How to Manage High Blood Sugar Levels
Updated: Mar 30, 2021
By Dr. Shreya Batra, ND
What is high blood sugar?
When you eat, the glucose molecules from our food is released into the blood stream. When glucose is detected in our blood, the pancreas releases our hormone, insulin, which works on moving that glucose from our bloodstream and putting it in our cells for energy use.
If your body does not produce insulin (type 1 diabetes), it is crucial to support your body with an insulin prescription. However, in cases of insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes, your body is releasing insulin, but your cells are not reacting to it. This will result in high blood insulin levels, as well as high glucose levels. If this is the case, it is important to determine the root cause of the insulin resistance and high the blood sugar levels. If this insulin resistance and high blood sugar level continues long term, it develops into type 2 diabetes.
Some symptoms of high blood sugar may include:
Unexplained weight loss (particularly muscle wasting), but increased fat storage, particularly around the belly in insulin resistance.
Common reasons for high blood sugar levels:
Diet: a diet high in simple carbohydrates (white breads, pastas, processed wheat…etc), high sugar (desserts, chocolate, candy), sugary drinks and juices, increased alcohol intake, unhealthy fats in the diet (saturated fats)
Low level of physical exercise – if you are exercising, you are increasing your body’s ability to respond to insulin and take the glucose into the cells and create energy.
Stress: this impacts your body’s ability to react to insulin and reduce blood sugar levels.
Certain medications: certain medications may impact your body’s ability to lower glucose levels.
Other underlying conditions: cystic fibrosis, pregnancy, illness, infection, trauma…etc.
Addressing high blood sugar and insulin resistance early prevents diabetes and if already diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, management can help prevent complications and improve quality of life.
Top ways to lower blood sugar levels:
Exercise – Studies have consistently shown that increasing physical activity improves your body’s response to insulin, lowers blood sugar level and reduces overall mortality rates. Exercise promotes that the sugar in your blood be taken up by the cells and tissues of the body rather than staying in the blood stream. Starting with simple things like walking, running, swimming and then moving towards more challenging strength training and aerobic fitness should be the goal. Starting small and building on your tolerance will show great benefit.
Focus on a low-glycemic index diet. (What does that even mean?!) – Foods that have a HIGH glycemic index mean that they go into your body and break down into a high amount of sugar. It is important to focus on foods that have a low sugar content and don’t break down in your body and cause a high sugar spike right after eating. Focus on foods that are high in protein, fiber and healthy fats, to manage sugar levels and prevent sugar spikes from happening.
Limit carb intake and choose “healthy” carbs – Limiting the amount of carbs is very important to help control blood sugar. High carb content decreases your insulin function and increases your sugar level dramatically. It is also important to differentiate between healthy and unhealthy carbs. Carbohydrates are found in a variety of foods. Your plate of broccoli is considered high in “carbs”, however, the type of carb is completely different than if you had a plate of white pasta. Processed and simple carbs (like a plate of pasta) are huge culprits of high blood sugar levels (and have a high glycemic index, as discussed above). However, healthy carbs don’t increase blood sugar levels as drastically and are more sugar balancing. Focusing on whole foods and the healthy carbs found in vegetables will help your blood sugar levels in the long run.
Reduce Stress: high stress releases our stress hormones such as cortisol. Cortisol breaks down stored sugars in our body and pumps it into the blood stream to allow for quick use of energy. However, being chronically stressed and overwhelmed reduces your ability to process that excess glucose and results in high blood sugar levels and ultimately insulin resistance. Managing stress is different for everyone. You can try meditation, journaling, exercising…etc.
Supplementation: there are a few very effective supplements that can help improve insulin resistance, help glucose metabolism and prevent diabetes. Similarly, there are some recommendations that can be made to accompany your diabetes medication if a diagnosis is already been given. Some of these products may include cinnamon, chromium, magnesium, berberine, gymnema sylvestre…etc. However, it is very important to discuss this with your health care practitioner before taking these as dose and recommendations vary for each person and all of them may not be suitable for you and your needs. Taking some supplementation along with your diabetes medication may cause low blood sugar levels, so please discuss this with your health team.
Your Next Steps:
If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes or have high blood sugar levels, book an appointment so we can discuss an individualized treatment for your concerns. Addressing the root cause and achieving long term health is my priority.
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