Your blood sugar levels hold the key to helping prevent and delay the on-set of a variety of serious, long-term health conditions. From kidney disease to diabetes, heart disease, bone and joint problems, loss of vision and more, abnormal blood sugar numbers are a common factor for each one. The good news: there are several natural ways you can easily manage your blood sugar levels to keep them within the optimal range. In this article, we break down the basics of blood sugar and how a few simple changes in your diet and lifestyle can mean the difference between being at risk for health conditions and not.
- 1 What is Blood Sugar?
- 2 What are the Ideal Blood Sugar Numbers?
- 3 Common Health Conditions Associated With Blood Sugar Levels
- 4 Natural Ways to Keep Your Blood Sugar Levels In Target Range
What is Blood Sugar?
In order to understand how your blood sugar levels play a role in your overall health and wellness, you must first understand what they are. Your body takes the glucose (sugar) from the foods and beverages you consume, particularly from carbohydrates, and carries them to all of your cells to be used for energy.
Glucose is your body’s main source of energy and many bodily processes help to ensure they stay within a healthy range. For example, insulin is a hormone that your pancreas makes that is a large contributor to keeping those blood sugars within target range. It acts as a bridge for the sugar to travel from the blood into the cell and as it does this, blood sugar levels go down.
As such, many potential health conditions associated with blood sugar levels are due to problems with the pancreas producing insulin or with the cells using insulin. This can result in low blood sugar or high blood sugar.
What are the Ideal Blood Sugar Numbers?
Blood pressure is measured in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). According to the American Diabetes Association, the blood sugar levels for a non-pregnant adult should be:
- 80-130 mg/dL when fasting
- <180 mg/dL two hours after eating
Determining what your blood sugar levels are requires a blood test to measure the amount of glucose (sugar) in your blood. This can be done at a blood clinic or using an at-home glucometer test.
Common Health Conditions Associated With Blood Sugar Levels
If your blood sugar levels come back either too high or too low, it’s important to speak with your doctor to discuss your results, as they may be an indication of something more serious brewing. As mentioned previously, there are a vast array of serious, long-term health conditions that are often associated with blood sugar levels that are not within target range.
When your blood sugars are concisely too high, you may be hyperglycemic. The long-term health complications associated with untreated hyperglycemia include:
- Heart disease
- Kidney damage
- Kidney failure
- Retina damage
- Loss of sight or blindness
- Problems associated with the feet due to poor blood flow or damaged nerves, which can lead to ulcerations, serious skin infections and even amputation
- Bone and joint problems
- Infections in the gums and teeth
There are also risks associated with hypoglycemia, which is when your blood sugar levels are too low, including seizures and unconsciousness.
Many health conditions can cause hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia as well. For example, severe health problems, particularly those associated with the liver, such as kidney disease, heart disease, hepatitis, infection and cirrhosis, can cause hypoglycemia. Pancreatic diseases and endocrine conditions can cause hyperglycemia. Abnormal blood sugar levels are a common sign and symptom of serious health conditions, such as diabetes, as well. So, if your sugars are not in the target range, it’s crucial to speak with a healthcare provider.
Natural Ways to Keep Your Blood Sugar Levels In Target Range
There’s no denying it can be scary to learn that your blood sugar levels aren’t ideal. The good news: there are all kinds of natural ways to effectively lower or increase your blood sugar levels and keep them within target range.
Clean up your diet
As the saying goes: you are what you eat. Since blood sugar levels are directly impacted by the foods you eat, particularly carbohydrates, making some simple changes to your diet can be the solution you’re looking for.
Aim to reduce your intake of processed, packaged foods, as many are high in sugar, carbs and refined grains, as well as artificial flavours and colors which aren’t helpful to your health either. Instead, opt for more high-quality whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains, lean meats and fish.
Try to make these changes gradually to avoid feeling too overwhelmed by the sudden changes. Overtime, making healthier food choices will come to you like second nature – and optimal blood sugar levels are an excellent motivator.
Focus on fiber
Another important adjustment to make in your diet to maintain healthy blood sugar levels is to ensure you’re getting lots of fiber. Fiber slows down the digestion of carbohydrates, as well as the absorption of sugar. This will help reduce spikes in your blood sugar levels and instead, promote a gradual rise.
Some high-fiber foods to include are Brussels sprouts, leafy greens, broccoli, artichokes, pears, raspberries, beans, peas, lentils, avocados, oatmeal and pumpkin seeds.
Enjoy high-quality protein and healthy fats
Similar to fiber, eating more protein can help control insulin secretion to avoid drastic spikes in blood sugar levels after a meal. So, add more high-quality protein options into your diet, such as grass-fed beef, pasture-raised chicken and eggs, and wild-caught fish, as well as tofu, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds.
You’ll also want to add in some healthy fats, such as olive oil, avocado oil and coconut oil, to help improve insulin resistance.
Eat bigger meals earlier in the day
Your body becomes more resistant to insulin as the day goes on, so you’ll want to eat the bigger meals earlier in the day. Additionally, aim to have your dinner at least three hours before going to bed.
Be more active
Exercise is key to maintaining optimal health and it can be especially helpful in managing blood sugar levels. Since glucose (sugar) is used by the body for energy, getting a sweat on daily can help it move through the bloodstream and into the muscles better.
However, intense exercise can temporarily increase blood sugar. So, if you notice your levels spiking with exercise, start with more moderate options, such as a daily walk, yoga, pilates, etc. and gradually increase the intensity over time.
Drink more water. Your body needs water and staying hydrated will help the kidneys get rid of any extra blood sugar. If you’re having a hard time increasing your intake of water, try to add some slices of fruits for an extra splash of flavor.
Prioritize your stress relief
If there was a time to sharpen up on your self-care and stress management, now is it. Stress can increase levels of cortisol (your stress hormone), which increase your blood sugar levels. Some activities you can do to release daily stress include journaling, meditation, yoga, aromatherapy, and getting proper sleep at night.
Sharpen up on your sleep habits
Sleep plays a major role in your blood sugar levels. Not only can poor sleep lead to stress that can lead to high blood sugar but it can also increase your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and obesity.
Some recommendations for improving your sleep habits are:
- Make sure your bedroom temperature is ideal – not too hot or too cold.
- Darken the room and make it distraction-free.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed.
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, including weekends.
- Turn off technology at least one hour before bed.
- Spray some lavender essential oil on your linen.
- Do a night-time meditation.
- Release daily stress, whether with stretches, yoga, meditation or journaling.
Squeeze in some natural remedies
There’s no shortage of natural remedies you can use to manage your blood sugar levels either. Here are some of our favourites:
- Take a shot of apple cider vinegar before you eat.
- Add a dash of cinnamon into your meals to help stabilize blood sugar levels.
- Take a magnesium supplement (or eat more magnesium-rich foods to improve insulin sensitivity.
- Enjoy the juice of the gel in aloe vera leaves to reduce blood sugar levels.
- Eat some nopals to lower blood sugar levels.
The numbers that appear on your blood sugar tests can give you insight into potential health problems. Managing your blood sugar levels can help prevent or detect the on-set of potential, long-term diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease. Fortunately, the natural remedies you learn in this article can help you keep your blood sugar levels within target range.