How to safely bring down your blood glucose levels and keep it under control.
Hyperglycaemia (otherwise known as “high blood sugars”) occurs when your body is unable to utilize the sugars it consumes by turning them into energy. Although it mainly occurs with people who have the serious condition diabetes, there can be other causes. Hyperglycaemia can cause serious symptoms and lead to potentially-dangerous complications, but the good news is that it can be tackled, with effort and a few simple lifestyle changes.
What Could Cause High Blood Sugar?
There are two predominate types of hyperglycaemia (high blood sugar). These are:
- Fasting hyperglycaemia, which is blood sugar levels higher than 130mg/dL (that’s milligrams of sugar per decilitre of blood) after not eating or drinking (other than plain water) for eight hours.
- Postprandial (after-meal) hyperglycaemia, which is blood sugar levels higher than 180 mg/dL two hours after you eat.
A diabetic can have hyperglycaemia for a large number of reasons. The most common reasons are: forgetting to take your insulin or other glucose-lowering medication at the right time, eating too many carbohydrates for the amount of insulin you did take, or being less physically active than usual.
However, there are other causes that are less obvious. Being under the weather, feeling stressed, or having an infection could all affect your blood sugars, making them more prone to rise where they wouldn’t normally.
What Are The Common Symptoms Of Hyperglycaemia/High Blood Sugar?
There are two stages of symptoms in hyperglycaemia. If you are experiencing a large number of the early symptoms, take notice and monitor your blood sugars, attempting to lower them if they are too high, as the later symptoms are particularly serious and uncomfortable, leading to a risk of dangerous complications. Don’t take chances with your health.
Along with blood sugars of more than 180mg/dL (130mg/dL fasting), other early symptoms include:
- Blurring vision
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Severe headaches
- Fatigue (a feeling of being weak and tired all the time)
- Unexplained weight loss
- Difficulty concentrating
Later symptoms include:
- Skin infections, particularly of the skin around the vagina
- Cuts and sores being slow to heal
- Cold and insensitive feet, due to nerve damage
- Erectile dysfunction in men
- Loss of pubic hair
- Weakening vision
- Constipation and diarrhea
- Damage to eyes, and kidneys
How Can I Lower My Blood Sugar Levels?
If your blood sugar levels are high, your priority should be to lower them, safely, effectively, and naturally. There are many simple ways to lower your blood sugar, and they can all fit easily into your lifestyle.
Ensure You’re Taking The Correct Insulin
If your blood sugar levels are consistently high, you may be taking the wrong levels of insulin for your lifestyle. Work with your specialist to ensure you’re taking enough insulin. But don’t alter your insulin levels on your own. Taking too much insulin could lead to hypoglycaemia, a potentially-dangerous condition where your blood sugars go too low, potentially leading to coma.
A bit of gentle exercise can help lower blood sugars, and having a walk is a perfect form of gentle, blood sugar regulating exercise that you can do without investing in expensive equipment. Make walking a part of your daily routine, walk to get a newspaper in the morning; walk the dog at sunset… A thirty minute walk a day will lower your blood sugars in a pleasant way that you can maintain long-term.
Don’t take part in strenuous exercise, as some diabetics find that can raise their blood sugars by causing biological stress.
Drink More Water
As we discovered earlier, hyperglycaemia can cause excess urination. This will leave you with the need to replace your fluids. Replace them with pure water, rather than sugared or caffeinated drinks. This will prevent dehydration while “flushing” the glucose from your blood.
Stress is one of the major non-food causes of hyperglycaemia. So put your feet up, watch a favourite movie, and be calm. Avoid situations you know place you under unnecessary stress. Just think, now you have the perfect excuse to not visit your mother-in-law!
What Foods And Drinks Can Help Lower My Blood Sugars?
No one food should be regarded as a magic potion. There is no food that, if eaten, will instantly lower blood sugar levels, curing hyperglycaemia and leading to perfect health. There are, however, a number of foods that help keep blood sugar levels controlled and should be eaten regularly as part of a balanced diet.
Oatmeal is a really useful carbohydrate for diabetics and anyone seeking to control their blood sugar levels and feel fuller for longer. It’s full of terrific slow-burning, soluble fiber to help you regulate your hunger. Because of this, it will keep your blood sugar levels stable over a long period of time. Have this for breakfast for slow-burning energy.
Cinnamon has been in the news recently, found to reduce the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes. But I bet you didn’t know that it could reduce your blood sugar levels. A 2013 review found that consumption of Cinnamon lowered fasting blood glucose levels, and raised good cholesterols (HDL), while lowering bad cholesterols (LDL). So sprinkle some in your apple compote today.
Buyer beware: Saigon Cinnamon contains risky amounts of the blood-thinner Coumadin. Ceylon Cinnamon may also contain the blood-thinner. Do not consume cinnamon in large quantities.
A diet high in non-starchy vegetables (such as spinach, green beans, and broccoli) is high in fibre and low in fat, helping lower blood sugar levels and maintaining them at a healthier level. There is also value in starchy vegetables (such as potatoes and corn), however these are higher in carbohydrates and need to be considered as part of your daily carbohydrate allowance.
A study found that 43% of patients with Type 2 Diabetes who followed a vegan diet for twenty-two weeks found an improved reaction to their diabetes-control medication.
Some people think being diabetic means you can’t eat bananas anymore. However, that pleasantly-sweet fruit is a perfect dessert for diabetics, as it is bursting with fiber, helping you feel fuller for longer, as well as being full of that necessary workhorse of the vitamin world, vitamin C – necessary to fight disease and to build a strong nervous system and healthy skin.
Just remember that bananas are a form of carbohydrate, so count them in your daily total.
It’s a bad time to be a hyperglycaemic vampire, because (according to one 2012 study) garlic reduces blood sugar. It may also increase the amount of insulin available for use in diabetics. So dice up that garlic, and whip-up a delicious garlic and tomato sauce today; not only will it taste just scrummy, it will also be wonderful for helping to lower your blood sugars.
A study found that grapefruit juice increased insulin-sensitivity and lowered blood sugar levels in mice, suggesting it may be helpful for patients with diabetes. However, grapefruit juice can interact with a number of medications, so check your medication leaflets, or consult your doctor or pharmacist, before you add grapefruit juice to your diet.
Avocados are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, which increase feelings of fullness after eating. Monounsaturated fatty acids have been found to lower insulin resistance, improving fasting and postprandial blood glucose levels.
Blueberries are rich in anthocyanins, an antioxidant that protects against obesity, which can be a major cause of Type 2 Diabetes. Blueberries are also full of soluble fiber. Adding simple blueberry smoothies to your daily diet for only six weeks has been found to make your body more sensitive to insulin, lowering your blood sugar levels, and stabilizing them over a longer period.
Try adding a handful of blueberries to your oatmeal for a sweet, sustaining treat.
Apple cider vinegar is a popular health food, reputed to have many health-assisting properties and to change gastrointestinal enzymes. But, did you know that there may be some facts to support this theory?
A 2010 study by Liatis et al found that when individuals with Type 2 Diabetes add vinegar to a meal with a large glycaemic index (in this case, mashed potatoes with low-fat milk), postprandial blood sugar levels do not rise as much as they do in individuals who consume the same high G.I meal without the addition of vinegar. The Liatis et al (2010) study suggests that the consumption of vinegar may be helpful in attempts to fight hyperglycaemia.
If you want to use apple cider vinegar, it’s not unpleasant-tasting. It’s a little sweet and a little tart, and will go very nicely in a vinaigrette dressing, a marinade, or even to help give tomato sauces a kick.
Yogurt can be a healthy natural dessert for patients with hyperglycaemia, if you choose a yogurt with added probiotic. Probiotics can aid blood sugar control. But make sure you choose yogurt with no additional sugar, and (as yogurt contains milk) count the carbohydrates towards your daily total.
It seems counter intuitive that something so sweet would help to lower blood sugars, but there is evidence that it may do just that. Honey has been found to improve control of blood sugars in a patient with diabetes. Choose natural honey products, and add it to your oatmeal, or spread some honey on some toast for a tasty way to stabilize your blood sugar levels.
Popcorn itself is a very healthy snack, full of fiber that helps you feel fuller for longer. Because popcorn is made with a whole grain (corn), it doesn’t cause your blood sugars to spike as much as other snack foods might. However, be aware of what you put on your popcorn. Don’t load your popcorn with butter, salt or sugar. Instead, use a natural sugar-free alternative, such as stevia.
A study found that consuming peanut butter not only leaves patients with diabetes feeling fuller for longer, but also keeps blood sugars stable at a lower level throughout the day. This is true, even if the patient has a meal with a high glycaemic index for lunch.
Try adding peanut butter to toast for a healthy breakfast that will see you through until lunch, and keep your blood sugar levels stable all day.
Foods And Drinks To Avoid
Unfortunately, research by Lane et al (2007) has shown that regular consumption of caffeinated coffee reduces the ability of a patient of with Type 2 Diabetes to control their blood sugar levels. The same is true of other caffeinated beverages. So it may be time to trade-in your caffeinated drinks for decaffeinated alternatives and give your blood sugars a helping hand.
Milk (In Excess)
Milk contains protein, which is essential for stabilizing blood sugars, and can be used in an episode of hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar levels) to help raise and stabilize blood sugars. However, if your blood sugar levels are consistently high, look at the amount of milk you drink, as one cup contains 15 grams of carbohydrate. Don’t avoid milk entirely, as it is an essential provider of Calcium, but ensure you add the carbohydrates from the milk you drink into your daily allowance.
Protein bars claim to offer the nutritional value of a meal in a compact bar. Ignore the hype. They are, more often than not, little more than candy bars, bursting with sugar and saturated fat. To avoid appearing to have high-levels of carbohydrates, many protein bars use sugar alcohols, which cannot be completely digested, leading to bloating and diarrhoea, and raising your blood sugars levels.
Most foods labelled sugar-free will cause a spike in blood sugar levels. This is because they contain a large number of carbohydrates. Also watch out for sugar alcohols such as xylitol and sorbitol, which cause uncomfortable dietary symptoms and raise blood sugars.
Fruit makes for a healthy snack. But be aware that dried fruits pack a huge amount of carbohydrates into a tiny serving, and that will make your blood sugars spike. Only three dates contains 15 grams of carbohydrate, the same as one cup of milk or a 1/3 cup of pasta.
Some sports drinks contain as much sugar as cola. It’s not necessary to drink sports drinks to replenish after a short work-out; just take a long drink of plain water.
Blood Sugar FAQ’s (Frequently Asked Questions)
- What exactly is blood sugar?
- What is a normal blood sugar level?
- What happens when my blood sugar levels are too high?
- At what level are high blood sugars considered diabetes?
- What is the best time to check my blood sugars at home, to know if I am a diabetic or not?
- Can glucose levels be high in blood, but not in urine?
- Can any condition besides diabetes cause high blood sugar readings?
- How high should my blood sugar be before I contact my doctor?
- Can high blood sugar cause headaches or dizziness?
- Does moderate exercise raise or lower blood sugar levels?
- Does taking fish oil or glucosamine affect my blood sugars?
- Does a woman’s menstrual cycle affect her blood sugar levels?
- Why do diabetics with hyperglycaemia go into ketosis?
1. What exactly is blood sugar?
“Blood sugar” is a colloquial term for “blood glucose”. Glucose is only one type of sugar, but the one that is used to keep our body running. It’s digested from the carbohydrates of the foods we eat. Once glucose is digested, our body takes it into our bloodstream, where it travels to our cells, providing us with the energy we need to function.
2. What is a normal blood sugar level?
A normal fasting (after not eating for eight hours) blood sugar level is less than 100 mg/dL, in a healthy person (without diabetes). A normal postprandial (one to two hours after the meal) blood sugar level is less than 140 mg/dL in a person without diabetes. In a person with diabetes, a good preprandial (prior to a meal) blood sugar level is 80 to 130 mg/dL, and a good postprandial blood sugar level is less than 180 mg/dL.
3. What happens when my blood sugar levels are too high?
When your blood sugar levels are too high, you may feel very tired and very thirsty. You may feel very sick or very faint. You may throw-up, causing you to lose vital fluids. If you’re feeling uncomfortable or ill, check your blood sugars, as this will tell you if your illness is caused by high blood sugar levels or some other cause. If your blood sugars do rise, one of the best ways to lower them again is by going for a gentle walk.
If you are a patient with Type 1 Diabetes, and have blood sugar levels above 250 mg/dL, check for urine ketones first. You should not exercise if there are ketones present.
4. At what level are high blood sugars considered diabetes?
Although it takes a doctor to properly diagnose and treat diabetes, there is a level for fasting blood sugars that’s a good indicator of whether an individual has diabetes or not. If your fasting blood sugar levels (after not eating or drinking anything besides plain water for eight hours) are less than 100mg/dL, that’s a sign that you are not prediabetic or diabetic. If your fasting blood sugar levels are between 100 mg/dL and 125mg/dL that’s a sign of prediabetes (which means that you don’t have diabetes yet, but may develop it unless you start to eat well and take light exercise). If your fasting blood sugars are 126mg/dL or above, it’s a sign of diabetes.
5. What is the best time to check my blood sugars at home, to know if I am a diabetic or not?
As before, only a doctor can properly diagnose and treat diabetes. However, it is recommended that you take an early morning, fasting blood sugar, when you get up, before you eat or drink anything. Diabetics often find their fasting blood sugar is higher than it should be. It’s one of the first signs of the condition. If you find your fasting blood sugar is high on two consecutive occasions, go to your doctor to discuss the results.
Another good time to check your blood sugars is two hours after a meal. If your blood sugars are over 180 mg/dL, it’s another sign that you may be diabetic and you should take your results to your doctor.
6. Can glucose levels be high in blood, but not in urine?
It is possible for blood and urine glucose levels to not be the same. Urine testing is not the most accurate way to test for glucose levels. Blood testing will tell you what your sugar levels currently are. Urine testing will only tell you if there has been any sugar passing through your urinary system since you last went to the toilet. Always test your blood sugar levels, rather than your urine sugar levels if possible.
7. Can any condition besides diabetes cause high blood sugar readings?
Hyperglycaemia isn’t always diabetes-related. There are a number of medical problems (such as heart-attack, stroke or a urinary tract infection) that can cause high blood sugar levels. Recent surgery can increase blood sugar levels. Polycystic ovarian syndrome can cause hyperglycaemia. So can a number of medications, both legal (such as steroid therapy), and illegal (for example, ecstasy). Being obese, or leading a sedentary lifestyle, can also lead to hyperglycaemia.
8. How high should my blood sugar be before I contact my doctor?
Contact your doctor if your fasting blood sugar is routinely 126mg/dL or over, or if your postprandial blood sugar is routinely 180 mg/dL or over.
9. Can high blood sugar cause headaches or dizziness?
One of the main symptoms of hyperglycaemia is headaches. However, high blood sugar levels can also cause dizziness. It does this by attempting to clear the body of excess sugars, which it does through purging the body of liquids by urination and vomiting. This causes dehydration, and that dehydration is responsible for the dizziness.
10. Does moderate exercise raise or lower blood sugar levels?
While light exercise lowers blood sugars, strenuous exercise causes physical stress and raises them. If you avoid intense exercise, and stick to moderate exercise such as walking, you should find it helpful in lowering your blood sugar levels.
11. Does taking fish oil or glucosamine affect my blood sugars?
There isn’t much evidence at the moment, but it is possible that omega-3 fish oil and glucosamine may affect insulin resistance, possibly leading to an increase in blood sugars. Caution is advised. If you intend to take omega-3 fish-oil or glucosamine, make sure you monitor your blood sugar levels consistently or consult with your doctor first.
12. Does a woman’s menstrual cycle affect her blood sugar levels?
The short answer is yes. The longer answer is “yes, however…” Little research has actually been conducted into the area of women’s menstruation and blood sugar levels; however, one thing has become clear from the little research that has been done. Every woman is different. Some women get her period and find her blood sugar levels go sky-high. It’s believed that this is because progesterone decreases insulin-sensitivity. For other women, however, their menstrual period involves a constant battle against hypoglycaemia (that’s blood sugars that are too low).
The best advice is to eat sensibly and monitor your own blood sugar levels throughout your menstrual period, being aware of your own peaks and troughs.
13. Why do diabetics with hyperglycaemia go into ketosis?
Diabetics go into ketosis when they run out of insulin, causing the number of ketones in the blood to increase and turn the blood acidic. It’s most common in Type 1 Diabetics that haven’t been diagnosed yet, but also occurs in diabetic patients who fail to maintain their insulin-regime, or who have an underlying infection, such as pneumonia or gastroenteritis.
If you think someone you know may be going into ketosis, watch out for shortness of breath, passing large amounts of urine, and tiredness. In the later stages, the patient will begin to hyperventilate, vomit and go into a coma. You will smell ketones on their breath, which smell like nail-polish remover.
If you notice these symptoms call an ambulance immediately. You could save a life.
Click here to watch a video on how a new medical breakthrough (from Newcastle University) can force your pancreas to fix your high blood sugar naturally.