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Diabetes: Counting Carbs if You Use Insulin

Carbohydrate counting is an important skill to help you maintain tight control of your blood sugar (glucose) level when you have diabetes. It gives you the flexibility to eat what you want and increases your sense of control and confidence in managing your diabetes.

  • Carbohydrate counting helps you maintain your blood sugar at your target level.
  • Carbohydrate counting allows you to adjust the amount of insulin you take based on how many grams of carbohydrate you eat at a meal or snack. The formula used to determine the amount of insulin you need is called the insulin-to-carbohydrate ratio.
  • The insulin-to-carbohydrate ratio differs from one person to another. You and your doctor will calculate your ratio by recording the food you eat and testing your blood sugar level after meals.

what.gif What is carbohydrate counting?
why.gif Why is carbohydrate counting important?
how.gif How do you count carbohydrate grams in your diet?
where.gif Where to go from here

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Other Works Consulted

  • American Diabetes Association (2008). Nutrition recommendations and interventions for diabetes. Diabetes Care, 31(Suppl 1): S61–S78.

  • American Diabetes Association (2013). Standards of medical care in diabetes—2013. Diabetes Care, 36(Suppl 1): S11–S66.

  • Campbell AP, Beaser RS (2010). Medical nutrition therapy. In RS Beaser, ed., Joslin's Diabetes Deskbook: A Guide for Primary Care Providers, 2nd ed., pp. 91–136. Boston: Joslin Diabetes Center.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerRhonda O'Brien, MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator
Last RevisedOctober 24, 2012

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: October 24, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

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