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Expert Q&A: Spicy Foods, Night Sweats and More

Coping with taste changes

Q. My husband has type 2 diabetes. He's always loved hot peppers, but over the past couple years, his tolerance for spicy foods has been dropping. Now, he can barely handle the heat. Is his diabetes causing this?

A. It might be. Diabetes that hasn't been well controlled can impact nerves in the mouth, making them more or less sensitive. High blood sugar levels can also cause dry mouth, making spicy foods less tolerable.

—Gerald Bernstein, MD, director, Diabetes Management Program,
Gerald J. Friedman Diabetes Institute, New York City


Are night sweats normal?

Q. I've recently been diagnosed with diabetes and I'm still trying to get a handle on all the symptoms. Sometimes, at night, I wake up sweating. Is this normal?

A. Test your blood sugar each time night sweats wake you—they could be caused by hypoglycemia. Track the results and let your doctor know—a simple medication adjustment can help avoid the problem. And since night sweats could point to a bacterial infection in your system, your doctor may perform a screening. Also, are you eating late dinners? Food left in the stomach can cause sweating a few hours later. Try eating dinner a couple hours earlier and see if that helps.

—Gerald Bernstein, MD

Hold on to your socks

Q. I'm meeting my girlfriend's parents for the first time at their home. She's already told me that they are extremely tidy and guests are expected to remove their shoes when entering the home. I have type 2 diabetes and my doctor has recommended against going barefoot. What should I do?

A. Your doctor's right—if you have diabetes, going barefoot isn't safe since you can easily injure your feet. Instead, bring a pair of soft slippers. If you and your girlfriend get more serious and the visits become more frequent, you might buy a pair of shoes for wear only inside their house. Just say, "My doctor told me to protect my feet, so I have designated footwear just for here!" I'm sure they'll understand and appreciate your effort.

—Gerald Bernstein, MD

Published March 2012

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