Blood Sugar Balance — The Basics
If you have ever experienced sleepiness in the afternoon or after meals, you already know something important about maintaining proper blood sugar levels. The charts below will help you better understand how our bodies regulate energy, and how a proper diet supports energy balance.
Q: What is blood sugar?
Blood sugar is the glucose that circulates in the blood. Obtained from digested food, glucose is one of the body’s main sources of fuel, providing cells with energy and the brain with the fuel it depends on to function (glucose is the only source of energy for brain cells). Glucose that is not taken up by cells for energy use is either converted in the liver into glycogen and stored for later use or is stored as fat. It is important to note that only a small amount of glucose is stored as glycogen for short-term energy use; most excess glucose is stored as fat for long-term energy use.
Q: What is insulin?
Insulin is the hormone made by the pancreas that helps shuttle glucose into cells for energy use and converts excess glucose into fat; it is essential for metabolizing carbohydrates. After eating a meal, blood sugar normally rises, triggering a release of insulin from the pancreas; carbohydrates in particular trigger the release of insulin. The insulin allows glucose to enter cells throughout the body, and as glucose enters the cells, blood glucose levels fall back to a normal range.
Q: What is cortisol?
Cortisol is an adrenal gland hormone with many important functions including regulating blood glucose. Cortisol is used to bring blood sugar up when the body is under stress caused by the blood sugar rollercoaster ride.
Q: Why is being on a ‘blood sugar roller coaster’ a problem?
The blood sugar roller coaster caused by regular consumption of too many carbohydrates or the wrong kind of carbohydrates (refined and processed) produces chronically-elevated levels of insulin, which eventually leads the cells to lose their sensitivity to insulin and no longer respond normally. As a result, excess glucose is stored as fat and even more insulin is released by the pancreas. Additionally, a processed-foods diet containing a lot of refined carbohydrates causes a depletion of the nutrients needed to maintain cell sensitivity to insulin. Ultimately, these factors contribute to the development of insulin resistance, or pre-diabetes (aka metabolic syndrome).
Q: What do you mean by a ‘balanced’ meal?
A balanced meal is referred to as a meal that contains all the health-building macronutrients (protein, healthy carbohydrates, and healthy fat) in ratios and amounts that support blood sugar stability for approximately 4-5 hours after consumption. Ask for a copy of the Healthy Meal Wheel, and you will see how building a healthy and delicious balanced meal can be easy!
Q: What are symptoms of blood sugar imbalance?
Various symptoms may occur from blood sugar imbalance. Symptoms may include increased appetite, food cravings, feeling fatigued (tired and sleepy), feeling hyper, jittery, or nervous; brain fog (spacey, unable to concentrate), depressed mood, pessimistic thoughts, irritability, anxiousness, and/or obsessive thought patterns.
Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage is providing this information to you for educational purposes. This is not a substitute for professional medical advice and care. If you have or suspect you have a health problem, please consult your physician.
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