Blood sugar, also known as glucose, is the main sugar in your blood and your body’s main source of energy. Blood sugars vary all day. A normal fasting blood sugar (before you eat or drink in the morning) is less than 100 mg/dl. Blood sugars anytime of day regardless of when or what the last meal was should always be under 200 mg/dl. Blood sugars exceeding these two levels could signal prediabetes or Type 1 diabetes or Type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is a condition where the body cannot produce enough insulin or use insulin properly to correct blood sugars to safe levels.
How do you feel when your blood sugar is too high?
Whether you are at risk for diabetes mellitus or already have it, it’s essential to listen to your body for signs of high blood sugar. The following symptoms can indicate that your blood sugar is higher than normal, a condition called hyperglycemia:
- Blurred vision
- Trouble thinking or concentrating
It’s important to monitor your blood sugar because severely elevated blood sugar levels can lead to a life-threatening medical emergency and result in coma or other dangerous conditions. Elevated blood sugars over years can cause long-term effects such as poor wound healing, nerve, blood cell, and kidney damage, heart disease, stroke, and vision problems.
Keep in mind that, “in many cases, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) follows an episode of high blood sugar,” says M. Kara, MD, the founder of KaraMD. “Repeat episodes are sometimes considered a precursor to diabetes.”
Those with prediabetes may be prescribed medication to keep blood sugar levels in check. There are also ways to lower your blood sugar naturally. Keeping your blood glucose levels in the healthy range decreases your risk of diabetes complications. Those with Type 1 diabetes will need insulin regardless of their good habits.
11 natural ways to lower blood sugar
Whether you have symptoms of high blood sugar or you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, you may be wondering how to lower blood sugar naturally. While blood sugar may be improved with home remedies, people with diabetes should not stop taking their medication or change their dosage without talking to their healthcare provider. But in addition to medication, you can try these natural remedies for lowering your blood sugar. Also consider the opposite, if you do not follow these healthful ways to lower blood sugar, the medication that your physician prescribes may never effectively control your blood sugars.
1. Monitor your carbohydrate intake
What and how you eat is a very important factor in keeping your blood sugar levels in the healthy range. Choosing foods that stabilize your blood sugar and keep high blood sugar spikes to a minimum will help you stave off a diabetes diagnosis or help control existing diabetes. Some diets oversimplify a comprehensive food intake, and simply tell you to limit carbs or focus on low-carb foods. It’s more complicated than that.
However, tracking your intake of foods that contribute to high blood sugar levels—such as baked goods, processed foods, fried foods, and sweeteners (even natural sweeteners like honey, agave, and maple syrup)—can be a good place to start modifying your diet to balance your blood sugar.
2. Eat foods with a low to medium GI score
Look for foods with a low to medium glycemic index (GI) score. These are foods that your body absorbs slowly and decrease spikes in blood sugar. Some people pair low and high GI foods in order to balance their blood sugar. Another way to think about foods that lower blood glucose are ones that do not provide “fast energy” but give you more energy over a longer period of time. Foods with a low glycemic index have many health benefits besides their effects on blood sugar, so eating a diet high in protein, fatty acids, and fiber will benefit your whole family, not just those actively trying to achieve glycemic control.
3. Increase your fiber intake
High fiber is key to the foods that lower blood sugar, so increasing your soluble fiber intake will help you lower your blood sugar. Focus on eating foods that stabilize blood sugar such as unrefined carbohydrates like whole grain bread or pasta, sweet potatoes, legumes, lentils, nuts, and non-starchy vegetables.
Another perk? High fiber foods can help you feel fuller. That can help you avoid overeating or craving foods that can negatively affect your blood sugar. Men should aim for 30 to 38 grams daily, and women 21 to 25 grams daily, according to the Mayo Clinic.
4. Stick to an eating schedule
Dr. Kara warns against “skipping meals frequently” to avoid the rollercoaster of high to low blood sugar surges and dips. Spreading your meals out throughout the day, rather than eating a large breakfast or large dinner can help to regulate blood sugar. Eating regularly from morning through evening is the best strategy.
5. Don’t rely on supplements or vitamins
There’s no shortcut to maintaining good blood sugars. A supplement or vitamin alone will not give you healthy blood sugar levels and they can interact negatively with other medications. Speak to your healthcare provider and perhaps ask for a referral for a dietitian who specializes in blood sugar control before incorporating dietary supplements, shakes, or vitamins to achieve blood sugar control.
RELATED: What is the best diabetes diet?
6. Drink more water
Perhaps it is no surprise that the best beverage to keep blood sugar in check is water. High blood sugar causes dehydration, which can be dangerous if not treated. Drinking water, especially when your blood sugar is high, helps you pass excess glucose through your urine. One study showed that people with normal blood sugar levels who drank 34 ounces of water per day were 21% less likely to develop hyperglycemia over the next nine years than those who drank 16 ounces or less.
There are other drinks that can help you lower your blood sugar naturally such as unsweetened tea. “Hibiscus tea helps to lower blood sugar level and reduce cholesterol, which keeps your heart healthy and prevents heart conditions,” says Jay Woody, MD, the chief medical officer of Intuitive Health and a co-founder of Legacy ER & Urgent Care.
Drinks you should avoid, or drink sparingly, include:
- Fruit juice
- Sports drinks
- Highly sugared coffee and tea
7. Get regular exercise
Even exercise like walking can help control blood sugar levels. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) says one of the best ways to manage diabetes is to have 150 minutes of moderate physical exercise a week. If you live a sedentary lifestyle or have to sit for long periods of time for work, try to get up every 30 minutes and get active. Good options are stretching, yoga, or taking a walk around the block. Exercise increases insulin sensitivity, lowers blood sugar for up to a day, and aids in weight loss.
8. Manage your weight
Aiming for a healthy body weight is important for blood sugar management. Weight gain contributes to insulin resistance, increasing insulin levels in your body. Weight loss has the opposite effect. Dropping just 7% of your body weight can help to improve your insulin sensitivity again, and promote healthy blood sugar levels.
9. Maintain regular checkups
See your healthcare provider for regular checkups. Be proactive about preventive care. Make sure you have your blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure checked—this is especially important if you have a family history or risk factors for diabetes.
10. Reduce stress
Reducing stress is easier said than done, but it is important in order to help decrease insulin resistance. Being less stressed makes it easier to make and stick to healthy lifestyle changes for proper blood sugar management. Inversely, keeping your blood sugar healthy will help your mood as high and low blood sugar symptoms include mood disturbances. If your mood is disrupted due to stress or mental illness, speak to your healthcare provider for resources and guidance.
11. Get more sleep
Work hard to maintain a consistent sleep schedule. Cortisol, the stress hormone, is increased with lack of sleep. Getting enough sleep helps you feel better during the day and will help you have more energy to cook healthy meals and exercise, two actions that will help you keep your blood sugar stable.
How long will it take to lower my blood sugar?
If you have high blood sugar—in a non-emergency situation—there are several things you can do to lower your blood sugar right away. Follow these steps in order:
- Take medications as prescribed. This may be metformin or insulin.
- Insulin can cause low blood sugars, so be sure to check your blood sugar after administering insulin to make sure it doesn’t get too low.
- If you are a type 1 diabetic, check your urine for ketones. If there are ketones present, do not exercise as ketones raise blood sugar. Go to the emergency room or contact your healthcare provider immediately. Otherwise, heart-pumping exercise can lower blood sugar immediately.
- Drink plenty of water.
Sometimes people with diabetes can go into diabetic ketoacidosis or hyperglycemic hyperosmolar syndrome, a medical emergency requiring immediate medical care. The symptoms are subtle but look out for:
- Shortness of breath
- Fruity smelling breath
- Extreme dry mouth
- Nausea and vomiting
- Excessive thirst
- Excessive urination
- Abdominal pain
If you experience these symptoms, call your healthcare provider immediately and follow their guidelines. If you cannot reach a physician emergently, call 911.
Diabetes medications (for when natural remedies don’t work)
Many people ask how to lower blood sugar immediately. Natural remedies typically only help modestly and they take a few weeks to notice a significant difference in blood sugar. The fastest way to lower high blood sugar is prescription medication. People with diabetes often need medications in addition to lifestyle and diet changes.
Insulin is prescribed when blood sugars are very elevated at the time of diagnosis or the patient has failed to control blood sugars with other classes of medications. Insulin can be used with other diabetes medications. Rapid-acting insulin starts working within 30 minutes, long-acting insulin could take four hours, and other diabetes medications, like metformin, could take a couple of days.
|Examples of diabetes medications|
|Drug class||Indicated for||SingleCare savings||Learn more|
|Insulin||Type 1 and Type 2||Lantus, Toujeo Solostar, Soliqua,||Learn more|
|Biguanides||Type 2||Metformin||Learn more|
|Sulfonylureas||Type 2||Glipizide, glimepiride, Glyburide||Learn more|
|Thiazolidinediones (TZDs)||Type 2||Actos (pioglitazone) and Avandia (rosiglitazone)||Learn more|
|Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors||Type 2||Precose (acarbose) and Glyset (miglitol)||Learn more|
|GLP-1 receptor agonists||Type 2||Victoza (liraglutide), Trulicity (dulaglutide), and Bydureon (exenatide)||Learn more|
|DPP-4 inhibitors||Type 2||Januvia (sitagliptin) or Tradjenta (linagliptin)||Learn more|
|Meglitinides||Type 2||Nateglinide and repaglinide||Learn more|
|SGLT2 (sodium-glucose co-transporter 2) inhibitors||Type 2||Jardiance (empagliflozin), Invokana (canagliflozin), and Farxiga (dapagliflozin)||Learn more|
|Amylin analogs||Type 1 and Type 2||Symlin (pramlintide)||Learn more|
High blood sugar can feel scary. High blood sugars can also be very dangerous. Fortunately there are many natural ways to keep your mildly elevated blood sugar better controlled. By eating a healthy diet, exercising, and taking care of your body and mind, you can live your best and fullest life and decrease your chance of diabetes.