How to Lower Morning Blood Sugar Without Medication

Diabetes is a chronic disease where the level of glucose in the blood is too high (hyperglycemia). People with this condition often worry about high blood sugar levels in the morning. This is so common that it has a name: the dawn phenomenon. As our body prepares to wake up in the morning, it releases a surge of hormones, which can work against insulin and cause blood sugar level to rise. Also called the dawn effect, this can affect anyone and isn't usually a problem because the body naturally produces insulin to correct it, but the bodies of people with diabetes may not be able to respond the same way. This results in consistently high blood sugar levels in the morning.

It is possible to lower your blood sugar level without medications through lifestyle and dietary changes. If simple lifestyle changes don't work, people with diabetes should consult with their healthcare provider to determine the best approach to lower their blood sugar level in the morning.

woman drinking water in bed

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Limit Evening Carbs

Diet plays a major role in managing diabetes and maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. People with diabetes should have an understanding of the best and worst foods for the disease. Carbohydrates are a critical part of any diet, but they should be eaten in moderation. It's important to note that the body changes 100% of the carbs we consume into glucose. For this reason, people with diabetes are encouraged to use carb counting to keep track of how much carbs they consume.

One way to avoid spiking blood sugar levels in the morning is to limit your evening carb intake. Be mindful of the amount of carbs you consume at dinner or as a nighttime snack. The recommended serving of carbs for each person is different and depends on your weight, activity level, diabetes medication, and goals for blood sugar level. The general guideline from the American Diabetes Association is 45 to 60 g of carbs each meal and 15 to 20 g of carbs for each snack.

A high-fiber, low-fat snack before bed can satisfy hunger and minimize the dawn effect. Some good snack choices that can help prevent high blood sugar levels in the morning include:

  • Fruit and vegetables
  • Fat-free or low-fat yogurt
  • Fat-free popcorn
  • Low-fat granola
  • Hard-boiled egg
  • Frozen sugar-free popsicle
  • Small apple and reduced-fat cheese
  • Half a turkey sandwich

Exercise In the Afternoon

Exercise lowers blood sugar by increasing insulin sensitivity, which allows the body to use insulin and glucose more effectively, increasing glucose movement during and after exercise. Studies have shown that exercise will lead to optimal insulin regulation. Exercise after dinner will set you up for steady glucose levels through the morning.

Research has also shown that moderate-intensity aerobic exercise before breakfast reduced the morning rise of blood glucose in type 2 diabetes patients, partially counteracting the dawn phenomenon. The same study also found that exercise significantly reduced blood glucose fluctuations and improved blood glucose control throughout the day.

Some of the best exercises for avoiding morning blood sugar spikes include:

  • A walk
  • Yoga
  • Swimming
  • Taichi

Supplement with Vinegar

Coupled with a healthy diet and other recommendations, an affordable and accessible way to prevent blood sugar spikes is to supplement your diet with vinegar. Vinegar has been found to moderate waking glucose levels and reduce blood sugar level after a meal. An in vivo study showed that vinegar suppresses the process through which sucrose is transformed into glucose and fructose.

The active ingredient in vinegar is acetic acid, which reduces starch digestion and delayed gastric emptying (gastroparesis), when the stomach takes too long to empty its content.

One easy way to add vinegar into your day is by taking apple cider vinegar shots, which experts have identified as a promising way to lower morning blood sugar levels. Apple cider vinegar has been shown to improve HbA1c and serum triglycerides in diabetic rats.

Watch Dinnertime Fat

Healthy fats are an essential part of a healthy diet, but they may have a negative impact on blood sugar levels. Eating dinners high in fat can delay the normal post-meal rise in blood sugar until the following morning.

This happens because fat causes the body and digestion process to slow down. Since fatty foods can also contribute to obesity, which is a leading risk factor of diabetes, consuming less fat and more protein is a good approach for someone living with diabetes.

The American Diabetes Association recommends including more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats than saturated or trans fats in your diet. Examples of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats include:

  • Avocado
  • Canola oil
  • Nuts like almonds, cashews, pecans and peanuts
  • Olive oil and olives (look for low- or reduced-sodium products)
  • Peanut butter and peanut oil
  • Oily fish (salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, tuna)
  • Walnuts
  • Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil
  • Canola oil
  • Chia seeds

Examples of saturated and trans fats to avoid include:

  • Lard
  • Fatback and salt pork
  • High-fat meats like regular ground beef, bologna, hot dogs, sausage, bacon and spareribs
  • High-fat dairy products such as full-fat cheese, cream, ice cream, whole milk, 2% milk, and sour cream
  • Butter
  • Cream sauces
  • Gravy made with meat drippings
  • Poultry skin
  • Processed foods like snacks (crackers and chips) and baked goods (muffins, cookies, and cakes) with hydrogenated oil or partially hydrogenated oil
  • Margarines
  • Shortening
  • Some fast food items, such as french fries

Prevent Nighttime Hypoglycemia

Hypoglycemia refers to low blood sugar. It is the opposite of hyperglycemia and occurs when the glucose level is too low. Overnight low blood sugar can cause a rebound in blood sugar levels in the morning, which is known as the Somogyi effect. This happens when blood sugar drops during the night and your body releases hormones to counteract this drop, causing a higher-than-normal blood sugar spike in the morning.

It's therefore essential to make sure you have enough to eat before bed through a balanced meal or snack to avoid the dawn phenomenon.

Common symptoms of hypoglycemia include:

  • Shaking
  • Headache
  • Sweating
  • Hunger
  • Anxiety or panic
  • Tingling feeling in mouth
  • Fast heartbeat

People with diabetes should monitor their blood sugar often and have snacks on hand. Call your doctor immediately if your experience these symptoms.

Share Your Experience with Your Doctor

While you can make dietary and lifestyle changes to help prevent blood sugar spikes in the morning, working with your doctor is a priority. Changes in medication may be necessary, especially if these changes fail to help you avoid the dawn effect.

Possible reasons for medication change can include:

  • Weight changes
  • Activity Changes
  • Diet Changes
  • Recent illness

Be sure to tell your doctor if you're experiencing high blood sugar level in the mornings and if none of these strategies are helping. They are familiar with this phenomenon and can help you make changes to your medication regimen by either upping dosage or adding another medication.

Never make changes to your medication without talking to your doctor first.

A Word From Verywell 

Many people who live with diabetes are hesitant to start another medication or are unaware of lifestyle and dietary changes that may help. The above strategies are natural ways that may help you avoid the dawn phenomenon. However, working with your healthcare provider should come first in your fight against diabetes. Be sure to educate yourself about the symptoms of high blood sugar levels in the morning and when to reach out to your doctor for help.

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Article Sources
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