5 Easy Ways To Lower Blood Sugar
The month of November is American Diabetes Month. I think of my mom in November because not only does she have diabetes, but it’s also her birthday month. Diabetes has changed her life for the better, I firmly believe that. My mom, like many, has been through a lot. She and my dad left their home for 3 years to move out of state to care for an aging parent with Alzheimer’s. During this time she was so stressed out, she would often be in tears when I talked to her. She was tired, low on energy, and even decided to go back to work (after retirement), because she thought it would help her keep her sanity. Her weight was increasing slightly, her stress level was high, and she and my dad would eat out often to just “have a break”. The diagnosis of diabetes, at this point, was inevitable. She was always open to hearing about ways to prevent diabetes, but she never really committed to changing. About a year later, we discovered she had a diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes.
On one of her visits up to Alaska, I encouraged her to wear a continuous glucose monitor, and she agreed. When she saw what happened after meals or when she was sedentary, she started freaking out. She was visiting me for a little over a week and one day when I came home from work, she was walking circles through my house. I asked her what she was doing and she told me she was walking to make her blood sugar come down. She lost 5 pounds that week. Once she returned home, she continued walking and losing weight. Something had clicked, something had changed for her. From then on, I observed a magnificent transformation. I have never seen someone so driven, she would not go to sleep at night until her smart watch hit 10,000 steps. She started going to an exercise studio, and eating differently. I would love to take credit for all the amazing things that she did, but her transformation stemmed from making a conscious decision that she wanted to live a quality life, be around for her grandkids, and she did not want her sugar to be high! She was living her decision! A key part to her success in her decision is and was the support my dad provides. He walks with her daily and he’s even eating healthier.
At the time of her diagnosis her A1c (a blood test that estimates average blood sugar) was 6.7% (normal is <5.7%, pre diabetes is 5.7 to 6.4% and 6.5% and up, is a diagnosis of diabetes). The doctor started her on a medicine that she took for 3 months. At her next check up her A1c came down to 5.7%. She asked the doctor for a trial off of her medication, he agreed, and this increased her motivation even more. The next time she had her A1c checked she had lost a total of 20 pounds, continued her 10,000+ steps each day, was attending 7 classes a week (yoga, muscle conditioning, and zumba), and practicing mindful eating. Her A1c was now 5.3%, on no medication.
She will often mention her fear of what would happen if she stops doing all that she’s doing. I reassure her that it’s different this time. Just yesterday she told me how she feels a little selfish, everything is all about her now. I reassure her again…..it should be all about her. Fighting against diabetes can be hard. It can produce feelings of denial, anger, and self doubt. Once the decision to manage diabetes is made, however, it can induce feelings of confidence and control, and a realization that even though diabetes is present in your life, there is hope. Hope that harmony between you and diabetes can be attained.
Let’s talk about some easy ways that you can get started on your path to more harmony:
- Don’t eat after 8pm, then don’t eat again for 13 hours. Wait, what? I thought that people with diabetes were “supposed” to snack or not go to long without eating? Also, didn’t a bunch of smart people debunk the whole not eating after 8pm thing? Well, here’s the latest and greatest for you. Studies on fasting have shown people who stop eating after 8pm and don’t eat again for 13 hr have lower risk of heart disease and insulin resistance. So, if you don’t eat after 8pm and hold out for breakfast until 9am…..it does a body good! If you are using insulin or taking any medication that could cause a low blood sugar reaction, you should talk to your provider first, to make a plan. Plan to do at least one or two middle of the night checks, and be sure to immediately treat any hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Be sure to let your provider know about any low blood sugars so they can adjust your meds. No need to feed your medicine, right? Better to take less medicine, than to eat more food.
- Eat your carbs last. Did you know you could reduce your post meal blood sugar spike just by changing the order that you eat your food? Crazy, right? – but it’s true. A study showed that people with Type 2 diabetes who ate their carbohydrates last, had lower post meal blood sugars than people who didn’t. Try saving the best for last!
- Move after your meal. Most people like to take it easy after dinner. The worst thing you can do is to be sedentary after any meal. Just moving around for 10 minutes after each meal could help lower your blood sugar. So instead of reading, watching TV, or driving, shortly after you eat, plan some activities that require movement. Maybe it’s household chores ( like dishes, laundry, vacuuming) or walking the dog. Make a list of activities that require movement to keep you up and moving for 10 minutes after you eat.
- Stay hydrated! Choose drinks that are not sweet to keep your energy up and your blood sugar down. Flavored (unsweetened) tea and spa water are great ways to stay hydrated and boost your levels of antioxidants and vitamins. Examples of spa water are: water with mint and cucumber/ tarragon and cucumber/lemon and rosemary – whichever herbs and fruits sound good to you.
- Laugh, love, and be mindful. I don’t think I have to explain this one, but when you laugh, it can help lower your blood sugar. Additionally, when you are loved and love others, you want to care for yourself and that can also lower blood sugar. Last, but not least, mindfulness. When you focus your attention on the present moment and forget about what happened earlier or what’s happening next week, when you give yourself an opportunity to enjoy and experience the here and now, it can do wonders for lowering your blood sugar.
A little secret I should mention, many of the things that are recommended for managing diabetes are also great at preventing Type 2 diabetes. So, even if you don’t have diabetes, the strategies mentioned above may still benefit you. Pick one or two of the suggestions that seem the easiest and start today! Managing diabetes shouldn’t have to be hard all the time.