Glucose or blood sugar is essential for the proper functioning of your body. The problem arises when the levels of blood sugar deviate from what is considered to be a healthy range. Diabetes or prediabetes, a chronic health concern associated with high blood sugar, is on the rise today. Lifestyle and food choices can have an effect on your blood sugar levels, and that is why it may be possible to lower blood sugar naturally. It is important to understand the mechanism behind a rise in blood sugar levels to know how to bring blood sugar down, so let’s get into the details.
In This Article
What Causes High Blood Sugar?
High blood sugar, or hyperglycemia, refers to a blood glucose (sugar) level higher than 125 mg/dL in a fasted state (minimum 8 hours) and higher than 180 mg/dL two hours after food intake (1). There are two primary reasons why your blood sugar may be high:
1. You have insulin resistance.
2. Your body is not producing enough insulin.
Insulin, a hormone secreted by the pancreas, is responsible for managing the level of glucose in the blood. There can be a variety of factors behind abnormalities in insulin production or usage. Depending on those, you may be diagnosed as having type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, or gestational diabetes.
- Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks and impairs the cells responsible for insulin production. The exact reason why this happens is not known, but research suggests that genetics and environment are important factors. Type 1 diabetes mostly develops in childhood or adolescence (2).
- Type 2 Diabetes
The exact cause behind type 2 diabetes is unknown, but obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, and waist circumference are strongly linked with the development of type 2 diabetes. This is the most prevalent form of diabetes in the U.S. Other risk factors include exposure to environmental toxins, and a family history of type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and certain diseases like Cushing syndrome, pancreatitis, and cancer (3).
- Gestational Diabetes
Gestational diabetes may affect some women during pregnancy. It generally presents itself if the body becomes less sensitive to insulin. This condition clears up after delivery (4).
It is important to pay attention to your body to know if your blood sugar levels are fluctuating or going above normal. Let’s explore some signs through which your body may communicate that to you.
How Do You Feel When Your Blood Sugar Is Too High?
You may feel excessively thirsty and urinate frequently as the first indication that your blood glucose levels are high. Some other common signs and symptoms of hyperglycemia include (1):
- Blurry vision
- Excessive hunger
- Difficulty in concentration and thinking
Hyperglycemia is especially important to identify if you have type 1 diabetes. Untreated, it can lead to ketoacidosis, an emergency medical condition that may be fatal. Rush to the emergency ward if you experience any of these signs of ketoacidosis (5):
- A fruity breath
- Very fast heartbeat
While neither type 1 nor type 2 diabetes is curable, both can be treated and managed. Besides medications that your physician may prescribe, lifestyle changes and diet can have a great impact on hyperglycemia and help you lower blood sugar levels naturally (6).
How To Lower Blood Sugar Levels Naturally
1. Make Exercise A Part Of Your Daily Routine
Exercising regularly can not only help you manage your weight but also improve your insulin sensitivity. Research suggests that physical exercise may effectively treat and prevent insulin insensitivity (7). An improved insulin sensitivity translates to lower levels of glucose in your blood as cells are able to utilize the sugar better. Physical training also helps your muscles use up more blood sugar. Walking at a brisk pace, swimming, weightlifting, running, cycling, hiking, and dancing are examples of exercises that may help you lower blood sugar naturally.
As a word of caution, monitor your blood sugar levels after exercise so you can see how they fluctuate, especially if you are on any medication to help manage your hyperglycemia.
2. Try A Low-carb Diet
Carbohydrates break down into sugars during the digestive process. Insulin is responsible for managing how much sugar is used and how much is stored. If you consume too many carbohydrates, or if you have insulin-related problems, you may end up with high blood sugar. Research suggests that eating meals with fewer carbohydrates is one of the most effective ways to lower blood sugar and reduce weight at the same time (8). The best part is that it’s not only good for the short term but may have long-term beneficial effects on blood sugar management as well (9).
You can do a few things to keep your carb intake in check and follow a diet to lower blood sugar:
- Count your macronutrients and be aware of how much carbohydrate you need based on your BMI.
- Reduce added sugar by drinking your coffee or tea without it.
- Practice portion control.
- Eat whole foods, preferably home-cooked meals.
- If you have to eat out, choose healthier options that focus on vegetables and lean protein.
- Replace sugary snacks with nuts and seeds.
3. Load Up On Fiber
Dietary fiber, especially soluble fiber, can help you manage your blood glucose levels. It can slow down the digestion of carbohydrates and the rate at which sugar is absorbed into your bloodstream. This can help you avoid a sudden rise in your blood sugar level. Soluble dietary fiber is also associated with improved insulin resistance (10), (11), (12).
A diet high in fiber can also help manage type 1 diabetes by improving blood sugar regulation and reducing the chance of sudden drops in blood sugar levels (11), (13). Include vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains in your meals as they are high in fiber content.
4. Manage Your Weight
Research suggests that even a 7% reduction in body weight may lower the risk for developing diabetes by as much as 58%. It also concludes that managing weight and incorporating physical activity as a part of lifestyle modification may work even better at lowering blood sugar levels compared to a commonly prescribed drug for diabetes (14).
As waistline measurement is a crucial factor in the estimation of diabetes risk, it is important that you keep an eye on your waistline. A measurement of greater than 35 inches for women and greater than 40 inches for men may increase the risk of hyperglycemia and type 2 diabetes (15).
5. Stay Hydrated And Drink More Water
Drinking water throughout the day may help to prevent raised blood sugar levels as water enables your kidneys to flush out any excess sugar via urine. According to a study, people who drink more water are less likely to develop hyperglycemia (16). Rehydrating with plain water or mineral water may be a way to lower your blood sugar and reduce the risk of developing diabetes (17).
6. Practice Stress Management
According to research, stress can directly affect your blood glucose levels. Glucagon and cortisol, two hormones that are released under stress, can cause your blood sugar levels to rise (18), (19). A study conducted on students showed that regular exercise, meditation, and relaxation reduced both stress levels as well as blood glucose (20). Additionally, there is some evidence that stress reduction through yoga and mindfulness meditation may correct problems related to insulin secretion in those who have chronic diabetes (21), (22).
7. Sleep Enough And Sleep Well
Bad sleeping habits and insufficient sleep can influence your appetite, affect insulin sensitivity and raise your blood sugar levels. When your body is sleep-deprived, it releases lower amounts of growth hormones and increases the levels of cortisol in the blood. Both these hormones play important roles in blood sugar management (23), (24). Focus on getting good quality and sufficient quantity of sleep every day.
8. Add Apple Cider Vinegar And Cinnamon To Your Diet
Apple cider vinegar or ACV may promote a decrease in fasting blood glucose levels. Studies show that ACV can significantly influence how the body responds to sugars and may also improve insulin sensitivity (25), (26). You can drink ACV by diluting it in water or as a salad dressing.
Similarly, cinnamon may help you lower blood sugar naturally by reducing insulin resistance at the cellular level (27), (28). There is some evidence that cinnamon may lower blood glucose by up to 29% (29). Adding cinnamon to your meals may slow down the digestion of carbohydrates and hence lead to a more regulated rise of sugar levels in your blood after eating (30). Speak to your healthcare provider before introducing them to your diet if you are already taking medicine to lower blood sugar.
In addition to incorporating these changes in your diet patterns and lifestyle, you can make better choices in regards to the food you consume to have a regulatory impact on your blood glucose levels.
What Foods Will Help Regulate My Blood Sugar?
Foods with a low or moderate glycemic index can help you regulate your blood glucose levels. Glycemic index is a measure on a scale of 0-100 of how long it takes for the body to digest food, and hence how quickly it raises blood sugar levels. A study shows that people who consumed low-glycemic food had steady blood glucose levels over a 24 hour period, and had a reduction in food intake (31).
However, it is also important that you consume even low glycemic foods in moderation, as the amount of carbohydrate you consume impacts how much sugar gets released in your blood (32). Recommended calorie intake for people with BMI above normal and hyperglycemia is between 800 Kcal and 1500 Kcal. Some foods with a low to moderate glycemic index include (33):
- Leafy greens
- Non-starchy vegetables like bell peppers, tomatoes, and leafy greens
- Yogurt, cheese, and unsweetened milk
- Most fruits
- Lean protein like chicken and fish
- Complex unprocessed carbohydrates like oats, bran, and wholewheat bread
- Nuts and seeds
Once you start incorporating these, you may notice your blood sugar levels go down gradually. Let’s look at how soon you can expect to get normal or at least lower blood sugar readings on the glucometer.
How Long Will It Take To Lower My Blood Sugar?
There is no one size fits all answer to this as how long it takes blood sugar levels to come down depends on a number of factors like:
- Your baseline weight and how much weight you have lost.
- The kind of diet you are on.
- Whether or not you are taking medication.
- Whether you have included exercise and if yes, what kind.
With proper dietary and lifestyle intervention, you may have a reduction in your weight and blood sugar levels even within 3 weeks, according to a study (34).
Frequently Asked Questions
Can apple cider vinegar lower blood sugar immediately?
Yes, apple cider vinegar may help lower blood sugar levels within 30 minutes of consumption (35).
Does peanut butter lower blood sugar?
While peanut butter cannot lower blood sugar, intake of peanut butter may help improve satiety and reduce appetite, which, in turn, can lead to improved blood sugar levels (36).
Does lemon juice lower blood sugar?
Lemon juice can help improve the glycemic impact of carbohydrate-rich meals and prevent spikes in blood sugar levels (37).
Does turmeric help with diabetes?
Yes, turmeric may lower blood sugar concentrations, stabilize blood sugar levels and help prevent or manage diabetes (38).
Does garlic lower blood sugar?
Yes, garlic can improve fasting blood sugar levels and lower blood sugar when consumed regularly (39).
- The blood sugar levels become high if the body has insulin resistance, or fails to produce enough insulin.
- You may experience headache, fatigue, blurry vision, excessive hunger, and difficulty in concentration and thinking if your blood sugar levels are high.
- Exercise regularly, opt for a low-carb diet, consume enough fiber, drink plenty of water, and have a sound sleep to lower blood sugar levels naturally.
In a nutshell, having high blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia) puts you at risk of diabetes and other serious health conditions. There are three factors that you need to pay most attention to if you want to lower blood sugar naturally: how effectively your body is producing insulin, how effectively your insulin is working, and how much sugar are you consuming versus using up as fuel. Hyperglycemia is reversible in many cases by incorporating exercise, and dietary changes. You should focus on low-carbohydrate diets and eat more nutrient-rich foods with a low glycemic index. It is also important to get proper hydration, sleep, and reduced stress levels through yoga and mindfulness meditation.
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