Glucose is an essential fuel for the cells in the body when it's present at normal levels.
Blood glucose, also referred to as blood sugar, is the amount of glucose circulating in the bloodstream. Glucose metabolism, or glycolysis, is a major energy-generating source that enables the cells to perform their cellular functions. Carbohydrates from the food are broken down into their constituents, absorbed by the gut cells and released into the bloodstream for the distribution of glucose throughout the body. The absorption, storage and production of glucose are regulated constantly by complex processes involving the small intestine, liver and pancreas. The endocrine system keeps bloodstream glucose levels in check with the help of two hormones, namely, insulin and glucagon, that are produced by the pancreas.
Glucose is an essential fuel for the cells in the body when it's present at normal levels. High blood sugar occurs when your body doesn’t make enough or effectively use insulin, a hormone that regulates blood glucose and helps it enter the cells for energy. This condition is called diabetes mellitus. When there is an absolute deficiency of insulin in the body, the condition is called type I diabetes. Type II diabetes is a condition that occurs when the body cannot use insulin effectively (insulin resistance), and it may progress to absolute insulin deficiency in the body. It can’t be cured, but with medical treatment, diet and lifestyle modifications, high blood sugar levels can be reduced. Normal glucose levels are less than 100 mg/dL after fasting for at least eight hours and are less than 140 mg/dL two hours after eating. Any sugar level higher than the normal is considered unhealthy. Effects of high blood glucose levels include
- High sugar levels slowly erode the ability of the cells in the pancreas to make insulin. The organ overcompensates and insulin levels stay too high. Over time, the pancreas is permanently damaged.
- High levels of blood sugar can cause changes that lead to atherosclerosis (hardening of the blood vessels).
- Persistently, high blood sugar levels lower immunity and increase the risk of infections.
Natural ways to lower blood sugar levels
Natural remedies can help reduce blood sugar levels. However, medical treatment may also be required alongside if blood sugar levels remain consistently high. Hence, you must consult a doctor. Some natural ways to control blood sugar levels include
- Exercise: Regular exercise can help maintain a moderate weight and increase insulin sensitivity. Increased insulin sensitivity makes the cells use the available sugar in the bloodstream. Moreover, exercise helps your muscles use blood sugar for energy and muscle contraction. Useful forms of exercise include weightlifting, brisk walking, running, biking, dancing, hiking, swimming, etc.
- Low-carb diet: The body breaks down carbohydrates into sugars (mostly glucose), and then insulin helps the body use and store sugar for energy. Having too much carbs can cause insulin levels to fluctuate and may reduce insulin sensitivity. A low-carb diet is beneficial in controlling blood sugar in the long run.
- Fiber intake: Fiber slows carb digestion, regulates appetite, absorbs sugar and promotes a more gradual increase in blood sugar levels. Soluble fiber explicitly improves blood sugar management. A high-fiber diet containing vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains can help better manage type 1 diabetes by improving the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar and reducing blood sugar lows.
- Implement portion control: Portion control helps regulate calorie intake and can help maintain a moderate weight. Consequently, weight management promotes healthy blood sugar levels and reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Low glycemic index (GI) foods: Eating low-GI foods reduces blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. GI measures how the body absorbs or digests foods, which affects the rate at which blood sugar levels increase. Foods with low (up to 55) to moderate (56-69) GI include barley, yogurt, oats, burglar, beans, legumes, etc.
- Stress management: Stress can affect blood sugar levels. Hormones such as glucagon and cortisol are secreted during stress. Exercise, relaxation and meditation significantly reduce stress and lower blood sugar levels.
- Hydration: Drinking enough water may help keep the blood sugar levels within healthy limits. In addition to preventing dehydration, it helps the kidneys flush out excess sugar through urine.