Contributed by Emma, Health Grinder, Health, Nutrition and Fitness
Honestly, a few years ago I didn’t care much about diabetes. That all changed the day my dad told me he’d been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Since then, I’ve been his ‘guinea pig’ of sorts helping him find ways to lower blood sugar.
I’d usually test things on myself and my husband first. If that worked, then dad gets to try. We found it was safer this way since dad’s glucose levels can really jump up significantly with the wrong foods.
The thing is, my dad’s the type who likes eating buffets. His favorite food is a big slab of ribeye steak with mashed potatoes. And, besides his golfing, he hates exercise. In fact, he’ll always try to find the nearest parking slot to where we’re going. And, gets frustrated if he doesn’t since he has to walk an extra 20 meters.
So the goal was to find simple ways that he’d agree to follow consistently. Thankfully, we did. Now, his Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) stays in the 6’s. But, he does still have days when he goes off track. And when that happens, his morning blood sugar shoot up the next day.
Here’s a list of the things that I’ve found over the past 3 or so years. As you can see, I’ve spent a lot of time researching. But, that’s what you do after hearing all the things the doctor had to say about what could happen if dad didn’t get his blood sugar under control.
Like dad, try to find the things that you can incorporate easily into your diet and lifestyle. We’ve found that’s the best way to stay consistent. Do take a special look at the post meal section, that made a huge difference for my pops.
Overview of Type 2 Diabetes
As of 2015, over 30 million Americans have diabetes. That’s close to 10% of the population. Additionally, another 84 million individuals were pre-diabetic, which is a pre-cursor to type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes happens when your body isn’t able to produce enough insulin to clear glucose from your blood. As a result, you experience high blood sugar.
For anyone trying to control your numbers or avoid diabetes, here are 60 simple ways to lower blood sugar naturally. Combine a few of the different methods below to improve your health and overall well-being.
Table of Contents
Lifestyle Choices and Changes
How to Lower Your Blood Sugar Naturally with Diet
Bring Down Your Post Meal Blood Sugar Fast
Vitamins, Minerals, Herbs, and Supplements for Glucose Control
Diets for Blood Sugar Control and Reduction
How to Lower Blood Sugar without Medication
Lifestyle Choices and Changes for Lower Blood Sugar
1. Lose Some Weight
Excess body fat and a high body mass index (BMI) are the highest indicators of diabetes risk. Also, a larger waist circumference is linked to increased risk.
Additionally, studies note the importance of body fat distribution. Your waistline is an indicator of how much abdominal fat you have. And, the larger your waistline, the higher your risk.
Studies indicate that waist circumferences that are greater than 40 inches (for men) and 35 inches (for women) up your risk of high blood sugar, insulin resistance, and risk type 2 diabetes.
More importantly, weight loss from calorie restriction and exerci se help reduce the incidence of diabetes by 58%.
Bottom line is, maintaining a healthy weight and keeping your waistline in check is important in preventing high blood sugar.
2. Fix Your Diet Composition
In addition to calorie restriction, another powerful tool to help you lose weight is diet composition. Research states that improving the makeup of your diet reduces the incidence of diabetes by up to 87%
It notes 3 main issues with diet composition associated with type 2 diabetes. These are:
Low fiber intake
High trans fat and low unsaturated fat consumption
Absence of or excess alcohol
It also estimates that over 90% of the general population have at least one of these risk factors. Thus, fixing these issues will help you lower your risk of high blood sugar and diabetes.
For those who have a hard time losing weight, adjusting your diet’s composition may be the answer. A 2006 study shows you can control blood sugar in type 2 diabetics without weight loss.
Here, the researchers increased protein in the diet from 15% to 30%. To compensate for this, they brought down the number of carbohydrates for each meal from 55% to 40%. They kept fat content steady at 30%.
The chart linked here shows the lower blood glucose excursions after each meal due to the higher proportion of protein.
The study also discovered that adjusting fat content makes a difference.
Modifying the diet to one with 30% protein, 20% carbs and 50% fat reduced 24-hour glucose by 38%. This brought the fasting blood sugar levels of the diabetic subjects to near normal. A 30% protein, 30% carb and 40% fat diet also produced similar results.
3. Make Exercise a Daily Habit
Exercise is something everyone should do. The human body is designed to move. Unfortunately, the digital age has made this more difficult.
Physical activity of any kind helps the body use up glucose.
You can walk, clean the house, do some gardening or hit the gym.
This prevents it from accumulating in your bloodstream causing high blood sugar. Additionally, exercise helps you lose weight. It also aids in improving cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
Danish researchers note that the 80 to 95% risk increase of diabetes caused by obesity can be mitigated by physical activity. They recommend a Physical Activity Level (PAL) value of at least 1.8, which is being moderately active. This PAL level amounts to around an hour a day of physical activity or exercise, like the weight lifting or jogging.
Type of Exercise, Duration and Intensity and Their Effects on Blood Sugar
So what exercise is the best for blood sugar? How long should it be done? And, how much intensity do you need?
Data from the Big Blue Test offers some answers. The Big Blue Test is an annual initiative by the Diabetes Hands Foundation. Here, diabetics voluntarily record their levels of physical activity. And, the resulting blood sugar readings.
These are the relevant figures gathered from the 2012 Big Blue Test.
Most Popular Types of Exercise
Walking was by far the most popular form of exercise. Its simplicity makes it easier for anyone to do.
Other types of exercise: 18.7%
Running or Jogging: 11.9%
Conditioning machines: 6.4%
Engaging in exercise reduced mean blood glucose levels by 31.3 mg/dL (-16.8%).
But, it’s worth noting that exercise was only effective 76% of the time. Blood sugar was unchanged 9% of the time. And, in the remaining 15% it increased.
Unfortunately, the data doesn’t mention why. But, the level of intensity and duration may be factors.
Which Type of Exercise is Most Effective for Blood Sugar?
While walking was the most popular, it produced the least reduction. On the other hand, cycling and running offered the best results.
In general, the more physical activity involved the larger the decrease in post-meal blood sugar levels.
Cycling: -42.4 mg/dL
Running or Jogging: -40 mg/dL
Dancing: -37.4 mg/dL
Conditioning machines: -35.9 mg/dL
Non-specified exercise: -33.45 mg/dL
Walking: -25 mg/dL
Interestingly, high intensity exercise resulted in a smaller decrease in blood glucose. This tells us that moderate intensity is optimal.
Vigorous exercise: -28 mg/dL
Moderate exercise: -32.7 md/dL
Duration: How Long Should You Exercise?
When it comes to how long you should exercise, it’s simple. The longer the better.
How Long Do You Wait After Eating?
On average, exercising 1 or 2 hours after eating produced the best results. The two showed similar 40.1 mg/dL reductions in blood glucose.
Meanwhile, engaging in physical activity 30 minutes after eating saw a decline of 28.6mg/dL. Doing so after more than 3 hours post-meal produces a 21.2 mg/dL drop.
What’s the Best Combination?
The largest blood sugar decrease was seen with exercise done for more than 30 minutes 1 and 2 hours after eating. The reductions were -49.3 mg/dL and -46.4 mg/dL, respectively.
In contrast, the same exercise duration done 30 minutes after eating produced a 34.3 mg/dL improvement. And, one after 3 hours helped by 19.6 mg/dL.
For those who don’t like regimented physical activity, you can do chores like vacuuming, or partake in hobbies like gardening.
4. Do Less Sitting
In contrast to being active, sitting down for long periods should be avoided. A sedentary lifestyle increases post-meal blood sugar and triglyceride excursions. It also harms insulin sensitivity.
Research reveals an inverse relationship between time spent doing low-intensity physical activity and blood sugar. Specifically, the more physically active you are, the lower your 2-hour Glucose Tolerance Test (GTT) levels are. This includes low intensity activity as shown in chart A to the right.
Meanwhile, the chart B shows the 2-hour Glucose Tolerance Test results based on the sedentary time.
As you’d expect, it’s the complete opposite. The more sedentary you are the higher the blood glucose gets.
What’s interesting is that just standing goes a long way.
Alternating between 30 minutes of sitting and standing throughout the 8-hour workday lowers blood sugar levels by 11% on average.
Similarly, a study reveals that standing 185 minutes after eating lunch reduces post-meal blood sugar by 43% compared to sitting down.
Finally, research published in Diabetologia notes that sitting down after eating increases your risk of type 2 diabetes by 112%. This is over and above the 147% rise in cardiovascular risk. And, the 49% rise in other mortality risks including disease.
5. Drink Enough Water
Staying well hydrated helps keep your blood sugar at healthy levels. Water helps your kidneys flush out blood sugar. This is especially true when you’re hyperglycemic.
Drinking enough water also prevents dehydration. Dehydration increases your risk of high blood sugar. A study in Diabetes Care reveals that your level of water intake is inversely related to hyperglycemia. Because drinking water rehydrates you and lowers blood sugar, getting enough of it reduces your risk of diabetes.
The best thing about water is it doesn’t have any calories or sugar. As such, you can enjoy it without gaining any weight. Or, negatively affecting your blood sugar levels.
6. Manage Stress
Stress wreaks havoc on your health. It also raises your blood sugar levels. This is because of the hormones your body secretes when stressed.
Stress causes your adrenal glands to increase production of hormones. These include adrenaline and cortisol. The stress hormones in turn, cause your liver to secrete glucose back into your bloodstream. This excess rush of glucose is what gives you extra energy. It also lets you focus better, have more strength, and be more alert alertness during emergencies.
With chronic stress, you’re in a constant state of hyper-alertness. This keeps your blood glucose levels high. As a result, it increases your risk of diabetes over time.
Yoga, meditation, exercise and stress management are some ways to prevent rising blood sugar from stress. You can likewise enjoy a soak in the hot tub, spa or get a massage.
7. Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is the time when your body recovers and repairs itself. Thus, it is important to get enough shut-eye. This way, your body and brain are able to restore themselves to peak condition.
On the other hand, lack of sleep or poor quality sleep negatively affect glucose tolerance. It also increases your risk of diabetes.
Sleep deprivation gets in the way of your body being able to rebuild and repair its tissues. It also disrupts your hormones, leads to weight gain and higher blood sugar.
Additionally, not getting enough sleep leaves you tired the next day. To compensate, you’ll turn to food to provide your body with extra energy. These added calories not only push your blood sugar up, they also make you gain weight.
Research also notes that poor sleep causes hormonal disruption. This can be from poor quality sleep or lack of sleep. Whatever the cause, be it your mattress, pillow or insomnia, it results in increased appetite and hunger. Both of which aggravate the situation.
Too Much Sleep is Bad As Well
It’s worth noting that too much sleep is just as bad as not getting enough sleep. Japanese researchers discovered that sleeping between 6.5 to 7.4 hours nightly is optimal. This duration results in the lowest HbA1c (Hemoglobin A1c) levels.
As you get farther away from this sweet spot, you experience a gradual increase in average blood sugar levels. Those who slept less than 4.5 hours experienced the highest levels. They were followed by those who slept 8.5 hours or more.
Here are some tips to help you sleep better.
8. Check Your Blood Sugar Levels Regularly
Whether you’re diabetic or not, checking your blood sugar regularly is an important step in staying healthy. In the past, only adults were susceptible to diabetes. As such, type 2 diabetes used to be called adult-onset diabetes.
All that has changed. Today, children as young as 9 years old are being diagnosed with the condition. This makes it more important to regularly have yourself tested.
If you don’t have diabetes. Make sure that the standard blood sugar lab tests are included in your annual checkup. This will help you be aware of any issues before they become serious.
If you’re pre-diabetic. You’ll need to be more vigilant. The American Diabetic Association (ADA) recommends getting checked for type 2 diabetes once every 2 years. You may also want to consult with your doctor steps you need to take to prevent your condition from becoming full-blown diabetes.
If you have diabetes. Regular monitoring is needed. Checking your blood sugar daily is important. Common times include before each meal, two hours after eating as well as before, during and after a workout.
Regular monitoring allows you to stay on top of your health. Here is the American Diabetes Association’s Nutrition Recommendations and Interventions for Diabetes guide.
Keeping tabs on your blood sugar levels before and after meals also allows you to better understand how your body reacts to certain food.
9. Stop Smoking
Cigarettes and cigarette smoke contain over 7,000 toxic chemicals. These include nicotine, lead, arsenic, ammonia, formaldehyde and hydrogen cyanide. What’s worse is, everyone around the smoker is affected.
Besides harming your lungs, smoking also increases blood sugar. Each time you breathe in cigarette or tobacco smoke, be it as the smoker or from second-hand smoke, you experience a rise in blood glucose levels.
A study reveals that both diabetics and non-diabetics saw increases in their blood sugar levels after smoking cigarettes. Additionally, a second round of smoking resulted in an even higher increase in blood glucose.
The study did note that nicotine free cigarettes didn’t cause an increase in blood sugar levels. The same was true for smoking tobacco cigarettes without inhaling the smoke.
In some situations air purifiers for smoke works well, at least for clearing second-hand smoke from the surroundings.
How to Lower Your Blood Sugar Naturally with Diet
10. Limit Sodas, Energy Drinks, Sports Drinks and Sugary Drinks
Most store-bought drinks today are loaded with sugar. While sugar does make these drinks taste good, it also makes them a risk for metabolic disorders.
Sodas, Juices and Sugary Drinks
Sodas and juices are two of the most popular sugary drinks around. If you want to keep your blood sugar in check, it’s best to avoid them. Studies have shown that sugar-sweetened beverages are linked to higher blood sugar. They also increase your risk of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
Those who drank 1 to 2 servings of sugary drinks daily had a 26% higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to those who consumed less than 1 serving per month.
Conversely, research suggests that drinking water, tea or coffee instead of sugary drinks reduced your risk of diabetes.
Besides sodas and juices, sports drinks also contain a lot of sugar. Sports drinks are used to replace fluids and electrolytes lost during sports or exercise. They rehydrate you and replenish your body’s electrolytes.
Additionally, sports drinks contain a good amount of carbohydrates. These are often in the form of sugar. Some brands also include caffeine in their beverages.
Sports drinks have been proven to be beneficial for performance and hydration. Unfortunately, research shows that most people who consume these beverages don’t need them. That’s because they aren’t active enough to require replenishment.
As a result, you’re getting more carbs and sugar than you normally would.
Energy drinks are another culprit. Energy drinks are designed to give you extra energy. This helps you power through long work hours or cram for your exam. Like sports drinks, they contain a good amount of sugar.
In addition, most energy drinks include caffeine as one of their ingredients. The caffeine and sugar contribute to increased blood glucose levels. This combination also forces your body to release more insulin to clear the glucose from your bloodstream.
With repeated use, energy drinks increase your risk of diabetes.
11. Cut Down on the Sugar
Research shows that consuming high amounts of sugar is linked to diabetes. High consumption of sucrose and fructose both increase your risk of the disease.
In fact, a 2014 study of data from 165 countries found that higher per capita consumption of sugar led to the increased occurrence of diabetes.
Added sugar in large quantities puts extra stress on your pancreas and liver. Left unchecked over time, it not only harms these organs but also damages them. Your pancreas produce insulin to process glucose from the food you eat. The more sugar you consume the harder it has to work. In the same way, large amounts of sugar negatively affect your liver, which has to metabolize it.
That said, moderate intake of sugar isn’t bad. This is according to researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. They note that moderate amounts of sugar can be part of a healthy diet.
Bottom line is, you can enjoy sugar. But, keep it in check.
The American Heart Association recommends that men consume no more than 9 teaspoons of sugar a day. That’s equal to 36 grams of sugar or 150 calories. For women, they recommend a limit of 6 teaspoons or 20 grams of sugar (100 calories) daily.
12. Control Your Portions
Eating smaller portions during meals is one of the best ways to limit the calories you consume. It also helps you control and lose weight.
Researchers at Pennsylvania State University note that we tend to consume more calories when given larger portions. In the study, giving subjects smaller portions resulted in lower food intake. And, better calorie restriction.
Using smaller plates, measuring your food and reading food labels are some ways you can control how much you eat. Additionally, taking your time to enjoy every bite and eating out less also help.
Ideally, your meals should consist of 50% vegetables, 25% protein, and 25% starch. Also, having 3 balanced meals daily will help limit food cravings in between.
These simple strategies will help limit the number of calories you consume. It will also help you lose weight along the way. Weight loss, as discussed earlier, helps improve blood sugar control. It also lowers your risk of diabetes.
13. Be Careful with Increasing Meal Frequency
You’ve probably heard that eating many smaller meals throughout the day is better for regulating blood sugar. In principle, it sounds logical.
But, science says otherwise.
Research suggests that fewer, bigger meals will cause your blood sugar to spike more. But, they also tend to keep your overall blood glucose level lower on average. Meanwhile, frequent meals keep your blood sugar elevated throughout the day. The latter being more dangerous in increasing your risk of type 2 diabetes.
A similar study notes that eating larger meals less frequently not only keeps glucose levels lower throughout the day, it also improved appetite control.
One common issue with frequent meals is people often don’t reduce the size of their meals. So, they end up eating more calories.
Because you need to eat many times throughout the day, you eventually fall into the habit of reaching for unhealthy snacks like chips and pastries.
Too Few Meals is Bad as Well
Conversely, eating too few meals is likewise detrimental. This is according to a study by the National Institute on Aging Intramural Research Program. Subjects who consumed only 1 large meal daily experienced increases in fasting blood sugar. They also had delayed insulin response and impaired morning glucose tolerance.
It is for this reason that many fasting protocols like intermittent fasting are only done for short periods of time. This allows you to gain their benefits without overdoing it.
14. Regulate Your Carbs
Along with sugar, eating a lot of carbs is linked to higher blood sugar and increased risk of diabetes. Carbohydrates are broken down by your body into sugars. It then releases insulin to make these sugar usable to cells.
The more carbs you consume, the more insulin your pancreas needs to secrete. Over time, the stress of overproduction causes it to break down. This limits the amount of insulin it can produce, leading to high blood sugar.
Counting carbs is one effective way of controlling carbohydrate intake. Additionally, low carb diets have been shown to work well in the long term.
There is a Diabetes Forum held at Baldwin Branch Missionary Baptist Church Fellowship Hall every Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. The church is located at 4047 NC-242, Elizabethtown, NC 28337.