Diabetes is a disease of high blood sugar. Keeping blood sugar levels in target range can help reduce the risk of diabetes complications and improve your quality of life.
For example, Dr. Richard Bernstein, author of Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 12. He figured out strategies lowering his blood sugar levels and is now 83 and still working, lifting weights, teaching, and writing. He has had no major complications.
With the right approach, you might be able to do something similar. Here are ten ways to lower blood sugar:
1. Eat fewer carbs
Sugar in the blood is called glucose. Glucose comes from the carbohydrate in food, and refined carbohydrates — often white foods like sugar and white bread — contribute a large amount of carbs to the diet. These foods get in your system too fast for your body to respond. But all carbs break down into glucose eventually. Starches, including starchy vegetables like squash and sweet potatoes, also contain carbohydrate. These foods just take longer to get into your system.
The best way to lower your sugar is to reduce the amount of carbohydrate you eat. When you do have carbohydrate-containing foods, they should be healthful items, such as green vegetables and whole grains. Avoid refined sugars as much as you can. You can learn more about low-carbohydrate eating for diabetes by reading “Carbohydrate Restriction: An Option for Diabetes Management.”
2. Move more
Glucose is our bodies’ main fuel source. You have to burn that fuel or it will stay in your blood (or be stored as fat) and cause problems. Aerobic exercises like walking or bicycling are good, but just moving more throughout the day — taking stairs instead of elevators, parking farther away, doing gardening or housework, standing at your desk, and so on — will also ower blood sugar.
The most important time to walk may be after meals: You’ve just taken in sugar; now use it. See ideas for starting exercise here.
3. Get strong
Muscles burn more glucose than any other type of tissue, even when they’re not exercising. Some studies show strengthening improves balance, sleep, and mental health. Weights or resistance training make you stronger and help lower your blood sugar.
4. Try plant medicines (with your doctor’s OK)
These include items such as bitter melon, okra, guava, cinnamon, mulberry, ginger, turmeric, and many others that can help lower glucose in a variety of ways. Some keep glucose out of the system; others help cells use it. You can read about some herbs that may be helpful for managing blood sugar here.
4. Use your prescription medicines as directed
Prescription diabetes medications can help lower blood sugar levels, and in some cases, they are necessary, as in the case of insulin for people with Type 1 diabetes. Medicines have side effects, though, and many are expensive. Work with your doctor to figure out what’s right for you, and remember that medicines are never the only aspect of treating diabetes. You still have to care for yourself through diet, exercise, stress management, and other lifestyle measures.
Lack of sleep is known to cause insulin resistance, raising blood sugars. Sleep is not a waste of time; it’s your body’s time to heal. Learn ways to get better sleep here .
6. Reduce stress.
Get out of bad life situations, or change them, or get help with them — for example, talking with your partner about an issue between you, instead of letting it fester. You can also manage stress with exercise, meditation, prayer, time in nature, pleasurable activities, therapy, or other ideas you can read about here.
Fiber is carbohydrate that is largely indigestible by our bodies, and it is good for diabetes and digestive health. Good sources include green vegetables, beans, and whole grains.
8. Take vinegar
Studies show that taking vinegar before meals lowers the after-meal spike in sugar levels. Taking it at bedtime can lower your fasting glucose.
9. Monitor smart
Glucose monitoring can show you what raises your blood sugar and what lowers it, but you need to do it right. Routine checking at the same times every day doesn’t do much good, unless you’re taking insulin, when you need to do it for safety. Monitor intelligently to learn how different foods, activities, and stresses affect you.