Woman with diabetes testing her blood sugar

Blood Sugar Creeping Up? Get Better Control. Part 2

Woman with diabetes testing her blood sugar

 

How to lower blood sugar levels

This is a critical question I get all the time from clients, and with good reason. What happens when your blood sugar gets too high? Unfortunately, the risk for several health issues increases such as retinopathy (eye damage), nephropathy (kidney damage), neuropathy (nerve damage) and blood vessel damage. Fortunately there are several steps you can take to keep your blood sugar levels within a healthy range.

 

In Part 1 I reviewed what blood sugar means, what blood sugar does and how your body maintains optimal levels of blood sugar. I also provided an overview of “blood sugar imbalance” a.k.a. insulin resistance, or pre-diabetes, and diabetes. In this post, I’ll cover the second half of the 11 tips for keeping blood sugar balanced!

 

6 – Fruit is OK, especially dark berries

 

Unless your doctor or health practitioner has said otherwise, or you have an intolerance to them, fruit and the fruit sugar “fructose” are generally ok. Fructose has a low glycemic index. Having fructose instead of glucose (regular sugar) can reduce a measure of the average levels of blood sugar over the past two to three months (e.g. HbA1c – a blood test for blood sugar control).

 

A diet high in fruits and vegetables is great for your health. They contain phytochemicals (phyto=plant), vitamins, minerals, and fibre. Eating whole (not processed or juiced) fruits can help with blood sugar balance. Berries are particularly good, as they contain a lot of fibre and not a lot of sugar. Not to mention that they’re delicious!

 

Berries, especially dark berries, contain pigments known as “anthocyanins.” These dark-coloured pigments have lots of health benefits including helping sugar metabolism in people with insulin resistance. They can also improve ability to think, and their antioxidant effects are linked to reduced DNA damage.

 

You can get enough anthocyanins from a regular serving of dark berries, so give them a try.

 

Mixed frozen strawberries blueberries raspberries

 

7 – Try these blood-sugar balancing flavourings (vinegar & cinnamon)

 

Try having two tablespoons of vinegar shortly before or with a meal that contains sugars or starches.

 

Why? Because a recent analysis of several studies (a meta-analysis) showed that the vinegar can lower the blood sugar by up to 60% and the insulin by up to 130% compared to the same meal without vinegar. This worked for insulin-resistant people. Even healthy people had a significant benefit.

 

Cinnamon can help to lower blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity. This effect can happen with even less than one teaspoon per day.

 

It’s thought that cinnamon works by slowing the emptying of the stomach. Slower emptying means slower absorption and slower blood sugar rise after a meal. Cinnamon also contains antioxidant polyphenols (plant chemicals) that may improve insulin sensitivity.

 

8 – Get enough good quality sleep

 

Our bodies are wired to work along the sun’s schedule. The objective is to wake up when the sun comes up, and get tired when it goes down. Not enough sleep can affect many of our body’s systems, including negatively affecting our blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity. It can also increase appetite and promote weight gain.

 

Even one or two nights of poor sleep can affect our blood sugar levels.

 

Regularly getting enough good quality sleep is a great step toward helping our bodies manage blood sugar.

 

Small Kitty With Red Pillow

9 – Reduce your stress

 

Remember we talked about a couple of those things that releases sugar stored in the liver and muscles, and delivers them back to the blood? Things like not eating for a few hours, and when we’re under stress. Let’s talk about the blood sugar effect of stress hormones like cortisol.

 

The reason stress hormones release stored sugar is to prepare for the “fight or flight” reaction. Your body becomes physically ready to fight or run. And to do this, you need fuel in your blood, i.e. sugar.

 

How can you reduce stress? Relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, and yoga can help to reduce stress and lower blood sugar levels.

 

10 – Exercise

 

Remember how insulin tells your muscle cells to pull some sugar out of your blood to store for later? Guess what it’s storing it for?

 

Exercise!

 

By exercising and burning that stored sugar, you not only improve your blood sugar levels, and your physical and mental health in many ways, but also can reduce insulin resistance. Win-win-win.

 

This means your muscle cells, especially when they’re moving, absorb and burn more sugar from the blood. This goes for both medium- and high-intensity exercise.

 

Man exercising with a kettle bell in the gym

 

11 – Lose excess weight

 

This is kind of a big and super-complex one, so I left it until the end.

 

There is a ton of evidence that belly fat, overweight, and obesity are linked with blood sugar balance issues and type 2 diabetes.

 

Weight loss and reduced waist circumference can work as well as, if not better, than medications.

 

Summary

If your blood sugar is creeping up, there are some nutrition and lifestyle upgrades you can make for better health.

 

They are:

  • Stop eating and drinking things that are mostly sugar.
  • Don’t eat too many carbohydrates.
  • Choose “low glycemic” starches.
  • Eat more fiber.
  • Eat your protein and fibrous vegetables first.
  • Fruit is OK, especially dark berries.
  • Try these blood-sugar balancing flavourings (vinegar & cinnamon).
  • Get enough good quality sleep.
  • Exercise.
  • Reduce your stress.
  • Lose excess weight.

 

So?…..

Which of these will help you to better control your blood sugar levels?

 

NOTE: There are several medical, diet, and lifestyle approaches to managing medical conditions.  None of these are a substitute for professional medical advice. If you have any of these conditions, or are taking medications for it, please make sure you’re being monitored regularly.

 

Doug Cook RDN is a Toronto based integrative and functional nutritionist and dietitian with a focus on digestive, gut, mental health.  Follow me on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

 

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