Your Six Essential Steps to Lower Blood Glucose
Diabetes is a condition in which our bodies struggle to process glucose. Glucose is a special type of substance (a type of sugar) that the body makes from the foods we eat, in order to give us fuel to live. Glucose is NOT the same as table sugar, nor does it come exclusively from eating too many sweets. The body will turn most carbohydrates and starches into glucose.
Now, there is a catch: our bodies cannot use glucose directly. They need insulin in order to utilize glucose. Insulin (a special hormone our pancreas makes) – is like a gate keeper which allows glucose to enter cells and muscle tissues. The problem is that in a person with diabetes, this insulin has either stopped being able to do its gate keeper duty (it becomes resistant), or the pancreas has stopped making enough insulin altogether. When this happens, the body can quickly become overwhelmed with excess glucose, leading to many complications over time.
With this in mind, we need to help the body not have more glucose than it can process, at any given time. We can do this in six easy steps:
- Learn About Carbohydrates and Portion Sizes: Since glucose comes primarily from carbohydrates, it makes sense that we learn the most about them. “What is a portion size for rice, and how many total carbohydrates are in it?” “What kind of carbohydrates are in juice?” etc. The type and quantity of carbohydrates that we choose will have a great impact on our glucose levels. Choose carbohydrates which are high in fiber, and low in sugar. They will burn more slowly, and keep our levels steady. Stick to non-starchy vegetables and leafy greens for your major sources of fiber, and eat whole grains, starches, and sweets in moderation.
- Have Scheduled Meals and Snacks: Having three meals a day, as well as scheduled snacks, allows us to divide up the total amount of carbohydrates we consume into chunks so that the body is more able to process them efficiently. This helps reduce chances for high and low blood glucose episodes which may result in moodiness, hunger binges, feelings of deprivation, etc.
- Cut Back on Excess Fat: Consider reducing fat portions and eliminating saturated fats from your diet. Stick to heart-healthy Omega-3 fats, which may be found in avocados and olive oil. However, make sure to enjoy them in moderation. Too much fat (even healthy fat) can play a role on our body’s ability to process glucose by exacerbating insulin resistance and causing our bodies to ‘dump’ excess stored glucose into our bloodstream.
- Use a Glucose Monitor to Test Before and After Eating: The first step in solving any problem is to do a little detective work: just how bad is the problem? How high is my blood glucose, and how are the foods I’m eating affecting it? We won’t know until we test! Keep a little log book of your meals, carbohydrate types and portion sizes, fats, and what your glucose levels were before and after eating. Is your glucose number too high? Try having half a baked potato instead, and a larger portion of broccoli, for example. Note how that changes your levels.
- Exercise Regularly: Schedule in some exercise, whether it be a few times a week of intensive cardiovascular activity, or going for a walk after meals. Going for a walk before, or after meals, greatly helps our body be more sensitive to insulin. It is almost like an ‘instant medication,’ having an immediate impact on our glucose levels. Consult with your medical team before implementing an exercise regimen that is right for you.
- Keep Taking Your Medication(s): If you are on any medications, take them regularly, as prescribed. Some medications may seem like they are no longer needed, but they only work as we keep taking them because they are cumulative – they need to build up in our systems in order to do their work. Some medications may also have unpleasant side effects which tend to resolve with time. Staying on a medication might seem counter-intuitive, but stopping it altogether might be risky. Patients who have questions or concerns about their medications should seek to speak to their clinicians before making any drastic changes.
Getting a handle on diabetes might seem more complicated when we’re only looking at one or two pieces of the bigger puzzle – but when we know the bigger picture, we’ll learn how to fit the pieces together with the help of our medical teams.