10 Ways to Balance Blood Sugar Naturally

10 ways to balance blood sugar naturally

Blood Sugar Balance in Plain English

Before we get started with tips to balance your blood sugar, I want to cover some basic blood sugar terms that I will be using in this discussion.

Blood sugar/blood glucose – Glucose is the form of sugar that is in our bloodstream. Glucose is the body’s preferred source of fuel.

Insulin – the pancreas secretes insulin, a hormone that shuttles glucose from the blood into body cells. It knocks on the cell and says, “Open up, I’ve got some glucose that I need to get out of the bloodstream so take it and use it for energy.”

Insulin resistance – When we consume a large amount of refined carbs with very little fat and protein, our blood sugar spikes very high and the pancreas frantically overcompensates with insulin release. This overcompensation of insulin eventually causes insulin resistance, which leads to Type 2 Diabetes if poor dietary practices are continued. The good news, however, is that it can an be reversed through a healthy diet that balances your blood sugar.

Glycogen – Glucose that doesn’t enter body cells is taken to the liver where it is converted to glycogen. This is a form of stored sugar that is broken down to stabilize low blood sugar levels between meals and during the night. It is healthful for the body store of glycogen, but stress and hormone dysfunction deplete our ability to store glycogen and this can contribute to blood sugar imbalance.

Hyperglycemia – Hyperglycemia is another term for high blood sugar. It is normal to have a spike in blood sugar after a meal, but chronically high blood sugar causes severe health issues.

 Hypoglycemia – Hypoglycemia is low blood sugar. Glycogen, the sugar stored in the liver, is responsible for raising blood sugar in-between meals and should prevent hypoglycemia. Stress and hormonal imbalances, however, reduce the body’s ability to store glycogen. Hypoglycemia can also occur after a high-carb, low-fat meal when excessive insulin pushes too much sugar into the cells.

Balance blood sugar, get healthy!

Here’s the scenario we’re aiming for when we take steps to balance blood sugar naturally: 

  • When we consume healthy sources of carbohydrates with plenty of good fat and protein, the glucose from the meal enters our blood in a slowly, and the pancreas responds by secreting a measured amount of insulin.
  • Insulin shuttles the right amount of glucose into the cells and it is used for energy. There is not excess insulin running around in the blood stream to promote inflammation.
  • We avoid “sugar highs” and “sugar lows” with balanced blood sugar throughout the day. We can easily go 3 hours or more between eating without experiencing sugar cravings or feeling shaky, irritable or tired. 
  • Since blood sugar imbalances perpetuate inflammation, stable blood sugar reduces inflammation and helps balance hormones.
  • Because stable blood sugar means no sugar or carb cravings, even stubborn weight starts to melt away with balanced blood sugar levels. 

Ready to balance blood sugar naturally? Let’s get started!

1. Balance blood sugar with plenty of healthy fats

Whenever we eat a source of carbohydrate, it should be accompanied by a quality source of fat. Fat slows down the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream and prevents sugar highs and sugar crashes. This keeps us full longer so we can reach or maintain a healthy weight.

10 ways to balance blood sugar naturallyWhat happens when we attempt a low fat diet? First, we replace the fat in our meal with sugar and refined carbohydrate, because removing fat from food also removes flavor and moisture. Second, we experience sugar cravings and frequent hunger. This results because fat provides satiation and satisfaction after a meal, while carbohydrates alone do not. 

Additionally, the presence of fat in a meal signals the gallbladder to release bile. A stint on a low-fat diet, be it months or years, causes the bile to become thick and stagnant. Since the bile contains hormones and toxins that need to leave the body, stagnant bile allows these things to be reabsorbed into the body. This can contribute to inflammation and blood sugar imbalances.

When it comes to choosing fats, opt to skip anything that requires a factory to produce it. Corn oil, soybean oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil and margarine are all highly processed and highly inflammatory. As a rule of thumb, enjoy fats that allowed your ancestors of 10,000 (and even 100,000 years ago!) to thrive. These include fats from grazing animals, like butter, egg yolks, lard and tallow. Coconut oil is another excellent option. For an example of what a daily intake of fat should resemble, read my post 10 Reasons Why Low Fat is NOT High Nutrition.

Wait a minute! You may be thinking. Won’t those fats clog my arteries? Nope, but blood sugar problems will! Science tells us that saturated fats does not cause heart disease, and neither does cholesterol clog arteries. Studies show that a low fat diet increases triglycerides and lowers HDL cholesterol. A meta-analysis in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that there is no evidence that saturated fat causes heart disease. Further, studies show that low cholesterol actually correlates to numerous health problems.

2. Small meals are often necessary to balance blood sugar

How often have you heard, “It’s best to eat small, frequent meals to balance your blood sugar”? This is a debated topic. Many nutrition researchers whom I greatly respect, including Sarah Ballentyne who wrote The Paleo Approach, believe it is best to transition to larger, less frequent meals to help regulate hunger hormones. As a matter of fact, we do not have proof from studies to show that smaller, more frequent meals improves health.

With that said, I believe that eating every 2-3 hours is often necessary to keep blood sugar balanced when dealing with issues like adrenal fatigue, chronic fatigue, autoimmune disease, inflammation, and/or compromised digestion. Intermittent fasting can be healthful, but, in my experience, not when blood sugar balance is severely compromised.

3. Always eat breakfast for balanced blood sugar

With that said, breakfast should NEVER be skipped. If you are not hungry for breakfast, it indicates that you may suffer slow digestion due to inadequate stomach acid. It can also be a sign that your stress hormones are out of whack.

small egg yolkWhen we skip breakfast, the body increases production of stress hormones and starts to break down muscle (not fat – muscle!) to use for energy. It’s a very stressful situation for the body and wreaks havoc on blood sugar balance for the rest of the day. Breakfast should be consumed within 30-45 minutes of waking and it should include a hearty source of protein, a source of fat, and a source of carbohydrate (such as a whole fruit or half a sweet potato).

A breakfast with 40 grams of protein, according to expert Chris Kresser in Your Personal Paleo Code, has a stabilizing effect on blood sugar throughout the rest of the day. That’s a therapeutic dose of protein and not necessary for everyone. If that dose is out of the question, shoot for at least 20 grams of protein each morning.

4. Protein is essential to balance blood sugar levels

Quality fats slows down the absorption of glucose into the blood stream, providing satiation and satisfaction. Protein helps pull sugar into the cells so your body can use it for energy. And, of course, carbohydrates provide your body with the preferred source of fuel: glucose.

See how the three macronutrients – fat, protein and carbohydrate – works together nicely?

We run into problems when we consume poor quality macronutrients and/or consume them out of proportion. Too much protein without healthy fats, for example, can deplete fat soluble vitamins A and D. Consume a healthy source of protein, carbohydrate and fat at each meal to balance your blood sugar.

Remember, protein powders are not healthy options. Even plant-based protein powders provide poor quality protein without the fatty acid co-factors required to properly utilize the protein. One healthy protein addition that I recommend is Grassfed Collagen Hydrolysate, found here, which is gelatin that dissolves instantly in hot or cold beverages. It can supplement your protein intake with healthful amino acids, but should not replace whole-food sources of animal proteins. Take one tablespoon twice daily.

5. Skip the “healthy whole grains” to balance blood sugar

Gluten free is the new “in-diet” but it’s not enough. I strongly believe gluten free diet is always the way to go, due to the genetic composition of modern wheat and the methods of wheat preparation. However, a gluten free diet does not automatically quality as a healthy diet, because it often includes extremely inflammatory ingredients like vegetable oils, soy, refined sugar and other grains.

These foods undermine your blood sugar balance in two ways: first, they create inflammation that perpetuates high blood sugar. Second, the grains and refined sugar spike your blood sugar levels to an unhealthy range. The term “healthy whole grains” is an oxymoron. Even though a breakfast cereal boasts “low fat!” and “high fiber!” it still wreaks havoc on your blood sugar and contributes to inflammation. Grain products are supposed to be “complex carbs” and therefore release glucose slowly, but grains are highly inflammatory and do more harm than good.

Further, the consumption of grains perpetuates carbohydrate malabsorption. This is because the starches in grains damages the vili and microvilli in the small intestine, which are the finger-like projections responsible for absorbing nutrients. As discussed in The Gut and Psychology Syndrome, this creates a permeable gut lining and fosters the overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria. Both these factors damage your blood sugar balance by instigating sugar cravings and inflammation.

6. Favor roots and fruits as carbs to balance blood sugar

Instead of obtaining carbohydrates from grains, opt for healthy carbs from fresh, whole fruits and root vegetables. These carbs do not perpetuate inflammation or intestinal damage like grains. Enjoy fresh fruits in season as well as a variety of frozen fruits. Sweet potatoes, carrots, celeriac, beets and other root vegetables provide a nutrient-rich source of healthy carbs.  Remember, to balance blood sugar, enjoy fruits and roots in the presence of healthy fats and protein.

7. Balance blood sugar with Healthy Buttermints

How to make buttermints, a healthy way to stop sugar cravings!Remember how I told you that healthy fats are the key to balance blood sugar? My Healthy Buttermints recipe here provides a dose of nourishing fatty acids to nip sugar cravings in the bud within 5-10 minutes of eating them.   

How does it work? It contains butter and optionally coconut oil, two extremely healthful sources of beneficial saturated fats. (Yes, I used healthful and beneficial in the same sentence as saturated fats… I’m trying to make a point here.) Calorie-for-calorie, these good fats provide profound satiation while promoting hormone balance and weight management. And, of course, these fats help balance your blood sugar. The small amount of refined honey in the recipe satisfies your sugar cravings but won’t spike your blood sugar, because it is balanced with fats. Additionally, honey is shown to improve blood sugar balance in comparison to other sweeteners.

8. Use essential oils to balance blood sugar levels

vibrant blue oilsVibrant Blue Oils, blended to bring poorly-functioning organs back into balance, are widely used by Nutritional Therapists (including me!) to support the health of our clients. The oil blends are designed for topical use and are highly effective.

Two of these oils that will help balance your blood sugar levels is the Adrenal Balance oil and the Pancreatone oil.  I use the Adrenal Balance each morning to help balance my hormones throughout the day and I apply the Pancreatone before bed to keep my blood sugar stable while sleeping. I discuss how to use and apply them here.

9. T-Tapp: Exercise to balance blood sugar levels

T-tapp workoutT-Tapp is a unique physical therapy approach to fitness that I use as the main part of my own exercise routine. It uses a specific sequence of left brain/right brain and rehabilitative movements to tone muscles, detox the body and support blood sugar balance. One specific T-Tapp move lowered my blood sugar 30 points in two minutes! I share that move and my review of the T-Tapp program here.

Chronic cardio activities like running, Zumba and spinning keep your heart rate constantly elevated, spike stress hormones and create damaging free radicals. All these factors throw hormones and blood sugar out of balance, but  T-Tapp has none of these problematic “side effects” and is specifically designed to support ideal hormone and blood sugar balance. To learn which T-Tapp program to choose and how to use T-Tapp for optimal results, please read my T-Tapp Review and Guide here.

10. Use a glucose meter to balance blood sugar

We can take hints from our body about our blood sugar levels. For example, if you feel shaky or irritable in-between meals, this points to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels). If you buzzed after a carb-dense, low fat meal or snack, that indicates hyperglycemia.

glucose monitorWith that said, the only way to truly understand your blood sugar levels is to use a glucose meter. This is a pretty affordable and easy option, and the only reoccurring expense is the test strips. I highly recommend this article by Chris Kresser explaining how and when to monitor your blood sugar with a glucose meter.

I purchased the glucose meter recommended in his post, the RelionUltima, and I take my blood sugar readings  one day each week or so (4-6 times on that day). This helps me stay on track with my blood sugar, although by now I know how to keep it pretty balanced. You may find it helpful to monitor your blood sugar daily for a month while your are tweaking your diet.

It’s all about making mealtime compensations to balance blood sugar. If your blood sugar is too high, increase the healthy fat at your meals and decrease the carbs (remember, fruits and roots are the best carbs!). If your blood sugar is too low between meals, consider increasing the carbs at your meals and perhaps include a snack such as the Healthy Buttermints.

Are you on a mission to balance blood sugar? Do you follow any of these steps? 

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Comments

  1. says

    Can you give some examples of different breakfasts that have 40 grams of protein? I’m having a hard time thinking of things to eat that would get you to that number, but not be a LOT of food.

  2. S says

    Thanks for sharing, I have always had problems with my weight and my blood sugar has been chronically low for a long time. I think I’ll give the butter mints a try, they look delicious and I’ve been looking for a way to curb my sugar cravings. I also want to look more into the T-Tapp thing, however I disagree with your statement that cardio exercises “spike stress hormones and create damaging free radicals” (I won’t debate the elevated heart rate thing, that’s a given during exercise) because I walk, run, and do other cardio frequently and it makes me feel absolutely great, and my blood sugar levels tend to actually stabilize when I’m more active. I may be undiagnosed bipolar, so getting through the day in a good mood, calm and relaxed, without any blood sugar-, digestive-, or hormone-related issues, and feeling good about the way I look, is huge for me. I think because everyone is different, it’s more a question of what works for you. Enjoyed your post! :)

    • says

      Thanks for your comment and I hope you enjoy the buttermints! I agree that we should each tailor our exercise to our own needs. In my research, I’ve come to the conclusion that chronic cardio are not helpful for relieving inflammation and hormone imbalances. If your exercise routine works for you, that’s the most important thing :)

  3. Jitka says

    Lauren,
    great post as usual. This question is off topic. We live in a city where our water is fluoridated and would like to get a device that would remove it . Have you come across a reliable method or device that removes fluoride without altering drinking water significantly?

  4. Lisa says

    Lauren,
    I’ve been tested and found to have an intolerance to milk and eggs…this makes it very hard to go paleo. I’ve tried to ignore this but my face reeks havoc with acne when consumed. I’ve been doing the himalayen sea salt/lemon/warm water first thing in the AM for a month now thinking my adrenal glands were suffering. The only sweet I do is a small amount of honey. I’ve eliminated my egg and milk intake but still my face suffers…any advice or help?

    Thanks,
    Lisa

    • Sheila H. says

      I would go to your OB/GYN or a naturopath to get your hormones tested. It is a simple blood test. There are lots of reasons that you could have acne. After seeing a naturopath, my skin looks better than ever because so many of my levels were off (adrenals, vitamins, yeast and more).

      I can’t have milk or eggs either and I usually have Whole30 foods for breakfast. Sausage with soup, bacon with brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes stuffed with spinach and cranberries, etc. You will have to change the idea of what a normal American breakfast is.

    • Kim says

      I have struggled with hormonal acne ever since stopping my birth control. i recently introduced estroblock into my diet as well as vitex berry, and my hormone levels seem to be balancing out. No more acne, or oily skin or scalp. I have also been eating more veggies and have cut out all processed foods, veg oils, and trying to limit breads to only sourdough fermented. It’s working well… I would def try it. You can read more about it from the love vitamins blog!

  5. Mrs G says

    Nice article, Lauren.
    However, I would like to point out that this paragraph is inaccurate:
    “Insulin resistance – When we consume a large amount of refined carbs with very little fat and protein, our blood sugar spikes very high and the pancreas frantically overcompensates with insulin release. This overcompensation of insulin eventually causes insulin resistance, which leads to diabetes if poor dietary practices are continued. The good news, however, is that it can an be reversed through a healthy diet that balances your blood sugar.”

    You are describing diabetes type 2, not just diabetes. There are at least two sorts of diabetes: type 1 and type 2.
    Diabetes type 1 is an autoimmune disease and it’s not exclusively (or mainly) linked to insulin resistance. There are different causes and it cannot be fixed by diet alone, although a good diet will lead to a more stable blood sugar and reduce/eliminate the risk of having diabetes related complications.
    I would also like to point out that there is a link between diabetes type 1 and celiac disease (they are both autoimmune diseases) so if you have one of those it’s a good idea to be tested for the other.

  6. Jackie says

    I am new to your blog and am learning so much! That surprises me since I discovered and adapted Atkins way back in the 80s and have always loved reading about health and nutrition. This one article is jam-packed with so much information! In particular I was surprised to hear my cardioid exercise routine might not be the best approach. I am happy to rethink that and appreciate all the research you put into your blog. Love the recipe too!

  7. Rachel says

    Just a few comments after your interesting article. #1 – while I am not questioning or validating any of your comments, I would appreciate references to all you cite. This is something we learned in our college English courses, but seems to have been abandoned in the blogging world. With such an easy to confuse subject matter, having acurate, scientific back-up woud set you appart in the muddy waters of blogger opinion vs fact. #2 There are a few incomplete sentences that leave me confused as I read through an already confusing topic, such as” It is healthful for the body store of glycogen, but stress…….” Thank you.

    • says

      In this post, I link to numerous other blog posts by me and a couple of other bloggers whom I trust. In these linked blog posts, you will find the links to the numerous studies that back up our research. I have also linked to books, such as the Gut and Psychology Syndrome, that are heavily researched and cite the studies in the book.

  8. Lisa says

    I love all your articles. I am excited to try the oils you mentioned in your last post. I am a vegetarian and usually don’t eat breakfast. I seem to be starving all day on the days I have breakfast. I usually have some type of egg while dis no baked goods and a veggie sausage. Any suggestions.?
    Thanks Lisa

    • says

      It’s always recommended to check with a medical practitioner before using essential oils for children or pregnant women, and some people advise the same caution with teens. Personally (this is not medical advice, this is just me) I would use these oils for my teenage clients. I think essential oils are particularly useful for teens who don’t want to take pills or supplements.

      • richelle says

        Thank you. I have been doing more and more with oils but I’m still very cautious. I appreciate your feedback.

  9. Emily says

    I am not hungry for breakfast if I wake up too early. For instance, waking up at 5 in the morning doesn’t work for me. Forcing myself to eat that early stimulates my gag reflex, but drinking a smoothie or protein shake doesn’t cause a problem. If I wake up at 7, I can eat right away. Is this also caused by low stomach acid or could it be from something else?

  10. says

    Insightful post! I really try to find healthy ways to maintain blood sugar because Diabetes is active on both sides of my family. These are some great tips, thanks!

  11. Kestrel says

    It seems to me via your posts that it is beneficial to eat protein and fats and carbs together in the same meal so as to stabilize blood sugar. So what about food combining?- Where you don’t mix starches and protein in the same meal, etc. due to different mediums being used to digest the different substances. Is food combining a real thing or unfounded?

  12. Kasey says

    Lauren,

    I would like to know your thoughts on dairy. You may already have a post that I’ve missed. If that’s so, please direct me to it. But I not only have a problem with Candida (2 years now) but also acne as of the past few months. I decided to stop my birth control after 12 years because I knew it was only hurting my health. I didn’t know if dairy was contributing to my acne so I tried to cut it out along with the gluten and white sugar. I’ve also had issues with IBS which I thought could be dairy related but am realizing that could be Candida related as well. I have to mention I took Depo for all of those years which I only realized about 6 months ago is as dangerous as it is. I know, I know. But I’m still learning. I now spend most of my free time researching all of the above. Needless to say, it wreaked havoc on my hormones. I believe I’m on the right track but can’t seem to completely kick this issue. Could you please share your thoughts on what I mentioned and possibly help steer me in the right direction with the dairy dilemma? Thanks in advance!

  13. Ivan says

    Thank you so much for this informative article. I have to deal with reactive hypoglycemia, and work a very physically exerting job in the evenings (UPS – Warehouse Work) I started dealing with anxiety also in the past month, so now more than ever I have to make sure my blood sugar is stabilized . Been eating a serving of organic oatmeal 3 times a day (if that helps) One egg with it in the morning. Some type of beef or chicken before i go in to work, along with B-Complex Vitamin, Fish Oil, and Magnesium Citrate supplement. I get home at midnight and have to eat my meal before bed. Just ordered the jar of of viva labs organic coconut oil a few days ago from amazon.

    I’m just trying to keep my blood sugar stabilized and prevent any plunges. Any other tips would be appreciated.
    Thank You :)

  14. Jo says

    Hey Lauren,

    Thanks for such a great article!! I have just discovered about my PMS (cyclic headaches, bloating, acne, exhaustion, allergies) being caused by low blood sugar, why has no one ever told me – it would also explain or for me be linked to my adrenal fatigue (I also have very large fibroids). You wrote: “With that said, I believe that eating every 2-3 hours is often necessary to keep blood sugar balanced when dealing with issues like adrenal fatigue, chronic fatigue, autoimmune disease, inflammation, and/or compromised digestion.” The book I read recommends eating starchy carbs (small meals) every 3 hours. I was wondering if you knew of a specific diet or had a diet plan I could follow. At the moment I’m “winging it” and would feel more confident if I knew I was getting it right . Thanks heaps, Jo :-)

  15. Sam says

    Hey Lauren,

    Thank you for an awesome article (this one and candida one too).
    I wanted to ask about grains: I totally understand about ones you wrote about, but I wanted to ask if buckwheat and/or brown rice are allowed? They seem fine and healthy?

    Thank you!

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