How to control blood sugar naturally

Medically reviewed by Rosanna Sutherby, PharmD on May 15, 2020. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

When you have diabetes or prediabetes, you want to make sure that your blood sugar levels don’t get too high. There are other several natural ways you can help control your blood sugar and nudge your glucose levels towards a healthy range. Read on to discover how you can control blood sugar naturally with regular physical activity, stress management, and diet.

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Regular physical activity can help keep your glucose numbers in check

Regular physical activity is a great way to keep your blood sugar under control—whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, or prediabetes. That’s because exercise increases your body’s sensitivity to insulin, which means your cells take in more glucose (resulting in lower blood sugar levels).

Getting started with exercise

Wondering how you can start getting more active? The following tips can help:

  • Talk with your healthcare provider first. It’s a good idea to speak with your healthcare provider before starting a new exercise regimen. They can take your blood sugar numbers into consideration and help you create a regimen that works for you and fits in well with your diabetes treatment plan. (For example, in the case of type 1 diabetes and pregnancy, your healthcare provider may recommend a modified workout regimen to meet your needs.)
  • Check your glucose level. If you’re taking insulin or diabetes medication to lower blood sugar, exercise could drop your numbers too low. Checking your blood sugar level before, during, and after your workout may help you avoid this. Also, keeping a snack or glucose tablets on hand can help in case your blood sugar drops too much.
  • Hydrate. Dehydration can affect your glucose level, so make sure that drinking water is a part of your exercise routine.

How much physical activity should you get?

For people with diabetes, the American Diabetes Association recommends a minimum of 150 minutes/week of moderate intensity physical activity or 60 minutes/week of vigorous intensity physical activity—with no more than 2 days passing between each day you exercise.

Moderate intensity activities are those that require effort equal to that of a brisk walk.

Vigorous intensity activities usually involve large muscle groups (like the chest and hamstrings) and cause a noticeable increase in heart rate, breathing depth, and sweating.

The “Talk Test” is one way you can gauge how intense your activity is. During moderate intensity activities, it’s usually possible to talk—but not sing. But during vigorous intensity activities, you can only say a few words (due to rapid breathing).

(Be sure to consult your healthcare provider before beginning a vigorous physical activity program.)

Stress management may help with blood sugar control

It might seem like everyone these days recommends stress management as a way to control different health issues. There’s a good reason for it. Chronic stress can produce all kinds of undesirable changes in the body—like inflammation and anxiety. So it might not come as a surprise that stress can also cause your blood sugar levels to rise. Not only that, but being stressed out can make it harder to meet the goals of your diabetes treatment plan.

How does stress cause your glucose levels to go up?

  • When you’re stressed, your body is preparing for a threat of some kind. As part of this process, your body tries to make sure you have enough energy (fueled by sugar) available to “fight or flight.”
  • Your insulin levels drop, your adrenaline increases, and your liver releases more glucose. Additionally, your cortisol levels go up, which makes your body less sensitive to insulin. This causes more glucose to circulate in your bloodstream.

What does stress management involve?

Here are a few stress management tips that can help:

  • Identify your stressors. Keep a journal or make notes on your phone to log your stressors throughout the day. As you start to see patterns behind your stress, you can learn how to avoid these stressors or come up with coping strategies.
  • Implement relaxation techniques. Everyone has a method that works best to manage their stress. Try some for yourself to see what you like. Some examples include meditation, journaling, exercising, and doing something creative.

Additionally, a counselor or therapist can often help you learn new coping strategies and relate to stressors in new, more constructive ways.

Nutritional strategies that can help you control blood sugar levels

You likely know that it’s important to eat a well-balanced and nutrient-rich diet. But what specific dietary strategies can help control blood sugar?

Include more soluble fiber in your diet. Soluble fiber is the type of fiber found in beans, dried peas, fruits, oats, and various other foods. Studies show that eating this type of fiber improves insulin sensitivity, which can lower blood sugar and minimize blood sugar swings. However, there is one caveat: make sure that the sources of soluble fiber you choose aren’t too high in sugar. Good sources of fiber include black beans, lima beans, avocados, broccoli, turnips, oats, and barley.

Track your carbohydrate intake. Tracking your daily carb intake can be a great tool for controlling blood sugar levels. That’s because carbohydrates (or “carbs”) are a kind of nutrient that especially affects blood sugar levels. But that doesn’t mean carbohydrates are bad. In fact, you need carbs to keep your body functioning normally. However, foods packed with “simple carbs” like added sugar aren’t as nutrient-rich which can make it harder to keep blood sugar levels within your target range. On the other hand, foods filled with “complex carbs” (like fiber-packed foods) tend to be more nutrient-rich and may help better regulate your blood sugar level.

To track how many carbs your daily meals give you, start by looking at the nutrition labels of the food you eat. Nutrition labels tell you a lot about what you are eating, always start with the serving size, as this tells you how much you can eat to equal a serving. Then, check how many carbohydrates are in a serving of the food under consideration. Some foods, like many fresh fruits and vegetables, don’t come with nutrition labels—so go online or use a book to find an estimate of their carbohydrate content.

How much carbohydrate should you be getting from your diet? That depends on many factors—including your age and weight—so talk with your healthcare provider to learn what’s right for you.

Drink enough water. Water can also help get your blood sugar under control. Although it might be tempting to drink soda, juice, or alcohol, water is the king of the beverages when it comes to health. When you have high blood sugar levels, your body tries to flush the excess glucose out of your blood through your urine. This means you need to keep rehydrating yourself to get the blood sugar spike under control. Drinking water can help with this flushing process.

However, remember that you can have too much of a good thing. It might sound strange, but water intoxication is real. It rarely happens because you’d need to drink liters of water in a short time, but it’s still worth mentioning—and it’s a good idea to ask your healthcare provider how much water you should be drinking on a daily basis.

How do you know if you’re experiencing high blood sugar?

If your blood sugar is too high, you may notice some signs. Some possible symptoms include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Extra thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Irritability
  • Lethargy

If you notice these symptoms, speak with your healthcare provider. They may recommend that you begin daily monitoring of blood sugar levels, and/or take an HbA1c test to help determine if high blood sugar is behind your symptoms. Your HbA1c (or A1c) number is an indicator of the average sugar level in your blood over the past 2-3 months.

Everlywell offers an at-home HbA1c test that’s easy to use in the convenience of your home. You only need to collect a small blood sample (with a simple finger prick) and ship the sample to a lab using the prepaid shipping label included with the kit.

Warning Signs of Prediabetes

Medications Raising Blood Sugar levels


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