Learning how to lower your blood sugar is an incredibly important part of diabetes management. Here's how to lower your blood sugar.
Learning how to lower your blood sugar is an incredibly important part of diabetes management.
Blood sugar levels can seem daunting, but through careful tracking and diet choices, you can learn to manage over your levels and learn how your body works and reacts to different foods and activities.
It’s best to discuss a plan with your doctor for lowering your blood sugar, so that you can be sure you’re doing it safely and efficiently. If you’re looking for a few things to try at home, there are food options, as well as lifestyle possibilities that could produce the results you’re looking for.
Those with diabetes should learn what the symptoms of high blood sugar feel like. By being able to identify the symptoms, you can better understand when to do blood sugar checks and how to identify an emergency situation.
Remembering to check blood sugar levels throughout the day based on how you’re feeling and what you’re doing is always important.
Let’s discuss what to do depending on what you’re experiencing and feeling, as well as what your blood sugar reading is.
Hyperglycemia: Readings, Symptoms, and Severity
Healthy blood sugar levels depend on your individual health goals. Your doctor will be able to give you a healthy blood sugar target range, but the American Diabetes Association (ADA) advises levels no more than 180 mg/dL within two hours following a meal (postprandial). When your postprandial blood sugar is 200 mg/dL or more, it’s considered hyperglycemia. Hyperglycemia can be very dangerous if left untreated.
Symptoms of hyperglycemia can present in the same ways for most types of diabetes. These can include frequent urination, heightened thirst, fatigue, and unhealthy weight loss. If you’re experiencing these symptoms and don’t have an explanation for them, reach out to your doctor to see if your self-management plan needs to be adjusted. Understanding hyperglycemia and its symptoms is important and can help in identifying proper treatments.
Severe Hyperglycemia & Medical Attention
People who only experience mild hyperglycemia on rare occasions and are able to lower their blood sugar levels at home don’t need to be too concerned. However, there are certain symptoms people with diabetes should be aware of and watch out for. Severe hyperglycemia is a cause for concern and those who are experiencing warning symptoms should seek medical attention.
There are times when hyperglycemia is extremely dangerous.
When there is no insulin present in your body, high glucose levels can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). DKA usually occurs in people with type 1 diabetes, but can also occur in people with type 2 diabetes if they are insulin-dependent. Without enough insulin, your cells cannot absorb the glucose in your blood. In an attempt to get the fuel it needs, your body will produce ketones. The longer you go without insulin, the more ketones will be produced, eventually reaching a toxic level that can become fatal.
The more dangerous symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis include vomiting, a fast heart rate and trouble breathing. If you experience these, treat it as an emergency. Contact emergency medical professionals and follow their directions carefully. Ketoacidosis treatment can consist of supplemental fluids, which will help the body regulate blood sugar levels. When someone is vomiting and struggling to breathe due to DKA, they need to go to the hospital where they will receive supplemental fluids from an IV and will definitely get insulin.
There are some less-dangerous symptoms of hyperglycemia as well. You may experience headache, increased urination, and blurry vision. If you’re experiencing these things, check your blood sugar, treat the result according to your self-management plan, and reach out to a healthcare provider if needed. Informing your doctor of the symptoms you’re experiencing is helpful to ensure your treatment plan is as effective as possible. Make sure to update your doctor if you’re experiencing hyperglycemia often. Keep a log of when those periods occur, what you ate and what activities you did to help narrow down what is causing your high blood sugar.
How to Lower Your Blood Sugar Now
Many different things can cause blood sugar spikes. This includes stress, dehydration, and warm weather. Because there are so many factors which occur in day to day life that can influence your blood sugar levels, it’s extremely important that you track them closely and stay updated on what your body is telling you. The CDC notes that even gum disease can raise blood sugar (it’s also a side effect of diabetes).
If your diabetes management includes insulin, taking an extra dose of insulin is the most effective way to lower blood sugar. Follow the insulin dosing guidance given to you by your healthcare team. Your doctor will be able to help you come up with healthy targets, as well as decide what correction ratio your body needs.
The following formula can help you understand correction dosage:
(actual blood sugar level) – (target blood sugar level) / correction factor
If your blood sugar is lower than the point which your doctor has told you to administer supplemental insulin or if you don’t use insulin in the first place, you can still put in place management methods.
Drinking water can help flush out excess blood glucose, especially those with type 2 diabetes; you can learn more about what drinking water does for diabetes here!
Exercise is also helpful in encouraging the body to turn glucose into energy -- taking a brisk walk before or after a meal works especially well for individuals with type 2 diabetes as it can help increase insulin sensitivity as a natural way to help lower blood sugar.
How to Lower Your Blood Sugar Over Time
There are other steps which can be taken to lower blood sugar over time. By focusing on adjustments in exercise, your lifestyle, and your diet, you can be proactive about lowering and maintaining blood sugar levels in the long-term.
As we mentioned above, exercise is a natural way to signal to your body that it needs to turn your blood glucose into fuel for your muscles during physical activity. While getting in a little exercise before or after meals can help with postprandial glucose levels, incorporating even light exercise routines into your regular health regimen can work to increase sensitivity for the long run.
There are also a few lifestyle changes that you can try to help lower your blood sugar, including learning how to manage your stress, cutting back on caffeine, reducing alcohol intake, and quitting smoking.
While skipping a morning cup of coffee may be easy enough, learning how to manage your stress can take a little more effort. The stress hormone cortisol works to increase blood glucose, and if you’re continually stressed from work, relationships, or anything else that may cause you to tense up and feel upset more often than not, cortisol is likely a factor that drives your blood glucose up. An easy way to ease into better managing stress could be taking up activities to help ease your mind, whether you pick up beginner’s yoga, start going on daily morning walks (this helps you check the box for exercise, too!), practice meditation, or even just take some time in the day to have some peace and quiet for yourself. Additionally, it’s never a bad time to start therapy. Just having someone to talk to once a week about what might be putting some extra tension in your day can lift a lot of weight, and you can also look forward to having someone that can give you objective advice that can help steer you in the right direction if you need guidance.
Understanding the way your body uses food will be key in choosing a healthy diet. The body breaks carbohydrates down into simpler molecules to use as energy. Sucrose, fructose and glucose are all simple carbohydrate molecules. While all similar, they’re found in different foods and can impact the body in varying ways. Sucrose is a common household sugar (think white table sugar), while fructose is found naturally in fruit, and glucose is which is naturally produced in organic life, or included in many sugar-based compounds. All of these structures impact the body differently. When food is eaten, our body breaks it down into glucose, our primary energy source.
While foods can undoubtedly increase your blood sugar, they can also be a helpful component in lowering your blood sugar. By understanding the composition of certain foods, you can learn about how your body metabolizes them. Some foods that are healthy, such as fruits, have high sugar levels and should be eaten strategically, considering other nutritional benefits and health goals.
Fiber, specifically soluble fiber, aids the body by slowing digestion, which also impacts glucose processing. By increasing the fiber in your diet, you can help your body regulate its hormones and digestion processes. Consider incorporating foods into your diet that are high in fiber such as carrots, beans, nuts, apples, pears, barley, and oatmeal.
Foods with a low Glycemic Index are going to be the best choice when deciding what to add into your diet. This system is a numerical index that ranks carbohydrates based on their rate of glycemic response. Numbers that are lower will have less of an impact on your blood sugar levels, while the numbers that are higher will most likely cause a large spike. By being aware of the Glycemic Index, you can be aware of not only your blood sugar reaction, but also the correct serving size.
Understanding serving sizes is also incredibly important when examining sugar content and other ingredients. One may look at a box and think, “Wow! Only 3 grams of added sugar!” But without realizing the serving size, 3 grams of added sugar could quickly become 21 grams, if the correct serving is not observed.
Creating a plan is important. You should alert those you’re close to about your protocol as well, so they’re aware of the plan if there’s an emergency situation. Ask your doctor about the range of “acceptable” blood sugar spikes and what blood sugar level is dangerous for you in particular, so you know when to seek additional help.
Your diabetes management journey is unique and will differ from anyone else’s.
Remember it’s important to be patient and vigilant, checking your blood sugar levels frequently to ensure that your management plan is working. By taking the proper precautions, you can proactively maintain your blood sugar levels and lower them when necessary. Knowing what the symptoms of high blood sugar feel like can act as red flags for when to check your levels.
Regular monitoring is one of the best ways to learn more about your body and be able to recognize important signs. Checking throughout the day will provide you answers as to how your body reacts to certain foods and activities. Being able to identify the cause of a blood sugar spike can be important in preventing one in the future.
Updating your doctor on consistent level changes is a needed component in making sure your diabetes management plan is effective, as well. When speaking with your healthcare provider, you should make a plan for if you experience a blood sugar spike at an isolated time and another plan for if it gradually rises over a period. In the latter case, it’s best to make another appointment and sit down with your doctor to possibly modify your current routine.