Glucose is the body’s preferred and most efficient source of energy. Its balance is important yet precarious; therefore, understanding it will help you make more informed decisions to better regulate this balance.
What is Glucose?
Glucose is a monosaccharide or simple sugar that can be obtained by consuming foods containing carbohydrates. Example of sources include: grains, dairy, sugar, fruit, vegetables, etc. Glucose circulates in the blood system as blood sugar or blood glucose and is the most important precursor to energy production through a process called cellular respiration. And it is stored in the body in the form of glycogen (a polysaccharide) and mainly in liver and muscle cells.
Blood Glucose and its Management
When eating foods that contain carbohydrates, they are digested and absorbed in their broken-down state. Blood glucose is the term referring to the amount of glucose or sugar that is in the blood stream. When food containing carbohydrates are consumed and blood sugar levels rise, a hormone called insulin is released from the pancreas. Insulin helps cells in the body recognize and take up glucose from the blood stream. Once glucose is absorbed into cells it goes through a process called “cellular respiration” which is a series of reactions that result in the production of ATP, a usable form of energy for the body. Normally blood glucose levels can be managed adequately by the release of insulin, however in certain cases blood glucose can become too high or too low; which in both cases can cause damage to many different parts of the body.
Stress and Glucose Balance
As seen in previous weeks, stress can have a profound effect on the body. Among a variety of other things, stress (both emotional and physical) can increase blood glucose levels. It is the body’s way of coping with the increase in inflammation and over-activation of the nervous system. The body knows something is wrong and it is releasing excess energy building blocks in the anticipation of needing to fix something. Also, a common behavioral result of stress is either under or more frequently over eating. Either of these distress symptoms can cause an unbalance in blood sugar, either low or high.
Effects on Balance
The management of blood glucose can not only make or break your day, but it can have significant effects on your health. It is important to understand what types of things can cause disruptions in blood glucose management, so you can plan and make sure you are doing your best to keep your body in top working function.
- Things that can cause elevated blood glucose:
- Over-training or lack of physical activity
- Over-consumption of carbohydrates, especially simple sugars
- Over-consumption of artificial sweeteners
- Carbohydrate loading
- Certain medications
- Insulin resistance
- Injury or illnesses (including certain disease states)
- Cigarette smoking
- Things that can cause decreased blood glucose:
- Certain diseases
- Decreased thyroid hormone levels
- Disease, injury or disorders involving the liver, kidneys or pituitary gland
- Malnutrition or eating disorder
- Carbohydrate loading
- Inadequate carbohydrate intake
- Certain Medications
- Certain amounts of physical activity
Understanding the way blood glucose if affected and managed is key to knowing what can be better controlled through our own decisions and lifestyle choices.
- Make a simple carbohydrate switch:
- Find a simple carbohydrate product in your diet that you can swap out for a complex carbohydrate.
- Ex: Brown rice or quinoa instead of white rice, whole wheat pasta instead of white pasta, roasted potatoes with skin instead of plain skinless mashed potatoes, oatmeal instead of sugary cereal, etc.
- Make sure half of your carbohydrate intake is coming from complex carbohydrates:
- .Take a good look at your carbohydrate intake for the whole day.
- Focus on trying to make sure that half of the carbohydrates that you are consuming during the day are coming from complex carbohydrate sources.
- Ex: Brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, oatmeal, beans, corn, potatoes with their skins, whole grain bread, whole wheat pasta, etc.
- Log 2-3 days in your food journal and assess the spread of your carbohydrate intake throughout the day:
- .Track your food intake for several days in a row.
- Then go back over your journal and circle all the carbohydrates that you consumed throughout the day.
- Note the amounts (servings) and the spread of the carbohydrates throughout the day.
- Carbohydrate intake should be spread out throughout the day, approximately 2-3 servings (1/2 cup = 1 serving) per meal depending on your needs.