If you use mealtime insulin, you should still give yourself your full mealtime dose before eating any of the meal. For example, if you normally have a bowl of cereal and juice for breakfast, you would take enough insulin to cover both, but then just eat the cereal for breakfast, and postpone the juice until mid-morning.
Get moving. Physical activity after eating can reduce post-meal spikes in a number of ways. If you took insulin before your meal or snack, the enhanced blood flow to the skin surface caused by exercise is likely to make the insulin absorb and act more quickly. Muscle activity also diverts blood flow away from the intestines, resulting in slower absorption of glucose into the bloodstream. In addition, the glucose that does enter the bloodstream is likely to be used by the working muscles, rather than stored for later use.
How much activity is required to experience these benefits? Not much. Ten or 15 minutes (or more) of mild activity will usually get the job done. The key is to avoid sitting for extended periods of time after eating. Instead of reading, watching TV, or working on the computer, go for a walk, shoot some hoops, or do some chores. Try to schedule your active tasks (housework, yardwork, shopping, walking pets) for after meals. Also attempt to schedule your exercise sessions for after meals. On “date nights,” resist the urge to sit and talk for hours or to head straight for a movie. Instead, go out dancing, bowling, or skating.
Prevent hypoglycemia. Low blood glucose is problematic in many ways. One of the body’s typical responses to hypoglycemia is to speed up the rate at which the stomach empties. That means food digests and raises blood glucose even more rapidly than usual. While this is certainly desirable when you’re low, it does contribute to post-meal spikes. Preventing hypoglycemia before meals and snacks, therefore, is yet another effective strategy for controlling post-meal blood glucose levels.
Time to strike!
Given the many short- and long-term benefits of post-meal blood glucose control, it is certainly worth the effort to start measuring and evaluating your after-meal control. If your blood glucose levels are higher than they should be, talk with your health-care team about new or different medical treatments that might help. And take a look at your personal choices in terms of food and activity. Even without a perfectly functioning pancreas, there is still a multitude of options for tackling those spikes!