If you want to know what can you do to help balance blood sugar without medication, keep reading because we’re spilling all the tea here!
What is blood sugar?
When we speak of blood sugar, we’re referring to blood glucose, the main sugar found in the blood. Glucose is the primary source of fuel for most people, unless you’re following a ketogenic diet.
Glucose is regulated by the hormones insulin and glucagon. Our body gets glucose from the carbohydrates we eat or through gluconeogenisis. So, whenever we finish eating a meal that contains any type of carbohydrates, the body turns them into glucose, signaling the pancreas to release insulin to to transport the blood glucose to the cells so it can be used as fuel throughout the body. The insulin sends excess glucose to the liver to store as glycogen. When your blood glucose is low, the hormone glucagon comes in to break down stored glucose (also known as glycogen) and release it into your bloodstream. The pancreas also produces a hormone called glucagon, which does the opposite of insulin, raising blood sugar levels when needed. So, as you may see, your blood sugar levels have a significant impact on the activity of insulin and glucagon all throughout the body where insulin transports glucose.
You’re probably asking what all of this has to do with diabetes. Well, diabetes occurs when your blood sugar becomes chronically too high, a.k.a., too many glucose spikes. This can happen for 2 reasons:
- Your body isn’t making enough insulin.
- You’ve become insulin resistant: your body doesn’t recognize insulin signals
High blood sugar is also known as hyperglycemia and is associated with diabetes and prediabetes. We call prediabetes when your blood sugar levels are high, but not high enough to be diabetes.
How and why measure blood sugar?
Before we jump into the methods in which you can stabilise your blood sugar naturally, we wanted to tell you how to measure your blood sugar. The most common and easy way to measure your blood levels is through a finger-prick blood test, but you can also use a device called a continuous glucose monitor (CGM).
Blood sugar testing provides useful information for blood sugar management, especially when dealing with diabetes. Testing your blood sugar levels can help you identify blood sugar levels that are high or low, monitor the effect of diabetes medications on blood sugar, learn how the foods you eat and exercise affect your blood sugar levels, and understand how other factors, like illness or stress, can affect your blood sugar levels.
How to stabilise your blood sugar naturally
If you’re worried about your health and your blood glucose levels, you must know that there are a lot of different and scientifically proven ways to naturally stabilising your blood sugar levels before it becomes a real issue, or maybe even reverse a disease. We’re going to dive deep into the 4 most popular methods to help you manage your sugar levels.
Exercise is one of the best tools to have good health in general. By exercising regularly, you can reach and maintain a moderate weight and increase insulin sensitivity. That means that your cells can use the available sugar in your bloodstream more effectively.
If you have problems with blood sugar management, it’s recommended to check your levels before and after exercising. This will help you learn how your body responds to different activities and you’ll learn how to keep your blood sugar levels stable instead of getting too high or low.
To notice these benefits, you don’t need to go on super long and hard sessions of exercise. It doesn’t matter the intensity, the most important thing is that you move your body consistently and avoid a sedentary lifestyle.
Exercising regularly will also help you lower your stress levels and have better sleep routines so you can get a good rest and relax.
Manage your carb intake
As you might know by now, your carb intake strongly influences your blood sugar levels. Unless you’re on a keto diet, carbohydrates are your primary source of glucose. So, in order to stabilise your blood sugar, you should consume complex carbs, which include foods like whole grains, lentils, fruits, and vegetables. Complex carbohydrates are made up of long chains of glucose and are typically found in foods high in fibre, which makes it harder to break them down into smaller glucose units.
Eating too many carbs can raise your blood glucose levels. A lot of studies have shown that eating a low-carb diet helps reduce blood sugar levels and prevent blood sugar spikes. But, if you want to take a step further, and balance your blood sugar, you can consume little to no carbs. That way, what will fuel your body won’t be glucose, it’ll be ketones instead. When your body switches from glucose to ketones as a fuel, you will get an increased sensitivity to insulin, and so a greater glucose tolerance.
Eat more fibre
Fibre slows carb digestion and sugar absorption, and unlike most forms of carbohydrates, won’t cause issues with your blood sugar. This happens because most forms of fibre aren’t absorbed by the cells during the digestion and absorption process, so that means that they never reach your bloodstream.
You can find fibre in fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
Get quality sleep and manage your stress levels
Stress and sleep can make a huge difference in our overall health. Getting enough sleep is crucial for the recovery and maintenance of both mind and body. As a matter of fact, poor sleeping habits and sleep deprivation can affect blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity, increasing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Sleep deprivation also raises levels of the hormone cortisol which will have repercussions on your blood sugar levels. It can also affect your appetite, leading to poor dietary choices and altered glucose metabolism.
A similar thing happens whits stress. When you’re stressed, your body secretes hormones called glucagon and cortisol, which cause blood sugar levels to rise.
There are also other ways to manage blood sugar levels according to Jessie Inchauspé’s latest book: Glucose Revolution. And we summarize them here:
1. “Eat foods in the right order”
Do you recall your parents saying “eat your vegetables first”? Well, they weren’t entirely off! Vegetables contain plenty of fiber which helps slow the breaking down of starch into glucose molecules and therefore makes it harder for glucose to make it through to the bloodstream. Therefore, anything that lands in the stomach after it, will take longer to break down and slow down the absorption of glucose flattening the glucose curves. Fat also has this effect on slowing down gastric emptying and helps stabilize blood sugar. Like Danielle Hamilton says: “fat if your blood sugar’s best friend!”
2. Add a green starter to all your meals
Bring the fiber (and fats) back! If what you’re about to consume cannot be separated, for example, an egg omelet with cheese and meat, add a green started to it. This way you can be sure there is fiber in your small intestine to slow down glucose absorption before you add the rest of the food. This way you’re sure to flatten the glucose curves in the process of eating a perfectly healthy meal. However, what qualifies as a green starter? Any non-starchy vegetable such as aubergines (they’re green inside, okay?), broccoli, brussels sprouts, rocket, and artichokes. Cook them or drizzle them with some olive oil and enjoy!
3. Stop counting calories
Calories don’t matter. What’s important is the types of calories we’re eating and what each food does to our bodies. Whether it’s beneficial and nutritional for us has nothing to do with calories. It has to do with its effect on our blood sugar levels and hormones which is how we then feel energy-wise, mood-wise, etc. Also how that will affect our fat mass, inflammation, and satiety levels.
4. Flatten your breakfast curve
“Breakfast is the worst time to eat just sugar and starches […]” since metabolic processes take hours to unfold, so a breakfast that gives us a big glucose spike will make us enter an unwinding spiral of a glucose rollercoaster for the rest of the day. If you pick a savoury breakfast, or a glucose steadier one, you will have more energy, curb cravings, better mood, clearer skin, etc.
An ideal breakfast has a good amount of protein, fibre and fat. “But I love my sweet breakfast!” Okay Joana, chill, remember what we always say Don’t restrict. Replace. Therefore, if you still want to keep your sweet breakfast, do so! Simply keep in mind to add protein, fats and fibre as well. If you want to have a smoothie, add some protein to it, for example, in the form of protein powder. Add your fats in the form of coconut oil, MCT oil, or even better: Funky Fat Chocs (which contain cacao mass, cacao butter, and MCTs). Add some greens such as spinach or avocado. And last, for something sweet, add some berries which have a higher content of fibre than other fruits.
5. All sugars are the same
On a molecular level, there is no difference between table sugar and honey. They’re all made of glucose and fructose molecules. Even when it comes to natural sugars (from fruits or plants), by the time they reach your small intestine they’re all just glucose and fructose, our bodies don’t process them differently. Jessie Inchauspe mentions “fructose is worse for us than glucose: it overwhelms our liver, turns to fat, precipitates insulin resistance, makes us gain more weight than glucose, and doesn’t make us feel as full.”
You may be wondering about sweeteners, we do have a full article on this here, however, just to recall, the best sweeteners that cause no side effects on glucose and insulin levels are:
- Monk fruit
- Stevia (pure stevia extract that is)
- Erythritol - which is the sweetener we use in our Funky Fat Chocs
6. Pick dessert over a sweet snack
As mentioned in hack 1, eat your foods in order. If there is a base of fibre to help digest and slow down the breakdown and absorption of glucose molecules, the better.
After eating our body goes into the postprandial state, which is when our bodies are working on digesting, sorting, and storing molecules from the food we just ate. This usually lasts 4 hours. You know what feeling when you eat too much and you’re like, I can’t move for a bit or when you need to unbutton your trousers? That is usually a glucose crash your body is experiencing from all the food it’s having trouble digesting. It is then that insulin levels, oxidative stress, and inflammation increase.
This process starts from the first moment we eat that day and ends when you’ve spent about 8-12 hours without eating. When we’re not in a postprandial state, our organs are on cleaning up, replacing damaged cells, and clearing out our systems such as our small intestine or emptying the digestive tract to clean its walls.
7. Reach for vinegar before you eat
Vinegar has been proved to flatten glucose and insulin spikes by just taking 1 tbsp of vinegar in a tall glass of water a few minutes before eating something sweet, before meals, or in the early morning. If you would like to learn more about this, feel free to visit Glucose Goddess’ Vinegar’s Guide.
8. After you eat, move
Putting it in simple words, the more you use the muscles, the more energy they need, and the more energy they need, the more glucose they need. Got it? Got it.
9. If you have to snack, go savoury
The fewer carbs go into your body, the less will be turned into glucose. The fewer glucose spikes the fewer dips, so less hunger less often. Last, but not least, the order! Have snacks high in healthy fats and protein. Examples:
- Nut butter, a spoonful sounds about right
- High-fat yoghurt such as Greek
- Nuts on their own (macadamia, almonds, pistachios)
- Hard-boiled egg with avocado mayo
- Funky Fat Chocs
10. Put some clothes on your carbs
Whether you’re doing keto, low carb, or following other lifestyles, combine them with fats, protein, or fibre to help your body slow down the glucose breakdown and absorption of carbs.
Following these hacks are a great way to ensure you stay healthy for longer, help improve your metabolic flexibility, allows you to enjoy the foods you love without affecting your glucose spikes, and provide better mental clarity.
Other blogs you might like: