How to Lower Blood Sugar

<p>Milos Dimic / Getty Images</p>

Milos Dimic / Getty Images

Medically reviewed by Kelly Wood, MD

Having high blood sugar, or hyperglycemia, is a potentially dangerous situation—especially if your blood sugar levels are elevated for extended periods of time and are left untreated. Blood sugar, or blood glucose, that isn't well-managed can lead to complications like vision loss and heart disease and can even negatively affect your energy and mood.

Thankfully, there are many things you can do to lower your blood sugar: from getting physically active to drinking more water to taking medication. Some methods can lower glucose levels faster than others—at least temporarily—but all help toward the ultimate goal of well-managed blood sugar in the long term.

How to Lower Blood Sugar Over Time

You can gradually lower your blood sugar by making lifestyle changes. Lifestyle changes can be made to your diet, sleep, or activity. Some people with type 2 diabetes can lower their blood sugar with lifestyle changes alone; other people may also need to take diabetes medication.

Be Mindful of Your Carbohydrate Intake

Carbohydrates in food and drinks break down into glucose (sugar) when they enter your body, increasing your glucose levels. For people without diabetes, the body can ensure levels don't get too high. But the body is not able to do that for people with type 2 diabetes, and so blood sugar levels can get higher than what they should be.

Lowering your blood sugar doesn't mean cutting out carbohydrates completely. Instead, you might need to reduce the amount of carbs you intake or more evenly spread out your consumption of them throughout the day. You and a healthcare provider can discuss how many carbs you should eat daily based on factors like body composition and activity level.

You'll also want to choose the most healthful carbs, like whole grains over processed grains.

Add Fiber to Your Diet

Because fiber slows digesting and reduces how quickly sugar is absorbed, the nutrient can play a crucial role in lowering your blood sugar. By incorporating fiber into your diet on a consistent basis, research shows you can lower blood sugar. Choose high-fiber foods like beans, brown rice, avocado, Brussels sprouts, and chia seeds, as well as dark, leafy greens.

Eat Smaller, More Frequent Meals

Spacing out your meals and snacks throughout the day can help keep your blood sugar levels balanced—avoiding fluctuations between high blood sugar and low blood sugar. Several studies have found that eating smaller, more frequent meals may lower your blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity. Insulin is a hormone that helps your body use and store blood sugar. Improving insulin sensitivity means the hormone is better able to take and use glucose from the blood.

Snack on Pistachios

When you want a snack between meals, consider grabbing some pistachios. One small study of 48 people with type 2 diabetes found that eating 25 grams of pistachios twice a day for 12 weeks lowered blood glucose. Other research has linked pistachios with lower blood glucose, but those studies were led in part by groups that support pistachio growers.

Drink Plenty of Water

Staying well hydrated is important for overall health and plays a key role in a number of vital bodily functions, including body temperature regulation and joint lubrication. It may also help reduce your blood sugar.

In a small study of 31 people, researchers found participants had lower fasting glucose levels after drinking one liter of water daily.

Within 24 hours, the participants' blood also had lower levels of copeptin, an amino acid. Having a higher level of copeptin is linked to low water intake and high diabetes risk, so the researchers speculate that drinking more water could reduce your risk of diabetes.

Prioritize Sleep

Getting adequate sleep is an essential part of overall health and well-being. In fact, not getting enough sleep can impact your blood sugar levels. Poor sleep due to factors like breathing issues at night and the length and continuation of sleep has been linked to higher blood sugar levels. Addressing any breathing issues like sleep apnea and improving sleep habits can help in regulating blood sugar.

Engage in Mindfulness, Meditation, or Yoga

Stress is one thing that can cause high blood sugar. That means managing stress can be an important part of lowering your blood sugar levels.

A 2020 study found that mindfulness training reduced participants' blood sugar levels and increased their happiness scores. Mindfulness means making sure to focus on the present without analyzing or judging anything.

Meditation and yoga are other methods that may help lower blood sugar, according to data from 28 randomized controlled trials. The research also found the two practices are effective at lowering A1C levels—the average amount of sugar in your blood over the past three months. Yoga reduced A1C levels by as much as 1%, and meditation lowered A1C levels by 0.5%.

Consume Probiotics

Scientists have found that probiotic-rich food, as well as probiotic supplements, can help lower blood sugar levels. A 2022 meta-analysis looked at 33 trials and found that a median probiotic dose of about 109 colony-forming units a day significantly reduced blood sugar levels among people with type 2 diabetes. Yogurt is one type of probiotic-rich food that was shown to have the glucose-lowering effect.

Consider Taking Supplements

Some research suggests that certain supplements may help lower blood sugar. For instance, researchers found American ginseng may reduce A1C and fasting glucose. Magnesium supplementation has also been shown to lower blood sugar levels. Other supplements that may impact blood sugar include alpha-lipoic acid, bitter melon, berberine, chromium, and cassia cinnamon.

That said, remember that supplements are not regulated the same way as medications. For this reason, you should discuss any supplements you are considering taking with a healthcare provider to determine if the product is right for you.

Take Diabetes Medication

If you've been diagnosed with diabetes, a healthcare provider may prescribe you medication that, along with lifestyle changes, can help lower your blood sugar.

One of the most commonly prescribed medications for type 2 diabetes is metformin, sold under brand names like Fortamet and Riomet. The tablet or liquid reduces how much glucose your body takes in from food, as well as how much glucose your liver produces. Metformin also makes it so that your body responds better to insulin so that the insulin can keep your blood sugar in check.

Apple Cider Vinegar: Is It Effective?

A study of 110 people showed that adding 15 milliliters of apple cider vinegar to 200 milliliters of water during dinner for three months significantly lowered blood sugar levels among people with type 2 diabetes. While other studies have reached similar findings, some researchers recommend further testing to ensure the benefit. In fact, the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database lists apple cider vinegar as possibly ineffective for lowering blood sugar in type 2 diabetes.

There's also this to consider: consuming apple cider vinegar in large amounts in the long term may cause health complications, such as low potassium levels. Using apple cider vinegar in the short term, as well as consuming it in the amount that is in food, is probably safe.

How to Lower Blood Sugar Immediately

Lifestyle changes and medication are a great way to lower your blood sugar levels and manage them in the long term. There are some foods and activities that can have an extremely fast effect on blood sugar levels. And based on what your needs are, your healthcare provider might prescribe you a type of medication that can lower your blood sugar virtually immediately—at least for the short term.

Eat Raspberries With Your Meal

One way to potentially lower your blood sugar is to incorporate raspberries into your meal. Researchers have found that people with pre-diabetes and insulin resistance who ate 250 grams (about 2 cups) of raspberries had lower blood sugar levels 30 minutes after their meal. The blood sugar was still lower one hour after the meal.

The raspberries were consumed at breakfast because after an overnight fast, blood sugar levels tend to show greater fluctuation. The participants consuming the high levels of raspberries had half of them in a drink and half of them in cereal.

Get Active

Blood sugar levels usually decrease while you're exercising. That's because exercise makes you more sensitive to insulin. Plus, using your muscles can burn glucose.

A moderate-paced walk, cycling, or strength training can lower your blood sugar level up to 24 hours after your activity.

However, some activity, like heavy weightlifting or sprints, can actually increase levels. To learn how your body responds to exercise, check your blood sugar before and after physical activity. Recognizing these patterns can help you keep your blood sugar from going too high or low.

Take Insulin

People with either type 1 or 2 diabetes may take insulin. Insulin is a prescription medication that transports glucose from your blood into your cells. Once the glucose is in your cells, you can use it for fuel if you need it or your cells can store it for use later. There are different types depending on the time it takes to kick in, be at its most effective, and wear off.

Rapid-acting insulin starts to lower blood sugar about 15 minutes after you inject it—within 10 minutes if the insulin is the kind you inhale. While injected rapid-acting insulin peaks in about an hour after you use it and lasts anywhere from two to seven hours depending on if it is rapid or ultra rapid, inhaled rapid-acting insulin peaks 30 minutes after you use it and lasts about three hours.

If you have been prescribed insulin, it is important to follow your healthcare provider's instructions. Injecting rapid-acting insulin incorrectly could lead your blood sugar to drop to dangerously low levels. You could even experience an insulin overdose.

When to Contact a Healthcare Provider

If you are concerned about your blood sugar levels and have not been diagnosed with diabetes or pre-diabetes, you should talk to a healthcare provider—especially if you have symptoms of diabetes like frequent urination, increased thirst, blurry vision, and extreme fatigue. Untreated high blood sugar can cause a number of health issues, including nerve damage and heart issues.

A healthcare provider can order blood tests to check your current glucose levels as well as your average glucose levels over the last three months. From there, they can can determine whether you have a condition like type 2 diabetes and advise you on how to lower your blood sugar if it is high.

If you already check your blood sugar levels on a consistent basis with a home monitoring kit and notice that your blood sugar level is high, you should follow the treatment plan your healthcare provider laid out for you. Sometimes this will include checking the ketones (acids) in your urine, especially if your blood sugar level is higher than 240 milligrams a deciliter and is not coming down.

When ketones are high and not treated, you are at risk of ketoacidosis, a life-threatening condition that needs immediate treatment. If you have ketones in your urine, call a healthcare provider about what to do. Get immediate medical attention if you experience:

  • Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, or heavy breathing

  • Fruity-smelling breath

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Extremely dry mouth

  • Drowsiness or sleepiness

  • Confusion

  • Flushed skin

  • Loss of consciousness

A Quick Review

Having high blood sugar can put your health at risk. Thankfully, if it's determined that you need to, there are ways you can lower your blood sugar. This can include lifestyle changes, medications, or a mixture of both. You might find that drinking more water, eating more fiber, practicing yoga, or getting more sleep can help lower your levels. If lifestyle changes alone won't lower your blood sugar enough, you might be prescribed medication like metformin or insulin. Some approaches, like rapid-acting insulin or exercise, lower blood sugar levels immediately in the short term, but they are still helpful tools in the long-term management of blood sugar levels.

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