In this article: Food, Mind, and Exercise are three aspects that need to be understood well to manage diabetes. This article compiles ten ways pertaining to these three aspects that will help you manage your blood sugar levels naturally.
Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to many other problems, including nerve problems, cardiovascular diseases, vision problems, and kidney diseases. The condition can severely affect your quality of life, so it is important you take steps to manage the disease.
General awareness about the condition can go a long way in managing diabetes. In fact, people with prediabetes can make lifestyle changes to reverse the condition (it is not simple, though) and reduce the risk of getting diabetes.
Without further ado, let’s see ten ways to manage your blood sugar levels naturally.
What is diabetes? When does one get it?
Diabetes is a chronic health condition that occurs when your blood glucose levels go higher than an optimal level. The food you eat is broken down into sugars (glucose) and let into the bloodstream.
As soon as blood glucose goes up, the pancreas is signalled to secrete a hormone called insulin. Insulin is like a key to your cells; it opens them up to let in glucose from your bloodstream. The glucose entering the cells is the energy for your body.
Suppose either your pancreas does not secrete enough insulin (Type 1 diabetes) or your body does not use the insulin properly (Type 2 diabetes). The glucose stays in the blood and does not get into your cells, making your body feel less energetic.
What happens when you feel less energetic? Your body seeks energy and so feels hungry. You eat more. Then, the food breaks into sugars and your blood glucose increases. But, the glucose cannot be sent into the cells. So, your blood glucose keeps increasing, and you start feeling more fatigued. And the cycle goes on until you take steps to manage blood sugar. This condition is diabetes.
Why is it important to manage your blood glucose levels?
When your blood glucose levels are high for a prolonged period, it starts affecting other body organs, including the heart, kidneys, eyes, and nervous system. You may not even notice that your blood sugar levels are high until you see other noticeable problems, such as vision and nerve problems.
So, how do you manage your blood sugar levels naturally?
There are three important aspects you need to take care of.
Food, Mind, and Exercise.
What you eat, how stressed you are, and how active you are – these three are incredibly linked to your blood sugar levels
With that in mind, quickly, we will move to the tips you must follow with respect to food, mind, and exercise.
1. Focus on Losing weight
Being overweight is one of the definitive risk factors for developing Type 2 diabetes. Research shows that losing 4 to 6 pounds can reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes by half. Further, losing about 20 pounds can possibly reverse diabetes if you are diagnosed with the condition in recent years. However, weight loss may not help significantly in managing blood sugar levels in those who have diabetes for a long time and are insulin-dependent.
2. Opt for low-carb, low-GI foods
Any diet is a combination of carbohydrates, protein, fats, and micronutrients. Carbs in your diet break down to simple sugars and get released into the bloodstream, increasing your blood sugar levels.
Glycemic Index is the rate at which carbs release sugars in your bloodstream. People with diabetes are generally insulin resistant, meaning their bodies cannot absorb glucose effectively and need more time to metabolise. So, blood sugar must not spike quickly so that there is time for your body cells to absorb the glucose.
So, opting for a low-GI, low-carb diet is excellent for them. Also, anyone at risk of diabetes must include complex carbohydrates low in the glycemic index.
3. Do not skip breakfast
Fasting has several benefits; however, it is not true for people with Type 2 diabetes who are on medications. For them, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Studies prove that blood sugar spikes are significant throughout the day when breakfast is skipped. On the other hand, when one has all three meals at specific times, the blood sugar increase was steady without spikes.
4. Eat smaller, frequent meals
Planning your meals is of utmost importance for a person with diabetes to manage blood sugar levels effectively. Eating three square meals may be causing blood sugar spikes. Also, when one with diabetes, especially who is taking insulin, has a long gap between meals, it may lead to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Hence, as a rule of thumb, people with diabetes can plan six meals a day – Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and three snacks in between.
When you eat smaller meals, it means lesser blood glucose and hence reduced insulin requirements. Besides, you feel less hungry when eating frequent, small meals and consume fewer calories.
5. Include foods that are anti-diabetic
Certain foods have excellent anti-diabetic properties that either promote insulin secretion or increase the body’s efficiency in using insulin. Examples of such foods are bitter gourd, okra, amla, cinnamon, turmeric, fenugreek, black plum etc. Including these foods in your diet regularly can help in maintaining blood sugar at optimal levels.
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6. Avoid refined white sugar
White sugar not only spikes blood sugar but also provides you with empty calories. More calories mean more weight, and more weight is bad for diabetes. The maximum recommended sugar intake per day for an adult is 25 grams, around six teaspoons full. So, people with diabetes should discuss with their doctor about the maximum sugar intake per day. Also, always check for ingredients in store-bought packed food products; low-fat yogurt might actually contain more sugar than you expect!
7. Stay hydrated
More than 60% of your body is water. So hydration is important not only for people with diabetes but for everyone.
When you are dehydrated, blood sugar becomes concentrated, resulting in blood sugar spikes. Hence, drinking enough water is vital for people with diabetes because it helps in eliminating excess glucose through urine.
You can aim to drink at least 2 litres of water every day.
8. Manage stress
Stress can hamper many bodily functions, including metabolic activities. When you are stressed, your insulin may not work well, resulting in increased blood sugar levels. Also, when your stress levels go up, several hormones are released, causing an increase in blood pressure, heart rate, and blood sugar. So, aim at reducing stress with activities such as yoga, Tai Chi, meditation, etc.
9. Ensure You Get Enough, Quality Sleep
A sleepless night or lesser sleeping hours can throw you off the next day, feeling less energetic and less productive. Disrupted sleep can disturb your hormones affecting your food intake and weight. Hormonal imbalances can disturb your blood sugar levels. On the other side, higher blood glucose won’t let you sleep well. So, this is a vicious cycle, and hence you must take action if you are not sleeping well!
Exercise improves metabolism and insulin sensitivity. A sedentary lifestyle can lead to decreased metabolism, decreased insulin sensitivity, and weight gain. Even if your work mandates a sitting job, you must take frequent breaks and be on the move.
To start with, you can aim for a 20-minute brisk walk (around 2km in 20 minutes) every day. Also, climb the stairs, play more, go for nature walks, and do basic stretches. Basically, use your joints and muscles as much as possible.
The right diet, sufficient sleep, managing stress, and exercise are all equally important if you want to keep your blood sugar at an optimal level. Watch for typical symptoms of diabetes such as frequent urination, excessive thirst, etc. Also, if you are over 40 years of age, you must check your blood sugar at least once in 6 months. Catch the disease early, and you have increased chances of reversing the condition:)
Take care and be well!