How to Lower Blood Sugar: 7 Tools and Tactics

Article written and reviewed by Cyrus Khambatta, PhD
Published January 16, 2021

How to Lower Blood Sugar

High blood glucose (often called high blood sugar or hyperglycemia) can happen for many reasons.

It is most persistent as a problem for people with type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes, as well as others with insulin resistance or other forms of diabetes mellitus.

However, high blood glucose can also happen as a result of other factors like:

  • Stressful situations
  • Eating excess calories
  • A lack of exercise
  • Actively fighting a cold or flu

If you have diabetes, dealing with high blood glucose can be frustrating, and part of a larger plan to improve your overall health. However, even if you have not been diagnosed with diabetes, high blood glucose can be a warning sign of future chronic disease.

In this article, we’ll discuss how to identify a blood sugar spike, and some warning signs on how to tell if your hyperglycemia needs immediate, emergency intervention.

Then, we’ll touch on the most effective, evidence-based strategies to lower your blood glucose through simple lifestyle changes, and some daily tips to help make them happen.

What To Do in an Emergency

More than anything else, with your health it’s always better to be safe than sorry. If you’re uncertain about your symptoms, our recommendation is always to go to the doctor.

Identifying an Emergency

  • Frequent urination
  • Extreme thirst
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Frequent headaches

The symptoms of hyperglycemia are likely to onset after consuming food. If you have already been diagnosed with diabetes, this can be a common challenge.

In most situations, drinking water or performing exercise can help lower your blood glucose if it’s an isolated spike. If you have been prescribed insulin, taking additional insulin may also help lower your blood glucose.

However, if these symptoms persist or worsen for an extended period of time despite additional insulin, water, or exercise, you may need immediate medical attention.

Seek out professional medical attention if you notice:

  • Feeling sick
  • Abdominal pain or diarrhea
  • Rapid, deep breathing
  • A fever lasting more than 24 hours
  • Worsening signs of dehydration
  • Difficulty staying awake
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Muscle cramping

Steps to Take in An Emergency

If your symptoms persist or worsen, immediately seek out medical attention. If left untreated, hyperglycemia can lead to more serious conditions like diabetic ketoacidosis, hyperosmolar hyperglycemic state (HHS), or a diabetic coma.

Fortunately, if caught quickly, a spike in your blood glucose tends to be easily treated by medical professionals.

7 Strategies Proven to Lower Blood Sugar

If you’re consistently struggling with high blood glucose, either as a result of insulin resistance like in prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, or due to insufficient insulin production from type 1 diabetes or type 1.5 diabetes, there are some consistent, evidence-based strategies you can implement to help.

A Low-Fat, Plant-Based, Whole Food Diet

The most powerful way to lower your blood glucose in the long-term is through a low-fat, plant-based, whole food diet.

Based on decades of experience and hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific studies, this lifestyle is the most effective way to increase your insulin sensitivity, which lowers your need for insulin and oral medications, helps you lose weight, and reduces your overall chronic disease risk.

The second benefit of a plant-based diet is that plants like fruits, whole grainsbeans and lentils are naturally high in dietary fiber, antioxidants, and other key nutrients that will help you lose weight, improve your mood and energy, and boost your immunity.

We want to double down on this one: a healthy diet is the most powerful and most necessary step to take to lower your blood glucose. None of the other strategies can overcome a poor diet.

Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting is a dietary strategy in which you observe specific fasting and eating windows throughout the day or week.

As a result, your body starts a biological process called autophagy, which has many long term benefits, including:

Daily Movement

When combined with dietary changes, increasing your exercise and daily movement can be very effective at lowering your average glucose level. More physical activity forces muscles to burn fat and glucose efficiently.

In the long term, integrating regular exercise into your routine can actually cause your body to produce more mitochondria, which helps lower your blood glucose even more.

Medicinal Plants

In addition to the beneficial blood glucose effects of a low-fat, plant-based, whole food diet, there are several plant-based medicines that can lower your blood glucose as much as common medicines like metformin.

One such plant is amla, a fruit with some incredible, evidence-based health benefits, including lowering your blood glucose. You can take amla as a powder or mixed with teas, and experience similar benefits to medicines with none of the side effects.

Apart from diet, fasting, and exercise, there are a number of other aspects of personal health that can help lower your blood glucose.

Proper Hydration

Proper hydration helps your body process glucose effectively (along with many, many other things), and water also serves as an appetite suppressant to help reduce your weight. On the other hand, frequently low water intake is a definite risk factor for high blood glucose.

Living a Low Stress Lifestyle

Lowering stress is another factor. When you are stressed, your pancreas secretes glucagon and your adrenal gland secretes cortisol, both of which increase your blood glucose, along with myriad other risks.

Adequate Sleep

Getting enough sleep can also be a major aid in controlling your blood glucose. When you are sleep deprived, your appetite and stress levels both increase, both of which increase your risk for high blood glucose.

Day-to-Day Tips for Managing Your Blood Sugar

The key to achieving and maintaining lower blood sugar is to make consistent, sustainable changes that you can stick to. Here are a few tips that you can use as you continue this transition.

Don’t Look for Quick Fixes

One of the most important parts of finding a long-term solution to your blood glucose problems is to change your habits, not just your behavior. Rather than going on an extreme diet or making huge, life-altering decisions for small periods of time, focus on sustainable changes.

Decision Trees

The most powerful tool to help you in your lifelong diabetes management are decision trees, an old-school, pen-and-paper method of monitoring exactly what affects your blood glucose.

A Decision Tree is designed to help you track:

  • Blood glucose measurements
  • Basal insulin injections
  • Bolus insulin injections
  • Oral medication use
  • Eating meals
  • Exercise
  • Stressful events

This tool is specifically designed to help you get insight into exactly what’s affecting your blood glucose and energy levels.

Focus on the Positives

As you’re making the transition to a new diet and making lifestyle changes, it can be easy to feel like you’re giving up old favorites. A good way to flip this on its head is to focus on the positives of new changes.

Improved mood, improved energy, better body weight, better fitness, improved control over your life and your blood health — focus on the changes that you will be able to see happening in your body.

Don’t Give Yourself a Hard Time

And the flipside of focusing on the positives of these new changes is to not give yourself a hard time, or expect to be perfect. It’s very rare to quit eating meat and added sugar, and integrate an entirely new system of eating and exercising all at once.

You might have nights where you splurge, or weeks where you’re busy and might not be able to exercise. Family life, work, and vacations get in the way.

The important thing is to focus on the long term effect. Are you moving in the right direction in general? If so, don’t give yourself a hard time.

Changing Habits, and Changing Your Life

With over 30 million people suffering from diabetes in the United States alone, blood glucose control is one of the biggest challenges facing people in the 21st century.

The good thing is that there are many other people right there with you — struggling, transforming their lives, and maintaining their health after getting control of their blood glucose.

That’s why we founded Mastering Diabetes, so we could bring all of those people together, offer coaching, community, and guidance through every step, and see real life-changing results.

There are multiple ways to take advantage of this proven, evidence-based program, with plans ranging from DIY resources to intensive coaching programs. See below to learn more and join Juston and many others.

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About the author 

Cyrus Khambatta, PhD

Cyrus Khambatta, PhD is a New York Times bestselling co-author of Mastering Diabetes: The Revolutionary Method to Reverse Insulin Resistance Permanently in Type 1, Type 1.5, Type 2, Prediabetes, and Gestational Diabetes.

He is the co-founder of Mastering Diabetes and Amla Green, and is an internationally recognized nutrition and fitness coach who has been living with type 1 diabetes since 2002. He co-created the Mastering Diabetes Method to reverse insulin resistance in all forms of diabetes, and has helped more than 10,000 people improve their metabolic health using low-fat, plant-based, whole-food nutrition, intermittent fasting, and exercise.

Cyrus earned a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University in 2003, then earned a PhD in Nutritional Biochemistry from the University of California at Berkeley in 2012. He is the co-author of many peer-reviewed scientific publications.

He is the co-host of the annual Mastering Diabetes Online Summit, a featured speaker at the Plant-Based Nutrition and Healthcare Conference (PBNHC), the American College of Lifestyle Medicine Conference (ACLM), Plant Stock, the Torrance Memorial Medical Center, and has been featured on The Doctors, NPR, KQED, Forks Over Knives, Healthline, Fast Company, Diet Fiction, and the wildly popular podcasts the Rich Roll Podcast, Plant Proof, MindBodyGreen, and Nutrition Rounds.

Scientific Publications:

Sarver, Jordan, Cyrus Khambatta, Robby Barbaro, Bhakti Chavan, and David Drozek. “Retrospective Evaluation of an Online Diabetes Health Coaching Program: A Pilot Study.” American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, October 15, 2019, 1559827619879106. https://doi.org/10.1177/1559827619879106

Shrivastav, Maneesh, William Gibson, Rajendra Shrivastav, Katie Elzea, Cyrus Khambatta, Rohan Sonawane, Joseph A. Sierra, and Robert Vigersky. “Type 2 Diabetes Management in Primary Care: The Role of Retrospective, Professional Continuous Glucose Monitoring.” Diabetes Spectrum: A Publication of the American Diabetes Association 31, no. 3 (August 2018): 279–87. https://doi.org/10.2337/ds17-0024

Thompson, Airlia C. S., Matthew D. Bruss, John C. Price, Cyrus F. Khambatta, William E. Holmes, Marc Colangelo, Marcy Dalidd, et al. “Reduced in Vivo Hepatic Proteome Replacement Rates but Not Cell Proliferation Rates Predict Maximum Lifespan Extension in Mice.” Aging Cell 15, no. 1 (February 2016): 118–27. https://doi.org/10.1111/acel.12414

Roohk, Donald J., Smita Mascharak, Cyrus Khambatta, Ho Leung, Marc Hellerstein, and Charles Harris. “Dexamethasone-Mediated Changes in Adipose Triacylglycerol Metabolism Are Exaggerated, Not Diminished, in the Absence of a Functional GR Dimerization Domain.” Endocrinology 154, no. 4 (April 2013): 1528–39. https://doi.org/10.1210/en.2011-1047

Price, John C., Cyrus F. Khambatta, Kelvin W. Li, Matthew D. Bruss, Mahalakshmi Shankaran, Marcy Dalidd, Nicholas A. Floreani, et al. “The Effect of Long Term Calorie Restriction on in Vivo Hepatic Proteostatis: A Novel Combination of Dynamic and Quantitative Proteomics.” Molecular & Cellular Proteomics: MCP 11, no. 12 (December 2012): 1801–14.

Bruss, Matthew D., Airlia C. S. Thompson, Ishita Aggarwal, Cyrus F. Khambatta, and Marc K. Hellerstein. “The Effects of Physiological Adaptations to Calorie Restriction on Global Cell Proliferation Rates.” American Journal of Physiology. Endocrinology and Metabolism 300, no. 4 (April 2011): E735-745. https://doi.org/10.1152/ajpendo.00661.2010

Bruss, Matthew D., Cyrus F. Khambatta, Maxwell A. Ruby, Ishita Aggarwal, and Marc K. Hellerstein. “Calorie Restriction Increases Fatty Acid Synthesis and Whole Body Fat Oxidation Rates.” American Journal of Physiology. Endocrinology and Metabolism 298, no. 1 (January 2010): E108-116.