10 Easy Ways To Maintain Healthy Blood Sugar Balance

Blood Sugar Balance

Chances are high that you or someone you know has a serious blood sugar problem. Chances are also good that if you do, you don’t even know it. Yes, it’s true: 50 percent of adults living in the United States today have diabetes or pre-diabetes. Even more have some other type of health problem related to blood sugar imbalance or insulin resistance, such as PCOS or metabolic syndrome. What’s worse, the problem isn’t getting any better. The American Diabetes Association (1) estimates that 96 million Americans over 18 have prediabetes and 1.4 million Americans get diagnosed with diabetes every year. 

Therefore, it’s vital we make a change. Whether you are prediabetic, are diagnosed with diabetes, or just want to keep on top of your blood sugar levels, this is your complete guide to blood sugar basics and the exact steps you can take to start stabilizing your blood sugar levels.


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Blood sugar balance basics

You probably already know that what you eat directly affects your blood sugar. It’s a pretty simple formula: The more sugar you eat - whether it is in the form of carbohydrates, artificial sweeteners, sugar, or fruit - the more likely your blood sugar is to be elevated. When you eat a food high in carbohydrates, especially without much fiber or fat, that food is quickly converted into glucose in your bloodstream, triggering the release of insulin to take the sugar out of your blood and send it to where you can use it, like in your muscles, or in short-term storage in your liver. But you only need so much glucose, and if you eat a lot of sugar-rich and carb-rich foods, your insulin may have trouble keeping up and your blood sugar may stay too high for too long. This puts you on the path to diabetes and other metabolic health problems.

Symptoms of blood sugar imbalance

If more than one of these is true for you, I suggest getting your blood sugar levels checked, stat.

  1. You constantly crave sweets or carbs.
  2. Eating sweets doesn’t relieve your sugar cravings - it might even increase them.
  3. You become irritable and “hangry” if you miss a meal.
  4. You find yourself needing caffeine to get through the day.
  5. You become lightheaded if you miss a meal.
  6. Eating makes you exhausted and in need of a nap.
  7. It’s difficult for you to lose weight.
  8. You feel weak, shaky, or jittery pretty frequently.
  9. You have to pee a lot.
  10. You get agitated, easily upset, or nervous, out of proportion to the reason for these feelings.
  11. Your memory is not what it used to be.
  12. Your vision is blurry.
  13. Your waist measurement is equal to or larger than your hip measurements.
  14. You have an atypically low sex drive.
  15. You’re always thirsty.

The best blood sugar labs

If you suspect that your blood sugar is imbalanced, these the labs I run on my patients to assess their blood sugar and check for insulin resistance:

  • Serum insulin: Optimal Range: < 3 ulU/mL
  • C-peptide: Optimal Range: 0.8 to 3.1 ng/mL
  • Fasting blood sugar: Optimal Range: 75 to 90 mg/dL
  • Hgb A1C: Optimal Range: < 5.3 percent
  • Triglycerides: Optimal Range: < 100 mg/dL
  • HDL: Optimal Range: 59 to 100 mg/dL

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Tips to maintain healthy blood sugar balance

Thankfully, blood sugar is one of the things that you can do a lot to change just by making a few lifestyle changes. These are my favorite things you can do today to start stabilizing your blood sugar.

1. Eat more antioxidants

Colorful vegetables and fruits naturally contain antioxidants which have been shown to help regulate blood sugar. In fact, multiple studies have shown that alpha-lipoic acid supplements help to improve insulin resistance and balance blood sugar levels. The benefits of this antioxidant don’t stop there either – it also protects brain cells against excitotoxicity, boosts heavy metal detoxification, enhances cell energy production, and strengthens immunity. For blood sugar control, take 200 milligrams three times a day.

Additionally, the bioflavonoid found in cinnamon called proanthocyanidin can alter the insulin signaling activity in fat cells to help manage diabetes. Cinnamon has also been linked to lower triglycerides and blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetics. Green tea contains the compound EGCG which also has been shown (2) to stabilize blood sugar. Matcha powder has some of the highest levels of this powerful antioxidant.

Nrf-2 is a protein whose role is to help regulate (3) antioxidant gene induction by turning on genes that are responsible for antioxidant and detox pathways. When Nrf-2 is activated it also drives-down inflammation. You can activate Nrf-2 by including antioxidant-rich foods such as:

  • EGCG in green tea
  • Quercetin in apples
  • Curcumin in turmeric
  • Resveratrol in grapes
  • Rosmarinic acid in rosemary
  • L-sulforaphane in broccoli
  • Thiosulfonateallicin in garlic

Research also shows that peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors – or PPARs for short – can help improve (4) blood sugar. Some PPAR activators for you to bring into your life: wild-caught fish, (5) green tea, astragalus, ginger, (6) and sea buckthorn. (7)

My supplement, The Antioxidant, is formulated with a blend of fruits extracts from extensively studied super-fruits and berries including grape, pomegranate, blueberry, chokeberry, mangosteen, cranberry, goji berry, apple, and bilberry to ensure you get a targeted daily dose of these necessary antioxidants.

2. Limit how much you snack

Needing to munch on food is a major sign that your blood sugar is out of whack. Constantly snacking keeps blood and insulin levels spiked with no time to calm down. Intermittent fasting is one of my go-to tools to help keep the hormones responsible for blood sugar in check since it is proven to lower insulin resistance (8) and increase metabolism. (9)

Make sure to work with your doctor if you have a blood sugar problem and want to incorporate fasting into your routine. As your glucose begins to stabilize they can monitor your progress and make adjustments to your fasting periods as they see improvement. Leptin resistance is another hormone problem that has been shown to greatly improve through intermittent fasting.

3. Get enough micronutrients

In a study (10) published in the medical journal Circulation, it was shown that out of 5,000 people, those who regularly took higher doses of magnesium for 15 years had a decreased risk of metabolic syndrome which is often a marker for diabetes. Another study (11) in the American Journal of Epidemiology found similar results. After 5 years those who consistently had greater magnesium intake had better insulin sensitivity. Magnesium can also lower diabetes risk by lowering blood pressure (12) and triglycerides.

Chromium is another micronutrient that is essential to not overlook as low levels have been linked to increased risk of insulin resistance and high triglyceride levels. Supplementing (13) with chromium can be a simple way to improve the function of blood sugar receptors. Focus on chromium-rich food sources like potatoes, tomatoes, onions, and sea vegetables.

4. Sleep more

Poor sleep and blood sugar problems go hand in hand. If you are constantly not sleeping well at night it will impact your blood sugar levels and vice versa. This is because our blood sugar levels rise more with the less sleep we get. No wonder why people with sleep problems are at a greater risk for diabetes. In fact, those who got fewer than six hours of sleep every night had more blood sugar issues (14) than those who slept a full eight hours.

5. Get more water-soluble vitamins

Methylation is your body’s biochemical superhighway that controls many aspects of your body including blood sugar regulation. B vitamins are the fuel behind methylation and can be supported through supplementing with B vitamins such as B9 L-Methylfolate (L-5-MTHF) and B6 Pyridoxyl-5-Phosphate (P5P). Dark leafy greens like spinach, okra, and turnip greens along with grass-fed beef and chicken liver are loaded with essential B vitamins.

If you choose to go the supplement route, I recommend a B-vitamin complex like my supplement, The Methylator, as it contains activated forms of all the necessary B vitamins your body needs for maximum bioavailability.

6. Get more fat-soluble vitamins

Vitamin E, also known as tocopherol, can help improve (15) insulin sensitivity. A standard dose ranges between 600 and 900 milligrams. Vitamin D is also one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in America and can contribute to a whole slew of health problems. Research showed (16) that after 12 weeks of vitamin D supplementation, body fat was lowered by 7 percent, which is important to note as lower weight can help manage blood sugar. Vitamin D deficiency is also correlated with metabolic syndrome. A good standard dose is between 60 to 80 ng/mL per day.

When choosing a vitamin D supplement, make sure to look for one like my supplement The D3-K2 that combines two fat-soluble vitamins - Vitamin D3 and Vitamin K2 - as they enhance the absorption of one another for enhanced bioavailability.

8. Heal your gut

Your gut controls almost all aspects of your health, including your blood sugar. Your microbiome’s nutritional needs are, perhaps surprisingly, similar to yours. Many of the same foods that are good for you help to increase the beneficial microbes in your microbiome, while many of the same foods that spike blood sugar also have a harmful effect on your microbiome. For example, artificial sweeteners have been implicated for years in poor microbiome health and bacterial imbalances in the gut - specifically in ways that impair blood sugar control.

Because of the link between these two systems, focusing on healing your gut and optimizing your microbiome should also help to rebalance your blood sugar. That’s exactly what the latest research suggests. A recent scientific study, (17) published in the journal mSphere, looked at Acarbose - a drug for type-2 diabetes - and how it changes animals’ microbiome composition to favor bacteria that play a role in controlling blood sugar. Even when those animals ate a higher-starch diet while on this medication, their microbiomes still contained higher levels of the beneficial bacteria Bacteroidaceae and Bifidobacteriaceae and lower levels of the bad bacteria Verruocomicorbiacea and Bacteroidales S24-7. However, once the medication was stopped, the positive microbiome features reverted.

Another study (18) followed a group of 300 people over the course of six days. The researchers tracked glycemic responses to foods and found that they could only accurately predict blood sugar between 32 and 40 percent of the time when considering what foods the subjects ate and how many calories they consumed. But when the scientists factored in the specific composition of the microbiomes of each individual, they were able to accurately predict blood sugar response 62 percent of the time.

Other studies also support the blood sugar-microbiome connection. Those who are overweight or struggle with weight loss resistance - a symptom of underlying metabolic problems - tend to have lower microbiome diversity (19) with lower numbers of beneficial microbes and higher numbers of harmful bacteria and fungi. In another fascinating study, (20) scientists were able to transplant the microbiome of diabetic mice into healthy mice to make them diabetic as well, without changing their diets. It seems like our microbiomes are in charge of a lot more about our health than we once realized.

8. Eat more healthy fats

Omega-3 fatty acids have the power to lower your risk for heart attack and stroke and can also convert diabetes-linked (21) very low-density lipoproteins (VLDL), to healthier low-density lipoproteins (LDL). Research has found that high blood sugar affects the function in areas of the brain affected by Alzheimer’s disease. It’s no surprise then that medical literature refers to Alzheimer’s as “type 3 diabetes.”

A ketogenic diet can do wonders for your brain health (22) by transforming you into a fat burner instead of a sugar burner. This transitions your body into relying on fat for fuel instead of sugar which has been shown to enhance brain health including in cases of dementia. This is because fat is a more sustainable and longer lasting form of energy. In fact, as babies we relied on fat (23) in the form of breast milk for energy and development. Hop off the blood sugar roller coaster and load up on healthy fats instead.

9. Pay attention to your alternative sweeteners

There are an increasing number of studies showing the damaging effect sugar can have on your health and the food industry has responded with more natural options. However, not every choice is created equal. Agave nectar claims to be the perfect alternative to traditional sugar since it is considered low-glycemic. This measurement of how quickly foods elevate blood sugar, in my opinion, is overly simplistic. Even though it raises blood sugar more slowly, it raises your blood sugar over a longer period due to its fructose content. This ends up being harder on your liver which can contribute to insulin resistance and fatty liver disease.

Many other natural sweeteners are heavily processed which increases inflammation and insulin resistance. It is important to be choosing the 100 percent organic, unprocessed forms of the best natural sweeteners like monk fruit extract and stevia. My sugar guide gives my full rankings of the best sweetener options. And remember, it is possible to have too much of a good thing – enjoy even the best sweeteners in moderation!

10. Don’t overload on “healthy” foods

While you may think that avoiding sugar and processed carbs are enough to keep your blood sugar under control, even so-called “healthy” foods have a sneaky way of impacting your health if you aren’t careful of how much you eat. For example, gluten-free grains like rice are high in amylose sugars which also spike blood sugar and contribute to inflammation and insulin resistance.

Even starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes are still carbs and can impact blood sugar. Legumes are also sneaky, because while they have beneficial fiber they also have a high starch content and contain lectin and phytate proteins that can increase inflammation. So what can you do? Enjoy these foods, but in moderation.

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  1. American Diabetes Association "Statistics About Diabetes" Accessed November 2023. https://diabetes.org/about-diabetes/statistics/about-diabetes
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Dr. Will Cole, DNM, IFMCP, DC is a leading functional medicine expert who consults people around the globe, starting one of the first functional medicine telehealth centers in the world. Named one of the top 50 functional and integrative doctors in the nation, Dr. Will Cole provides a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. He is the host of the popular The Art Of Being Well podcast and the New York Times bestselling author of Intuitive Fasting, Ketotarian, The Inflammation Spectrum and the brand new book Gut Feelings: Healing the Shame-Fueled Relationship Between What You Eat and How You Feel.

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