Why Does This Benefit Exist
a Philadelphia-based physician who treats patients with diabetes and other chronic conditions at Oak Street Health, told Verywell that the reason mind-body practices may be so beneficial in this population is due to the impact that stress can have on blood sugar.
In the body, adrenal glands respond to stress by releasing a the hormone cortisol, which can raise blood sugar levels. Further, people with diabetes tend to have high baseline levels of cortisol. Mind-body practices can work against this, providing both physical and mental health benefits that can reduce cortisol levels.
When youre exercising, your body is able to decrease blood sugar because the muscles are utilizing it, Gefen said. So the physical practice of something like yoga and Tai chi will lower blood sugar that way, and the mindfulness component will decrease levels of cortisol.
How long will the benefits last? Gefen said results seem to depend on how diligent a person is about their workout or meditative regimen.
If youre doing it once in a blue moon, I think it will benefit you while youre doing it and a couple hours afterwards, Gefen said. If you do it consistently on a regular basis, it provides a more cumulative effect that will benefit you in the long term.
Ramp Up Your Movement Each Day
Exercise helps improve blood glucose in people with type 2 diabetes by increasing insulin sensitivity and the bodys ability to use glucose as energy, according to the American Diabetes Association. In type 2, exercise helps improve insulin resistance, says James G. Beckerman, MD, a cardiologist in Portland, Oregon. The end result is lower blood sugars.
Crandall Snyder tells patients that exercise is like spring cleaning for the body. It takes the stored form of glucose and uses it for energy so the next time you eat carbohydrates there’s a place to put it, she says.
Because exercise can immediately reduce blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes, work with your healthcare team to determine the right amount of activity and timing for you. A study published in September 2017 in Frontiers in Endocrinology found exercising 30 minutes after the start of a meal is usually best for maintaining blood sugar controls.
Learn more about managing your blood sugar in Diabetes Daily’s article “HbA1C: Everything You Need to Know.”
Never Skip Eating Breakfast
Weve all heard that breakfast is the days most important meal. This is especially true for those who have diabetes. I think eating breakfast is important, especially with potential risk for hypoglycemia and avoiding potential highs related to fasting for too long a period of time, Crandall Snyder says.
A high-protein breakfast has an edge over breakfasts that are high in carbohydrates, according to research from The University of Missouri-Columbia. In the research, women ages 18 to 55 consumed meals with similar calories, fat, and fiber contents but differing amounts of protein. Researchers monitored the amount of glucose and insulin in the participants blood for four hours after they ate breakfast. The best breakfasts contained 39 g of protein and led to lower post-meal glucose spikes than the meals with less protein, the researchers found.
Besides, eating breakfast may help overweight people with type 2 diabetes shed extra pounds. Of the participants in the National Weight Control Registry who maintained at least a 30-pound weight loss for at least one year, 78 percent said they eat breakfast daily.
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Add More Resistant Starch To Your Plate
Resistant starch found in some potatoes and beans bypasses the small intestine and ferments in the large intestine, which means it doesnt raise glucose levels and promotes the growth of good bacteria in the body, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. Its a fiber-filled starch and helps with glycemic control, says Joelle Malinowski, RD, a certified diabetes care and education specialist with Ellis Medicine in Schenectady, New York. And the effect will last through your next meal, Weisenberger says. Its called the second-meal effect, she says.
Interestingly, resistant starch can change with heat, and some foods, like rice, are higher in resistant starch when cooked and cooled than when cooked and served warm, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Resistant starches are also found in:
Just be sure to keep carb count in mind when incorporating foods with resistant starch into your diet.
Go For Whole Fruit Over Juice
A glass of orange juice is not the same as eating a whole orange. “People generally drink more juice and therefore consume more calories and sugar than they would by just eating fruit,” says Wylie-Rosett. Plus, you get more fiber from the whole fruit. For instance, there’s about 4 grams in a large orange, compared to less than 1 gram in 8 ounces of juice. A small amount of juice is OK, but it shouldn’t be your go-to beverage, she says. When you do drink it, make sure you’re serving it up in an actual juice glass rather than a large cup.
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What To Know About Diabetic Macular Edema
Fiber plays a preventative role, too. Studies have found that high-fiber diets can reduce the incidence of type 2 diabetes by 15 to 19 percent compared to low-fiber diets, according to a March 2018 study published in the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine.
Youll find fiber in plant foods such as raspberries, peas, and whole grains, according to the Mayo Clinic. Beans are another good source of fiber. People with type 2 diabetes who ate at least a cup of legumes daily for three months had lower blood glucose levels as measured by the A1C test, according to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Beans also are an excellent source of folate, which is linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, a common diabetes complication, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Men should aim for 30 to 38 g of fiber per day, and women should eat 21 to 25 g per day, according to the Mayo Clinic.
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Understanding Your Blood Sugar And Exercise
The effect physical activity has on your blood sugar will vary depending on how long you are active and many other factors. Physical activity can lower your blood sugar up to 24 hours or more after your workout by making your body more sensitive to insulin.
Become familiar with how your blood sugar responds to exercise. Checking your blood sugar level more often before and after exercise can help you see the benefits of activity. You also can use the results of your blood sugar checks to see how your body reacts to different activities. Understanding these patterns can help you prevent your blood sugar from going too high or too low.
How Can I Check My Blood Sugar
Use a blood sugar meter or a continuous glucose monitor to check your blood sugar. A blood sugar meter measures the amount of sugar in a small sample of blood, usually from your fingertip. A CGM uses a sensor inserted under the skin to measure your blood sugar every few minutes. If you use a CGM, youll still need to test daily with a blood sugar meter to make sure your CGM readings are accurate.
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Key Nutrients For Blood Sugar Balance: Protein Fat Fiber
Just because carbohydrates and sugar spike your blood sugar doesn’t mean you have to avoid them all the time. The best way to balance out your blood sugar is to pair your higher-carb foods and sugar with protein, healthy fats and ideally fiber. When you pair carbohydrates with protein or fat, the rate that the sugar or carbs are absorbed is slowed, making it easier on your blood sugar, according to Shapiro. When you look at your plate, the goal is to balance the ratio of carbs with healthy protein and fat so you know that your blood sugar won’t spike too high, which can result in a crash or dramatic dip later.
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When To Avoid Exercise
People with blood sugar levels above 240 mg/dL should check their urine for ketones before engaging in physical activity. If ketones are present, do not exercise. Ketones are the result of stored fat being broken down for energy. Your liver starts breaking down fat when theres not enough insulin in your bloodstream to absorb blood sugar into cells. When too many ketones are quickly produced, they can cause DKA. In this state, ketones may actually make your blood sugar level go even higher and you may need intravenous fluids to rebalance.
The Dangers Of Low Blood Glucose
At some time, most people with diabetes experience the sweating and shakiness that occurs when blood glucose levels fall below 70 mg/dl a condition known as hypoglycemia. The average person with type 1 diabetes may experience symptoms of low blood glucose up to two times a week. However, not all are aware that these symptoms can rapidly progress to seizures, coma and even death if hypoglycemia is severe. Though hypoglycemia can be common and occur repeatedly in some people with diabetes, symptoms of low blood glucose should always be taken seriously. People with diabetes and their families, friends or coworkers should be prepared to act quickly and responsibly at the earliest signs of low blood glucose.
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Continuous Glucose Monitor: How Does It Work
A continuous glucose monitor, or CGM, is one of the smart devices that automatically and continuously tracks blood glucose levels in an individual.
It works day and night, enabling one to track and see blood glucose levels anytime, anywhere. Not only can this help check glucose levels and how it changes over several hours or days, but it can also help create changes in lifestyle that are more suited to an individuals health.
A small sensor gets inserted into the skin, usually on the stomach or the arm. It measures interstitial glucose level, the amount of glucose in the fluid between cells. It tests the glucose every few minutes. This information is sent wirelessly through a transmitter to the monitor. Recent technological advances have allowed this monitor to replace a tablet or even your smartphone!
A CGM device, therefore, is always on and measuring glucose levels. You can eat, sleep, shower or stand, and the device will store all the information.
Some models can identify an individuals specific glucose levels and sound an alarm if they are too high or low. In contrast, others can note your lifestyle choices, like whether you have exercised, what you have eaten, etc. While this device tracks glucose levels on the go, it is vital to accompany its data with standard glucose metre tests to validate its trends and ensure it works properly.
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Get A Handle On Stress
When youre stressed out, your blood sugar tends to rise, Crandall Snyder says. According to the Diabetes Teaching Center at the University of California in San Francisco, when youre stressed, insulin levels fall, certain hormones rise, and more glucose is released from the liver, which ends up in the blood stream and can cause disruptions for up to eight hours.
How can you burn off tension? Yoga and meditation can help people lower their blood sugar levels, Weisenberger says. A December 2014 study published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science involving 27 nursing students and found a combination of yoga and meditation practiced for one hour once a week led to reduced levels of stress and lower blood glucose levels after 12 weeks.
Crandall Snyder also suggests taking a few deep breaths, going for a walk, playing with your dog for a few minutes, or listening to a fun song. Basically whatever you can do to distract yourself for a few minutes and just lower your breathing rate will help, she says. Indeed, the CDC notes that less water in your body is liked with a higher blood sugar concentration.
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What Is Diabetic Ketoacidosis
If you think you may have low blood sugar, check it even if you dont have symptoms.
When too many ketones are produced too fast, they can build up in your body and cause diabetic ketoacidosis, or DKA. DKA is very serious and can cause a coma or even death. Common symptoms of DKA include:
- Fast, deep breathing.
- Nausea and vomiting.
If you think you may have DKA, test your urine for ketones. Follow the test kit directions, checking the color of the test strip against the color chart in the kit to see your ketone level. If your ketones are high, . DKA requires treatment in a hospital.
DKA happens most in people with type 1 diabetes and is sometimes the first sign of type 1 in people who havent yet been diagnosed. People with type 2 diabetes can also develop DKA, but its less common.
Keep An Eye On Your Carb Intake
Paying attention to carbohydrates is important for people with type 2 diabetes. Carbs are what cause your blood sugars to potentially fluctuate, Crandall Snyder says.
How many carbs per meal is ideal? Its tailored to each individual, says Weisenberger. How much you exercise, your weight, and your age can all affect how long sugars stay in your system, according to the CDC. A typical starting point for people with diabetes is to limit carb intake to 200 to 245 grams per day, which amounts to about one-half of your daily calories coming from carbs, according to the CDC. From there, make adjustments according to your blood glucose readings or as recommended by a dietitian, Crandall Snyder says.
And keep in mind that carbs arent only found in the usual culprits, like bread, potatoes, and pasta. They are also in fruits, vegetables, sweets, and dairy, so you have to take all of those into consideration as well, Crandall Snyder says.
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