Here at DayTwo, you may have noticed that we harp on quite a bit about blood glucose levels and how we can help you balance them. We thought it might be helpful to expand a little bit more on this topic so that you can understand why glucose is so important.
So, what exactly is glucose?
Unsurprisingly, glucose comes from the Greek word for “sweet”. Our body receives energy in the form of glucose, which comes from foods rich in carbohydrates, like bread, pasta, starchy vegetables, legumes and fruit. Once the food reaches your stomach, enzymes and acid break it down and glucose is released. The glucose then gets absorbed in your intestine, passes into your bloodstream and finally to your cells to be used for energy. The glucose in your bloodstream is known as “blood sugar” or “blood glucose”.
Blood sugar levels, explained
Our body tries its best to keep blood glucose levels constant (ideally between 4.0-6.0 mmol/L or 72-108mg/DL when fasting). Whenever blood glucose levels rise, your pancreas releases insulin. Insulin is often described as a “key”, that unlocks our fat, muscle and liver cells for glucose to get inside. Once the body has used the glucose, or energy it needs, the remainder is stored in our liver in the form of glycogen, but only enough to last a day.
After a few hours of not eating, your glucose levels will drop, and the pancreas produce a different hormone called glucagon which essentially does the opposite to insulin. Glucagon signals to the liver to break down the glycogen into glucose, again enabling a stable blood glucose level.
Up until recently, recommendations were around avoiding certain foods that were known to cause a sharp rise in blood glucose levels, while including other foods for a slower rise in blood sugar. However, we now know that the same food will result in a different blood glucose response in different people. Consequently, each person should include and avoid foods that are right for them in their diet.
What happens when your blood glucose levels are too high or too low?
If you frequently eat foods that cause a spike in your blood glucose levels your body will need to produce a lot of insulin to deal with it. In addition to removing glucose from the bloodstream, insulin also helps your body store fat. Furthermore, by producing more insulin, there is a higher risk of becoming insulin resistant, meaning the insulin won’t work as well. Ultimately, this can increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and other conditions associated with these diseases.
Another issue with a spike in blood sugar levels, is that they are more likely to result in a rapid drop of blood sugar levels (as a result of insulin being pumped out) and this can result in hunger, energy drops, fatigue and irritability.
Hopefully, it’s a little clearer now why we hold glucose in such high esteem. In addition to our DayTwo personalized nutrition recommendations, other factors that affect blood glucose include exercise, sleep, weight, stress, infection, smoking and certain medications.