10 Ways to Lower Your Blood Sugar Naturally
If you’re among the growing number of individuals living with diabetes you’re certainly not alone. In the United States alone, about 10% of the population (over 34 million people) have been diagnosed with diabetes with the vast majority being diagnosed with the Type 2 form of the disease.
Additionally, a staggering one-third of Americans are living in a prediabetic state with elevated blood sugar levels that, if left unchecked, could quickly lead to the onset of Type 2 diabetes. Even more frightening, it’s estimated that about 85% of these individuals have absolutely no clue that they are prediabetic.
Diabetes and Blood Sugar
Diabetes occurs for one of two reasons. One, the body does not produce any insulin, the hormone required to transition blood sugar into energy the body uses for fuel (Type 1 diabetes), or two, the body’s ability to effectively produce and use insulin is greatly inhibited (Type 2 diabetes). Both conditions result in a gradual build-up of blood sugar in the body, which, if left untreated can lead to a host of symptoms, including unusual thirst, headaches, blurred vision, and extreme fatigue, as well as a long list of serious health consequences, including cardiovascular disease, nerve damage and kidney disease.
One big difference between Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes is that those living with Type 2 diabetes have a lot more control over how they manage the disease because Type 2 diabetes is highly correlated with weight, diet, and lifestyle. In fact, the right choices can help prevent it and, in some cases, even reverse Type 2 diabetes.
If you’re currently living with Type 2 diabetes and require insulin treatments, either by syringe or pen needle, there are things you can do to naturally help lower your blood sugar and make it easier to control. If you’re prediabetic, these same choices just might help prevent the onset of the disease. Either way, trying to lower your blood sugar naturally will certainly help you live a healthier life.
10 ways to lower your blood sugar naturally
- Regular Activity
Movement, even just mild activity, is a natural wonder when it comes to lowering blood sugar. It’s actually a two-fold advantage. First, elevating your heart rate and activating your muscles causes the body to use more of the glucose (blood sugar) circulating in the blood for an immediate impact. Secondly, regular physical activity reduces insulin resistance, which helps the body’s cells more effectively use insulin over time, which leads to lower blood sugar levels. Again, you don’t have to work out vigorously. The ADA recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week. That’s just 30 minutes a day, five days a week. It’s totally doable. However, if it has been some time since you were active, start slow. Try easy 10-minute walks and work your way up from there.
- Weight Loss
Being overweight is a common contributing factor to Type 2 diabetes. This is because excess weight is one of the main causes of insulin resistance - the inability of the body to properly use the hormone to break down blood glucose. A study published by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine shows that even moderate weight loss can improve insulin sensitivity, which will help your body process and regulate blood sugar naturally.
- Drink More Water
Not only is dehydration a common symptom of diabetes, but it also contributes to elevations in blood sugar. Drinking water helps the kidneys flush some of the excess glucose out of the body, lowering blood sugar levels in a healthy and natural way.
- Manage Stress
Stress can have a profound impact on blood sugar levels. When you become anxious or “stressed out”, your body releases hormones like cortisol that both increase blood sugar levels and make the cells in your body less efficient at processing insulin. It’s a double whammy that can certainly contribute to spikes in blood sugar. While it’s unrealistic to think we can eliminate stress from our lives, practices such as meditation, yoga, Tai Chi, mindful breathing exercises, and fitness routines can help you better cope with stress, and therefore, improve blood sugar control.
- Limit Carbohydrate Foods
In a perfect world, the body breaks down carbs into sugars, mostly glucose, and then the hormone insulin helps you turn this sugar into energy. However, if you’re diabetic, the second part of the equation doesn’t function properly. Your body doesn’t use insulin effectively to process sugar. So, guess what happens when you load up on carbs that will quickly become sugar in the bloodstream? Boom! That next blood sugar test is not going to be what you want. If you’re wondering how much carbs should you consume? One easy way to keep things in check at mealtime is to apply the Diabetes Plate Method recommended by the American Diabetes Association.
- Get in Your Daily Fiber
Here’s something you don’t hear often when it comes to managing diabetes and diet – the more the merrier! Fiber is an exceptional way to stabilizing blood sugar. It also often contributes to weight loss, which amplifies the blood sugar benefits. The bottom line is you just can’t get too much fiber - and you’ll find it in beans, peas, whole grains, broccoli, raspberries, pears, apples, oatmeal, quinoa, pistachios and a host of other yummy fruits, veggies, and nuts. According to the Mayo Clinic, women should aim for at least 21 - 25 grams of fiber daily, and men should try for at least 30 - 38 grams.
- Adequate Sleep
Quality sleep is a must for anyone who wants to be healthy. For those with diabetes, poor sleep patterns have the added impact of impacting blood sugar levels. Much like stress and anxiety, sleep deprivation causes an increase in cortisol production, which has a negative impact on insulin sensitivity. Additionally, insufficient sleep leads to impaired judgement which, in turn, might lead to poor eating habits, binge eating and other impulse decisions that could have a negative impact on your diabetes management.
- Limit Alcohol Use
You don’t have to feel guilty about grabbing a beer with friends or enjoying a glass or two of wine with dinner, however, booze works the liver and the pancreas (where insulin is produced), so overdoing it can have detrimental effects on blood sugar management. Plus, many cocktails infuse sweeteners and other ingredients that can further upend blood sugar control. It’s also no secret that the best life decisions are rarely made when inebriated (that midnight pizza party is not a good idea). Think moderation and you’ll be just fine.
- Look for Foods with a Low GI
The Glycemic Index (GI) ranks foods by how dramatically they impact blood sugar levels. Essentially, the lower the GI score, the more gradually the food is absorbed by the body which means sugar enters the body at a slower pace, helping to avoid spikes in blood glucose. As a general rule, a score of 55 or less qualifies as “low”, 56-69 is “medium”, and a score of 70 or above is considered “high”. Try and eat more foods on the low and moderate end, including sweet potatoes, oatmeal, and most fruits. There are a number of resources online where you can check GI scores of different foods.
- Measure Blood Sugar Regularly
Okay, this is not exactly a “natural” tip, but testing your blood sugar regularly according to your doctor-prescribed treatment plan is key to making everything else - from exercise to diet - work more effectively. Knowing how lifestyle and dietary choices impact your individual blood glucose level will help you and your diabetes care team adjust medication dosage and timing, mealtimes, fitness routines, and more. Tracking blood sugar over time is the only way to optimize your diabetes treatment plan.
As with all choices regarding your individual diabetes heath and treatment program, before making any decisions or modifications, it is important to first consult with your personal diabetes physician.
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