How to Lower Your Blood Sugar
Blood sugar, or glucose, rises when the carbohydrates you eat are broken down into sugar. (1)
A well balanced diet of foods including high-fiber, healthy fats and lean protein helps keep blood sugar levels stable. (2)
1. Change Your Diet
The right diet can help you control your blood sugar, get a handle on your weight and feel better. You’ll want to find an eating plan that you can stick with, that uses healthy foods and a consistent schedule. A doctor or dietitian can fine-tune your plan to fit your lifestyle.
Carbohydrates are the body’s primary energy source, but balancing carbs with protein and fat is key to blood sugar balance. When you eat, your digestive system breaks down the food you’ve eaten into glucose, which enters your bloodstream and causes your blood sugar levels to rise. Your body and brain need this energy, but when the levels spike, it’s important to control them.
High glucose levels can lead to a number of issues, including nerve damage, eye disease and heart problems. The best way to balance your blood sugar is with a nutritious diet that includes plenty of veggies, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats like olive oil, nuts and avocados.
You can avoid blood sugar spikes and crashes by eliminating empty carbs, such as chips and candy. Choose nutrient-rich foods, such as vegetables and berries, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, beans and fish. Include some fermented foods, such as kimchi and sauerkraut, which are full of probiotics to support the gut microbiome, which may help improve insulin sensitivity.
2. Change Your Lifestyle
If you’re urinating more than usual, it may be a sign that your blood sugar is going up. The extra urination is caused by the body’s attempts to flush the excess sugar from the system. A solution is to drink a low-sugar electrolyte beverage like Propel or low-sugar sports drinks. Or up your electrolyte intake naturally with bananas, sweet potatoes, nuts and seeds.
When you eat carbohydrates, try to pair them with proteins or fats. The protein or fat slows down the digestion of the carbohydrates, buffering a potential sugar spike and keeping your blood glucose more stable after eating.
You also want to make sure you’re consuming enough water, especially when you’re having a blood sugar crash or highs. Staying hydrated helps to prevent dehydration, which can cause a sudden rise in blood sugar.
Getting more sleep also helps with blood sugar control. Research has found that not getting enough sleep can increase fatty acids in the blood, which makes insulin less effective.
Stress can also cause blood sugar to spike. This is because when we’re stressed, our bodies go into “fight or flight mode,” and cortisol levels rise. Cortisol can cause the liver to produce more sugar, leading to a rise in blood sugar. Practicing relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation can help lower stress and reduce blood sugar spikes.
3. Change Your Medications
Sometimes changing your medication is necessary to get blood sugar levels back on track. Your doctor will advise you on the best type of medicine and when to use it. They may also change your dosage or prescribe a different type of insulin to help control your blood sugars better.
A diet high in carbohydrates can cause your blood sugar to rise, and that’s why a health care professional will often recommend eating a combination of carbs with protein or fat at each meal. That way the carbohydrates are broken down more slowly and the sugar can enter your bloodstream less quickly.
Stress can also cause a spike in your blood sugar. That’s because your body releases a hormone called cortisol, which can promote fat storage and increase appetite. Having healthy ways to deal with stress—like exercise, rest and talking things out with your support network—can help.
Another common cause of high blood sugar is a lack of sleep. A study found that people who don’t get enough sleep saw higher fatty acids in their blood, which can make it harder to use insulin effectively and can lead to high blood sugar. It’s a good idea to get at least four hours of sleep a night, even on weekends.
4. Change Your Exercise
Getting more physically active is an essential part of lowering your blood sugar levels. In addition to toning muscles, reducing stress and improving balance, exercise improves your heart and lung health, lowers cholesterol, reduces blood pressure and reduces your risk for stroke and diabetes complications.
But many people with diabetes are nervous about how they’ll feel or how their medications will react to physical activity. If you’re worried, talk to your doctor before starting a new fitness program. They can help you understand how different activities might affect your blood sugar and suggest ways to manage it.
You might need to change your meal plan or medication as you become more active, too. For example, some types of aerobic exercise cause a blood sugar that goes low several hours later or overnight (this is called delayed-onset hypoglycemia). To avoid this, it’s important to eat a snack or a meal with carbs before and during your workout.
Some of the best exercises to help with diabetes include walking, swimming and tai chi. This ancient Chinese form of exercise combines fluid body movements with meditation and breathing techniques to improve strength, flexibility and balance. Studies show that tai chi lowers blood glucose and increases energy, vitality and emotional well being. It also boosts the immune system and helps ward off illness, especially during the current pandemic.