You have probably heard people talk about their blood sugar before but maybe you’ve never had it discussed in direct relation to your own body. Perhaps you’ve listened to your friend with diabetes mention the importance of monitoring their blood sugar levels, or maybe you know of someone who fainted because their blood sugar levels were too low. Even if you haven’t ever had cause for being told about your blood sugar, we should all be informed about the amount we consume and how to keep our bodies healthy in this way. Not only does high blood sugar indicate diabetes, but even just higher than average levels may indicate prediabetes. If you want to learn how to prevent diabetes or just know more about the fascinating way your body works, you’ve come to the right place.
Let’s clarify the definition of blood sugar. Blood sugar is quite literally what it sounds like: levels of sugar found in the bloodstream. It provides energy and enters your body by way of the foods you eat. Blood sugar is interchangeable with the term blood glucose.
Here’s where it gets a little confusing. You may know glucose as an ingredient in some of your favorite foods such as desserts, Starbucks drinks, fruit, and even Chic-fil-a sauce. You would be correct in recognizing the word glucose from ingredient lists. Let’s break it down: glucose is derived from the Greek word for “sweet” because glucose is a type of sugar (a monosaccharide sugar to be precise) found in many foods.
There is pure glucose which is naturally found in some foods like fruit, but glucose is also often added to foods as an ingredient to sweeten them. Ever heard of sucrose and fructose? They’re also sugars you probably recognize, and sucrose (also known as “table sugar”) contains glucose as one of its ingredients.
Let’s be clear about sugars like glucose: even though we’ve all been told to watch our sugar intake because too much of it is bad for us, some amount of naturally occurring sugars are essential to staying alive. Carbs, another thing you’ve probably been told to eat in moderation, are made up of sugar molecules. Carbohydrates are also an essential source of energy in our bodies because they immediately begin to provide energy to us upon entering the body.
Once those carbs are eaten, the sugars making them up–like glucose–break back down into sugar molecules and travel through the bloodstream via insulin, a hormone tasked with transporting glucose into the cells and the liver for storage for later.
It’s easy to get glucose the sugar confused with glucose the blood sugar because we’re used to hearing about the former in regards to an ingredient in our food and the latter in regards to our bodily functions.
While some amount of sugar is necessary because of the energy it provides, we do still need to watch our intake, especially when it comes to added sugars in processed foods.
Just as you’ve been told that too much sugar is bad for you, the same is true with having too much blood sugar. If you take a moment to consider why this is true, you’ll remember that technically glucose and blood sugar are the same thing, except that blood sugar is glucose that’s broken down in the body and used for energy.
And there it is, the reason we’ve all been told to watch our sugar intake and carb intake over the years. No, it wasn’t just a ploy to get us to fear our favorite and most tempting desserts; it was an important warning. Too much sugar consumed leads to too much sugar in the bloodstream which can lead to fatigue, kidney damage, poor vision, strokes, and even heart attacks. I guess our parents were right when they told us not to eat all those sugary desserts!
As you might have already known, there’s a connection between blood sugar, insulin, and diabetes. To break it down a bit, diabetes occurs when a person has too much blood sugar in their body. Because insulin is what moves the blood sugar to the correct locations (the cells and the liver), diabetes is a result of insulin issues, such as not having enough naturally occurring insulin so too much glucose remains in the bloodstream.
Diabetes can be contracted at any point during life, and what’s known as Type 1 diabetes is known to appear quite suddenly, in as little as weeks, generally in children or youths. Type 2 diabetes, more often occuring in adults, is when a body that previously was able to produce normal amounts of insulin loses that ability.
Diabetes is easily treatable nowadays but it is chronic. Those with diabetes must always watch their blood sugar levels and make certain lifestyle adjustments such as eating a reduced amount of carbohydrates and getting regular exercise.
On the opposite side of having too high of blood sugar levels and diabetes, having too low of blood sugar is related to the condition hypoglycemia. Those with hypoglycemia may experience shaking, a rapid heartbeat, hunger, or fainting; it’s possible to have diabetes and hypoglycemia at the same time, sometimes as a side effect of diabetes medication.
If you’ve ever tested your levels, you may have wondered, Why is blood sugar high in the morning? Blood sugar levels do fluctuate throughout the day, so don’t let this worry you that something is automatically wrong. Stress, sickness, alcohol, eating habits, activity level, sleep and more can all contribute to the fluctuation. For example, your blood sugar is higher right after you wake up because your body is giving you a much needed energy boost to get you going after fasting all night while asleep.
There’s a whole world of amazing functioning happening inside our bodies. Glucose turning into blood sugar which provides energy and with the help of insulin is moved throughout our bodies is one of those amazing feats. Unfortunately, having too much or too little blood sugar can have dangerous effects to your whole wellbeing, so it’s important to monitor your levels and check in with your doctor on a regular basis. And remember those words you’ve heard a thousand times–watch your sugar intake!