Glucose: king of carbohydratesCarbohydrates from your diet are broken down and converted into glucose, a ready-to-use form of energy that’s carried through your bloodstream to every cell in your body. If your blood sugar levels are too low (hypoglycaemia) or too high (hyperglycaemia) it will adversely impact on your health. Your blood sugar level measures the amount of glucose found in your bloodstream, usually between 3 to 6mmol/L after an overnight fast. Your blood sugar levels are tightly managed by three hormones; insulin, glucagon and epinephrine.
- Insulin – for immediate and stored energy When blood sugar levels begin to rise after your meal, insulin is secreted from the pancreas; insulin picks up and carries the glucose into your cells where it is used for immediate energy or stored for later use. This process prevents hyperglycaemia.
- Glucagon – for stored energy When your blood sugar levels fall too low, glucagon is released from the pancreas, stimulating the release of glycogen, your form of stored energy, which is converted back to glucose. Glycogen is stored in your liver (around 100g) and muscles (around 500g) and this mechanism prevents hypoglycaemia. Any excess glucose, available after your energy requirements have been met and your storage sites are at capacity, will be stored in your fat cells. There is practically no limit to how much energy your body can store as fat (in the form of triglycerides) and may contribute to insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.
- Epinephrine – for emergency energy Epinephrine provides an emergency source of energy, released from your adrenal glands when you are under stress or during a crisis; think of your fight or flight response. Epinephrine rapidly converts stored energy into glucose.
What impacts my blood sugar levels?For hyperglycaemia; a diet high in simple sugars or refined carbohydrates, being overweight, a sedentary lifestyle or chronic stress. Hyperglycaemia is involved in type 1 (absolute insulin deficiency) and type 2 (insulin resistance) diabetes, polycystic ovarian syndrome, metabolic syndrome, fatty liver and atherosclerosis (clogged arteries). For hypoglycaemia; fasting or missed meals, strenuous exercise or impaired carbohydrate/insulin interactions. Hypoglycaemia is involved in brain and nervous system dysfunction.
Balancing your blood sugar levels naturally with herbs & nutrients
- Alpha Lipoic acid improves glucose uptake by cells and provides potent fat and water soluble antioxidant properties, helping to protect your body from oxidative stress associated with impaired blood sugar management.
- Chromium improves glucose entry into cells by stimulating insulin uptake and enhancing its activity. A diet high in simple sugars or refined carbohydrates increases your chromium requirements.
- Cinnamoncontains ‘insulin-like effects’, increasing glucose metabolism by around 20-fold and improves insulin sensitivity.
- Fenugreeklowers fasting and post-meal blood sugar levels, urinary glucose and carbohydrate absorption.
- Gymnemalowers blood sugar levels without causing hypoglycaemia. If taken 30 minutes before meals, it can help reduce your appetite and cravings for sweet food by anaesthetising the taste buds.
- Magnesiumenhances insulin sensitivity and reduces fasting blood sugar levels.
- Vitamin B3supports insulin production, helping to improve blood sugar management.
- Vitamin Ddeficiency increases your risk of insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome.