Coconut Palm Sugar

In order to manage their condition, people with diabetes need to monitor their sugar intake. A good way of doing this might be by choosing a natural sweetener option. One of the more popular choices is coconut palm sugar.

People with diabetes have bodies that do not produce enough insulin or use insulin correctly.

Insulin is the hormone needed to help the body to normalize blood sugar levels. Blood sugar levels are a measurement of the amount of sugar in the bloodstream.

All foods contain sugar. The body stores the sugar and transports it through the bloodstream to the cells, which use it as energy.

When insulin is not working properly, sugar cannot enter cells, and they are unable to produce as much energy. When the cells of the body cannot process sugar, diabetes occurs.

What is coconut palm sugar?

Coconut palm sugar is made from the sap of the coconut palm. The sugar is extracted from the palm by heating it until the moisture evaporates. After processing, the sugar has a caramel color and tastes like brown sugar, making it an easy substitution in any recipe.

Coconut palm sugar is considered a healthier option for people with diabetes because it contains less pure fructose than other sweeteners.

The digestive tract does not absorb fructose as it does other sugars, which means that the excess fructose finds its way to the liver. Too much fructose in the liver can lead to a host of metabolic problems, including type 2 diabetes.

Can people with diabetes eat coconut palm sugar?

While the American Diabetes Association (ADA) do find coconut palm sugar to be an acceptable sugar substitute, they do not appear to endorse its use.

Coconut palm sugar and glycemic index

Some people believe coconut palm sugar is more healthful because it is lower on the glycemic index (GI).

People with diabetes are encouraged to consume foods with a low GI because they will not raise blood sugar levels as much as foods with a high GI level. Any GI value of 55 or less is considered low, and anything above 70 is high on the GI.

Both honey and cane sugar have GIs of around 50, while the GI of coconut palm sugar, as reported by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Philippines, is 35.

However, the University of Sydney has measured the GI of coconut palm sugar at 54. Based on its chemical makeup, this is thought to be the most likely value. Despite the difference in opinion, coconut palm sugar is still considered to be a low GI food.

Issues with looking at GI

There are several factors that contribute to blood sugar levels after eating, including how the food is prepared.

In the United States, there is no official GI rating system. The ADA note, however, that GI numbers for specific foods differ based on their source, and this would likely apply to coconut palm sugar.

According to the Joslin Diabetes Center, the GI is not the best guideline for what happens to blood sugar levels after eating.

There are many factors that influence the process, including:

  • the individual
  • the content of the food
  • how food is prepared
  • what other foods are consumed
  • the rate of digestion

Therefore, the ADA advise people to treat coconut palm sugar as they would any other sweetener, including pure cane sugar. It is also important to include the number of calories and carbohydrates it contains when planning meals.

People should always check the nutritional labels on coconut palm sugar. This is because coconut palm sugar may contain other ingredients, including cane sugar, which means its GI will be much higher than noted in a rating system.

Coconut palm sugar contains inulin

Inulin is a fermentable prebiotic fiber, beneficial to gut bacteria that may help with controlling sugar levels in type 2 diabetics.

At least one research study finds coconut palm sugar contains significant amounts of inulin.

A study from 2016 found that fermentable carbohydrates might help to improve insulin sensitivity. They may also have unique metabolic effects for those who are at high risk for diabetes.

Benefits for women with type 2 diabetes

Another study finds that inulin provides some benefits for women with type 2 diabetes, including blood glycemic control and antioxidant status. Antioxidants protect the body from disease and damage.

More research is needed to further identify and understand these findings to extend to other populations with type 2 diabetes.

Nutritional value of coconut palm sugar

Coconut palm sugar contains the same number of calories and carbohydrates as regular cane sugar.

In addition, coconut palm sugar and cane sugar both contain:

  • fructose, which is a monosaccharide, or single sugar
  • glucose, which is a monosaccharide
  • sucrose, which is a disaccharide that is made up of two sugars: half fructose, half glucose

However, the proportion of these sugars is different in cane sugar and palm sugar.

Fructose content

Coconut palm sugar and cane sugar contain nearly the same amount of fructose, but there is more pure fructose in cane sugar, which may cause problems for people with diabetes.

Often referred to as “simple sugars,” sucrose, fructose, and glucose are also essential carbohydrates.

Sucrose is sugar that is present in almost every food. It is a natural compound and gives the body vital energy but can be harmful in large quantities. Added sweeteners found in processed foods, desserts, and beverages contain the most sucrose.

When sucrose is heated, it breaks down to form fructose and glucose.

[selection of fruit on a wooden table]
Fruits have a high level of fructose.

High levels of fructose are found in:

  • fruits
  • agave nectar or syrup
  • high fructose corn syrup
  • foods with added sugars

High levels of glucose are found in:

  • dextrose, also known as grape sugar or corn sugar
  • some fruits
  • starches, such as bread, grains, and pasta
  • foods with added sugars

Other nutrients found in coconut palm sugar

Coconut palm sugar may be considered a better option, as it has more nutritional value than some other sugars.

Unlike cane sugar, it contains:

  • iron
  • calcium
  • magnesium
  • potassium
  • other important minerals

However, people should bear in mind that cane sugar contains tiny amounts of these nutrients. Most people only consume a few teaspoons of coconut palm sugar at a time, which actually contains less than 2 percent of all nutrients.

Healthful whole foods will provide dramatically more of these same nutrients for fewer calories.

Conclusion

There is not enough sufficient research to back up claims coconut palm sugar is more healthful, better, or different than any other sugar for blood sugar.

While coconut sugar contains inulin, it may not contain enough to significantly affect blood sugar levels. In addition, coconut palm sugar is also just as high in calories as regular cane sugar.

Coconut palm sugar seems to be slightly more beneficial than regular sugar but is still best consumed in moderation. Therefore, individuals with type 2 diabetes should treat it the same as other sugars and use it sparingly, as it still might raise blood glucose levels, despite its possibly lower GI.

Best Ice Cream for Type 2 Diabetes

Ice cream does not have to be strictly off limits for people with type 2 diabetes. While it is still best to enjoy ice cream in moderation, there are ice cream and frozen yogurt choices out there that will not derail a healthful diet.

People with type 2 diabetes have more to think about than simply ruining their diet with ice cream. Their main concerns are about how ice cream will affect their blood sugar levels, since controlling this is critical to managing diabetes.

While people with diabetes can include ice cream as part of their healthful diet, it is important for them to make informed decisions about what ice creams they should eat.

Understanding ice cream sugar servings

[ice cream cheers]
Ice cream can be a delicious treat, but people with diabetes need to be particularly careful about which ice cream they eat.

Most ice cream has a lot of added sugar, making it something a person with diabetes should avoid. Because of this, one of the first things they should consider when choosing an ice cream is the sugar content.

People with diabetes need to understand how their ice cream indulgence fits into their overall diet plan. Here are a few facts for people with diabetes to consider:

  • Every 4 grams (g) of sugar is equivalent to 1 teaspoon. The more sugar that is in the ice cream, the more carbohydrates it has.
  • An ice cream serving with 15 g of carbohydrates is equal to 1 serving of carbohydrates. Any carbohydrates in ice cream will count towards the total carbohydrate goal for the day, which will be different for each person.
  • Protein and fat found in ice cream can help slow absorption of sugar. Choosing an ice cream higher in protein and fat may be preferable to choose a lower fat option.
  • A suitable portion of ice cream for somebody with diabetes is very small, usually half a cup. But most people serve much more than this. It is crucial that a person with diabetes sticks to the proper portion size, so they know exactly how many carbohydrates they are eating.

Things to look out for when choosing an ice cream

When it comes to picking out ice cream, the number of choices offered at a grocery store can be overwhelming. There are a number of brands and dozens of flavors to choose from. Here are some considerations for picking out ice cream at the local store:

Low sugar

The best ice cream for a person with diabetes has the lowest sugar content per serving without relying on artificial sweeteners. To check the amount of sugar in ice cream, look at the total number of carbohydrates on the nutrition label and the ingredient list.

For someone with diabetes, the best choice is an ice cream with less than 20 g total carbohydrates in a half- cup serving.

[reading a label at the grocery store]
Labels can be confusing or even deliberately misleading, so it is important to read them carefully.

Confusing labels

Almost every brand of ice cream has lots of marketing information on the container, which is designed to catch the eye.

People with diabetes may find a product that says reduced sugar or half the calories of regular ice cream. Although the claims may be true that the particular product has less sugar than another variety, the actual sugar content may still be much higher than recommended per serving amount.

Fat and protein level

The amount of protein and fat in the ice cream can have a direct impact on how fast sugar is absorbed in the body. In general, if the fat and protein contents are higher than average, the sugar from each serving will be absorbed more slowly.

Best ice creams for people with diabetes to eat

With so many brands to choose from, it can be hard to determine which are best for people with diabetes. The following are a few brands and flavors to choose from that are better overall choices:

  • Blue Bunny Ice Cream offer two options – vanilla and chocolate. Both contain less than 20 g of carbohydrates per serving.
  • Breyers offer a vanilla ice cream called Smooth and Dreamy ½ Fat Creamy Vanilla Ice Cream. It contains minimal fat and 17 g of total carbohydrates. Breyers offer a similar product in chocolate as well, also with 17 g of total carbohydrates. Breyers also offer some no-sugar-added flavors. However, these varieties contain multiple artificial sweeteners and are not recommended.
  • Schwan’s offer a chocolate ice cream flavor, which contains 18 g of total carbohydrates.
  • Edy’s offer several varieties of their slow-churned ice creams, which contain around 20 g or less of carbohydrates per serving.
  • Halo Top offer ice cream flavors with additional protein. The addition of protein helps to slow down the absorption of sugar into the blood, making it a good choice for people with diabetes.

How to make room for ice cream in a diet

A recommended serving of carbohydrates in ice cream is 20 g or less. This equates to roughly one serving of carbohydrates in a day.

People with diabetes who are following a strict diet where carbohydrate servings count, must count every carbohydrate they eat. Those planning on eating a serving of ice cream for dessert should make sure they eat one less carbohydrate serving during the day. Substituting a sandwich with a lettuce wrap or salad could do this.

Saturated fat content is also high in some ice cream brands and flavors. Since people with diabetes have a higher risk of heart disease, it is a good idea to limit other saturated fat-containing foods on the day they plan to eat ice cream.

If eating ice cream is going to be a daily treat, it is important to talk to a dietitian about how to fit it into a dietary plan.

Other sweets and dessert options

Diabetes-friendly desserts are available in most stores and can be made at home as easily as any other desserts. Some things to consider when looking for other sweet options include:

  • Total carbohydrate contents per serving: Just 15-20 g is considered one daily serving of carbohydrates.
  • Total protein: The amount of protein in a dessert can help slow the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream.
  • Use of natural sweeteners: Although artificial sweeteners are readily available in most stores and in many light and no-sugar-added ice cream options, they are not highly recommended in the medical community.

Some ready-to-eat options for dessert include:

Frozen yogurt

[frozen yogurt with berries]
While frozen yogurt may seem like a more healthful option, it often contains just as much sugar as regular ice cream.

Some people consider frozen yogurt and ice cream to be the same, while others recognize their differences. Frozen yogurt is often sold in fat-free varieties, which is a good option when compared to some ice creams where a single serving can be around a third of total fat needs.

However, the nutritional information in frozen yogurt needs to be looked at carefully. Frozen yogurt may also contain just as much, if not more sugar and therefore carbohydrates, as ice cream. This may be to make up for the lack of flavor and texture that the fat would give it.

Pudding and gelatin

There are many brands that offer sugar-free or fat-free versions of these dessert options, although they may still contain artificial sweeteners. It is important to check the nutritional facts to see how they fit into the overall diet for the day.

Homemade baked goods made with stevia

Many baked goods, such as cookies, brownies, cakes, and so on, use stevia in place of sugar in their recipes.

This natural, zero-calorie sweetener offers a great substitute for sugar that can reduce the carbohydrate impact of a favorite baked treat.

Conclusion

When it comes to ice cream, the best advice for people with diabetes is to understand carbohydrate serving sizes, the amount in a serving of ice cream, and how much impact it is going to have on the day.

It is always a good idea to take a walk after eating a dessert to help lower post-meal blood sugar.

For people working with dietitians to develop a meal plan, it is important to talk about possible issues with adding ice cream to the diet, or ways to make it work. In any case, with the right research and sacrifices, ice cream can be a part of a regular diet.

How Can Diabetes Affect the Feet?

People with diabetes are prone to foot problems caused by prolonged periods of high blood sugar. There are two main foot problems, each of which can have serious complications.

Diabetes is a disease where the body cannot produce insulin or cannot use it effectively. Insulin is the hormone that is responsible for helping the cells take in sugar to use for energy. When this does not happen properly, the levels of sugar in the blood can become too high.

Prolonged periods of high sugar levels in the blood can wreak havoc on many areas of the body, including the feet.

Diabetic foot problems

Doctor checking a patients feet
Over time, diabetes may cause neuropathy in the feet, which may result in a loss of feeling.

The two main foot problems that affect people with diabetes are:

Diabetic neuropathy

Over time, diabetes can cause nerve damage that makes it hard for people with diabetes to feel sensation in their extremities.

The condition also makes it difficult for a person to feel an irritation on their foot or notice when their shoes are rubbing. This lack of sensation and awareness leads to an increase in the risk of cuts, sores, and blisters developing.

Peripheral vascular disease

Diabetes leads to changes in the blood vessels, including arteries. In peripheral vascular disease, fatty deposits block these vessels beyond the brain and heart. It tends to affect the blood vessels leading to and from the extremities, reducing blood flow to the hands and feet.

Reduced blood flow can lead to pain, infection, and slow healing wounds. Severe infections may lead to amputation.

Symptoms

Symptoms may vary from person to person and may depend on what issues a person is experiencing at the time. Symptoms of diabetic foot problems can include the following:

  • loss of feeling
  • numbness or tingling sensation
  • blisters or other wounds without painful
  • skin discoloration
  • skin temperature changes
  • red streaks
  • wounds with or without drainage
  • painful tingling
  • staining on socks
  • deformed foot appearance

If an infection is present in a foot or foot ulcer, a person may also experience some of the following:

  • fever
  • chills
  • uncontrollable blood sugar
  • shaking
  • shock
  • redness

Anyone who experiences any of the symptoms of an infection should seek emergency treatment.

Complications

Diabetic neuropathy and peripheral vascular disease are serious conditions that must be monitored closely. Both cause complications that can have serious negative effects. These complications may include:

  • foot ulcers, or wounds, that do not heal
  • infections, including skin infections, bone infections, and abscesses
  • gangrene, when an infection causes tissue death
  • foot deformity
  • Charcot’s Foot (fractures or dislocations in the foot that may cause deformities)

When to see a doctor

Swollen left foot
Immediate medical attention should be sought if there are changes to the feet such as skin color, persistent sores, tingling, and swelling of the foot or ankle.

People who have diabetes should see a doctor regularly as part of their care. However, they should seek immediate medical attention if they notice any of the following:

  • changes in foot skin color
  • swelling in the foot or ankle
  • temperature changes in the feet
  • persistent sores on the feet
  • pain or tingling in the feet or ankles
  • ingrown toenails
  • athlete’s foot or other foot fungal infections
  • dry and cracked skin on the heels
  • signs of infection

Treatment

Treatment for diabetic foot problems varies according to the severity of the condition. A range of surgical and nonsurgical options is available.

Nonsurgical treatment

Nonsurgical options are normally the first method of treatment for diabetic foot problems. Some of these include:

  • keeping wounds clean and dressed
  • immobilization devices, such as a cast boot or total contact cast
  • close observation of gangrene toes until self-amputation occurs, when the toes fall off due to lack of blood flow

Surgical treatment

When nonsurgical treatment fails to heal diabetic foot problems, surgery may be considered. Surgical treatment options include:

  • removal of decaying or dead tissue
  • amputation, varying from toe or part of the foot to amputation of the leg below the knee, or above the knee in some cases
  • surgical stabilization of Charcot’s Foot
  • arterial bypass for peripheral vascular disease, or endovascular surgery with placement of stents

Diabetic foot care

lady having a bath
Examining the feet daily and keeping them clean is recommended to prevent diabetic foot problems.

Preventing diabetic foot problems is essential for people who have diabetes. Keeping feet healthy is important, and a person should be vigilant about foot hygiene. They can take the following steps:

  • Check feet each day: Examine the feet daily, or ask someone to check for any changes or injuries.
  • Wash feet daily: Keeping feet clean helps to prevent infections.
  • Wear supportive shoes and socks: It is important to keep feet protected in socks and shoes at all times. A podiatrist may recommend shoes to help prevent deformities. Socks should not be too tight so as to restrict blood flow.
  • Promote blood flow to the feet: Putting feet up when sitting, wiggling toes periodically, and getting enough exercise helps promote healthy blood flow to the feet.
  • Trim nails carefully: Trim toenails straight across and keep them short. Rounded nails can cause ingrown toenails, which can lead to infection.
  • Care for corns and bunions: Treat corns and bunions carefully. Corns should never be shaved as this increases the risk of infection.
  • Protect feet from extreme temperatures: Exposure to hot and cold can damage diabetic feet.
  • Get feet checked regularly: Regular examinations by a doctor are key to preventing infections, amputations, and serious deformities.
  • Control blood sugar: Uncontrolled blood sugar raises the likelihood of podiatric complications from diabetes,
  • Avoid smoking: Smoking adversely affects the blood flow to the tissues.

Preventing diabetic foot problems

Diabetes can cause serious foot problems that can result in loss of the feet or limbs, deformity, and infections. However, many of these problems can be prevented or minimized.

While controlling blood sugar by following the recommended treatment plans is the best way to prevent these serious problems, self-care and regular check-ups with a doctor can prevent diabetic foot problems as well.

Smoothies for People with Diabetes

Smoothies may seem like a healthful option, but they can be a very bad choice for people who have diabetes.

Many people with diabetes are well-informed about what they can and cannot eat. They know also that choosing premade meals, snacks, and drinks can be challenging. People with diabetes have to be very careful when ordering smoothies in restaurants, as these often contain far too much sugar and not enough protein and fat.

With some modifications, however, smoothies can be enjoyed either at home or at a restaurant.

Things to consider when making a smoothie

People with diabetes must pay careful attention to their carbohydrate intake. Avoiding low-quality carbohydrates, such as sugar or white flour, and using dietary fiber as their guide in choosing carbohydrates, are the best dietary options for them.

A person with diabetes should consider some of the following:

Extra fat can be a good thing

[avocado cucumber and chia seed smoothie]
There are many sources of healthful fats that can be used in smoothies, such as avocado and chia seeds.

The debate can be very confusing between good and bad fat, what is good and bad cholesterol, and the ever-changing guidelines on what offers the best balance between them.

However, in short, some fats are very beneficial to people with diabetes, as they help slow down the speed at which sugar enters the blood.

Some sources of fat that can be added to a morning smoothie include:

  • almond or peanut butter
  • chia seeds
  • avocado
  • raw pecans
  • raw walnuts
  • coconut oil

Include extra protein

Similarly to fat, protein offers many health benefits that are particularly important to people with diabetes. For example, high-protein content slows the absorption of food, which reduces the speed at which sugar enters the bloodstream.

Protein does not always need to come from an animal or animal byproduct. Many foods contain high amounts of protein, and adding them to a smoothie in the morning will offer great benefits.

Some proteins to include in a smoothie include:

  • plain Greek yogurt
  • hemp seeds, and other seeds
  • almonds
  • pea protein
  • whey protein
  • milk

Make the smoothie high in fiber

Soluble fiber found in some carbohydrates is ideal for people with diabetes to consume. Unlike sugar and simple carbohydrates, which cause dangerous spikes and crashes in blood sugar, fiber is much more like protein and fat in that it is harder to breakdown.

[spinach smoothies on a wooden table]
Adding leafy greens like spinach can ensure that a smoothie is nutritious and high in fiber.

This slow digestion means that fiber, along with sugar from carbohydrates, enters the bloodstream over a period of time rather than in quick bursts.

Foods high in fiber that might work well in a smoothie include:

  • most fruits, including raspberries, oranges, nectarines, peaches, and blueberries
  • vegetables, including leafy greens, such as spinach and kale
  • nuts
  • chia seeds

Avoid adding extra sugar

Most people with diabetes know that adding extra sugar to their diet should be avoided. Many foods already have sugar in them, and many others have hidden sugars. For example, canned fruits are preserved in sugar-filled syrups, and honey and maple syrup are also, basically, sugar.

Some alternatives to milk, such as almond or soy milk, may also contain added sugar. When making a smoothie, it is important not to add extra sugar or sweetened ingredients. However, there are ways to make it more flavorful.

Limit carbohydrate servings to three or less

When making a smoothie, a person with diabetes must make sure they know the amount of carbohydrate they are putting it. In general, people with diabetes should look to include 45 grams (g) or less of carbohydrates. Using measuring cups, spoons and the diabetes exchange list, is a good way to measure how many carbohydrates to put in the smoothie.

Low-GI level fruits and vegetables

The glycemic index (GI) measures how quickly a food item will raise blood sugar. Generally, a lower-scoring food means that sugar in it will absorb more slowly than a food with a higher GI.

All fruits and vegetables have different GI scores, as they all contain different amounts of sugar and fiber. Generally, foods with a rating of around 50 or less are considered good.

Glycemic load (GL) is also calculated to compensate for how many grams of carbohydrates are in a typical serving. This gives a more accurate picture of how the food will actually affect people’s blood sugar levels. A GL of less than 10 is low, while a GL greater than 20 is high.

Good smoothie fruits

In terms of making a fruit smoothie, people with diabetes should use fruits that have low GI and GL levels.

[cherry smoothie bowl]
Cherries have a low GI score, making them a delicious and healthful addition to a smoothie.

Here are a few examples of fruits with low GI scores:

  • cherries have a GI Score of 22, and a GL of 3
  • grapefruits have a GI Score of 25 and a GL of 3
  • pears have a GI Score of 38 and a GL of 4.2
  • apples have a GI Score of 38 and a GL of 5.7
  • plums have a GI Score of 39 and a GL of 5.7
  • strawberries have a GI Score of 40 and a GL of 3.8
  • oranges have a GI Score of 42 and a GL of 5.9
  • raspberries have a GI Score of 32 and a GL of 2.6

Good smoothie vegetables

Vegetables also have different GI scores.

Here are a few examples of low scoring vegetables that would be good in a smoothie:

  • green peas have a GI Score of 54 and a GL of 4
  • carrots have a GI Score of 71 but a GL of 6
  • pumpkin has a GI Score of 75 but a GL of 3
  • spinach has a GI Score of 15 and a GL of 0
  • broccoli has a GI Score of 10 and a GL of 0
  • cabbage has a GI Score of 10 and a GL of 0
  • kale has a GI Score of 2-4 and a GL of 0

Other good ingredients to use

A good smoothie often contains more than just fruits, vegetables, and a fat source. Other ingredients can add both flavor and nutrition. Some additional ingredients to think about include:

[raw almond milk in a glass bottle]
Unsweetened almond or soy milk is a good alternative to regular milk for people looking to avoid dairy.
  • unsweetened almond or soy milk
  • ice for extra chill
  • reduced-fat or whole milk
  • a small amount of oatmeal
  • extracts, such as vanilla or almond
  • cinnamon
  • cocoa powder
  • black coffee
  • natural peanut butter (no sugar added)
  • nutmeg
  • ginger
  • turmeric

Considerations for people with diabetes and another health condition

People with diabetes may have other existing conditions to contend with, such as high blood pressure, obesity, celiac disease, and lactose intolerance. These other conditions may limit what kinds of ingredients can be used in a smoothie.

Lactose intolerance

People who are lactose intolerant should avoid adding dairy milk or any byproducts of dairy milk, such as yogurt, to a smoothie. Almond milk or soy milk are good alternatives, and they can be used instead of milk in nearly any smoothie recipe.

Celiac disease

People who have celiac disease are unable to eat anything that contains gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. Most smoothies do not contain wheat naturally, but for people who like to add whey protein to their smoothie, it may become an issue.

Whey itself is gluten-free, but some manufacturers add fillers with gluten in them. Either check the label before buying or try other, plant-derived proteins.

Obesity

People who are overweight or obese will need to control their calorie level and emphasize plant foods and fiber. In general, a smoothie that is suitable for a person with diabetes will probably be suitable for a person who is overweight.

High blood pressure

People who have high blood pressure should avoid coffee-based smoothies and stick to vegetable and fruit smoothies instead. There are many foods that people with high blood pressure can eat, including beets, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and fruits. All of these can be good additions to a smoothie.

People with high blood pressure should also avoid foods that contain excess salt.

Other health benefits of smoothies

Smoothies can offer a complete liquid meal. Often drunk at the beginning of the day, they can contain enough protein, carbohydrates, fiber, and fat to keep a person satisfied.

In addition, smoothies can be a good source of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that the body needs. The more nutrients a person gets, the better their overall health. Proper nourishment can improve a person’s cholesterol levels, reduce fat, build muscle, promote healthier nervous and circulatory systems, and improve energy levels.

Dawn Phenomenon: How to Control High Morning Blood Sugars

The dawn phenomenon is a normal, natural rise in blood sugar that occurs in the early morning hours, between roughly 4 and 8 a.m. The shift in blood sugar levels happens as a result of hormonal changes in the body.

All people experience the dawn phenomenon to one level or another, which can vary day by day. People without diabetes may never notice it happening, as a normal body’s insulin response adjusts for the rise without intervention.

A person with diabetes is more likely to experience symptoms from the rise in blood sugar levels, however.

How does it affect people with diabetes?

Dawn phenomenon is a normal rise in blood sugar released by the liver. The release happens as the person’s body is preparing to wake for the day.

The rise in blood sugar is normally handled with insulin. For people with diabetes, insulin is not produced in high enough quantities, or the body is unable to use the insulin properly.

[woman feeling ill in bed with a glass of water]
Symptoms of the dawn phenomenon include nausea, weakness, and extreme thirst roughly between 4 and 8 a.m.

As a result, a person with diabetes will feel the effects of having high sugar levels in the blood.

These effects can include:

  • faintness
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • weakness
  • disorientation
  • feeling tired
  • extreme thirst

Managing the dawn phenomenon

Managing blood sugar levels is nothing new to most people with diabetes. A combination of diet, exercise, and medication often help keep the symptoms and problems under control.

In the case of dawn phenomenon, there are some additional changes that may help prevent issues caused by the spike in blood sugar.

Some steps people with diabetes can take to manage the dawn phenomenon include:

  • changing medication entirely or making adjustments with a doctor on existing medication
  • avoiding skipping meals or medication doses
  • avoiding carbohydrates around bedtime
  • taking medication closer to bedtime and not at dinner time

Other steps include eating dinner earlier in the evening. After dinner, some light physical activity, such as going for a walk, jogging, or yoga, is encouraged.

It is likely that a person with diabetes will experience high morning blood sugar levels from time to time. Occasional, mild issues from dawn phenomenon are not too worrisome. However, if the frequency becomes much more regular, then it’s time to call a doctor.

Complications

[elderly woman with diabetes at the doctor]
People who experience the dawn phenomenon regularly should talk to their doctor as it can lead to serious complications.

If blood sugar levels spike too high as a result of dawn phenomenon, the effects can range from mild to a life-threatening medical emergency.

Some complications that a person with diabetes may experience as a result of dawn phenomenon include:

  • nerve damage
  • damage to blood vessels
  • organ damage
  • ketoacidosis, an extremely dangerous buildup of acid in the bloodstream

People who experience repeated high blood sugar levels due to dawn phenomenon should see a doctor to prevent these consequences.

Do options differ between type 1 and type 2 diabetes?

Differences in dealing with dawn phenomenon depend more on the individual person than what type of diabetes they have or what their treatment plan is.

A person with type 1 diabetes may adjust the dosage or type of insulin to account for any changes overnight. In other cases where the person wears an insulin pump, they may adjust the pump to deliver extra insulin in the morning.

What is the Somogyi effect?

Unlike in the dawn phenomenon, the Somogyi effect occurs when blood sugar levels drop too low. This causes the growth hormones, cortisol, and catecholamines, to release into the blood.

For example, if a person who takes insulin or medication to lower blood sugar levels does not eat a regular bedtime snack, their blood sugar levels may drop during the night.

This person’s body then responds to the low blood sugar levels by releasing hormones that trigger sugar levels to go back up. This may cause blood sugar levels to be higher than normal in the morning.

How can you tell the difference?

The major difference between dawn phenomenon and the Somogyi effect is that the latter can occur any time there is extra insulin in the body.

[clock at ten past two]
Checking blood sugar levels between 2 and 3 a.m. can help indicate whether a person is experiencing the dawn phenomenon or the Somogyi effect.

The easiest way to rule out the Somogyi effect is to check blood sugar levels at bedtime, around 2 to 3 a.m., and after waking up for several nights and mornings.

Some people may choose to wear a continuous glucose monitor, which can record the sugar levels throughout the day and night, allowing the user to track the trends.

Here are two possible results and what they might mean:

  • If the blood sugar level is low at or between 2 to 3 a.m., there is a good likelihood the Somogyi effect is the cause.
  • If the blood sugar level is normal or high at or between 2 to 3 a.m., it is more likely that the cause is the dawn phenomenon.

Treatments, home remedies, and prevention

The best treatment is prevention. Treatment for the dawn phenomenon is likely to be the same type that they would use to treat a spike in blood sugar.

Some people may have to inject insulin while others might have specific medication to target increases in blood sugar.

Each person with diabetes should discuss with their doctor what to do when their blood sugar levels spike, regardless of whether it is the dawn phenomenon or not.

Home remedies

Home remedies do not use medication to lower blood sugar. People with diabetes should speak with their doctor before trying any home remedies or stopping their medications.

Some common remedies that do not require medicine include:

  • eating less refined sugar and avoiding items with added sugar
  • increasing activity and getting regular exercise
  • taking alpha lipoic acid supplements, a natural antioxidant that can be bought over the counter
  • eating more cinnamon
  • drinking green tea
  • taking chromium supplements help the body regulate blood sugar levels

Another potential remedy is eating more protein. Some people consider whey protein to be particularly helpful as it helps control blood sugar levels.

If dawn phenomenon occurs regularly, people with diabetes should seek advice from a doctor for the best options to help prevent the serious consequences of high blood sugar levels.