Wondering how to lower A1C without medication? It’s not simple, but it’s extremely worth your while!
Lowering A1C levels means improving your sensitivity to insulin and reducing your body’s overall insulin resistance. The more sensitive you become to the insulin your body naturally produces, the more easily your body will maintain safe blood sugar levels and, as a result, the better you can lower A1C without taking medications.
*Do keep in mind when trying to naturally lower A1C as a person with type 2 diabetes that some people will still require the help of oral or injectable medications. Keep reading for red flags that indicate that it may be time to consider taking diabetes medications. Here are the 5 steps in detail that you can use to help to lower A1C without medication.
1. Keep a simple food diary for 5 days.
The first step to improving your nutrition in an effort to reach better blood sugars levels and lower A1C levels naturally (here’s a quick guide explaining the difference between the two) is to be honest about what your current eating habits look like.
How many of the items in your grocery cart are simple, real, whole foods versus processed snacks and meal items? (Hint: even “whole grain” commercial bread counts as a processed starchy, carb.)
When you write down the exact foods you eat every day for 5 days, take a look and assess:
2. Eat more plants—and fewer processed carbs.
This certainly isn’t the first time you’ve read that eating more vegetables is good for the human body. But when it comes to managing type 2 diabetes and lowering A1C naturally, it’s crucial.
Now that you’ve had a chance to look at what you’ve been eating in your food diary, choose one meal and one snack to improve.
Maybe you’re swapping your Starbucks’ sugar-heavy coffee beverage and muffin for two eggs and an apple. Or maybe try ditching the sugar-loaded Nutrigrain bar for a homemade flaxseed muffin in a mug! , or the processed and flavored oatmeal package for a serving of whole oats with a sprinkle of cinnamon and handful of blueberries.
You can even try switching out cereal—which is full of processed carbs and sugars; yes even the healthy ones such as Kashi and Raisin Bran—for a spoonful of peanut butter and a fruit of your choice.
3. Get moving, but start small.
If you haven’t been exercising at all, remember to start small.
Even just one 15-minute walk before or after a meal 5 days a week will do wonders for your blood sugar and help you lower A1C naturally. A walk is especially helpful after meals—. while your body is digesting what you just ate, you're counteracting any glucose spikes by putting one foot in front of the other for a cool 15 minutes!
When you find yourself thinking, “But I’m too tired for a walk! I just want to sit and watch Jeopardy!” That's OK, too! You can also get an equally great workout by just standing up and walking in place while watching your favorite show.
Remember: Everyone has to start somewhere! I guarantee you’ll feel so good afterward that it’ll make you look forward to the next one.
4. Remember to include treats. Yes, include!
Yes, you read that correctly: Include some of the foods you love on the path to lowering A1C naturally. A plan based on disciplined perfection, seven days a week, every waking hour, is simply doomed for failure.
After you’ve had time to look at just how often you’re consuming sugar-filled foods, take some time to decide what your most valued treat might be. For some, it’s fresh bread and butter, while others might prefer a bowl of ice cream.
In fact, you might need to start with a once-daily bowl of ice cream while aiming to keep the rest of the day full of healthier choices. Or you might be ready to have your treat every other day, instead.
Think about what’s realistic for you, so you can stick to the bigger picture. Lowering A1C naturally does not require perfection—it just calls for improvements in your overall approach to nutrition.
5. Don't Rush, Take Your Time
Remember, nobody changes everything about how they eat and exercise overnight! Evolving your relationship with food and exercise, and your entire body, takes time.
If you give yourself the time and freedom to explore, be curious, and have fun with learning about new ways of eating and cooking and exercising, you might even find yourself having fun! In fact, you might love it. View lowering A1C naturally is a long-term goal, rather than an upcoming deadline.
When to Consider Diabetes Medications & Insulin
You've tried all of the above (like, really tried), and you're still not seeing the results you want. At that point, it may be time to add some medications into the mix.
Here are the need-to-know-signs: “The first sign of needing to start a medication to help lower your blood sugars,” explains Jody Stanislaw, ND, CDE, “is an elevated A1C level—over 6.5 percent—that is not responding well to your efforts to eat a healthier diet, exercise more, and lose weight. If those changes aren’t lowering your blood sugars over the course of three to six months, it’s time to talk about an oral medication like metformin.”
Dr. Stanislaw, a diabetes coach and creator of diabetes training courses has lived with type 1 diabetes since childhood. “Starting insulin early in your diagnosis of type 2 diabetes can help some patients actually improve their own insulin production by increasing your body’s natural beta cell function,” adds Dr. Stanislaw.
This isn’t guaranteed to be effective in everyone, but it’s a worthwhile reason to let go of your fears of starting insulin early.
“The goal is to get into as healthy of blood sugar control as possible, as soon as possible,” says Dr. Stanislaw.
“High blood sugars create damage throughout the body, especially to the precious beta cells, the cells that make insulin. People should be more fearful of high blood sugars than insulin injections.”
Having to begin insulin injections is often seen as a permanent path, but Dr. Stanislaw explains that it’s simply a powerful tool to help get blood sugars immediately into a healthier range, while continuing to make improvements in your lifestyle like nutrition, exercise, and weight-loss.
Eventually, a patient who has adopted those healthier lifestyle habits will reduce their need for insulin. Not only will they improve their insulin sensitivity, but they'll also ideally be able to stop taking insulin altogether.
The real goal is to prevent the development of long-term complications.
“If complications are developing,” explains Dr. Stanislaw, “especially if you’ve already started taking a drug like metformin, that’s a big sign that it’s time to consider starting insulin. Especially if your non-insulin medications aren’t keeping your fasting blood sugar below 90 mg/dL, and your A1C is over 6.5 percent.”
While it may not be simple to lower blood sugar and A1C levels without medication, it is possible and may be worth a try for you. Be sure to check with your doctor and don’t make any changes to your medication routine if you are already on medication, but feel free to explore this option with your care provider if you think the option is right for you.
If you aren’t taking any medications, and want to continue on that path, then make sure you are mindful of your choices, and consider working with a health coach in the One Drop app to get the encouragement you need to stick with your plan.