Glucose or blood sugar is made from broken-down carbohydrates and sugars and is converted to energy or fuel for the brain, muscles, and cells. Along with fat, glucose is one of the body’s preferred sources of fuel. The pancreas monitors your blood sugar levels throughout the day while insulin is released into the bloodstream in order to transport glucose into specific areas. Once glucose gets to where it needs to go, excess glucose resides in the liver and muscles known as glycogen stores. Glucose remains stored there until it is needed. As long as blood sugar is properly regulated by the pancreas and optimal levels of insulin are secreted, the glucose keeps many vital processes running smoothly. However, having uncontrolled blood sugar levels can cause diabetic conditions such as:
- Prediabetes: At this stage, a person may have elevated blood sugar levels, but not high enough to classify as diabetes. This is a reversible stage that can be treated with adjustments in diet and lifestyle.
- Type 1 – Is a rarer form of diabetes where the body does not produce insulin. After the body breaks down the carbs and sugars into blood glucose, insulin is secreted from the pancreas to transport glucose from the bloodstream into the cells for energy. Without enough insulin production, blood sugar levels remain elevated.
- Type 2 – Is the most common form of diabetes the body does not utilize or produce insulin efficiently. This also keeps blood sugar levels higher than normal.
- Gestational diabetes – occurs during pregnancy but may resolve after delivery.
Complications: Too much glucose in the blood can cause damage to several organs, including the kidneys, eyes, nerves, and the heart. That’s why it is imperative to check your blood sugar levels often and switch to a diet plan that better manages those levels. Symptoms of uncontrolled glucose levels may include:
- Abnormal hunger
- Excessive thirst
Glucose sources: The primary forms of glucose derived from carbohydrates and sugars are found in most food and drinks. Glucose in and of itself is not bad, however, certain carbohydrate sources are better than others when it comes to maintaining blood sugar control. The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking that determines how quickly the body breaks down carbs into glucose and is often used as a staple in diabetic diets. High glycemic foods quickly break down into glucose, spiking blood sugar levels. Consistently high blood sugar levels ultimately result in weight gain, insulin resistance, and inflammation. Low glycemic foods, on the other hand, take longer to metabolize and have little to no impact on blood sugar levels, making them suitable for weight stabilization.
Glycemic index range:
- 55 or less = Low (good)
- 56- 69 = Medium
- 70 or higher = High (bad)
Some examples of high glycemic foods:
- White rice, white flour, white pasta, white bread
- Some cereals
- Table sugar
- Sweeteners (High fructose corn syrup, aspartame, sucralose)
- Pastries (unless they are sugar-free)
- Milkshakes/smoothies/sweet caffeinated drinks
- Fried foods
- Sweetened dairy
Treatment: Tests for type 1 and type 2 diabetes such as A1C testing can be completed without prior fasting and can check your average blood sugar level over the past two to three months. An A1C score below 5.7 is considered normal, 5.7 – 6.4 indicates prediabetes and 6.5 and up indicates either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. A random blood sugar test, fasting blood sugar test or oral glucose tolerance test can be recommended by your doctor if the A1C results are inconsistent.
If diabetes is found, your doctor will prescribe a blood sugar testing kit to monitor your blood sugar levels throughout the day. Careful monitoring will be needed before meals, after meals, and in-between to ensure that blood sugar levels are stabilized. Since levels can jump up or go very low unpredictably, diabetic patients might feel dizzy, nauseated, or weak if levels are outside of the normal range. Much consultation will need to take place with a doctor to help manage blood sugar. Insulin therapy may be necessary in order to maintain normal blood sugar levels. Insulin is injected using a needle pin or syringe and is often injected after meals to reduce blood sugar spikes.