Lots of people are unaware of the things they’re doing to negatively affect their blood sugar. I remember the days when I could order a large caramel frappuccino and a 12-inch sub and eat both for lunch and still have room for more. Apparently, the 1000 calories of fat, sugar, and carbs were not enough! It’s easy to ignore the signs when you can get away with eating whatever you want. There were no serious consequences to me eating a salad versus eating a burger and a milkshake, so this continued to go on until I noticed it physically and mentally. It’s true what they say: “Once you hit 30, your body changes and nothing you did before seems to work the same way anymore.” Truer words have never been spoken.
Things that Affect Blood Sugar
Here are some things that have affected and continue to affect my blood sugar unless I do something to manage it:
- Stress: Did you know your blood sugar can rise? Usually, some deep breaths will help with this, but when I’m stressed, I reach for sugar and carbs.
- Sugar: Real or artificial. The artificial sweeteners may just take longer than real sugar to cause a spike.
- Exercise: Or lack of! Physical activity increases the body’s insulin sensitivity and helps your cells remove glucose from the blood and use it for energy.
- Caffeine: Whether you take it black, with sugar, or with cream, some people are just extra-sensitive to caffeine.
- Sleep: it only takes one night of bad sleep to make your body use insulin less efficiently.
- Dehydration: Less water means high blood sugar concentration.
- Menstrual Cycle: Hormones! Menstruation symptoms include low mood and certain food cravings, but it can also cause blood sugar level swings? “Blood sugar spikes during the ovulatory phase for a few days and then increase again in the last week of the cycle — the days prior to the onset of a period due to peak levels of estrogen and progesterone.
The Importance of Balancing Your Blood Sugar
Balancing your blood sugar is no longer something only diabetics have to worry about. In fact, this is something everyone can learn to take a bit more seriously, whether you’re healthy, pre-diabetic, or have been diagnosed with diabetes type 1 or 2. Out-of-control blood sugar levels mean you may have high levels of insulin, leaving you insulin resistant. Insulin resistance, or metabolic syndrome, can show up as systemic inflammation in your joints, chronic fatigue, high cholesterol, obesity, and more.
For the sake of this blog post, I will be focusing on lowering blood sugar levels as a fairly broad topic. For those who have Diabetes Type 1 or 2, you may realize that some of these things do not apply to you, and you will also see that I will not mention anything about how to treat Diabetes. If you have tried to balance your blood sugar level and you were not successful, please see a doctor. This is not something to play around with, and it is best managed by a professional and in a timely manner.
I have done a fair amount of research on blood sugar levels, have tested my own blood sugar using Glucose test strips, as well as a continuous glucose monitor, and have followed the work of many professionals, especially that of Dr.Molly Maloof. All of this has led to me wanting to find out how to naturally balance my blood sugar rather than go through a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs with my energy.
Things That Can Help to Balance Your Blood Sugar
- Daily Exercise: Regular exercise can help increase insulin sensitivity and help your muscles use glucose effectively. This is great for those trying to lose weight, as this way you can guide the carbs and sugar toward providing energy for your workouts instead of letting that sugar float around your bloodstream.
- Low carb/High fat diet: I’m not suggesting everyone hop on the Keto train. Keto is definitely not for everyone! I tried it in the past and found I was still eating too many calories. I have found a healthy medium by simply minimizing my carbs and eating a bit more satiating fat. Those are things like avocado or extra virgin olive oil. Carbs break down into sugars (usually glucose). If your body can’t store this sugar for energy, your blood sugar levels tend to rise. Studies* show that a low carb diet helps reduce blood sugar levels and prevent blood sugar spikes. That is why it is commonly prescribed to those who are already diabetic.
- Stay hydrated: Drinking lots of water helps your kidneys flush out the excess sugar through urine. Aim for at least 2L depending on the size of your body. The bigger you are, the more water you will need! Another great alternative is herbal tea. Coffee and soda do not count!
- Eat slowly: Honestly, I did not think this would help. I’m used to eating huge amounts in one or two sittings a day. I found that slowly eating my 2-3 meals a day helped immensely! Try chewing your food for 30 seconds per bite. It’s tough! It means your meals will take longer to finish and you may actually realize you are full much sooner. Eating slowly helps regulate your leptin hormone, which promotes a sense of fullness.
- Eat Low Glycemic Index foods: Although many of these are also mainly carbs, these are likely safer choices so that you can avoid large sugar spikes. Choose foods like bulgar, barley, yogurt, beans, non-starchy vegetables, whole wheat pasta, over the white and highly processed versions.
- Manage Stress: Exercise is a must, but it is still a form of stress to the body. Try implementing more relaxation, yoga*, or meditation into your daily routine.
- Experiment with Cinnamon or Apple Cider Vinegar: There aren’t enough studies out there to back this up, but cinnamon has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity by decreasing insulin resistance at the cellular level. Some studies have shown that cinnamon can lower blood sugar levels by up to 29%*! If you do not like cinnamon in your food, you can take it in a capsule or extract version. Likewise, ACV is said to influence your body’s response to sugars and can help improve insulin sensitivity*. It’s best taken in a few ounces of water 15 minutes before a meal. You can even add it to a salad dressing. If you absolutely can’t stand the taste or smell of ACV, there are capsule forms that you can take which are much more convenient!
Lastly, if you can, monitor your blood sugar levels. I know this is not possible for everyone. Unless you have health coverage like I do, this can be extremely pricey.
Another way to do this is to monitor how you feel and write it down. If you enjoy journaling what you eat in a day, this is the perfect opportunity to write down the following and track. How do you feel before you eat a certain food? How do you feel after you eat that food? Did you sleep well? How much water have you had to drink? What are your moods like? How do you feel when you wake up? etc. All of these are factors in your blood sugar maintenance. They will help you determine what foods you may want to steer clear from or eat more of. Be sure to talk with your healthcare provider before making lifestyle changes or trying new supplements.
Chelsea has been active most of her life, which led her to become a Personal Trainer and Yoga Instructor for the past 7 years. Health and Fitness are not solely dependent on movement, though, and with that understanding, she addresses her client’s other needs, such as diet, mindfulness, and stress management.
When she is not training clients or teaching Yoga, she is finding new activities that keep her mind and body active, such as rock climbing, hiking, listening to podcasts, or playing Board Games with friends. She is constantly working towards: Finding natural solutions to live as long as possible, inclusive Yoga for all body types, and aiming to find mindfulness is everything she does.