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How to Lower A1C Naturally

cartoon blood vile with "HbA1c test" written on it

Prediabetes and diabetes (high blood sugar levels) are linked to a number of serious health conditions, like cardiovascular disease. Hemoglobin A1c—also called glycosylated hemoglobin, A1c, or HbA1c—is a common blood test used to diagnose and manage prediabetes and diabetes. A1c is an indication of your average blood sugar levels over the past 3 months. 

Please continue reading to learn more about why your A1c level is so important and what you can do to lower your A1c naturally. 

How does the A1C test measure blood glucose levels?

Hemoglobin A1c is a simple and commonly performed blood test used to diagnose prediabetes, type 1 diabetes, and type 2 diabetes. In people who already know they have diabetes, A1c levels are a measure of glycemic control (blood sugar control) over the past few months.

Here’s how the A1c test works. When sugar enters your blood, it binds to hemoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen and is found in your red blood cells. Even people with normal blood sugar numbers have some sugar attached to their hemoglobin. However, people with higher blood sugars have more sugar attached to their hemoglobin. The A1c test measures the percentage of red blood cells that have sugar-coated hemoglobin. Therefore, it shows what your average blood sugar levels have been like over the past few months.

According to the American Diabetes Association, healthy people with normal blood glucose levels have A1c levels below 5.7%. In people with prediabetes (those at risk of developing diabetes), A1c levels are between 5.7% and 6.4%. A1c levels of 6.5% or higher indicate that a person has diabetes

How can I get my A1C down quickly?

It is not possible to lower your A1C levels overnight. While your blood sugar levels can fluctuate very quickly (within minutes), your A1C level takes time to change. As mentioned above, your A1c level is a reflection of your average blood sugars over the past three months. Therefore, it takes 3-6 months on average to lower your A1c levels. 

In general, people with high A1c levels (over 10%) usually see a drop within 2-3 months with a healthy eating plan and exercise routine, weight loss, and medical care, including diabetes medications. Those with an A1c level of around 7.5% can take a little longer to see improvement.

What foods reduce your A1C?

There are no specific foods that can lower your A1c. However, a combination of healthy eating patterns and physical activity can positively impact A1c levels. It is worth noting that if you have excess body weight, weight loss by itself will not bring your A1c number down. Instead, losing weight along with other strategies to control blood glucose levels will help lower A1c levels.

In general, strict diets are not advisable because they are difficult to stick to and may deprive you of important nutrients. Diets like the keto diet that limit carbohydrate intake are not recommended for people with diabetes. 

A more sensible approach is to incorporate more fiber into your diet. Fiber-rich foods help control blood sugar levels by slowing how much glucose enters the blood and body’s cells from the digestive tract and how quickly blood glucose rises. A diet rich in fiber also reduces your risk of heart disease. Moreover, fiber-rich foods and healthy carb intake help you feel full sooner, thus helping to reduce your caloric intake and lose weight. 

Examples of foods that have high fiber content include beans, legumes, whole fruits, non-starchy vegetables, nuts, flax seeds, and whole grains (whole grain bread, pasta, and cereal). Foods to avoid include saturated fats, trans fats, and sodium (salt-rich) foods. 

If you are not sure what foods are good for you, consulting a certified diabetes educator or registered dietitian/nutritionist might be worthwhile.

How can I lower my A1C without medication?

Here are some easy-to-implement non-pharmaceutical intervention options if you are wondering how to lower your A1c naturally.

Physical Activity

Even moderate physical activity, such as a 30-minute brisk walk every day, can lower your A1c level. Being active throughout the day and avoiding snacking will also help.

Balanced Meals

One of the ways to lower A1c naturally is to follow a healthy eating plan that includes all the major food groups - proteins, carbohydrates, healthy fats, and fiber. Controlling portion sizes is also effective. 

Intermittent Fasting

If you are wondering how to lower A1c naturally, one of the things to consider is intermittent fasting (IF). This involves avoiding snacking or eating at nighttime and limiting food intake to around 8 hours in a 24-hour period. If can help control your blood sugar levels overnight and lower your A1c. Remember, if you eat more food during the daytime eating window, If will not work.

Sleep Habits

Peer-reviewed studies have shown that the body’s reaction to sleep loss can resemble insulin resistance. In other words, insufficient or poor-quality sleep can be associated with poor blood sugar control. Therefore, you should practice good sleep hygiene, as this can positively impact your A1c level.

Weight Loss Surgery

Suppose diet and exercise haven't worked or you have serious health problems because of your weight. In that case, your doctor may recommend gastric bypass or another weight-loss surgery, known collectively as bariatric surgery. This involves making changes to your digestive system to help you lose weight. Research shows that bariatric surgery can also lower your A1C, and in fact, it's the only proven way to reverse type 2 diabetes.

FAQ

Does apple cider vinegar lower A1C?

Apple cider vinegar is often touted as a natural way to treat type 2 diabetes and other health conditions. This claim may have some merit to it. Trials have shown that apple cider vinegar can lower A1c levels. However, the scientific evidence is sparse and more research is needed to determine actual benefits, dosing, and safety considerations.

Can dietary supplements lower A1c?

There are some claims that taking dietary supplements like cinnamon can result in an improvement in glycemic control. However, it is not clear whether this translates to lower A1c levels. You should not rely on supplements to control high blood sugar levels. A more effective approach is to get professional guidance from a registered dietitian to fine-tune your diet to a healthy one and combine it with regular physical exercise.
 

References:

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/managing/managing-blood-sugar/a1c.html
  2. https://www.diabetes.org/a1c#
  3. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/intermittent-fasting-surprising-update-2018062914156