- Go Low-Tech
- High blood sugar level symptoms and signs
- What causes the blood sugar levels go to high?
- What impacts on your health does high blood sugar have?
- How can I prevent high blood sugar from happening?
- How can you lower your blood sugar level quickly?
- How do I lower my blood sugar level if I have gestational pregnancy?
- What is a dangerous blood sugar level?
- General tips on how to keep you blood sugar levels in control
- Diabetes Myths that Don’t Lower Blood Sugar
- Diabetes Forecast
- Building Up Resistance
- Behind the Battle
- Questions and Answers – exercise
Some of best ways to prevent high blood sugar are old-school:
Exercise. When you do it regularly, it’s like adding another medicine to your care. It makes the insulin you take work better, and it removes the sugar, or glucose, from your blood.
It also helps you lose weight, which can lower blood sugar. Try to build up to at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days, even if you start with just 5 minutes. Talk to your diabetes care team first about how to work out safely.
Eat right. A healthy diet keeps your blood sugar within a safe range. It’s the most important way to help you shed pounds if you’re overweight. Work with a registered dietitian or a certified diabetes educator to learn about the best food to eat and how to build a meal plan that works for your lifestyle.
Weight loss medications are another option you can consider if you need to get thinner. Talk to your doctor about which ones might be a good choice for you.
Relax. Stress blocks your body from releasing insulin, and that lets glucose pile up in your blood. If you’re stressed for a long time, your sugar levels will keep building. Regular exercise and relaxation techniques — like yoga, meditation, tai chi, and breathing exercises — can help.
Untreated, high blood sugar can cause many problems and future complications.
Recognizing signs of high blood sugar levels and knowing how to lower them can help you prevent these complications and increase the quality and length of your life.
Topics covered (click to jump to specific section)
- How can you lower your blood sugar level quickly?
- What is a dangerous blood sugar level?
- When should I call for medical help?
- General tips on how to keep you blood sugar levels in control
- High blood sugar level symptoms and signs
- What causes the blood sugar levels go to high?
- What impacts on your health does high blood sugar have?
- How can I prevent high blood sugar from happening?
- Which foods increase blood sugar levels?
- Which foods keep your sugar levels in control?
- How do I lower my blood sugar level if I have gestational pregnancy?
High blood sugar level symptoms and signs
Symptoms of high blood sugar include:
- Increased thirst
- Tired all the time
- Increased hunger
- Urinating a lot
- Dry mouth
- Blurred vision
- Severe high blood sugar can lead to nausea and fruity smelling breath
The signs and symptoms for high blood sugar are the same for both type 1 and type 2. Signs usually show up quicker in those who have type 1 because of the nature of their diabetes. Type 1 is an autoimmune disease that causes the body to stop making insulin altogether. Type 2 is caused by lifestyle factors when the body eventually stops responding to insulin, which causes the sugar to increase slowly. People with type 2 can live longer without any symptoms creeping because their body is still making enough insulin to help control it a little bit.
What causes the blood sugar levels go to high?
Our bodies need sugar to make energy for the cells. Without it, we cannot do basic functions. When we eat foods with glucose, insulin pairs with it to allow it to enter into the cell wall. If the insulin is not there, then the glucose molecule can’t get through the wall and cannot be used. The extra glucose hangs out in the bloodstream which is literally high blood sugar.
The lack of insulin can be caused by two different things.
- First, you can have decreased insulin resistance which means that your insulin doesn’t react the way that it is supposed to. It doesn’t partner with glucose to be used as fuel.
- Secondly, you can have no insulin, which is the case with type 1 diabetes.
Regardless of how it is caused, it is imperative to control blood sugars to help prevent problems.
What impacts on your health does high blood sugar have?
Having extra sugar in your bloodstream can be very harmful to the vessels in your body, as well as some major organs. Complications of diabetes include and are not limited to:
- Decreased kidney function which could eventually lead to dialysis
- Problems with your eyes which could lead to loss of vision
- Neuropathy (loss of feeling or pain in your legs)
- Poor wound healing which could lead to an amputation
- Increased risk of heart disease and stroke
These complications are not caused by a spike in the blood sugar. They are caused by an increased number of high blood sugar events over a period of time. Do not think that one or two high blood sugars are going to cause you to go blind. However, it is important to know what caused those high sugars so that you can prevent it from happening again. Hemoglobin A1C levels are checked to see what the average blood sugar has been over the past 120 days. Your doctor will check this to see if how your blood sugar levels have been trending.
How can I prevent high blood sugar from happening?
There are only a few things that can prevent hyperglycemia.
- A good diet
- Decreased stress
- Adequate sleep
The rest of this article explains these in further detail.
Always talk to your doctor before making any changes to your diet or exercise regimen.
Check your blood sugar levels!
It is important that you check your blood sugar levels on a regular basis. It is the one way that you are able to check and see if what you are doing is working, or if any changes are needed to be made in your lifestyle. Don’t think of checking your sugar as some type of pass or fail test. It’s just like any other numerical value that you get, such as your weight. You may not like what you see, but you can always do your best to improve it.
There are critical times that you should check your blood sugar.
- Anytime you try something new, such as food, exercise class, or a medication. This will let you know if there is any type of problem that is caused by it.
- Always check before and after you exercise. Your blood sugar drops while you exercise. If you start at a level that is too low, it can lead to hypoglycemia, which is dangerous.
- Be sure you check your blood sugar before you go to bed. You may need a bedtime snack to keep your number at a healthy range.
- Before and while you are drinking alcohol. Your sugar can either increase or decrease, so be sure to know which way it is going.
Keeping a log of your blood sugars is a great way to be knowledgeable about your body and how it is reacting to foods and events. To start, check before and after every meal, along with one in-between meal check. It is important that you keep a log of these blood sugars, along with all of the foods that you are eating, activities you are performing and any insulin or medications that you are taking. Do this for a week, and see if you can identify any patterns. Take this log to your doctor and talk to them about your findings.
There are times when our health is well out of our control. Checking your blood sugar is one way that you can stay in control. Take this control and use it to better your health and your life.
According to the NIDDK, when checking your blood sugar levels, consider the following tips:
- Why is it important to check your blood sugar numbers
- How to check for them
- What your target levels are
- What to do in the even that your blood sugar levels are too high or too low
How can you lower your blood sugar level quickly?
You need to be very careful if you are trying to lower your blood sugar level quickly. It can cause you to drop too fast or too low, which is dangerous. There are a few things that you can do to decrease it quickly.
Here are 4 ways to lower your blood sugar fast (includes natural solution as well):
- Chugging water. Drinking a lot of water quickly will dilute your blood sugar and cause you to urinate a lot of it out. Do not drink a lot of water if you have any type of kidney problems or heart problems.
- Increasing your heart rate for 15 minutes can maximize your insulin response and drop your blood sugar down. Be sure to check your blood sugar when you are finished.
- Eat a snack that is high in protein. Protein stabilizes blood sugar. Make sure that the food doesn’t have a lot of sugar in it. Good choices are cheese or almonds.
- Administer a quick-acting insulin if your doctor has prescribed it, such as Novolog. Insulin is a very rapid way to lower your sugar. Be sure to check your level about 30 minutes after you administer the insulin to see if it prevented the hypoglycemia.
With any of these quick remedies, it is imperative to have a snack handy in case your blood sugar drops too low. Always discuss any plans that you have with your physician.
How can you reduce your blood sugar levels naturally without medications?
Like I mentioned above, diet and exercise are the two ways that you can to lower blood sugar. Did you know that losing just 5 pounds can reduce your need for medications or insulin?
Foods that you should consume should include lots of lean meats, fruits, and vegetables. Read on for more details about how exercise and a healthy diet can lower your sugar.
How can exercise lower my blood sugar?
Exercise can help lower your blood sugar in two ways:
- A quick “right now” drop. When you exercise, your insulin sensitivity increases and the glucose is able to pair up with the insulin easier and be used by the cells. You are also burning fuel off by exercising, so your sugar will drop.
- A long term drop. Exercise is great for improving your overall health and helping you shed some extra pounds. Just dropping a few pounds can help you tremendously and can decrease or eliminate your need for diabetes medications or insulin.
It is very important that you are aware of your sugar levels during exercise. Since your sugar can drop, always be sure to have a snack available. Exercise not only improves your diabetes but it also has a great impact on other aspects of your life such as:
- Improving cholesterol
- Decreasing blood pressure
- Lowering stress
- Increasing energy, well-being, and mood
When you are choosing types of exercise, pick activities which are going to be enjoyable for you. When you perform activities that you enjoy, you have a better chance of sticking with them. You can occasionally change up the exercises that you do to prevent yourself from getting tired of following the same routine. Great examples of fun exercises are swimming, walking with a friend, or a dance class.
There is one exception to exercising with diabetes. If your blood sugar is too high (such as over 240) and you are spilling ketones into your urine, then exercise is only going to increase your blood sugar. You can buy a dipstick urine test to check for ketones, but the best thing to do would be to talk to your doctor about what is safe for you to do.
How can you lower your blood sugar levels through diet?
Diet is key when trying to lower blood sugar. Foods that you eat are the direct sources of glucose that cause your blood sugar to increase. Choosing the right foods can be the best way to keep your blood sugar levels consistent and within a healthy range. Please consider the following important tips:
- Stay hydrated! Drinking lots of water helps in flushing out the excess fluids from your bloodstream. Make sure that you are drinking water and not drinks that are full of sugar.
- Eat a lot of fiber. Fiber slows down digestion of carbohydrates and sugar. This can help lower your levels. Examples of high fiber foods include:
- Indulge on leafy greens. They do not increase your blood sugar and they can actually decrease your risk of type 2 diabetes if you are have pre-diabetes.
- Increasing your protein is beneficial. Lean proteins such as chicken and fish do not raise your blood sugar, but they do fill you up so that you are not hungry.
- Drink apple cider vinegar. Having 2 tablespoons mixed in water can help lower your sugar.
- Add Cinnamon to foods to add flavor. This can help lower your sugar as well as add a great taste.
What foods can lower blood sugar levels quickly?
There are no magic foods that will lower your blood sugar quickly. Drinking lots of water and eating protein can help you lower it, however it will not be as quick as administering insulin. Please check your blood sugar frequently if you are trying to lower it quickly. It can be dangerous and bad for your health.
Which foods increase blood sugar levels?
Carbohydrates ultimately break down into glucose. Many people believe that carbs are bad for people with diabetes. This is not true. Carbs are fuel for the body, so they have to be eaten. You just need to be smart about which ones you eat and how much you eat of them. Picking foods that are high in carbs but have no other nutrition is not smart. Examples of these foods are:
- Desserts or anything sugary
- Sodas or juices
- Breads or grains
- Snacks such as crackers or chips
- Fried or breaded items
- Full fat yogurt or milk
Which foods keep your sugar levels in control?
Carbohydrates need to be consistent. You don’t want to eat all of your daily carb count in one meal. That will cause your blood sugar to spike, and then drop during the other meals. Giving your body a steady amount of carbohydrates will provide a stable amount of energy. It will also help your body make enough insulin to keep your blood sugar at a healthy number.
The easiest way to make sure that your carb intake is appropriate is to count carbohydrates. It is a simplified way to evaluate foods based on their nutritional value. The best place to start when counting is to aim for 45 to 60 grams of carbohydrates per meal and roughly 15 to 30 grams for each snack in between meals. You may have to adjust this based on your individual needs and your blood sugar readings. It is a lot easier to calculate the carbohydrates when you have a food with a label, but many foods do not. Check the serving size on the label to be sure that you are counting correctly. The US Department of Agriculture has a website that allows you to type in any food and it will give you the nutritional values. Check it out at https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/. A few examples of 15 grams of carbs include:
- 1 slice of bread
- 6 chicken nuggets
- ½ cup of oatmeal
- 1 small piece of fresh fruit
It is important that you pay attention to nutrients other than the carbs too. Be sure to have adequate protein and fiber, while keeping lots of fat to a minimum.
I could go on for days about how a good diet can keep your blood sugar in control. To receive the most efficient information, set up a meeting with a dietician to look at your specific needs and you recent sugar readings. They can provide you with recipes and tools which make it easier for you to know exactly what you are putting into your body. 40 states in the United States require insurance companies to cover a meeting with a dietician for those with diabetes. Check with your insurance to see if this benefit is available for you.
A great educational sheet about carbohydrates and counting them is listed here: http://professional.diabetes.org/pel/all-about-carbohydrate-counting-english. It’s a fantastic reference that you can learn a lot of information from.
How do I lower my blood sugar level if I have gestational pregnancy?
A little more than 9.2% of pregnant women have gestational diabetes. It is very common that all women are tested during their pregnancy. If you haven’t yet, bring it up to your physician’s attention. The cause is really unknown, but doctors believe that it is because the extra hormones that are released during pregnancy hinder the insulin sensitivity and increase the need for more insulin. It is very important to keep blood sugar levels under control because high blood sugars can lead to complications such as:
- Premature labor
- Caesarean section
- Large baby with hypoglycemia
- Pre-eclampsia which can lead to seizures
- Increased risk of the mother to develop type 2 diabetes later in life
Lowering blood sugar with gestational diabetes is a lot like the other ways mentioned above.
- Staying hydrated with water. Stay away from sugary drinks such as juice or sodas. Water can help in flushing out some of the extra sugar in the blood.
- The key with diabetes is always consistency. A steady intake of the right amount of carbohydrates helps in keeping things under better control and prevents blood sugar spikes. Although many people believe that low-carb is best, that is not true during pregnancy. You need the carbohydrates for the growth of the fetus and to keep your energy level up. Talk to your doctor and nutritionist about what is best for you.
- It is a great idea to meet with a dietician about what foods you should eat. There are certain vitamins such as Folic Acid and Iron that are very important for your growing baby. Eating those foods and trying to watch your carbohydrates can be difficult.
- Do low impact exercises such as swimming or walking. Not only do they help to lower blood sugar levels, but they also help your body get into shape for labor and decrease your risk for developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
- Be sure to get enough sleep. Many women are unable to sleep while they are pregnant. Try to take naps or go to bed early if you are able to. Not getting enough sleep can cause your sugar to increase.
- Try to decrease your stress level as much as you can. If you have other children or a demanding job, this may not be possible. Stress releases hormones that raise your blood sugar. Yoga is a great way to destress. (Plus it is also a great exercise!)
- Medications may be prescribed by your doctor if diet and exercise do not work. Metformin and insulin have both been tested and are safe to take during pregnancy.
Breastfeeding after the baby is born is a great way to lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life as well as providing many benefits for the baby. Read this article https://www.thediabetescouncil.com/can-you-breastfeed-if-you-have-diabetes/ that I wrote about all of the benefits of breastfeeding.
According to the National Institutes of Health, a mother’s high normal blood sugar levels can put their baby at risk for birth problems. If the mother’s blood sugar levels were high, it is more likely that the baby will have high insulin levels as well at birth. Therefore it is important that during your pregnancy, you are following under the directions of your physician any guidelines which will help you balance your blood sugar levels.
What is a dangerous blood sugar level?
A normal blood sugar level is between 70 and 130 after you have been fasting for a few hours. Blood sugar levels can be dangerous if they are too high or too low.
Low blood sugars can be caused by not eating enough, or by trying to lower your sugar too quickly. A blood sugar under 60 is considered dangerous. It can lead to confusion or loss of consciousness, which can be deadly. It is important to have a snack with you at all times in case this happens to you. If it does happen, think about what you did or didn’t do that lead to the low number. If it happens often, start writing things down to help you track what the cause is so that you can avoid it.
High blood sugars over 300 are pretty concerning. A lot depends on what your sugar typically runs. If you are normally in the 200s, then a sugar of 320 wouldn’t affect you the way that it would for someone whose typically runs 150.
If your blood sugar gets too high, then you may have Ketoacidosis. What happens is that the body does not have enough insulin to use the glucose cells, so it starts to break down fat and muscle for fuel. This causes ketones to enter the bloodstream and causes a pretty bad chemical imbalance. Ketones can also be found in your urine, which is an easy way to test. Signs of Diabetic Ketoacidosis are:
- Fruity smelling breath
- Rapid breathing
- Thirsty and urinating a lot
- Confusion or blurred vision
- Vomiting or stomach pain
- Dry, flushed, and hot skin
You need to seek medical attention right away if you experience any of these symptoms.
Another complication of hyperglycemia is Hyperosmolar Hyperglycemia Non-ketonic Syndrome. This is just a fancy term meaning that the body tries to flush out any excess sugar and dehydrates itself in the process. This is more common for those with type 2 diabetes when they have an illness and their sugar increases. Signs and symptoms include:
- Loss of vision
- An abnormal increase in blood sugar
You should also seek medical attention for this as well to rehydrate your body before any complications happen.
At the University of Leicester, scientists have showing that the level of sugar in your blood can affect blood vessels which in turn can have potentially dangerous effects on your heart and blood pressure. Glucose has an important role to play in the normal functions of the cardiovascular system. Untreated high sugar levels can lead to life threatening illnesses.
Why are my blood sugar levels really high in the morning?
There are two reasons that you can wake up with a high blood sugar.
The Dawn Phenomenon happens because your body is trying to make sugar to prepare your body for the next day. A hormone that decreases insulin sensitivity is also released, which only helps the blood sugar increase.
The Somogyi Effect occurs when your sugar drops too low during the night and your body kicks into overdrive to increase it.
It is important to check your blood sugar before you go to bed and when you wake up to see what your next action should be.
When should I call for medical help?
It is great to have regular medical care for your diabetes. There are some instances that you should call your doctor right away.
- If you experience an abnormally high blood sugar for more than 24 hours (such as greater than 250)
- If you have fruity smelling breath or test positive for ketones in your urine
- If you become severely dehydrated
- If you are unable to eat or take your medications without vomiting
If someone ever loses consciousness, call 911 right away. This could be caused by blood sugar levels that are too high or too low.
General tips on how to keep you blood sugar levels in control
- Foods to eat
You should eat foods that are high in protein, fiber, and lower in carbohydrates. You should aim at having around 45 to 60 carbs for each meal. Consistency throughout the day is key to keeping blood sugar levels in control. Foods low in fat and high in nutrients should be picked to maximize your nutrition.
Vegetables and fruits are great as well as eggs, fish, beans, and oatmeal. There is also research that shows cinnamon and apple cider vinegar can help lower your sugar.
- Foods to avoid
Avoiding foods like soda, juice, pasta, candy, and other desserts can help keep your sugar from climbing too high. These foods are high in sugars and fat but low in other nutrients.
Avoiding excess alcohol is also better for you. Read the following article that I wrote about drinking alcohol when you have diabetes to learn more about this topic: https://www.thediabetescouncil.com/effects-of-alcohol-on-diabetes/
- Signs and symptoms
Signs of high blood sugar include: increased thirst and hunger, blurred vision, irritability, dry mouth, tired, and urinating a lot.
- Look for patterns
Patterns can be great because they help you figure out what is causing undesirable blood sugar values. A good way to track of it is to keep a journal of all of the food you eat, activities you do and your blood sugar levels for 1 week. During this week, check your sugar before and after you eat, as well as in between meals. Also document any insulin that you give yourself.
- Test sugar levels regularly
Knowing your blood sugar level is the number one way to take control of your diabetes. You should check your blood sugar every morning and night, as well as before you eat. You can also check it 2 hours after you eat to make sure that you didn’t have a spike.
- Make small incremental changes to your lifestyle
Making small changes in your life are better than trying to make big ones. If you try to make changes that are impossible, you won’t stick with them and you will end up right back where you started. Find things that you can change that will fit into your lifestyle. Some good examples are:
- Walking three nights a week after dinner
- Eating one apple a day instead of an unhealthy snack
- Replacing juice with water flavored lemon or cucumber
Don’t think that making small changes won’t make a big difference in your life. It definitely will.
- Manage your stress and get enough sleep
Stress does many bad things to your body. Not only does it raise your blood sugar, but it also increases your blood pressure and heart rate. Try to avoid stress if possible or find coping mechanisms such as exercise, meditation, or talking with a friend.
Getting enough sleep is almost as important for managing your blood sugar level. One study showed that not sleeping enough can decrease your insulin sensitivity up to 25%. Talk to your doctor if you are having problems sleeping. You may have sleep apnea or another problem that they can help with.
- Consider speaking to your doctor if all fails
You should always be in touch with your doctor about your disease and any changes you make or problems that you notice. Having that line of open communication is key to gaining knowledge and insight into what can make your life and your health better. Try the things mentioned in this article, but if they don’t help, then talk to your physician about what else is available for you.
TheDiabetesCouncil Article | Reviewed by Dr. Christine Traxler MD on September 13, 2018
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Last Updated: Saturday, September 15, 2018 Last Reviewed: Saturday, September 15, 2018
Diabetes Myths that Don’t Lower Blood Sugar
Skipping meals could potentially push your blood glucose higher. When you don’t eat for several hours because of sleep or other reasons, your body fuels itself on glucose released from the liver. For many people with type 2 diabetes (PWDs type 2), the liver doesn’t properly sense that the blood has ample glucose already, so it continues to pour out more. Eating something with a little carbohydrate signals the liver to stop sending glucose into the bloodstream and can tamp down high numbers.
Skipping meals can also lead to overeating, which can cause an increase in weight. And if you take certain diabetes medications that stimulate the body’s own insulin such as common sulfonylureas, or you take insulin with injections or a pump, you risk having your blood glucose drop too low when you skip or delay meals.
Don’t Miss: 1-Day 1,500-Calorie Diabetes Meal Plan for Weight Loss
Low-carb diets “are not balanced and deprive the body of needed fiber, vitamins, and minerals,” says Constance Brown-Riggs, M.S.Ed, R.D., CDE, CDN, author of The African American Guide to Living Well with Diabetes (Career Press, 2010). Recently, Brown-Riggs counseled a PWD type 2 who ate very little carbohydrate. The result: poor energy and severe headaches. Brown-Riggs helped the person balance out his meal plan by suggesting fruits, grains, and other carb-containing foods. “His headaches subsided, his energy level was restored, and he was happy to learn that he could eat healthy sources of carbohydrate and manage his blood glucose levels successfully,” Brown-Riggs says. The keys to success are to manage portions of all foods, spread your food out over your day, and work with your health care team to devise an individualized meal, activity, and medication plan.
Eating Pasta Al Dente
It is best to eat your spaghetti al dente, says David J. A. Jenkins, M.D., Ph.D., D.Sc., Canada research chair in nutrition and metabolism at the University of Toronto and St. Michael’s Hospital. Overcooked pasta and other starches become soft, lose their form, and give up their glucose more readily, likely giving you a bigger rise in blood glucose, he says.
“The real problem with pasta is that it’s so palatable,” and you may eat more than you intend, says Jenkins. A cupful of pasta provides as many calories and carb grams as three slices of bread, and the pasta goes down faster. Jenkins’ advice: Cook starchy foods adequately, but avoid overcooking. Most important, control portions and count the calories and carb grams.
Adding Diabetes Shakes and Bars to Meals
Shakes or bars made specifically for people with diabetes can help you control blood glucose levels when you’re on the go, says Brown-Riggs. “When used as a meal replacement or snack, they take the guesswork out of carb counting,” she says. Toss them in your purse, suitcase, or desk drawer so you’ll always have a suitable choice when you’re stuck in traffic or can’t break for lunch. But if you fall into the trap of eating them in addition to your usual meals or snacks, both your weight and your blood glucose could climb. You have to swap them for other foods, or your calorie and carbohydrate intake will likely be too high.
A study reported in Diabetes Care in 2003 suggested that cinnamon might lower blood glucose, triglyceride, and cholesterol levels for people with type 2 diabetes. Other studies were not so positive, however. When researchers combined the results of five studies with a total of 282 subjects with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, they found no benefit from cinnamon; their results were reported in a 2008 issue of Diabetes Care.
Enjoy this sweet, fragrant spice anyway to delight your taste buds without adding calories or sodium. Cinnamon brings out the natural sweetness of tomatoes in a sauce and adds an interesting complexity to beef and poultry. Sprinkle it on oatmeal, yogurt, and fruit to add sweetness without adding sugar.
Alcohol may lower blood glucose, but it can do so erratically and therefore isn’t considered a safe or effective method of glucose control. Alcohol interferes with the liver’s ability to raise blood glucose and can cause low blood glucose (hypoglycemia). In fact, it’s hard to predict just when alcohol might cause hypoglycemia. Sometimes the effects even occur the following day. And when alcohol is mixed with high-sugar drinks such as sodas and juices or eaten with carbohydrate-containing foods, your blood glucose may initially rise but drop later. This is especially important to note if a person takes a blood glucose-lowering medication that can cause hypoglycemia, such as a sulfonylurea or insulin.
Drinking Green Tea
Replacing sugary drinks with green tea is a great way to cut calories, save carbohydrate, and get a good dose of disease-fighting polyphenols, but don’t bank on it to lower your blood glucose. Some studies suggest that green tea may help prevent type 2 diabetes and improve insulin sensitivity, but the evidence isn’t strong enough to make firm recommendations.
Green tea extracts — but not the beverage — in high doses have been associated with several cases of liver toxicity, according to Laura Shane-McWhorter, Pharm.D., BCPS, BC-ADM, CDE, a professor at the University of Utah College of Pharmacy and author of The American Diabetes Association Guide to Herbs and Nutritional Supplements (2009). Shane-McWhorter recommends people with diabetes use supplements with caution.
Drinking Excessive Water
It’s a smart idea to drink plenty of calorie-free beverages, especially water, when your blood glucose is elevated. Because high blood glucose can cause excessive urination, drinking plenty of water helps prevent dehydration, says Constance Brown-Riggs, M.S.Ed., R.D., CDE, CDN. It won’t, however, lower high blood glucose levels, she says.
Splashing a Little Vinegar
Can a spoonful of vinegar help the blood sugar go down? Yes, says Carol S. Johnston, Ph.D., R.D., professor and director of the nutrition program at Arizona State University’s College of Nursing & Health Innovation. Consuming 1-2 tablespoons of vinegar before a meal may slow the rise of “the postmeal surge in blood glucose by as much as 40 percent,” she says. But that”s still not a license to go carb crazy.
Vinegar may inhibit starch digestion and hold food in the stomach a little longer, Johnston says. By delaying emptying of the stomach, vinegar may help to blunt the rise of blood glucose in response to eating. The problem is the vinegar itself. It just isn’t fun to drink a couple tablespoons before a meal. Take advantage of vinegar’s benefits by splashing some on a salad and adding it to cooked vegetables.
Use caution if you adjust insulin based on your carbohydrate intake; reports have shown a higher frequency of hypoglycemic episodes in individuals with type 1 diabetes ingesting vinegar, says Johnston.
Doubling Up on Diabetes Medicines
Is twice as much medicine twice as good at lowering your blood sugar? This is dangerous because you risk your blood glucose dropping critically low when taking blood glucose lowering medication. If your blood glucose consistently runs high, work with your health care provider to adjust your medications and develop an individualized meal plan. If it’s high because of simply eating too much, learn from your mistake and move on. You should not adjust your medications without first discussing it with a member of your health care team.
Exercising Instead of Sleeping
Too little sleep or poor sleep can disrupt your hormones, leading to increased appetite, higher blood glucose, and a thicker waistline. In fact, researchers from the Netherlands found that a single night of sleep deprivation can decrease insulin sensitivity by almost 25 percent.
Sleeping Instead of Exercising
“If you’re giving up exercise for sleep, on the other hand,” says Jennifer Hyman M.S., R.D., CDE, registered dietitian and diabetes educator in Rockville Centre, New York, “chances are you are not active enough during the day.” It becomes a vicious cycle, because inactivity can reduce the quality of sleep, and poor sleep leaves you too lethargic to exercise.
Sneak in at least a few minutes of daily exercise by walking on your lunch break and taking the stairs instead of the elevator, says Hyman.
Research results for several popular diabetes supplements have been mixed. Claims abound that bitter gourd or bitter melon, which is eaten as a vegetable in India and other parts of Asia, lowers blood glucose. Some studies suggest that the fruit, juice, or extract improve glucose tolerance. Unfortunately, “most of the studies have not had good study design, and the results have been variable,” says Laura Shane-McWhorter, Pharm.D., BCPS, BC-ADM, CDE.
Chromium picolinate may work as an insulin sensitizer and improve blood glucose levels in people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, Shane-McWhorter says. Again, studies are mixed, with “some showing benefit and some showing no benefit,” she says.
According to the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, taking guar gum with meals might lower blood glucose after the meal. Its high fiber content may help reduce cholesterol levels as well, but also may cause stomach upset. Guar gum might also reduce the absorption of penicillin and other medications.
“The biggest controversy with supplements is the issue of a reliable manufacturer and whether the product contains what it actually states on the label,” Shane-McWhorter says. So how can you know? She suggests checking both the United States Pharmacopoeia website, and the ConsumerLab website, before considering supplements.
- 12 Healthy Ways to Lower Your Blood Sugar
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This article was reviewed by Hope S. Warshaw, R.D., CDE, BC-ADM, 2010.
Corticosteroid use can make it more difficult to control your diabetes, even if you were previously able to handle it just fine. And if you don’t have diabetes, using corticosteroids for a long period of time can lead to what’s known as steroid-induced diabetes or steroid-induced hyperglycemia, which is when someone without a history of diabetes develops the condition due to steroids. The thinking is that the steroids affect glucose metabolism by impairing pathways that are important for how your body regulates blood sugar and insulin.
If you’re on corticosteroids and you find that you’re having symptoms of high blood sugar, like fatigue, frequent urination, and increased thirst, talk to your doctor to see if you can switch to an effective medication without this side effect. Usually your blood sugar will eventually return to normal after you stop taking the drugs, Dr. Wallia says. Even if you can’t stop taking the corticosteroids, your doctor can help you come up with a treatment plan for the high blood sugar.
5. You threw yourself into an intense workout without preparing first.
If you suddenly go all-out in the gym without an adequate snack beforehand, your blood sugar may drop and lead to hypoglycemia, leaving you shaky and weak, Dr. Stanford says. Though anyone can feel this way if they exercise and don’t eat, it’s really more of a concern for people with diabetes who are taking insulin or other diabetes medications, according to the NIDDK.
The other potential issue is that if your body isn’t making enough insulin and your blood sugar gets too high, you might start using fat instead of glucose for energy. This can cause acids known as ketones to accumulate in your bloodstream, leading to symptoms like weakness and fatigue, excessive thirst, shortness of breath, frequent urination, fruity-scented breath, confusion, and abdominal pain, according to the Mayo Clinic.
When left untreated, this can become a life-threatening complication known as diabetic ketoacidosis. Exercising when your blood sugar is over 250 milligrams per deciliter can bring diabetic ketoacidosis on more suddenly, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Doctors typically recommend that people with diabetes who are taking insulin, doing a long workout, or trying an intense workout they’re not used to check their blood sugar at a few key intervals, according to the Mayo Clinic. That may include before you exercise, every 30 minutes during exercise, and after exercise, too. If your blood sugar dips below 100 milligrams per deciliter, you should have a snack of fast-acting carbohydrates to get your blood sugar between the 100 to 250 milligrams per deciliter range, according to the Mayo Clinic. If it goes above 250 milligrams per deciliter, don’t exercise until you’ve you brought it back down into that safe range and a ketone test shows that you don’t have ketones in your urine (you can find these over the counter or see your doctor).
And here’s something that affects blood sugar but really only applies to people with diabetes. 6. You took too much or not enough insulin, or you didn’t take it at the right time.
If you have type 1 diabetes, you likely already know you need lifelong insulin therapy to regulate your blood sugar levels. This can be administered via injections or a pump you can wear that uses a catheter to feed insulin into your system, according to the Mayo Clinic. And if you have type 2 diabetes, you won’t necessarily need insulin, but it can be useful if a healthy diet and staying active aren’t enough to manage your blood sugar levels, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Either way, if you take too much insulin, too little, or deviate from your medication schedule, you can wind up with blood sugar that’s either too high or too low, Dr. Wallia says.
The solution will depend on whether your blood sugar is too high or too low. In either case, you can take the steps mentioned above to address it, like drinking fruit juice to bring up low blood sugar, or taking an emergency supplement of insulin to lower it (or otherwise following recommended steps from your doctor).
If you notice that you’re regularly taking too much or too little insulin, or you’re often not taking it when you should, talk to your doctor to figure out if there’s any way to make the process easier to follow.
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The bodies of many people with diabetes are fighting a quiet war against the essential hormone insulin. This conflict is called insulin resistance, and while it’s a hallmark of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, it can also affect those with type 1. Just why a person fails to respond properly to insulin is something of a mystery. But there are ways to make the body more receptive to insulin, which can help prevent or ameliorate diabetes.
Building Up Resistance
In people who have neither diabetes nor insulin resistance, eating a typical meal will cause blood glucose levels to rise, triggering the pancreas to produce insulin. The hormone travels through the body and induces fat and muscle cells to absorb excess glucose from the blood for use as energy. As the cells take up glucose, blood glucose levels fall and flatten out to a normal range. Insulin also signals the liver—the body’s glucose repository—to hold on to its glucose stores for later use.
However, people with insulin resistance, also known as impaired insulin sensitivity, have built up a tolerance to insulin, making the hormone less effective. As a result, more insulin is needed to persuade fat and muscle cells to take up glucose and the liver to continue to store it.
In response to the body’s insulin resistance, the pancreas deploys greater amounts of the hormone to keep cells energized and blood glucose levels under control. (This is why people with type 2 diabetes tend to have elevated levels of circulating insulin.) The ability of the pancreas to increase insulin production means that insulin resistance alone won’t have any symptoms at first. Over time, though, insulin resistance tends to get worse, and the pancreatic beta cells that make insulin can wear out. Eventually, the pancreas no longer produces enough insulin to overcome the cells’ resistance. The result is higher blood glucose levels (prediabetes) and, ultimately, type 2 diabetes.
Insulin has other roles in the body besides regulating glucose metabolism, and the health effects of insulin resistance are thought to go beyond diabetes. For example, some research has shown that insulin resistance, independent of diabetes, is associated with heart disease.
Behind the Battle
Scientists are beginning to get a better understanding of how insulin resistance develops. For starters, several genes have been identified that make a person more or less likely to develop the condition. It’s also known that older people are more prone to insulin resistance. Lifestyle can play a role, too; being sedentary, overweight, or obese increases the risk for insulin resistance. Why? It’s not clear, but some researchers theorize that extra fat tissue may cause inflammation, physiological stress, or other changes in the cells that contribute to insulin resistance. There may even be some undiscovered factor produced by fat tissue, perhaps a hormone, that signals the body to become insulin resistant.
Doctors don’t usually test for insulin resistance as a part of standard care. In clinical research, however, scientists may look specifically at measures of insulin resistance, often in an effort to study potential treatments for insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes. They typically administer a large amount of insulin to a subject while at the same time delivering glucose to the blood to keep levels from dipping too low. The less glucose needed to maintain normal blood glucose levels, the greater the insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance comes in degrees, with important health implications for people with diabetes. The more insulin resistant a person with type 2 is, the harder it will be to manage the disease because more medication is needed to get enough insulin in the body to achieve target blood glucose levels. Insulin resistance isn’t a cause of type 1 diabetes, but people with type 1 who are insulin resistant will need higher insulin doses to keep their blood glucose under control than those who are more sensitive to insulin. As with type 2, people with type 1 may be genetically predisposed to become insulin resistant. Or they may develop resistance due to overweight. Some research indicates that insulin resistance is a factor in cardiovascular disease and other complications in people with type 1.
While it may not be possible to defeat insulin resistance entirely, there are ways to make the body cells more receptive to insulin. Getting active is probably the best way; exercise can dramatically reduce insulin resistance, in both the short and long terms. In addition to making the body more sensitive to insulin and building muscle that can absorb blood glucose, physical activity opens up an alternate gateway for glucose to enter muscle cells without insulin acting as an intermediary. This reduces the cells’ dependence on insulin for energy. This mechanism doesn’t reduce insulin resistance itself, but it can help people who are insulin resistant improve their blood glucose control.
Weight loss can also cut down on insulin resistance. No one diet has been proved to be the most effective. Some evidence suggests, though, that eating foods that are low in fat and high in carbohydrates can worsen insulin resistance. Research has also shown that people who undergo weight-loss surgery are likely to become significantly more sensitive to insulin.
No medications are specifically approved to treat insulin resistance. Yet diabetes medications like metformin and thiazolidinediones, or TZDs, are insulin sensitizers that lower blood glucose, at least in part, by reducing insulin resistance.
While fighting an invisible foe may seem daunting, there are effective tactics to combat insulin resistance. Losing weight, exercising more, or taking an insulin-sensitizing medication may get the body to bend once again to insulin’s will, bringing about good blood glucose control and better health.
Questions and Answers – exercise
Q: Why does my blood sugar increase after exercise? I had a blood sugar reading of 135 first thing in the morning. After a 3 mile walk my reading was 155.
A: Wait an hour after you exercise and see if you get the same results. Exercise is a stressor, so blood sugar will be higher immediately after your session. Also, blood sugars tend to be higher in the mornings because of hormonal activity during the night.
Q: My husband has had type 2 diabetes for 15 years. He has gotten his food and exercise in pretty good shape and has his A1C down to 6.5. My concern is that he will do strenuous exercise in the morning, often for 2 hours, before he eats a meal. Is it safe to exercise this long while fasting?
A: Much depends on what his pre and post-exercise levels are as well as his overall health and energy. If he experiences lows 30-60 minutes post-exercise, then he needs to fuel up before exercising. Some version of a meal shake – containing a balance of carbs, protein and fat – works well for many people. If he has no issues, then his body appears to have adapted to the consistent program he has developed that appears to be working for him.
Q: I have type 2 diabetes and have been walking 4-5 miles every night for the past six months. How come I’m not losing any weight?
A: Lean tissue weighs more than fat so you often won’t see the number on the scale change, but will feel better, have more energy, better glucose levels, etc. In time, the weight number starts to come down. Keep up the exercise. Get assistance with your eating if you are at all unclear about how to manage food intake with diabetes.
Q: I’ve had type 1 Diabetes for 26 years and am 15 pounds over my ideal weight. For the last 6 weeks I’ve been attending a fitness boot camp. I find that my sugar levels may start at around 100 but steadily rise for the hour after exercising. Is this normal?
A: Exercise is a “stressor”, meaning that in the short term, exercising will raise glucose levels before they drop down. Without diabetes, levels only rise up to a threshold point. With type 1, especially, levels may rise and take several hours to come back down. This is another reason why it is more challenging to find the right insulin dosages for the various differences in the day’s activities and eating. Of course, exercise is always encouraged, as lean tissue burns up more calories, requiring more fuel. This fuel is accessible from glucose in the bloodstream. In the long run, your levels should eventually be lower. If you should drop too low a few hours after exercising, reassess your coverage for exercise. Losing your extra body fat should eventually help you in get better post exercise numbers.
Q: What is the best after dinner exercise for someone with pre-diabetes?
A: There is no one perfect exercise, but at that hour and having just eaten, a good walk is usually the best for most people. Any activity that is too long and/or strenuous later at night may cause one to stay awake. For some folks, especially those on insulin, strenuous evening exercise may cause early morning low blood sugars. Try those after dinner exercises you enjoy and see how they affect you. Ultimately, you are shooting for lower fasting glucose levels.
Q: I usually run 10 to 14 miles on the weekends but I was recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. First, why does exercise seem to raise my blood sugar? What do you suggest eating before, during and after the run to give me the energy needed to complete this? I’ve always carried the little energy gel packs but I’m not sure this is the wise choice with diabetes.
A: To address your first question, a run of that intensity will certainly first elevate your blood sugar before it lowers. It is suggested to generally wait at least 1 our post-exercise before testing.
Your pre-run snack accomplishes 2 things: get quick energy fuel while having some in reserves. The first rule is to eat whole, “real” foods such as pure ground peanut butter. A breakfast shake does very well for many people. You want minimal digestion with maximum absorption. What constitutes the best pre-run meal can vary among individuals, and much depends on how you eat the rest of the time. This means creating a fine balance among carbs, protein and fat so that you have a good access to both immediate and long term fuel. My personal morning preference before a workout is in a shake form. Some people can manage a yogurt based smoothie. Peanut butter stirred into oatmeal (if that appeals to you) is a better carbohydrate source than a bagel because of its fiber types. There are also many meal replacement powders out there: some good; others not so good. Berries and banana are good fruit choices to consider adding in a small amount.
Long runs do require fuel and hydration without upsetting salt balance. Of course, your weather conditions must be factored in. As a general rule, for each hour of exercise, 30-50 grams of carbs are recommended so a gel pack may be appropriate during the run only. After a long run you want immediate carbohydrate replacement like a low-fat yogurt, and then having a meal awhile later. In general, eating legumes, lean “flesh” foods, and veggies on a daily basis can provide the best foundation for overall performance.
No two people with diabetes are alike. You are going to have to “self-experiment” over time to see what works. Diabetes doesn’t mean “stop”; it does mean “pay closer attention” and continue to enjoy life.
Q: I have type 1 diabetes, have good health, and enjoy taking high intensity aerobic classes like Zumba. The problem is that my blood sugar often drops to 45-60 during the class no matter how much I carb up prior. I try to start with a BG of 150-170 and check half way through then treat with glucose tabs or juice and keep going. After class, my BG may range from 60-100 but then rises up to 200+ for the next few hours and I have to treat with insulin. What can I do?
A: You are definitely experiencing the exercise effect, which will raise your blood sugar for up to 4 hours after exercising. Have you started by cutting your post-exercise treatment dose in half? Also, if you are eating within that 3 hour time frame, stick to a lower carbohydrate protein/veggie type meal rather than any starchy carbs. Also, are you changing your basal rate for exercise? I know some very active folks program as many as 8 rates/day. Sounds like you should lower yours for class if you are not already doing so.
Q: I have had type 1 diabetes for 23 years. There was a time when my blood sugars would plummet after a workout. However, now when I exercise, my blood sugars are sky rocketing and I’m not eating anything. My blood sugars are perfect before I workout. What is up with this?
A: If the intensity of your workout has increased and you are testing within the 1/2-1 hr. post-exercise, it may be you need to wait longer for the post test. Exercise will generally increase levels in the short run, then drop in the long run. This is even more pronounced with insulin dependence. You may need to adjust your carb/insulin ratio before you workout. If all else is the same in your life except for the workout intensity, then rechecking even up to 4 hours later may be a path to try, in the short run, to see what the drops may be, then discuss any needed adjustments to your protocol with your physician if necessary.
Q: I’m a type 1 diabetic and I am trying to incorporate exercise in the morning. However, it seems that my blood sugar spikes when I do this. This morning my blood sugar was 182 when I woke up. I did a 20 min work out video and took a shower. About a half hour later I tested my blood sugar and it was 300. Is there anything I can do to avoid this? I should mention I take lantus before bed and humalog with meals. When I exercise at other times of the day my blood sugar usually goes low.
A: Blood sugar levels are generally higher in the morning anyway due to the rise of hormones – this is known as the Dawn Phenomena. In the short run, exercise is a stressor and will elevate levels. In most folks, 30-60 minutes after exercise, levels will lower. Often in type 1 diabetes, however, it takes longer for levels to come down post exercise. You should discuss this with your physician to see about a target for the fasting levels pre exercise and how that is to be accomplished with your current protocol. As we know, this is easier said than done.
Q: When is the best time of day to exercise? I don’t want to exercise and have my blood sugar drop.
A: The best time to exercise is any time that you can fit it in as opposed to skipping it! It is also important to have enough fuel in your system to cover your activity. There are general guidelines: for a 30 minute brisk walk, it is recommended to have 15 grams of carbs if your blood sugar is under 120. This would mean a small fruit or a yogurt can work well as it has carb and protein. As your exercise time increases, so may your intake needs. The best way to determine your needs and best exercise zone is to test before and after exercising. If you are comfortable soon after your meal, that is a great time as you are well fueled.
Q: I plan to do a one-week, 75 mile backpacking trip this summer. As you may know, backpackers often burn 4000 to 6000 calories per day, due to the strenuous nature of the exercise. Presumably, during exercise like this, my body will require much larger than normal amounts of carbs. Is there any guidance you can offer regarding the appropriate increase? What kind of percentage split between carbs, protein and fat would you recommend?
A: Good for you! Now, no one shoe fits all; gender, height, weight, body fat %, etc. all determine one’s needs. Checking your glucose levels will let you know how your food is working for you. Legumes and whole grains like quinoa and wild rice can be part of a good carb loading program. If you are eating unrefined foods on this trip as opposed to quick acting carbs like candy/energy bars, you may find your energy more stable for longer periods. Nut butters work well on such trips. Bananas are a good sustaining fruit. Eggs are a good protein source for those who eat them, especially for the morning start. Since the general guideline is for 45-65% of intake to be from carbs, a 4000 calorie intake would be 450 grams form carbs at 45%. Remember: veggies are carbs. These are your immediate muscle fuel sources. Pack smart, and check as often as you think you need to, and avoid low blood sugar.
Q: I have been diabetic for 43 years and on the pump for 17 years. I am a bicyclist and train hard for races. I ride five days a week. I do not suspend or lower my basal during training. This year I have scaled back slightly and do two recovery rides a week. I have found that the recovery rides make my blood sugar skyrocket to as high as 411. I have tried eating different things prior to training but nothing makes a difference. What suggestions do you have to keep my BG from raising so quickly and so high?
A: With the regimen you have described, I would think you have different basal rates programmed into your pump, being different on the recovery days, reflecting a higher rate. What you eat is, of course, a factor, but your insulin:carb ratio may also need to be increased on those days. Be sure you are not eating refined carbs on your recovery days, aiming for higher fiber sources. Your pump company can also be a good resource if you already haven’t tapped them for assistance with this issue.
Q: My girlfriend has type I diabetes and is considering training for a full marathon 10 months from now. She is currently about 40 lbs over weight and is not running. I know she needs special advice from her doctor and possibly a nutritionist, but I don’t want to set her up for a goal she cannot accomplish.
A: Jumping right in to run would not be a good thing. The first thing to consider is if her blood sugar levels are in close-to-normal ranges. Hopefully, her physician has given her ranges to target. Exercise for Type 1’s needs to be closely monitored, especially when doing longer sessions such as running a marathon. She will also need to be aware that hypoglycemia may actually occur during sleeping hours depending on the duration of the activity and food intake. Good hydration is also a “must”. I would suggest that if she is serious, she needs to gets some guidelines from her physician. Daily, she should do a minimum of 45 minutes fast walking, gradually increasing, including stretching before and after. If she is cleared as healthy for a marathon by her physician, she needs to be prepared to monitor her glucose carefully before, during, and after exercise. Be sure she has proper footwear, and checks her feet daily.
Q: When I exercise my upper body, my blood sugar goes up and when I exercise the lower part, my blood sugar goes down, why is this?
A: How soon after exercising are you checking your blood sugars? For those not on insulin, I always suggest at least an hour, since exercise will raise your blood sugars initially, then “settle” down. If you are more dependent on insulin, blood sugars may be high several hours later. Lower body exercises generally burn more fuel (sugar) due to increased muscle mass. It may just be that on those days your blood sugars are coming down more quickly. Try consistent timing of testing, and see if you don’t notice a change.