. Even if you're healthy and don't have diabetes or prediabetes, you can experience hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia. If you didn't already know, hyperglycemia is when your blood glucose levels are too high, while hypoglycemia is when your blood sugar levels are too low. 

If you're not 'at risk' of diabetes, you've likely been overlooking your blood sugar. After all, why manage and pay attention to it if you don't have a reason to do so? But remember that blood sugar plays an integral part in how your body functions. And you may not always know when you experience hyper or hypoglycemia. Left untreated, both can lead to irreversible health problems. Let's take a look at what non-diabetic hyperglycemia means for your health. 

Understanding Non-Diabetic Hyperglycemia and Prediabetes

someone making notes of food consumption and glucose correlation and a glucose monitor

Non-diabetic hyperglycemia occurs when there is too much sugar present in your bloodstream. Hyperglycemia is defined as someone with a blood glucose level of >126 mg/dL while in a fasting state and 180 mg/dL one to two hours after a meal. Another diagnostic criteria is something called the Oral Glucose Tolerance Test. Here’s how it’s done: When you’re in a fasted state, you’re given approximately 75 grams of carbohydrates in a syrupy drink. Your blood sugars are tested two hours later. A reading between 140-200mg/dL is considered "pre-diabetic" while diabetic levels are >200mg/dL. One possible caveat of utilizing this test is the possibility of failing it if you’ve been following a very low carb or keto diet for a long period. You will see a temporary “physiological insulin resistance,” where your muscles prefer using fat over glucose for fuel. But you can reverse this by reintroducing carbs into your diet—typically around 150 grams daily, for three days leading up to the Oral Glucose Tolerance Test. 

Leaving hyperglycemia untreated can lead to an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, nerve damage, and damage to your blood vessels, organs, and tissues. 

If you think you have any of the symptoms listed below or that you're at risk for hyperglycemia, it's essential to consult your doctor. A blood sugar test will help assess your risk and determine whether you need to begin a treatment plan. 

a list of signs and symptoms associated with non-diabetic hyperglycaemia


Remember, while hyperglycemia can cause symptoms, it can also go unnoticed, so don't ignore the signs.

10 Health Factors That Can Cause Blood Sugar Rises in Non-Diabetics

a doctor checking the results on a glucose monitor

1. Pancreatic Diseases [Pancreatitis, Cancer, or Cystic Fibrosis]

  • Diseases that are directly linked to your pancreas can cause hyperglycemia. Your pancreas is responsible for creating hormones and enzymes for digestion, along with producing insulin. 
  • When your body doesn't produce enough insulin, glucose is left to build up in your bloodstream. That build-up of glucose is hyperglycemia. 
  • If you're dealing with hyperglycemic symptoms, it is worthwhile to talk to your doctor to see if you should check on your pancreas as a possible factor. 

2. Obesity and Related Weight Factors

  • Obesity is, simply put, an excessive amount of body fat. 
  • The condition can lead to inflammation, which can cause insulin resistance. 
  • If you suffer from obesity, work with your doctor or a dietitian to create a diet plan and exercise routine to help you healthily lose any excess weight. 

3. Cushing's Syndrome [Pituitary Gland and Associated Hormones]

  • Cushing's syndrome is a disorder that develops when your body is exposed to or consumes too much cortisol. Cortisol (also known as the stress hormone) is naturally produced in your body and is also found in certain medications. Cushing's syndrome can develop because your body begins to overproduce cortisol. It can also happen because of certain medications that you may be prescribed.
  • 10-30 percent of people that have Cushing's Syndrome will develop an impaired tolerance to glucose. 
  • Cushing's syndrome causes metabolic changes that make it more difficult for your body to regulate blood sugar.
  • Cortisol hinders the effects of insulin in your body. This results in an increased insulin resistance level. 

4. Lack of Physical Activity [Not Using Energy Stores]

a person laying on a bed
  • Physical activity is a vital part of maintaining a healthy body. When you engage in physical activity, you use energy stores. Your energy is produced in the form of glucose by your body breaking down your food into sugars.
  • Physical activity makes your body more sensitive to insulin up to 24 hours after a workout. Even small amounts of exercise can help to prevent hyperglycemia. 
  • Try adding a little bit of movement to your day, like taking a walk in the morning or evening. 

5. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome [PCOS]

  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is a hormonal disorder found in women in their 'childbearing' years who may have increased menstrual periods and excess androgen levels. This syndrome can also cause your ovaries to irregularly release eggs. 
  • One of the causes of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is excess insulin. Excess insulin can cause insulin resistance, leading to difficulty managing blood sugar levels in your bloodstream.
  • Speak with your doctor about dietary changes and medications that may help lower your insulin resistance to combat the effect on your blood sugar levels. 

6. Trauma [Head Injury, Severe Burns, or Surgery]

  • Trauma to the body, or a severe injury, causes huge stress responses. Stress raises cortisol levels which leads to insulin resistance. 
  • Make sure to monitor your condition with your doctor as you heal, and focus on staying healthy and hydrated.

7. Severe Infections [Urinary Tract Infections, Pneumonia, or Acute Illnesses Like the Flu]

a person having a nap near the window
  • Severe infections can stress your body and can lead to higher cortisol production. Excess cortisol levels can create insulin resistance and prevent your body from adequately processing sugars.
  • If you're suffering or recovering from a severe infection, make sure you have a healthy, well-balanced diet. Also, consult with your doctor if you feel like you're not getting back to normal or having other side effects as you heal.

8. Certain Medication

  • Certain medications with steroids or diuretics can lead to higher blood glucose levels. Others can create insulin resistance. 
  • Thoroughly review any medications you are prescribed with your doctor to ensure your diet and lifestyle will work along with them.
  • Always make sure to read directions on your medications to ensure that you are taking them correctly.

9. Family History

an older person and a kid sitting near an open door
  • If your family has a history of diabetes or prediabetes, you may be prone to hyperglycemia. 
  • Sometimes, women that are pregnant develop hyperglycemia from gestational diabetes. Pregnancy hormones can sometimes cause interference with your insulin, leading to insulin resistance.
  • Make sure that you talk to your family members and get your medical history from them. Pass this information to your doctors, so they know what to watch for when working to keep you healthy.

10. Diet [Excessive Amounts of Calories, Particularly Sugar/Carbohydrates]

  • Your diet plays a huge role in controlling your blood sugar levels. This is important for diabetics and non-diabetics alike. 
  • Excess sugar consumption in perpetuity can cause your body to cease responding to the insulin it produces. Over time, insulin resistance will grow, and blood sugar levels will continue to rise.
  • Weight may not be the sole factor causing insulin resistance. Excessive sugar/carb consumption can still impact insulin sensitivity regardless of weight status.
  • Adjusting your diet and adding physical activity to your routine can help manage dietary causes of hyperglycemia. 
  • Check with your doctor or a dietician to see if there are ways that you can create a healthier eating plan for your blood sugar levels.
Related Article

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