By Wil Dubois, updated by dLife Editors, 10/1/19.
Let’s talk about blood sugar management. Done right, taking steps to lower blood sugar is highly empowering. Sweet numbers on a blood sugar log will bring a smile to your face faster than an ice cream cone in July.
Here are my top ten tips to lower blood sugar:
Tip Number 1: Test, Don’t Guess.
Of course the first is: Test, don’t guess! To master your blood sugar, you first must know where it is. And if you only check first thing in the morning you’re cheating at solitaire. If you want to truly master your blood sugar you should fearlessly seek out your very worst, highest numbers. That means checking after meals. Don’t let that high number flashing on your meter get you down. Rejoice that you’ve found it. It’s just a problem to be fixed, and as you roll out the rest of these tips, those high numbers are going to come down.
Tip Number 2: No more monochrome meals!
While there’s no such thing as a diabetic diet, there’s only so much your system can handle at once when it comes to foods that turn into sugar quickly. Here’s my advice: Deprive yourself of no food, but limit yourself to one carb portion per meal. Carbs tend to be white in color: things made of flour, including pasta; potato; rice; and sugar. Oh, and while corn is pale yellow, it’s a white food, too. If you make sure every meal has only one white food, you’ll lower the blood sugar impact of the entire meal. So if you want a baked potato, that’s not the meal to have a dessert with. If you want some ice cream, keep the meal to a pork chop, some green beans, and some cottage cheese (along with cauliflower, the only white-colored food that isn’t on the white foods list).
Tip Number 3: The “E” word
You need to exercise the dreaded E-word: Exercise. But I’m not saying you should go out and buy a treadmill or a gym membership. Rather, look for every excuse to exercise your body. Just use it whenever you can during the normal course of the day. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park farther from the door. Go fly a kite. When watching T.V. after dinner, walk around the couch during commercials.
Tip Number 4: Totally lose it.
Lose a pound. Or four. If you lose just 7% of your weight, you’ll improve your insulin resistance. That will lower your blood sugar across the board, and dramatically reduce after-meal spikes. How much weight is that, really? Well, it depends on how much you weigh, of course. But if you tip the scales at 200 pounds, 7% is 14 pounds. You could easily shed that in six months by simply eating a few bites less per meal. I know we were taught as children to clean our plates, but it’s far better to throw some food away than to eat more than we need to.
Tip Number 5: Pretend you’re at a fancy restaurant.
When you eat out at a nice place, what comes first? Most non-fast food meals start out with a good salad. What could be healthier? Salads are generally low in both calories and carbohydrates. That means they are good for controlling blood sugar and for controlling waist-line expansion. An added bonus: if you get filled up with salad, you’ll be less hungry when it comes to the rest of the meal, so you’ll eat less of the stuff that’s “bad” for your blood sugar log. And eating less of that other stuff will help you with Tip Number 4.
Tip Number 6: Start Drinking.
I want you to start drinking a lot of water. (Sorry for the let-down.) In fact, I want you drinking only water. Or skim milk, which tastes pretty much the same to me. Never, ever, ever drink a calorie. Stick with water and drink a lot of it. It’s good for you and, like salad, can help keep hunger at bay. I’d also like you to avoid diet sodas, at least on a regular basis. Although they don’t have any calories, folks who drink a lot of diet sodas have a harder time losing weight. No one is sure why.
Tip Number 7: Ask your doctor if a dog is right for you.
Yeah, odd prescription, I know, but dog owners are more active than non-dog owners. Why? Well… picture those big, brown, sad eyes pleading with you: Please take me for a walk! Frankly, most of us have a hard time with self-motivation. We’re tired, over-worked, and stressed out. But we’re human beings. There’s a root word of humane in there somewhere. Often we will do for others what we won’t do for ourselves, and pets are the hardest to say “no” to because of the whole issue of inter-species communication. You can rationalize with your kid about why you’re too busy to play in the park with her, but your dog isn’t going to take “no” for an answer.
Tip Number 8: See what else is in the medicine cabinet.
You need to take your medicine, but sometimes meds for the other things that ail you can raise your blood sugar. If you take medicine that raises your blood sugar, talk to your doctor about whether or not there are any alternative meds that will control your other conditions without affecting your blood sugar. Remember that everyone is different. Just because you take medicine on the list doesn’t mean that it raises your blood sugar, or if it does, that it raises it enough to worry about. If your doctor says it’s safe to do so, you can stop taking a suspect med for a few days, carefully monitor your blood sugar and see if it improves. If you want to be a proper scientist, you should then re-start the med to see if the sugar goes up again. And don’t try this at home! Do it only under your doctor’s guidance.
Tip Number 9: Chill out.
Back in the really old days (like in the Paleolithic) life had some challenges. Like saber-tooth tigers. What happened when your ancient ancestors encountered a saber-tooth cat? I imagine they threw their hands up in the air, screamed, and ran very far away. To assist in the running, their bodies would dump sugar into their blood for extra energy. Our bodies, to this day, still do that. The problem is that the modern saber-tooth tiger is the overdue electric bill, the dropped cellphone call, the dinnertime telemarketer, and the annoying neighbor. You can’t run away from any of these tigers. The extra sugar just sits in your body. But you can learn to defeat this ancient biological fight-or-flight response of our bodies by learning how to relax. You need to make time for you. It might be a warm bubble bath in the evening, a good book at lunch, aromatherapy candles, or even kickboxing. Take that saber tooth tiger. Bam!
Tip Number 10: Tuck yourself in early.
Not getting enough sleep will raise your blood sugar, and most Americans don’t get enough sleep. But you have to. This is medicine for your diabetes. And you need to do two things to get a good night’s sleep: First, you need to budget enough time. That means eight hours, for most folks. The second thing you need to do is purify your bedroom, and that means getting all the electronic gadgets out. Your bedroom is a place to sleep. It does not need a TV. It does not need a computer. It does not need a cell phone.
So there you have it, ten simple things you can do to lower your blood sugar. Notice anything special about these tips? Right! There’s nothing special about them at all. They aren’t bizarre. They aren’t difficult. You don’t have to change your entire life.
These are things you can integrate into the daily life you already live now. And once they become habits—healthy habits—you’ll have taken blood sugar management into your own hands.
Wil Dubois is a diabetes columnist and the author of four award-winning books about diabetes.
NOTE: The information is not intended to be a replacement or substitute for consultation with a qualified medical professional or for professional medical advice related to diabetes or another medical condition. Please contact your physician or medical professional with any questions and concerns about your medical condition