Thanks to Kelly Six, dietetic intern, for writing this post!
With a light google search, you can find the classic list of ways to lower your blood sugar- exercise, increasing fiber, decreasing refined grains, hydrate, manage your stress, so on and so forth.
But there are a few more that I would love to share :)
Yep! A good laugh can help soften the blood sugar spike after eating. In one study, participants were given an identical meal and then either watched a boring lecture or a comedy show, of similar length. After watching (and laughing through) the comedy show, the post-meal blood sugars spike was significantly less compared to watching the lecture.
Actually, laughing is good for your health in more ways than that. It is also associated with decreased risk of heart disease¹, helps improve the quality of life for people with dementia,² and can help reduce pain.³
So, call your funniest friend, watch some funny cat videos, let yourself actually laugh out loud when you get the urge. It’s literally good for you.
The message that exercising can lower blood sugar is loud and clear. The reason for that is that movement of big muscle groups encourages the muscles to take in more glucose because it needs it as energy. So glucose moves from your blood sugar to your muscles.
But you don’t have to head out to the gym or put on your running shoes for this to be effective. Multiple studies have shown that even passive stretching has blood glucose-lowering abilities.⁴ ⁵ ⁶ In fact, when stretching is compared to resistance training, there are no significant differences in blood sugar lowering ability.⁵ This means that stretching and resistance exercise may be equally effective! Theoretically, the stretching and movement of your muscles does the same thing as contracting them during exercise.
Self-care in the form of a few gentle minutes to stretch if you’re getting stubborn highs or right after a meal is a great choice. Just remember to move in a way that feels good in your body.
3. Take a bath
A hot shower works too! One way this works is that hot water encourages our blood vessels to relax and widen, so more blood can flow to our muscles and tissues (similar to exercise). More blood to the tissues means more glucose can enter into our cells and lower our blood sugar. A few studies have shown that a soak in the tub can lower blood glucose⁷ ⁸.
(Just a word of caution that you take steps to make sure your blood sugar doesn’t drop too low if you are taking insulin- the hot water may cause the insulin to work faster than you anticipate!)
In addition to the effects of vasodilation (big word for your blood vessels widening), this can be a great way to relax and reduce stress, yet another great way to help with blood sugar.
At the end of the day, what really matters is that you are doing what you can to take care of yourself in ways that feel healthy to you. While the traditional methods are useful, sometimes it’s easy to forget that gentle self-care is healthy and can come in many forms.
So now what?
Sakurada, Kaori et al. “Associations of Frequency of Laughter With Risk of All-Cause Mortality and Cardiovascular Disease Incidence in a General Population: Findings From the Yamagata Study.” Journal of epidemiology vol. 30,4 (2020): 188-193. doi:10.2188/jea.JE20180249
Takeda, Masatoshi et al. “Laughter and humor as complementary and alternative medicines for dementia patients.” BMC complementary and alternative medicine vol. 10 28. 18 Jun. 2010, doi:10.1186/1472-6882-10-28
Dunbar RI, Baron R, Frangou A, et al. Social laughter is correlated with an elevated pain threshold. Proc Biol Sci. 2012;279(1731):1161-1167. doi:10.1098/rspb.2011.1373
Park, Seong Hoon. “Effects of passive static stretching on blood glucose levels in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus.” Journal of physical therapy science vol. 27,5 (2015): 1463-5. doi:10.1589/jpts.27.1463
Gurudut P, Rajan AP. Immediate effect of passive static stretching versus resistance exercises on postprandial blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetes mellitus: a randomized clinical trial. J Exerc Rehabil. 2017;13(5):581-587. Published 2017 Oct 30. doi:10.12965/jer.1735032.516
Taheri N, Mohammadi HK, Ardakani GJ, Heshmatipour M. The effects of passive stretching on the blood glucose levels of patients with type 2 diabetes. J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2019;23(2):394-398. doi:10.1016/j.jbmt.2018.02.009
Hoekstra SP, Bishop NC, Faulkner SH, Bailey SJ, Leicht CA. Acute and chronic effects of hot water immersion on inflammation and metabolism in sedentary, overweight adults. J Appl Physiol. 2018;125(6):2008-2018. doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.00407.2018
Pandey A, Tripathi P, Pandey R, Srivatava R, Goswami S. Alternative therapies useful in the management of diabetes: A systematic review. J Pharm Bioallied Sci. 2011;3(4):504-512. doi:10.4103/0975-7406.90103