What Is the Dawn Phenomenon?
If you check your blood sugar first thing in the morning after fasting all night and it is significantly higher than when you went to bed, you are probably experiencing what is known as the "dawn phenomenon." This is also known as the "dawn effect" and it is one of the most difficult challenges diabetics face.
At night when we sleep, it is natural for our bodies to release cortisol, glucagon, and epinephrine. These regulatory hormones stimulate the liver to produce extra glucose and at the same time increase insulin resistance. In this way, the body builds up a little extra glucose in the bloodstream just before we get up so we'll have the energy needed to start the day. However, in diabetics blood sugar often goes up way too much during this process.
Some diabetics try to control the dawn phenomenon by adjusting their oral medication or insulin. Unfortunately, this often doesn't work and it is a constant struggle. The good news is that there are several natural methods that have been discovered that seem to work well for many diabetics. Here is a list:
Eat a Small Snack Just Before Bedtime
Some diabetics say that eating almost anything just before bedtime helps control their early morning blood sugar levels. However, most diabetics that have experimented with different bedtime snacks have found that eating something high in protein and healthy fat works better than eating something containing significant quantities of carbohydrate. Many diabetics swear by a small handful of nuts or a spoonful of all natural peanut butter or another nut butter (be sure not to get the kind without sugar added). Nuts are slow to digest and contain just enough carbs to prevent the liver from being triggered to release more glucose. Eating a piece of cheese or some low carb yogurt is also popular. Bedtime is probably not the best time to eat fruit as there is just too much carb.
Take Apple Cider Vinegar Just Before Bedtime
Apple cider vinegar is well known to lower blood sugar and it seems to be effective in controlling the dawn phenomenon as well. Many diabetics mix a tablespoon or two in water and drink it down. You can also buy vinegar tablets. To get this to work, you may need to experiment a bit with different quantities of apple cider vinegar to see what works best for you. Some diabetics require less than others. Also, be sure to protect your teeth as apple cider vinegar can eat your enamel. You can either sip the apple cider vinegar through a straw to bypass the teeth and/or dilute it with water.
Take Milk Thistle Just Before Bedtime
The use of milk thistle looks very promising for diabetics. It has been shown to significantly lower fasting blood sugar levels in one small scale study involving 51 diabetics. Milk thistle is actually an ancient natural remedy and has been used to treat liver and gall bladder problems for many centuries. The active ingredient is silymarin which is a powerful antioxidant. It is thought to reduce the oxidative stresses associated with both the development of diabetes and the continued aggravation of the disease.
Control What You Eat At Dinner
There does seem to be a correlation between what you eat at your evening meal and your morning blood sugar levels. You may want to try limiting the total number of carbs you eat at diner as well as choosing carbs that have a lower glycemic index, i.e. high fiber carb foods like greens and broccoli. Some diabetics find it helpful to eat the bulk of their carbs earlier in the day. For example, if you want to eat fruit, you may try doing so at breakfast and lunch only and see if that makes a difference in your morning blood sugar levels.
5-10 Minutes of Vigorous Exercise Just Before Bedtime
Jump on the treadmill just before bedtime and do a short vigorous workout (or another vigorous exercise that also lowers cortisol - wink wink). As with the other natural methods described here, you will need to do some testing to see if this works for you and to determine just how much exercise you need.
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