Diabetics know to keep a close eye out for things that trigger blood sugar spikes. Stay away from refined sugar, and empty carbs wherever they may hide. But have you considered them hiding in your medicine cabinet?
Cough, cold, headache, backache? It’s true that the drugstore shelves are stocked with endless medication options, so you’ve got plenty of choices.
But what if you have high blood sugar? Your options are now more limited. That’s because some medications can cause blood sugar spikes. Many over the counter medications contain carbohydrates, sugars, and sugar alcohols that can negatively affect blood sugar levels.
Barbiturates – (phenobarbital, pentobarbital, and secobarbital) used to prevent seizures, relieve anxiety or induce sleep.
Diuretics – (furosemide, hydrochlorothiazide, metolazone, and spironolactone) used to remove excess water from the body. Commonly used to alleviate water retention, or for patients suffering from heart or kidney diseases.
Corticosteriods – Used to relieve swelling and itching, including those related to allergic reactions. They are often used as a treatment for severe allergies, asthma, skin problems, or arthritis.
Decongestants – (especially those that contain pseudoephedrine) used to treat symptoms caused by allergies, the common cold, the flu, sinusitis or bronchitis.
Pain Relievers like NSAIDS – A low dose of aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen can help to relieve the occasional discomfort. One dose is unlikely to affect your blood sugar levels, if you take more than recommended on the label, you could be putting your blood sugar in jeopardy. Be sure to talk with your physician about regular headaches, or consistent neck/knee/back pain. There may be an underlying issue at work that they need to look into.
High blood sugar also increases risk for other health conditions. Be conscious of all potential side effects of the medications you take, in addition to their potential effects on blood sugar. For example, NSAIDS like naproxen sodium and ibuprofen can increase your blood pressure, and negatively affect your kidneys.
So how can diabetics make the smartest choices when it comes to over the counter medications?
Talk with your healthcare team about every medication you take. Prescriptions, over the counter medications, herbal supplements, vitamins, even those meds that you only take “every now and again.” Your primary care doctor, your cardiologist, your dentist – everyone needs to know about your medications! A handy tip – type up a list of all the medications you take, the doses, the times, and what they are for. Print several copies and take one with you to each of your doctor’s appointments!
Be sure to take any diabetes medication at the correct time of day and in the exact dose as prescribed by your physician. If you have trouble remembering to take your medications, try setting an alarm on your cell phone to remind you.
Read labels carefully. Be very mindful of the carbohydrates, sugars, and sugar alcohols listed on the medications label. You may even see some brands that say “sugar-free” or “safe for diabetics.”
When possible, choose a topical. For example, rather than popping a couple of pills for your knee pain, try icing your knee and rubbing on a pain-relieving cream. The reason being that the medication does not get into your bloodstream – thereby reducing the potential effects on blood sugar.
If you are going to take oral medication, beware of liquids. Liquid medications typically contain more carbohydrates and sugars because they are flavored and sweetened in order to help them go down easier. Choose a tablet or capsule if available.
It is crucial to be mindful of your medications in order to keep blood sugar, and overall health, in balance.