Glucose levels rise after meals. You may treat these blood sugar rises with diabetes medications or possibly lifestyle changes. Your doctor can help you figure out what may work best.

Postprandial hyperglycemia is an increase in the glucose level in your bloodstream after eating a meal. This blood sugar spike happens to everyone but can be more pronounced in people with diabetes.

In this article, you’ll learn what causes postprandial blood sugar spikes, who needs to worry about them, and how and when they’re treated.

Postprandial hyperglycemia is an increase in your blood glucose after a meal. Everything we eat is turned into glucose as a main source of energy for our bodies.

Typically, your blood glucose levels are highest 1–2 hours after eating a meal and then gradually return to normal levels.

After a meal, your body turns what you eat and drink into glucose. This glucose is put into your bloodstream, and a hormone called insulin helps to move glucose into your cells for energy.

It’s normal for your blood glucose levels to be highest just after a meal as your body processes what you ate or drank into energy and moves it into your cells. Any imbalance in this process or consumption of too many sugars and carbohydrates can cause your glucose levels to rise too high in your blood.

Postprandial hyperglycemia can happen to anyone after too much sugar intake, but it happens more often in people who have some form of diabetes.

In people without diabetes, their blood glucose levels drop naturally after a meal as glucose is moved into their cells by insulin. Your cells use this glucose for energy, and extra glucose in your bloodstream is stored for later use.

People with diabetes have a breakdown in the process that moves glucose out of their blood stream and into cells for energy.

In type 1 diabetes, your body doesn’t make adequate amounts of insulin. Without insulin, glucose isn’t moved into your cells. This makes the glucose rise in your bloodstream while starving your cells of energy.

With type 2 diabetes, you either aren’t making enough insulin or your body has developed a resistance to the effects of insulin. This is usually the result of long-term diet and lifestyle choices where your body gets used to a high blood glucose level and your sensitivity to insulin drops.

For people without diabetes, postprandial hyperglycemia isn’t a serious or long-term issue. It happens, but your body compensates for these occasional spikes, and your blood glucose levels return to normal naturally within 2–3 hours.

In people with diabetes, their body’s compensation measures aren’t effective, and their blood glucose levels stay high longer. Over time, consistently high blood glucose levels can cause damage to your various tissues and blood vessels.

Some common complications of uncontrolled high blood glucose—especially in people with diabetes—include:

People without diabetes don’t usually need treatment for postprandial hyperglycemia. But people with diabetes may need to take supplemental insulin or other medications to help bring their blood glucose levels back to a normal range after eating.

If you have diabetes, you can talk with a healthcare professional about:

  • monitoring your blood glucose levels
  • changing your diet
  • medications that can be taken before or at the start of a meal to control your blood sugar levels

A healthy, balanced diet is important for anyone, but it’s a crucial part of diabetes management.

Foods that are high in sugars and carbohydrates have the biggest impact on your blood glucose levels. These foods have been found to cause the highest spikes after meals even in people without diabetes.

For people with diabetes, a diet that limits foods high in sugar and carbohydrates is recommended.

Protein-rich and high-fiber foods can help satisfy your hunger without causing a spike in your blood glucose levels and are major players in diets recommended for people with diabetes.

Blood glucose levels naturally rise and fall between meals. People without diabetes tolerate these peaks and valleys, but people with diabetes may require treatment or diet changes to help prevent dangerously high blood glucose concentrations.

If you have diabetes, talk with a healthcare team about diet changes that can help prevent postprandial hyperglycemia and medications that can be used to help maintain a safe blood sugar.