In today’s post, we’ll look at how to lower blood glucose levels (known as blood sugar) in a practical way, without going into pharmacotherapy.
Glucose is an essential molecule for life.
So essential that our body has various ways of synthesising it without having to ingest it, ensuring that our cells can always make use of of it (especially some particularly glucose-dependent cells).
Risks of having high glucose levels
The medical community is very clear about the deadly effects of chronic hyperglycaemia, that is, of maintaining high glucose levels most of the time.
This hyperglycaemia maintained over time has negative repercussions on almost all organs and systems, but to simplify the matter we’ll talk about macrovascular (affecting large vessels) and microvascular (affecting small vessels) complications.
On the other hand, the microvascular complications best known are diabetic retinopathy, diabetic nephropathy and diabetic neuropathy.
Fortunately, years of chronic exposure to hyperglycaemia are needed for these complications to develop.
This said, something basic needs to be clarified, What blood glucose levels are correct or optimal?
There is no unanimous answer and in the different books and values of laboratories you will find different answers.
- In general, in a non-diabetic person, fasting blood glucose of between 70 mg/dL and 110 mg/dL is considered normal.
- In diets that are very restricted in carbohydrates, such as ketogenic day, blood glucose can stabilise at even lower values, such as 60-65 mg/dl, without the person having symptoms of hypoglycaemia.
- If we are talking about diabetic patients, fasting levels considered normal are between 80 and 130 mg/dL.
Glycaemia is a physiological variable that has remained relatively stable throughout evolution.
This is because food availability, which “destabilise” it, has been rather scarce until we became farmers.
So let’s talk about solutions:
How can you reduce high glucose levels?
Reduce sugar consumption
Much of the problem would be solved by reducing what triggers our blood glucose. So easy to understand, and so hard to do.
Simple sugars are very attractive for our brain, which encodes them as quick and easy energy. It’s no coincidence that the sweet taste is by far the most desired.
In addition, it has a very peculiar impact on the centres that regulate hunger, satiety and the reward pathways of our nervous system.
Making the difficult easy, an excess of sweet in our day to day will make us eat more calories, feel less satiated, look in the future for more sweetness almost instinctively, and fill our glycogen deposits quickly (see section on physical exercise).
The solution, then, you can already imagine.
Eliminate soft drinks, sugary dairy products, juices (natural and industrial), smoothies, pastries, energy bars, desserts and flours from your diet.
If it’s sweet, it’s better not to have it.
Eating foods with a low glycemic index
Although many insist on blaming carbohydrates as the macronutrient culprit of this pandemic of obesity and type 2 diabetes, the reality is that there are foods with a certain amount of carbohydrates that are more than healthy, even in patients with diabetes and obesity.
Take the example of vegetables, which I usually divide into two categories: those that grow above the ground and those that grow below.
- The ones that grow above tend to have fewer carbohydrates: peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, aubergines, cabbage, etc.
- While those that grow below tend to have more starches: potato, carrot, beetroot or turnip.
Vegetables (especially those that grow above ground) are foods to include in your diet, due to:
- The absolute quantity of carbohydrates they contain and in the form they are found;
- Their low glycaemic index;
- Their amount of water and fibre; and
- The presence of other accompanying elements (antioxidants, bioactive compounds).
And what about fruit?
Well, again, although many people insist they are, they really are not the problem. With fruit, you have to make more nuances than with vegetables, because it’s not anything goes.
I wouldn’t recommend to a diabetic or some who is obese to eat 5 bananas a day, or to eat dried fruit.
However, most fruits (pears, apples, kiwis, oranges, melon, lemon, watermelon, etc.) are suitable for consumption and will not have a great impact on your blood glucose.
Still, I would moderate the consumption of bananas, mangoes, chirimoyas, grapes and dried fruit.
Another key element that we systematically fail to comply with is to adapt our starch intake to our physical activity and to the physical exercise routine we do regularly.
We have overweight people eating potatoes in their different forms of preparation, pasta, rice, sweet potatoes and flours every day.
On the other hand (and this is the reason for another post) we have athletes worried about eating 100 or 130 grams of rice in the pre-training meal.
The glycaemic impact of a plate of rice (white or brown) on a diabetic patient is significant, and unless they are a person with significant physical activity, their glucose levels will remain elevated for longer than desirable.
This is increasingly easy to check thanks to technologies that allow us to monitor patients’ blood glucose in near real time.
Doing so, we can see the glycemic response of a plate of rice, potatoes or a pizza, and make corresponding decisions to improve the glycemic profile of the patient.
If there’s one powerful and side-effect-free tool to lower your blood glucose levels, it is physical exercise.
As mentioned above, a “surplus” of ingested glucose is stored as liver and muscle glycogen, which will be available for when the occasion demands its use.
Sadly, in a sedentary society, this occasion does not usually come.
- In the short term: is a great hypoglycaemic by driving glucose directly into your muscles for use.
- Medium term: achieves improved insulin sensitivity, thus making you need less insulin to metabolise a certain amount of glucose.
- Long-term: improves your cardiorespiratory fitness and functional capacity, making you move more and better.
Exercises to lower glucose levels
All exercise is positive when it comes to lowering glucose levels.
But if you’re to find the optimal, it’s in combining muscle strength exercise with high-intensity interval exercise.
Due to the characteristics of both interventions and the synergies that are established between them, this combination is great for improving your glycemic control.
So, during your high-intensity workouts your blood glucose will tend to rise, which occurs due to a normal and expected physiological response.
Supplements to reduce glucose levels
There are plenty of supplements (in addition to drugs) that can help you improve your glycemic profile.
Most act in one of the following ways:
- Avoiding or limiting the absorption of sugars and starches: acarbose.
- Slowing the absorption of sugars: guar gum, xanthan gum, glucomannan, apple fibre or apple cider vinegar.
- Improving the utilisation of energy substrates: Berberine, Moringa oleifera, chromium picolinate, green tea extract or matcha tea.
- Avoiding the intake of simple sugars: stevia and other sweeteners.
- Improving insulin sensitivity: apple cider vinegar, fenugreek root or curcumin extract.
Until the next post!
- Did you know about these benefits of Cardiovascular Exercise?
- Everything you need to know about Diabetes by clicking here.
- Buy Supplements for Diabetics.