As I am diabetic (so is the Captain but he is in denial), I am constantly researching how I can lower my blood sugar naturally. It might be difficult to obtain my current medication namely Metformin in the Caribbean…….
So what is high blood sugar? High blood sugar occurs when your body doesn’t make enough or effectively use insulin, a hormone that regulates blood glucose and helps it enter your cells for energy.
High blood sugar (hyperglycemia) is associated with diabetes.
Here are 14 easy ways to lower blood sugar levels naturally:
1. Exercise regularly:
Regular exercise can help you get to and maintain a moderate weight and increase insulin sensitivity. When we have warm water around us I spend literally hours in the water, swimming or cycling/peddling on the spot and I love doing water aerobics. it does get harder when we are in colder oceans such as the Atlantic we are in now but I still try and jump overboard. Of course, when we are sailing we use lots of muscles and energy!
Increased insulin sensitivity means your cells are better able to use the available sugar in your bloodstream.
Exercise also helps your muscles use blood sugar for energy and muscle contraction.
Useful forms of exercise include weightlifting, brisk walking, running, biking, dancing, hiking, swimming, and more.
2. Manage your carb intake:
I seriously battle with this one, I am a huge lover of hot bread and melted butter. However, we are learning to substitute with almond and coconut flour so I do not feel too deprived. Sweet potatoes have replaced potatoes, wholewheat everything else, from rice to pasta to flour.
Your body breaks carbs down into sugars (mostly glucose), and then insulin helps your body use and store sugar for energy.
When you eat too many carbs or have insulin-function problems, this process fails, and blood glucose levels can rise.
Plan your meals appropriately. Here is a link to an informative book that clearly tells one what we should eat and what we should avoid as diabetics.
Many studies also show that a low carb diet helps reduce blood sugar levels and prevent blood sugar spikes.
What’s more, a low carb diet can help manage blood sugar levels in the long run.
3. Increase your fibre intake:
Fibre slows carb digestion and sugar absorption. For these reasons, it promotes a more gradual rise in blood sugar levels.
Furthermore, the type of fibre you eat may play a role.
There are two kinds of fibre:
While both are important, soluble fibre has explicitly been shown to improve blood sugar management. Psyllium husk is an excellent source of soluble fibre.
Additionally, a high-fibre diet can help better manage type 1 diabetes by improving the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar and reducing blood sugar lows.
Foods that are high in fibre include:
- whole grains
The recommended daily intake of fibre is about 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. That’s about 14 grams for every 1,000 calories (15).
4. Drink water and stay hydrated :
Drinking enough water may help you keep your blood sugar levels within healthy limits. Living on our boat full-time means we have to use water sparingly and be conscious of how much we have to use each day. Our tanks hold about 600 litres which we use for cooking, showers, and my best friend on board, my washing machine. Drinking water has to be calculated. Fortunately, we have a watermaker on board that converts seawater into drinking water via reverse osmosis.
In addition to preventing dehydration, water helps your kidneys flush out the excess sugar through urine.
Drinking water regularly helps rehydrate the blood, lowers blood sugar levels, and could reduce diabetes risk.
Keep in mind that water and other non-caloric beverages are best. Sugar-sweetened drinks raise blood glucose, drive weight gain, and increase diabetes. Water is the best choice.
5. Implement portion control:
Portion control helps regulate calorie intake and can help maintain a moderate weight. This one is obvious and easier said than done. We are eating off side plates instead of large dinner plates and it has definitely helped.
Consequently, weight management promotes healthy blood sugar levels and has been shown to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Monitoring your serving sizes also helps reduce calorie intake and subsequent blood sugar spikes.
Here are some helpful tips for managing portion sizes:
- Measure and weigh portions. (It is quite a pain to do this but does actually help).
- Use smaller plates.
- Avoid all-you-can-eat restaurants.
- Read food labels and check the serving sizes.
- Keep a food journal.
- Eat slowly. Captain Mike always gobbled up his food, he eats slowly now and appreciates the food more. He is also eating a LOT less.
6. Choose foods with a low glycemic index:
The glycemic index measures how we absorb or digest foods, which affects the rate at which blood sugar levels rise.
Both the amount and type of carbs determine how a food affects blood sugar levels .
Eating low-glycemic-index foods has been shown to reduce blood sugar levels in those with diabetes .
Although the glycemic index of foods is important, the amount of carbs consumed also matters .
Foods with a low to moderate glycemic index include:
- bulgar (have not tried this yet)
- wheat pasta
- non-starchy vegetables
7. Manage stress levels:
Easier said than done in these worrying, strange times yet stress can affect your blood sugar levels .
Hormones such as glucagon and cortisol are secreted during stress. These hormones cause blood sugar levels to go up.
One study showed that exercise, relaxation, and meditation significantly reduced stress and lowered blood sugar levels for students. I consciously tell myself that I need “time out” when I get stressed and have a small bookshelf on the boat filled with my favorite books, I grab one, curl up in a corner and read for as long as it takes to calm down.
Exercises and relaxation methods like yoga and mindfulness-based stress reduction may also help correct insulin secretion problems in chronic diabetes. I have just subscribed to a 30-day free yoga trial site and plan to bend and twist myself on the deck every day. Will report my progress in a separate post!
8. Monitor your blood sugar levels :
“What gets measured gets managed.”
Measuring and monitoring blood glucose levels can also help you better manage your levels.
For example, keeping track helps you determine whether you need to make adjustments in meals or medications .
It will also help you find out how your body reacts to certain foods .
Try measuring your levels every day and keeping track of the numbers in a log. Whilst I advocate it, I do not always do it, once a week is enough for me to see that I am on track. Watch the expiry dates on your “strips” , I nearly had heart failure recently when testing, my sugar level was so high I thought I needed a hospital and fast! Luckily Captain checked the expiry date …. 2017. He does not measure his sugar at all and prefers to be in denial (which is NOT a river in Egypt.)
9. Get enough quality sleep:
Getting enough sleep feels excellent and is necessary for good health. This, however, is not always practical on a boat where night watches become part of your daily routine on passage. We are in a particulary windy anchorage right now and the anchor alarm shrieks us awake every now and then. Not conducive to a good nights sleep!
Poor sleeping habits and a lack of rest can also affect blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity (sensitivity in general actually, I am always ratty if I do not get enough sleep). They can increase appetite and promote weight gain.
Sleep deprivation decreases the release of growth hormones and increases cortisol levels. Both of these play an essential role in blood sugar management.
Furthermore, adequate sleep is about both quantity and quality. It’s best to get a sufficient amount of high quality sleep every night, at least 6 hours. Poor sleep can disrupt critical metabolic hormones.
High blood sugar levels and diabetes have also been linked to micronutrient deficiencies.
Chromium is involved in carb and fat metabolism. It also helps regulate blood sugar levels. A lack of chromium may predispose you to carb intolerance.
Chromium-rich foods include:
- whole grain products
Magnesium has also been shown to benefit blood sugar levels, while magnesium deficiency has been linked to a higher risk of developing diabetes.
Studies have linked individuals with the highest magnesium intake with up to a 47% lower risk for developing diabetes.
Magnesium-rich foods include:
- dark leafy greens
- squash and pumpkin seeds
- whole grains
- dark chocolate
We take good quality supplements of both of the above (magnesium and chromium) as we are not always able to source the fresh fruit and veggies needed.
11. Try apple cider vinegar:
Apple cider vinegar (pills or liquid), has many health benefits. (USA link).
It promotes lower fasting blood sugar levels, possibly decreasing its production by the liver or increasing its use by cells.
Furthermore, studies show that vinegar significantly influences your body’s response to sugars and can help improve insulin sensitivity.
It may be mixed in a few ounces of water that you can drink before a high carb meal or be mixed in salad dressing. I add a tablespoon, together with half a squeezed lemon to a mug of boiling water first thing every morning (unless the Captain gets to me with a “woffie” first.)
However, it’s essential to talk with your doctor before taking apple cider vinegar if you’re already taking medications that lower blood sugar.
12. Experiment with cinnamon:
Cinnamon is known to have many health benefits.
It’s been shown to improve insulin sensitivity by decreasing insulin resistance at the cellular level .
Studies show cinnamon can also lower blood sugar levels by up to 29% .
It slows the breakdown of carbs in the digestive tract, which moderates the rise in blood sugar after a meal. We add a sprinkling of cinnamon to our coffee, it tastes really good. Do buy the real, organic cinnamon.
However, there are risks involved if you take too much cinnamon so please do not start adding heaped teaspoons to every meal or drink! One a day is enough.
13. Try berberine:
Berberine is the active component of a herb used in traditional Chinese medicine, including treating diabetes.
Berberine has been shown to help lower blood sugar and enhance carb breakdown for energy.
What’s more, berberine may be as effective as some blood-sugar-lowering drugs. This makes it one of the most effective supplements for those with diabetes or prediabetes.
However, many of the mechanisms behind its effects are still unknown. More high-quality studies are needed to determine its safety and effectiveness. I have just ordered my first berberine, highly recommended by a friend, and will report back in 30 days. It is hard to source locally so I would suggest that my SA friends click on the link below and order it!
Berberine (USA link) may have some side effects, such as:
- abdominal pain
Speak with your healthcare provider first if you’re considering using berberine.
14. Eat fenugreek seeds:
Fenugreek seeds are a great source of soluble fibre, which can help manage blood sugar levels.
Many studies have shown that fenugreek can effectively lower blood sugar in people with diabetes. It also helps reduce fasting glucose and improve glucose tolerance .
Although not that popular, fenugreek can be added to baked goods to help treat diabetes.
The recommended dose of fenugreek seeds is 2–5 grams per day.
Fenugreek seeds are easy to add to your diet and can help regulate blood glucose levels. I have not been able to source any in the tiny fishing village where we are anchored in the bay at present but will report back when I find them. In the meantime, I have ordered some capsules. (USA link).
The bottom line:
If you have diabetes or have blood sugar management problems, it’s important to work with your healthcare provider to create and start a treatment plan as soon as possible.
Feel free to contact us with any questions. While I am by no means an expert or registered medical practitioner, I have done months (probably years) of research and might be able to make a few suggestions.
Faithful to Nature is well known to many South Africans for its organic, fantastic products. I personally recommend them. Browse around the store, I am sure there will be something you will spot to help you maintain a healthy you!
Onwards and upwards to better health!
Captain Mike and Nikki.
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