Summer's effect on Diabetes and Blood Sugar

Ginger Vieira Health Guide

  • So, summer is here. Sunshine. Flowers. Yada. Yada. Yada. All that good stuff we miss all winter long. With the sunshine, however, often comes a bit of change in blood sugars and insulin needs.


    I once met this incredibly athletic teenager who found herself in the hospital at the start of every new sport season from episodes of hypoglycemia at its most extreme. She and her mother seemed baffled…I was baffled as to why the severe lows were so mysterious to them.


    For any diabetic (especially the new ones) and her parents, it’s really important to realize that simple changes in activity and diet can have a major impact on the amount of insulin your body needs. If you’re starting a new sport that meets for practice every day, you will inevitably have to adjust your insulin levels. And when the sport ends — guess what — you may need to increase them.

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    Endocrinologists are great for suggesting how much you should increase or decrease your insulin—but you have to ask them. Tell them before the soccer season begins, “Hey, Doc, I’m going to be running up and down a soccer field for two hours every day for a few months, how much do you suggest I cut back on my basal rates (or long-acting insulin)?”


    When the snow melts and spring arrives, I can go running again! Running effects my body differently than a yoga class or an hour weight-lifting in the gym, so I find I need to cut back on my long-acting insulin. And also keep in mind, that post-exercise, your body may still be breaking up any glucose for recovery, so just because you’ve got a blood sugar of 130 after practice doesn’t mean you may not drop low an hour or two later.


    By taking a pro-active approach towards this issue, you will hopefully prevent those terrifying lows. And it may not always be an instant solution, you may have to finagle and experiment for a few days until you find the right amount—but it’s worth your time…unless you enjoy hypoglycemia, which I highly doubt.


    The other aspect of adjusting to the sports is what you eat. How many carbohydrates does it take to keep you going throughout practice or a game? How many granola bars and juice boxes should you have as a pre-practice snack? Everyone is different, so while I only need about 25 grams of carbs to survive a long run, you might need more. And also remember, that during a game you maybe running more or less than you would during practice. The point is that you’ve got to think about it and give it your attention so you can keep up…and score a few points. You don’t want to spend half of the game on the bench recovering from a low.


    Neglecting to give attention to this aspect of being a diabetic will only make your job that much harder. And for a newbie-diabetic, the idea of continuing on an athletic team may be daunting from the fear of all those lows — but it is doable! You just have to take the time to figure out what your body needs to endure the game. And seeing as how exercise should be a daily part of any diabetic’s life, whether or not you’re on a team, you need to learn how to make these adjustments for your own personal health and safety!

Published On: July 02, 2007