November is National Diabetes Month. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), 23.6 million adults and children, 7.8% of the population in the United States, have diabetes. Unfortunately, one-third of these people are not aware that they have the disease. It will be the purpose of this column to raise the level of consciousness through education and offer recommendations for lowering blood sugar levels naturally.
Perhaps no goal is more important to a person with diabetes than maintaining a healthy blood sugar level. When managed over time, healthy blood sugar levels can slow the onset of complications associated with the disease. According to the ADA, pre-diabetes, or impaired glucose tolerance, occurs when blood glucose levels are higher than normal (110 to 125mg/dl) but below type 2 diabetes levels (126mg/dl). 54 million Americans have pre-diabetes in addition to the 20.8 million with diabetes.
While medications are effective in maintaining blood sugar levels, for those who are borderline, there are effective ways to lower your blood sugar naturally. Your physician will determine which treatment is most appropriate for your problem. Also, maintaining your ideal body weight is always important.
10 Tips to Lower Blood Sugar Naturally
- Spread Out Your Meals – Spreading out your meals evenly throughout the day is very effective. By keeping the amount of carbohydrates consistent, your body will have enough time to regulate blood sugar levels naturally. Skipping meals, fasting and overeating is counterproductive. 45 grams for women and 60 grams for men is a good carbohydrate amount as a starting point. This is effected by medications and activity/exercise levels and should be discussed with your physician.
- Add Resistant Starch to Your Diet – Resistant starch can bypass the small intestine, get metabolized and acts as dietary fiber in the large intestine and lower your blood sugar level. Resistant starch is found in some potatoes and beans such as black and kidney.
- Beans and More Beans – Studies show that eating 1.5 to 2.5 cups of cooked beans per day improves blood sugar levels, lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease and lowers total cholesterol. Gradually add beans to your diet over time by adding them to soup or salad.
- Cactus – Studies also show that cooked prickly pear cactus slows carbohydrate absorption and lowers blood sugar levels. It is a common treatment for diabetes in Mexico where it is boiled, grilled, fried, mashed and served in soups and stews. While it is available as a dietary supplement, it has not been thoroughly studied in this form.
- Sleep - While being active is important, getting enough sleep is equally essential. Studies show poor sleep habits negatively effects body chemistry and those sleeping 8 hours control blood sugar more effectively. Diabetics with sleep apnea can dramatically improve their blood sugar levels by using continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP).
- Lose Weight – For diabetics every pound counts. Some studies show that losing as little as five pounds can reduce blood sugar levels.
- Manage Stress – While a little stress can be healthy, excessive and prolonged stress causes the body to store glucose and fat as a protective mechanism. If not burned off through activity or exercise, this creates glucose storages and increases blood sugar. Relieve stress through exercise, counseling, meditation, yoga, massage, or spending quality time with family or friends.
- Routine Exercise – Diabetics, especially type 2, benefit greatly from regular exercise through improved insulin resistance to lower blood sugar levels. Additional benefits are: prevention of heart disease, stroke and peripheral neuropathies. Sustained aerobic exercise, 30 to 45 minutes, 3-5 days per week and mild to moderate weight training is recommended, according to your fitness level.
- Constant Movement/Activity – Incorporate activity into your daily life. Use the steps instead of the elevator, park a distance from the store and walk, get up and walk around the house during every television commercial.
- Eat Breakfast – When waking up in the morning, the body has experienced a fast for 8-12 hours and requires food to balance blood sugar levels, especially when taking insulin. A healthy breakfast should include carbohydrates, proteins and fibers.
**This column is based on information from local physicians Kenneth Rudolph, MD, Gregory Borowski, MD, the American Diabetes Association L (ADA), and Lifescript
Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your body.
If you missed it, read Part 1, an overview on Diabetes.