You’re probably familiar with how cranky you become when your blood sugar dips too low, but constant fluctuations in blood sugar levels can have a negative impact on your overall health. The foods you eat, especially high-carbohydrate foods, increase your blood glucose. Your cells, particularly your brain and muscle cells, rely on glucose for energy. If your blood sugar levels chronically rise or fall too much, you can develop hyper- or hypoglycemia, which can lead to diabetes and a host of other health complications.
The hormones insulin and glucagon control your blood sugar. After you eat, your pancreas releases insulin, which enables glucose to travel into your cells for immediate energy needs or stored as glycogen for future energy needs. Between meals or when you’re exercising and need more energy, your pancreas releases glucagon, which converts glycogen back to glucose to get you to your next meal or through your workout. The result is a healthy equilibrium, or homeostasis.
Type-2 diabetes occurs when your cells don’t react to insulin, known as insulin resistance. Sugar can’t enter your cells and be stored as energy, so it remains in your bloodstream, which is called hyperglycemia. This condition usually occurs slowly over time and in overweight individuals because extra fat makes it harder for your cells to respond to insulin. The KidsHealth website states that eating a lot of simple sugars, such as cookies and candy, causes spikes in blood sugar and may eventually contribute to diabetes.
Eye, Skin and Digestion Problems
Over time, if your blood sugar is not regulated, you may develop vision problems, especially at night, and eventually go blind. Diabetics often experience skin pain and infection, particularly on the feet, which may lead to amputation of the foot or leg. Chronically high blood sugar also makes it harder for you to digest food, and you may have difficulties going to the bathroom.
Heart, Nerve and Kidney Problems
As a diabetic, you can’t control blood pressure and cholesterol as effectively as a nondiabetic. This can result in a heart attack, stroke and decreased blood flow to your lower extremities. Nerves can also become damaged, leading to numbness, tingling and loss of feeling. With diabetes, your kidneys become less efficient at doing their job. Eventually, they can stop working, resulting in a need for dialysis or a kidney transplant.
Chronic low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, is usually caused by diabetics injecting too much insulin but can also occur with poor diet or strenuous exercise. Glucose is your brain’s main source of energy, so without enough of it, you can experience permanent neurological damage and even death. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, symptoms of hypoglycemia include headache, sweating, blurred vision, dizziness, loss of coordination, depression, irritability, heart palpitations, slurred speech, seizures, fatigue and coma.