What is High Blood Sugar?
High blood sugar, also called hyperglycemia, is a condition where glucose in the blood is elevated to greater than 125 mg/dl. Hyperglycemia can be caused by insufficient insulin production, insulin ineffectiveness, steroids, and/or consuming more carbohydrates than the body can process. 1 Hyperglycemia can also be caused by health conditions such as pancreatic disease, Cushing Syndrome, and acute trauma. High blood sugar contributes to diabetes and prediabetes, both of which are common in the United States. According to a 2020 report, 34.5% of adults living in the United States have prediabetes, while 13% have diabetes. 210,000 children and adolescents under the age of 20 in the United States have a diabetes diagnosis–in other words, 25 out of every 10,000 US youths. 2
How to Lower Blood Sugar
There are a number of lifestyle and dietary choices you can make to help lower your blood sugar without medication management. If you are concerned about hyperglycemia, try integrating the following strategies into your routine and speak to a naturopathic doctor to formulate a custom health plan for you. We recommend undertaking any of the following recommendations under the supervision of a physician, as hypoglycemia can occur from rapid changes and can be life-threatening.
Physical activity helps to lower blood sugar because when you exercise, your body uses blood sugar for muscle contraction and energy. 3 Research shows that breaking up long periods of being sedentary (such as sitting at a desk for eight hours a day) with short physical activity is an effective way to improve blood sugar levels. 4 Early morning exercise on an empty stomach can aid in utilizing the glycogen stores in your tissues, so that blood sugar from your next meal will be rapidly moved into your tissues and out of your bloodstream.
Choose a Healthy Diet
A diet that includes high levels of soluble fiber has been shown to help reduce blood sugar. 5 This is because fiber slows the time it takes for sugar to absorb and for carbohydrates to digest, resulting in a more gradual increase in blood sugar. 6 Foods high in soluble fiber include beans, carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes, avocados, and pears. Fat and protein will also slow glucose absorption, and different types of carbohydrates absorb at different rates. See our handout on the glycemic index and talk to a naturopathic doctor to learn more about how to follow a diet that is right for your blood sugar levels.
When you are experiencing periods of stress, your body produces the hormones cortisol and glucagon, both of which cause an increase in blood sugar levels. 7 This means that the better you are at coping with stress, the less likely you are to experience stress-related hyperglycemia. Try to reduce unnecessary sources of stress in your life and learn healthy coping mechanisms for dealing with stress, such as mindfulness.
Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Not getting enough sleep on a regular basis can trigger a stress response, causing the body to produce cortisol and increase blood sugar levels. 8 The National Sleep Foundation recommends getting seven to eight hours of quality sleep each night. 9 To achieve this, try implementing a regimented evening routine and go to bed at the same time every night.
Watch Your Portions
Keeping portion sizes smaller can help to manage weight and prevent blood sugar spikes. 10 11 Instead of eating large portions a few times a day, try smaller portions more frequently throughout the day, use smaller plates, and eat slowly.