Hemoglobin A1c, glycohemoglobin, or HbA1c tests measure your average blood sugar levels over the previous three months and tell you how well you’ve been managing your diabetes. Very high numbers indicate you may need to fix your blood glucose management regimen. While medication is an option, many seek out natural remedies to lower HbA1c levels. But what exactly are your options if you want to take the natural route and how effective are these? Let’s find out.
What Are Normal Levels Of Hemoglobin A1c?
Before diving into how to fix the problem, you need to know how far off the mark you are. So, first, what HbA1c means.
Sugar in the body attaches to proteins in the blood, including hemoglobin in red blood cells. This blood sugar then stays attached to the red blood cell for its entire life. Since the average red blood cell lives for 100 days or 3 months, that’s the duration for which the blood sugar HbA1c level is measured.1
- The ideal A1c level is 5.7 percent or lower.
- If you are prediabetic, you may have a number somewhere between 5.7 percent and 6.4 percent. This means you are at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes than other people and will need to be retested annually.
- A number of over 6.5 percent means you are likely to have type 2 diabetes, something that may be confirmed by administering other diabetes tests.
- If you have already been diagnosed, you should work the A1c test into your routine twice a year and aim at keeping the number below 7 percent.2
However, for some people, a higher HbA1c may also be fine. The optimal level could be different from one person to another. As a result, HbA1c levels that are very low may actually result in abnormally low blood sugar levels or hypoglycemia, which comes with its own set of problems. For the following categories of people, HbA1c of 7 to 8 percent may also be fine3:
- Severely hypoglycemic individuals
- Long-standing diabetics unable to get to a lower level
- Those with chronic kidney disease, cardiovascular disease, or nerve problems resulting from diabetes
- Someone with limited life expectancy
Natural Ways To Lower Hemoglobin A1c Levels
Studies indicate that if you keep your HbA1c to 7 percent or lower, it can lower risk of complications arising from diabetes. Regardless of the number you are gunning for, here are some simple natural remedies to help you lower your hemoglobin A1c levels.4
Lowering Your Levels Of Hemoglobin A1c Steadily
Some amount of patience is required to see results from these natural remedies. While these remedies may begin their work as soon as you start taking them, blood sugar, once adhered to the red blood cells, stays with it for the duration of the life of the cell. So tangible changes may only be noticeable after a few months. Ideally, keep up the routine for about 3 months. Measure your levels before you begin your regimen and then again after 3 months to see if the natural remedies have helped lower your HbA1c levels.
Any kind of physical activity can help you manage your diabetes better, lower your blood glucose levels, and, consequently, your HbA1c numbers. Consider yoga, walking, strength training using weights, or swimming. Find ways to be more physically active – walk instead of driving when you can, use the stairs instead of the elevator, and so on.5
When you do aerobic activity, your blood circulation improves and your body also uses its insulin supply better, easing the problem of high blood sugar. A minimum of half an hour of exercise at least 5 days a week is suggested. More if you are also aiming at weight loss to help control your blood sugar.6
Eat Fresh: Go Wholegrain, Skip Processed Foods
A wholesome, balanced diet is key to eating right when you’re trying to bring down those HbA1c levels. Reduce intake of processed foods and get your carbohydrates from low glycemic index (GI) and low glycemic load (GL) foods like green leafy vegetables and fruits like grapefruit and berries. Enjoy lean protein and seafood with heart healthy fats. Switch to wholegrain foods and toss out refined flours.7
Cinnamon can help lower HbA1c levels over the course of a few months. In one study, type 2 diabetes patients were given cinnamon supplements in addition to the regular care and management. Those who took 1 gm of cinnamon every day for 90 days saw a reduction in their HbA1c levels. This led researchers to suggest cinnamon as a means to help bring down HbA1c levels in those with levels over 7 percent.8
Chomp Down On Beans
Add beans to your diet to bulk up meals with fiber and increase satiety. You will be able to eat less and avoid snacking on unhealthy foods due to sugar lows. They also give you protein without loading you with saturated fats found in meat-based protein. For these reasons, beans are a great weight-management aid.9 And as the American Diabetes Association explain, weight loss can help improve your blood glucose levels – as little as 10 to 15 pounds of weight loss can make a difference.10
Rope In Turmeric
Curcumin, the active ingredient in the golden yellow spice turmeric, is a good anti-diabetic.11 It has a glucose lowering effect in those with type 2 diabetes. In one study, the curcuminoids were able to reduce HbA1c levels as well as fasting blood glucose levels in test subjects given a dosage of 300 mg/day for a three-month period.12
Try Apple Cider Vinegar
Having some apple cider vinegar daily can help with glycemic control. One study showed that consuming two tablespoons of vinegar twice a day along with meals for three months helped bring down levels of HbA1c. It is important to note that plain vinegar was more effective in lowering the levels of HbA1c whereas a vinegar pill or vinegar in dill pickle did not have this effect.13So just get yourself some plain vinegar and drink up every day! To make it more palatable, stir it into some warm water to dilute. Alternatively, have it drizzled over your salad or proteins.
The diminutive flaxseed can help lower HbA1c levels. The lignan in the seed is said to have beneficial effects for those with type 2 diabetes. In one study, diabetic test subjects were given 360 mg lignan derived from flaxseed every day for a three month period. A significant improvement was seen in HbA1c levels in the test subjects, though fasting glucose did not change.14
Have Citrus Fruits
As research has found, consuming more vitamin C – something that citrus fruits are rich in – can help lower inflammatory markers in diabetics. More importantly, the vitamin helps lower fasting blood sugar in those with diabetes.15 So, to reduce HbA1C levels, fill your grocery basket with lime, lemons, and grapefruit. Squeeze them into salad dressings and juices or have some in your meals of healthy proteins.
Gulp Down Yogurt
The vitamin D and probiotics in plain Greek yogurt can help you lower HbA1c levels. Researchers found that having a 500 IU vitamin D(3) fortified yogurt drink twice a day over a three-month period helped lower HbA1c levels and improved the glycemic status of type 2 diabetics.16
Even good old-fashioned probiotic yogurt can make a difference. A separate study found that consuming 300 gm a day made a difference to HbA1c levels by as early as six weeks. The conventional probiotic yogurt reduced fasting blood glucose as well as HbA1c levels, indicating the potential of the food as a diabetes management aid.17
Nuts like almonds or walnuts are fiber-rich foods that can fill you up and improve heart health. But for someone trying to lower HbA1c levels, their real value is with glycemic control. In one study, 25 gm of pistachio nuts were consumed twice daily for a three-month period. A marked decrease in HbA1c levels as well as fasting blood glucose levels was noted, making it an ideal snack for someone trying to lower these numbers.18
Just take care not to overdo intake because they are energy-dense foods. They can pack in the calories and cause weight gain if consumed in more than the recommended serving size.
If you aim to lower A1c levels quickly without medication, you should proceed with caution – especially if you are already a diagnosed diabetic. If you have diabetes or prediabetes, be sure to get the green light from your doctor to start alternative remedies.
Never stop taking already prescribed medication that helps manage your blood sugar. This could be dangerous, causing sudden sugar lows or even messing with your diabetes management. Pregnant women with gestational diabetes, previously diagnosed as being diabetic, or at risk must be especially careful.
|↑1||Hemoglobin A1C. UCSF Children’s Hospital.|
|↑2||A1C. U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑3, ↑4||The A1C Test & Diabetes. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.|
|↑5||Getting Active. American Diabetes Association.|
|↑6||Aerobic Activity. American Diabetes Association.|
|↑7||Diabetes Superfoods. American Diabetes Association.|
|↑8||Crawford, Paul. “Effectiveness of cinnamon for lowering hemoglobin A1C in patients with type 2 diabetes: a randomized, controlled trial.” The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine 22, no. 5 (2009): 507-512.|
|↑9||McCrory, Megan A., Bruce R. Hamaker, Jennifer C. Lovejoy, and Petra E. Eichelsdoerfer. “Pulse consumption, satiety, and weight management.” Advances in Nutrition: An International Review Journal 1, no. 1 (2010): 17-30.|
|↑10||Weight Loss. American Diabetes Association.|
|↑11||Fazel Nabavi, Seyed, Raman Thiagarajan, Luca Rastrelli, Maria Daglia, Eduardo Sobarzo-Sanchez, Heshmatollah Alinezhad, and Seyed Mohammad Nabavi. “Curcumin: a natural product for diabetes and its complications.” Current topics in medicinal chemistry 15, no. 23 (2015): 2445-2455.|
|↑12||Na, Li‐Xin, Ying Li, Hong‐Zhi Pan, Xian‐Li Zhou, Dian‐Jun Sun, Man Meng, Xiao‐Xia Li, and Chang‐Hao Sun. “Curcuminoids exert glucose‐lowering effect in type 2 diabetes by decreasing serum free fatty acids: a double‐blind, placebo‐controlled trial.” Molecular nutrition & food research 57, no. 9 (2013): 1569-1577.|
|↑13||Johnston, Carol S., Andrea M. White, and Shannon M. Kent. “Preliminary evidence that regular vinegar ingestion favorably influences hemoglobin A1c values in individuals with type 2 diabetes mellitus.” Diabetes research and clinical practice 84, no. 2 (2009): e15-e17.|
|↑14||Pan, An, Jianqin Sun, Yanqiu Chen, Xingwang Ye, Huaixing Li, Zhijie Yu, Yanfang Wang et al. “Effects of a flaxseed-derived lignan supplement in type 2 diabetic patients: a randomized, double-blind, cross-over trial.” PLoS One2, no. 11 (2007): e1148.|
|↑15||Ellulu, Mohammed S., Asmah Rahmat, Ismail Patimah, Huzwah Khaza’ai, and Yehia Abed. “Effect of vitamin C on inflammation and metabolic markers in hypertensive and/or diabetic obese adults: a randomized controlled trial.” Drug design, development and therapy 9 (2015): 3405.|
|↑16||Nikooyeh, Bahareh, Tirang R. Neyestani, Maryamosadat Farvid, Hamid Alavi-Majd, Anahita Houshiarrad, Ali Kalayi, Nastaran Shariatzadeh et al. “Daily consumption of vitamin D–or vitamin D+ calcium–fortified yogurt drink improved glycemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes: a randomized clinical trial.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 93, no. 4 (2011): 764-771.|
|↑17||Ejtahed, Hanie S., Javad Mohtadi-Nia, Aziz Homayouni-Rad, Mitra Niafar, Mohammad Asghari-Jafarabadi, and Vahid Mofid. “Probiotic yogurt improves antioxidant status in type 2 diabetic patients.” Nutrition 28, no. 5 (2012): 539-543.|
|↑18||Parham, Mahmoud, Saeide Heidari, Ashraf Khorramirad, Mohammad Hozoori, Fatemeh Hosseinzadeh, Lida Bakhtyari, and Jamshid Vafaeimanesh. “Effects of pistachio nut supplementation on blood glucose in patients with type 2 diabetes: a randomized crossover trial.” Rev Diabet Stud11, no. 2 (2014): 190-196.|