Regular exercise can improve your insulin sensitivity and helps in burning out excess glucose from the body. It improves the functioning efficiency of insulin and its penetration into the cells. Thus cells are better able to use the sugar available in the bloodstream. It helps in regulating your body weight and improves muscle tone. So the muscle mass improves and fat content reduces. The muscles can use blood sugar for energy and contraction. Excess of fat in the body can cause insulin insensitivity and since exercise will reduce the fat content in the body, it will more easily respond to the available insulin.
Thus, in the long run, the medicine dosage can be reduced in such patients. Regular exercise thus controls weight gain, helps regulate blood sugar, increases the body’s sensitivity to insulin, helps reduce blood pressure and lowers LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol), and increases HDL (good cholesterol). It reduces stress and anxiety. However, patients on insulin or medication must avoid unplanned exercise, as it may lead to hypoglycemia. Make sure you adjust your carbohydrates intake accordingly (extra carbohydrates must be consumed pre-exercise if RBS <100mg/dl).
Good forms of exercise include swimming, brisk walking, cycling, dancing, weight training, yoga, etc.
Control your carbohydrate intake
Carbohydrates are broken down to sugar (glucose) and this sugar is moved into the cells by the help of insulin. But if you are diabetic and has a problem in insulin secretion this process fails and as a result, your blood sugar levels get elevated. Try to avoid high carb foods like roots and tubers, maida, sugar, glucose, honey, corn, raw rice, etc. restrict your carb intake by giving on complex carbohydrates and reducing the quantity of carbs consumed during each meal. Carbs, where there is a combination of a good protein source, can help in regulating your blood sugars. There must be a balance of different food groups being included in the diet for diabetic patients. The key to the healthy plate is a well-balanced variety of food, which focuses on fiber, quality, and quantity of fat. The type of carbohydrates and timing of each meal is also important. Include complex serials like ragi, jowar, bajra, brown rice, red rice. Try to add good quality proteins to every complex carb meal as this will help in regulating the blood sugar levels.
Increase the fibre intake in our diet
The fibre in your diet can slow down carb digestion and reduce sugar absorption. So there is only a gradual rise in blood sugar levels. Moreover, the kind of fibre you eat is also very important. There are two types of fiber, the insoluble and soluble fibre. Even though both are important, soluble fiber helps in controlling blood sugar levels more. Fiber helps to improve glycemic control and solve the release of sugar in the blood stream, decreasing sudden blood spikes. Fibre can also be increased by including complex cereals and whole pulses. Include a lot of salads and cooked vegetables like beans, snake beans, bitter gourd, green leafy vegetables, fruits like guava and papaya, whole legumes, etc with your complex carbs. A good level of fibre intake can also help in reducing cholesterol levels.
Drink plenty of water and always stay well hydrated
Adequate intake of water helps to keep your blood sugar levels under control. It helps in the proper functioning of your kidneys. Thus the excess blood sugars can be flushed out by the kidneys. The minimum intake of water for women should be 1.6 litres/day and for men 2 litres/day. Having high blood sugar levels can increase the risk of dehydration which is quite risky in diabetic patients. Drinking water rehydrates the blood when the body tries to remove the excess glucose through urine. When there is proper water intake it can even delay the onset of hyperglycemia in diabetes. In dehydration, there is an elevation in the hormone Vasopressin which is a risk factor for hyperglycemia in diabetes. Increased water intake can reduce the level of vasopressin and thus reduce the risk of hyperglycemia. Sugar-sweetened drinks raise blood glucose, drive weight gain and increase diabetes risk. So stick to plain water which is the best for hydration.
Use portion control in each meal
By controlling the portion size you can control your weight and can get healthier blood sugar levels. Each meal size should be monitored and thus it will help in reducing the calorie intake and reduce post-meal blood sugar hikes.
These are a few useful tips to control your portion size
- Weigh each portion or measure the quantity.
- Use a small plate to eat food.
- Eat slowly by chewing your food well. This helps in reducing your hunger pangs and control the portion size.
- Read the food labels and check the serving size before eating.
- Avoid refined carbs that increase the calorie count
More you control your serving size better you control your blood sugar levels.
Choose low glycemic index foods
The ability of a food to increase blood sugar levels depend on its glycemic index. It assesses the body’s response to a particular food. The type and quantity of carbs determine the glycemic index of a food. Low glycemic index foods help in reducing the blood sugar levels in Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Food with low glycemic index are eggs, oats, meat, seafood, nuts, barley, beans, whole pulses, sweet potatoes, yams, non-starchy vegetables, most fruits, etc. Along with choosing low glycemic index foods your overall carb intake should be kept under control.
Regulate your stress levels
Stress and lack of sleep can negatively affect your blood sugar levels. When we stress there is a release of hormones such as cortisol and glucagon which causes blood sugar levels to go up. When there is an excess secretion of these hormones, the body tries to keep a lot of stored energy in the form of glucose and fat which are easily available to cells. In diabetes, insulin is not always able to let the extra energy into the cells, so glucose levels go up in the blood.
Stress in diabetic patients can alter blood glucose levels in 2 ways
- When they are under stress they don’t take good care of themselves. They may eat more, drink more alcohol and exercise less. They might not monitor their blood sugar regularly.
- The stress hormones also can alter their blood sugars.
Stress can be reduced by starting to exercise or joining a sport. You can start a new hobby or learn some new craft. Do this that you enjoy and reduce your stress levels. Yoga and meditation can to a great extent help in coping up with stress. Regularly practicing breathing exercises helps in relaxing your muscles and reducing stress. Do at least 5 to 20 minutes of deep breathing every day.
Regularly monitor your blood sugar levels
Keeping a track of blood sugar levels will help you in determining whether you are under control or if you have to make adjustments in your meals or on medication. It will help you to know the body’s reaction to certain foods. Maintain a log book by measuring your blood sugar levels every day. This will make it easier for you to adjust your diet and medication so as to bring good glycemic control.
Get good quality sleep
Lack of rest and poor sleep habits will affect the blood sugar levels adversely. When there is a lack of sleep the insulin sensitivity is reduced. Thus it can cause an increase in appetite and weight gain. Lack of sleep decreases the release of growth hormones and increase the cortisol levels thus increasing your blood sugar levels. Sleep is important for physical and mental health as well as the quality of life. When we sleep the brain and body can recover from the days stress and get ready for the next day. People with poor sleep can gain weight, develop diabetes, develop heart disease, immunity goes down and reduced life expectancy. In uncontrolled diabetes, diabetic neuropathy can cause severe discomfort and sleeplessness. Depression, anxiety, and stress are common in diabetic patients and can affect blood glucose levels. Those problems can cause insomnia and other related complications. Most people need 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Try to go to bed at the same time. Stay off all electronic gadgets such as your phone, computers for at least 2 hours before going to bed. Exercise during day time and limit naps during day time. Do not drink caffeine or alcohol late at night. Go to bed only when you are sleepy. Good sleep helps maintain blood sugar levels and promotes a healthy weight.
Eat foods rich in vitamins and minerals especially chromium and magnesium
Micronutrients and vitamins which we receive from fruits and vegetables are very useful in regulating blood sugar levels. Include at least 5colours of vegetables in your daily diet. Vegetables and fruits are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Chromium is important in carb and fat metabolism. It is also useful in controlling blood sugar levels. Some of the chromium rich foods are whole grain products, egg yolks, mushrooms, nuts, coffee beans, meat, and broccoli. Magnesium also shows benefits in blood glucose level control. Some of the magnesium-rich foods are dark green leafy vegetables, whole grains, fish banana, dark chocolate beans, and avocadoes.