Health Care

5 Ways to Help Regulate Your Glucose Levels

A man sitting in a kitchen using a glucose monitor.

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Keeping our glucose levels stable is vital to our whole health and well-being. Glucose is our source of energy, and when it’s either too low or too high, our whole system becomes imbalanced, and we can feel the effects. We need our glucose levels to stay in a healthy range for energy production, organ function and overall metabolic balance.

Keep reading for helpful information on the important role glucose plays in our bodies and our brains, along with five simple tips to help you regulate your glucose levels. We want you to stay healthy and energized so you can live life to the fullest.

What is Glucose?

The word glucose comes from the Greek word for "sweet." It's a type of sugar in the foods you eat that your body uses it for energy. As it travels through your bloodstream to your cells, it's called blood glucose (or blood sugar).

Most of the cells in our bodies use glucose, amino acids and fats for energy. Importantly, glucose is also the main source of brain fuel. Nerve cells and chemical messengers in our brains need glucose to help them process information. That said, without enough glucose, our brains wouldn’t function at their best and damage can happen.

Glucose and Diabetes

There are two main types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. It develops rapidly and having it means your body’s pancreas doesn’t make the insulin your body needs to get glucose from your bloodstream to your body’s cells. So, it’s critical to manage your insulin therapy and diet closely.

Insulin is needed to help regulate your glucose levels between meals, and fast-acting insulin to regulate it after meals.

Type 2 diabetes is not an autoimmune disease; it develops slowly over time. It’s mostly diagnosed in adulthood. Type 2 diabetes accounts for most people on the diabetes spectrum and it means your body is insulin resistant. In other words, your pancreas still makes insulin, but your cells no longer respond the way they should. Your pancreas increases insulin production as it tries to force your cells to work.

Without enough insulin, glucose can't move into the cells and your blood glucose level stays high. A level over 200 mg/dl 2 hours after a meal or over 125 mg/dl fasting is high blood glucose, also called hyperglycemia.

Too much glucose in your bloodstream for a long period of time can damage the vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood to your organs.

Glucose and Hypoglycemia

Because diabetic patients must take insulin to keep their blood glucose levels from staying too high, they also run the risk of hypoglycemia, a common side effect for people living with diabetes.

Hypoglycemia is when your blood glucose level is less than 70 mg/dl. A glucose level below 54 mg/dl is considered moderate hypoglycemia. A severe hypoglycemic event involves the person not being able to function, an altered mental state and the need for assistance from someone else. Medical attention is a must with severe hypoglycemia.

You don’t have to be diabetic to have hypoglycemia. It can happen from going to long without eating or following a period of exertion.

While rarer, some people have hypoglycemia as a medical condition that disrupts their quality of life and it can be dangerous to their health. Reactive hypoglycemia happens following eating — your glucose level spikes and then plummets from the release of too much insulin. Whereas diabetes is the result of not enough insulin or insulin resistance, this type of hypoglycemia occurs from too much insulin in the body.

Some symptoms of hypoglycemia are:

  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Extreme hunger
  • Irritability
  • Nausea
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Shakiness
  • Sweating

If hypoglycemia isn’t treated, it can lead to more severe symptoms, like unconsciousness, seizures, coma and even death.

The treatment for hypoglycemia can be as simple as eating sugary foods or drinks, such as fruit juice, candy, or regular soda, taking glucose tablets or gels, or eating a small snack such as crackers or a granola bar can quickly raise blood sugar levels.

How to Balance Your Blood Glucose Levels

As promised, here are five simple ways that will help you regulate your glucose levels.

  1. Eat Low-Glycemic Foods

Eating a healthy diet is key to keeping your glucose levels balanced. You might have heard of the Glycemic Index (GI), a measure of how fast a food raises your blood sugar. High glycemic foods tend to raise blood sugar quickly while low glycemic index foods raise blood sugar very slowly, or sometimes not at all.

How fast or slow a food changes your blood sugar depends on how quickly your body can break it down and move it from your digestive tract into the blood stream.

Foods or beverages that are mostly sugar, such as juice or soda, are high glycemic foods. These are digested very quickly and move almost immediately into the blood stream, resulting in a rapid increase in blood sugar.

In contrast, some foods take longer to digest and raise the blood sugar very slowly. These are referred to as low glycemic index foods. A whole apple, for example, is much higher in fiber than apple juice. It takes a while for you to chew the apple and for your body to break it down and move the natural sugars into your blood stream.

Low glycemic foods are good for both diabetics and hypoglycemics.

  1. Get Enough Exercise

Physical activity is a good blood glucose balancer. The American Diabetes Association recommends doing cardio exercises at moderate intensity for 30 minutes a day, working up to five times a week, to significantly benefit insulin regulation and blood glucose levels.

Brisk walking, running, biking, strength training and swimming are good choices — and even dancing, gardening or playing your favorite sport. Anything that keeps you moving is a good choice.

  1. Use a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM)

With CGM technology, you can have the most accurate blood sugar numbers and patterns whenever you need them. A continuous glucose monitor uses a sensor on your body to measure your blood sugar in real time. The traditional fingerstick test takes time and effort to set up — and time is of the essence if you’re having a low (hypoglycemia) or high (hyperglycemia) blood sugar episode. Fingerstick tests also wear on your fingers over time. You might still need to do some fingerstick tests with a CGM, but not as many.

CGMs provide accurate, around-the-clock assurance of knowing your blood sugar whenever you need to while you’re wearing one. And they’re more comfortable since you only have to stick yourself once every 1-2 weeks to place the sensor on your arm or belly. (The sensor has a small needle). A transmitter sends the data directly to your phone or a monitor. Some CGMs even allow for you to have the data sent to a family member or caregiver in case of an emergency.

  1. Keep Stress at Bay

Chronic stress can lead to higher or lower than normal glucose levels. When you’re stressed, your body releases higher levels of cortisol, the stress hormone that can impact your glucose.

Getting plenty of sleep and incorporating stress-relieving techniques — like stretching, meditation, exercise and talk therapy — are ideas for keeping your stress in check. On the flip side, be sure to avoid unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as overeating the wrong foods and drinking alcohol, which can negatively impact your glucose levels.

  1. Don’t Smoke

Nicotine raises blood sugar and smoking causes inflammation in the body, which also can raise blood sugar. Smokers are at a 30 to 40 percent higher risk than nonsmokers for developing Type 2 diabetes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If you are a smoker, talk to your doctor about how you can get the help you need to quit.

How Sweet It Is to Get the Support You Need

If you’re concerned about your blood glucose levels and need expert guidance for glucose control, we’re here to help. Our skilled team of compassionate experts offers comprehensive care and support for your metabolic health.

Visit our website to learn more about our diabetes and endocrinology services and schedule an appointment with our caring specialists. You deserve to feel whole.

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