Diabetes affects over 400 million people worldwide. If you or someone you love has diabetes, you already know how important it is to manage your blood sugar levels.
The American Diabetes Association estimates that nearly 25% of adults in the United States (over 24 million) have pre-diabetes. This means their blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but they don’t meet the criteria for full-blown type 2 diabetes.
Pre-diabetes isn’t always obvious because symptoms aren’t usually present until later stages. That’s why it’s important to monitor your blood sugar regularly.
What Is Blood Sugar?
Blood sugar is a simple molecule made up of two parts: glucose and oxygen. Glucose is a source of energy for cells, while oxygen helps them function properly. When there’s an excess of either glucose or oxygen, the body produces insulin to help regulate blood sugar. Insulin is produced by beta cells in the pancreas.
When blood sugar rises too high, the pancreas releases more insulin into the bloodstream. The hormone then travels through the bloodstream to target tissues where it binds with receptors on cell membranes. Once bound, insulin triggers several cellular processes that allow glucose to enter the cell.
When blood sugar drops below normal, the pancreas stops producing insulin. Without enough insulin, glucose can’t get inside cells. As a result, the body starts breaking down its own tissue to produce energy. This process leads to damage and disease.
How Does Pre-Diabetes Develop?
There are two types of pre-diabetes: impaired fasting glucose and impaired glucose tolerance. Both conditions involve elevated blood sugar levels. However, only one condition requires treatment.
Impaired Fasting Glucose
Impaired fasting glucose occurs when blood sugar levels rise above 100 mg/dL after eating a meal. It doesn’t require treatment unless the person experiences other symptoms such as fatigue, weight loss, frequent urination, blurry vision, numbness in hands or feet, or increased thirst.
Impaired Glucose Tolerance
Impaired glucose tolerance occurs when blood sugar levels remain above 140 mg/dL at any time during the day. People who experience this condition may not feel hungry or thirsty even though their blood sugar levels are high. They also may be tired, weak, or confused.
If you have pre-diabetes, it’s best to talk to your doctor about managing your blood sugar. He or she will recommend lifestyle changes to lower your risk of developing complications from diabetes. These include losing weight if you need to; exercising regularly; controlling stress; limiting alcohol intake; and following a healthy diet.
How To Keep Blood Sugar Under Control
Some natural ways to regulate blood sugar levels are as follows
1. Exercise regularly
Exercise is important for keeping blood sugar under control. Regular exercise helps keep insulin working properly, reduces stress hormones, and boosts energy.
Try walking for at least 30 minutes every day. Or take a brisk walk after dinner. Or go swimming or hiking. Whatever activity you prefer, just be consistent.
2. Manage your carb intake
Carbohydrates are the body’s primary source of energy. They’re found in foods such as bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, beans, fruit, vegetables, milk, yogurt, cereal, and many others. Carbohydrates are stored in our bodies as glycogen (a form of glucose), which we use to fuel our muscles and brain cells.
However, too much carbohydrate consumption can cause blood sugar levels to spike, causing insulin spikes and crashes. This leads to fatigue, hunger, mood swings, and cravings for sweets.
To keep blood sugar levels stable, limit carbohydrates to no more than 45% of daily calories.
If you eat carbs at every meal, try eating them earlier in the day. Eat breakfast instead of lunch, or skip dinner altogether.
3. Eat more fiber
Fiber is found primarily in fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and some dairy foods. Fiber helps keep blood sugar steady because it slows digestion and absorption of carbohydrates.
When we eat too many carbs, our bodies convert them into glucose (sugar) instead of storing them as fat. Glucose is stored in the liver and muscles, where it becomes glycogen. Glycogen stores energy until needed.
If we store too much glycogen, however, our bodies become insulin resistant. Insulin resistance means that the body doesn’t respond properly to insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar. This leads to elevated blood sugar levels.
High blood sugar causes us to crave sweets and starches. We may feel tired, irritable, bloated, and have cravings for sugary treats. High blood sugar also increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, obesity, and cancer.
To help control blood sugar, try eating more fiber. Fiber slows down digestion and absorption of carbohydrates, keeping blood sugar stable.
4. Drink water and stay hydrated
Drinking plenty of water helps keep blood sugar levels steady. Water keeps you feeling full longer, helping you avoid overeating. And drinking enough water may help prevent diabetes.
5. Implement portion control
Portion control is the most important step toward controlling blood sugar. The problem is that many people eat too much food at once. They’re not aware of how much they’ve eaten until after they finish eating.
To avoid overeating, try this trick: Eat slowly. Take small bites and chew thoroughly. This helps you feel full sooner. Also, drink water throughout the meal. Water keeps you hydrated and prevents hunger pangs.
6. Choose foods with a low glycemic index
Glycemic Index (GI) is a measure of how quickly carbohydrates raise blood glucose levels after eating. Foods with a lower GI tend to be healthier because they take longer to digest and release energy than those with a higher GI. The Glycemic Index was developed by Dr. David Jenkins at the University of Toronto and published in his book, “Good Calories, Bad Calories.”
Low GI foods include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, and dairy products. High GI foods include white bread, pasta, cereals, potatoes, sugary drinks, candy bars, cookies, cakes, pies, ice cream, and processed meats.
Choose foods with a low GI when planning meals. This will help keep your blood sugar level steady throughout the day.
7. Try to manage your stress levels
Stress can cause spikes in blood sugar levels. When you’re stressed out, your body releases adrenaline, which raises blood pressure and makes your blood flow faster. Adrenaline also stimulates the pancreas to produce extra insulin, causing blood sugar levels to rise.
8. Monitor your blood sugar levels.
If you’re diabetic, monitor your blood sugar levels regularly. The American Diabetes Association recommends checking blood sugar at least three times per day. This helps you avoid hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and hyperglycemia (high blood sugar).
Hypoglycemia occurs when glucose levels drop too low. Symptoms include headache, dizziness, fatigue, hunger, sweating, tremors, confusion, irritability, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, seizures, unconsciousness, coma, and death.
Hyperglycemia occurs when glucose rises too high. Symptoms include blurred vision, dry mouth, frequent urination, thirst, blurry vision, headaches, muscle aches, numbness, tingling, weakness, shakiness, mood swings, depression, weight gain, and heart palpitations.
Monitoring your blood sugar levels is essential to controlling diabetes.
9. Get enough quality sleep
Sleep deprivation is a major cause of diabetes. People who lack sufficient sleep tend to eat poorly, exercise too little and become stressed out. This leads to weight gain, poor blood glucose control, and eventually type 2 diabetes.
If you’re not getting enough sleep, you may be tempted to skip meals or snack excessively when you feel tired. But this only makes matters worse. Skipping meals causes hunger pangs, which lead to overeating later. Snacking between meals increases insulin resistance, which further raises blood sugar levels.
To keep blood sugar levels stable, try to go to bed at roughly the same time every night. And if you wake up feeling tired, take a short nap instead of staying awake until late.
10. Eat foods rich in chromium and magnesium
Chromium and magnesium are two minerals found in food that help regulate blood glucose levels. They’re especially important for diabetics because they help prevent insulin resistance.
To keep blood sugar stable, eat foods rich in these nutrients every day. Some examples include whole grains, nuts, beans, seeds, dark chocolate, leafy greens, and avocado.
12. Maintain a moderate weight
Maintaining healthy body weight is important for everyone, especially those who suffer from diabetes.
Diabetes patients need to maintain a normal blood glucose level to avoid complications and death. The American Diabetes Association recommends maintaining a moderate weight (about 10% below ideal) for diabetics.
13. Eat healthy snacks more frequently
Eating healthy snacks throughout the day is important because blood sugar spikes after meals. Eating small amounts of food every two hours helps keep blood sugar stable.
14. Eat probiotic-rich foods
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria found naturally in food. They help maintain healthy digestion and immune system function and may be helpful in treating certain health conditions.
To keep blood sugar levels stable, eat probiotic-rich foods like yogurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, miso soup, tempeh, and fermented vegetables. These foods contain live cultures that feed on carbohydrates, helping to lower blood sugar levels.
If you’re looking for a quick fix, try adding some probiotic-rich foods to your diet. Eating them regularly may help reduce symptoms associated with diabetes.
15. Avoid Processed Foods
Processed foods like white bread, pasta, and sugary drinks contain refined carbohydrates that spike blood sugar quickly. Instead, eat whole grains, vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, seeds, and lean protein.
16. Limit Alcohol Intake
Alcohol raises blood sugar levels. If you drink alcoholic beverages, limit yourself to no more than 1 drink per day. A drink contains approximately 0.5 oz (15 ml) of pure ethanol. One 12 oz beer has 4.2 oz (120 ml) of pure ethanol, which equals 3 drinks. Wine contains less alcohol but still contributes to rising blood sugar levels.
The best way to manage diabetes is by making lifestyle changes. By following these tips, you can improve your overall health and make sure that your blood sugar stays within a safe range.