Where does blood sugar come from and why is it needed?
Sugar enters the body with foods that contain carbohydrates, such as cereals, fruits and vegetables. In the digestive tract, under the action of pancreatic enzymes, they are broken down into monosaccharides, including glucose. Already from there it enters the bloodstream and through the vessels reaches the cells of all organs. A healthy person weighing 70 kg in the blood constantly contains about 4 g of sugar – this is about one teaspoon.
Sugar helps the body work as a whole, but its main consumer is the brain. On average, he needs about 110-145 grams of glucose per day.
Without sweet fuel, the brain will not have the resources to produce neurotransmitters – it will become more difficult to process and remember information.
If there is not enough glucose from food, the body rebuilds and begins to nourish the brain, pulling out sugar reserves from the liver. And if they are empty, it turns amino acids and by-products of fats, ketones , into energy.
A regular excess of sugar in the diet is not good for the brain either. It negatively affects cognitive functions and can cause dementia.
Sugar also plays an important role in nourishing the eyes and helping the muscles to endure long and high-intensity workouts.
How does the body control sugar levels?
Two hormones, insulin and glucagon, help keep the body in balance. Both are produced by the pancreas. The first controls the amount of glucose entering the cells. With a lack of insulin, the membranes stop passing sugar, and it accumulates in the blood. Thyroid hormones are responsible for the rate of consumption.
Insulin is also able to lower glucose levels by storing the excess in the liver. Glucagon performs the opposite function. It raises the level of sugar in cases where there is not enough of it from food. For example, with low-calorie diets or during prolonged fasting, including overnight. Glucagon does this in several ways:
- Turn for sugar to the liver . It stores unused glucose in the form of glycogen for just such situations.
- Do not share glucose with the liver . Glucagon can slow down the process of storing sugar for a rainy day, maintaining a high concentration in the blood.
- Ask the liver to get glucose . From amino acids, lactic acid, glycerol, or other substances, this process is called gluconeogenesis. It is needed when glycogen runs out. The kidneys also help produce sugars from other substances.
- Help the liver create ketones . That is, alternative cellular fuel from fats.
What level of sugar is considered normal
Sugar levels can be measured in milligrams per deciliter or millimoles per liter. In Russia, the second option is used. Check the indicators using a blood test taken on an empty stomach. It is of two types:
- Venous Plasma Analysis . The norm is from 3.9 to 5.6 mmol / l.
- Analysis of capillary blood . The norm is from 3.3 to 5.5 mmol / l.
The first version of the test is considered more accurate. Results that differ from the norm indicate different conditions. Any of them can indicate serious problems in the functioning of the body – this is the reason for a more thorough examination.
- Below 3.9 mmol / l – hypoglycemia, low sugar levels.
- From 5.6 to 6.9 mmol / l – a slight increase in sugar. There is a risk of developing diabetes.
- From 7 mmol / l – hyperglycemia, elevated sugar levels. Possible diabetes.
To confirm or exclude the diagnosis of diabetes, in addition to standard tests from a vein or a finger, a glucose tolerance test is used. The indicators are also measured, but twice: first on an empty stomach, and then two hours after drinking a glucose solution. This allows you to track how quickly the body metabolizes sugar.
What does low sugar mean?
There are many causes for hypoglycemia . For example, prolonged fasting, excessive alcohol consumption, exhausting physical activity, hormonal imbalance, liver and kidney disease, an adverse reaction to medications. But the most common is diabetes. In people with this diagnosis, glucose levels can drop sharply due to accidentally overdosing insulin. Or in cases where a person took the drug according to a prescription, but ate little during the day or practiced unusually much.
With hypoglycemia, the body is left without resources to work, the cells begin to starve. However, it can go completely unnoticed. If the sugar has fallen slightly, it will only be possible to track it with a glucometer. If the amount of glucose drops much below normal, the following symptoms are likely :
- skin blanching;
- increased sweating;
- heart rhythm disturbances;
- feeling of hunger or nausea.
With a further decrease in sugar, the symptoms will intensify. Blurred vision, loss of coordination, difficulty in forming thoughts may appear. You need to seek help immediately – a critical drop in sugar, usually below 2.2 mmol / l, can lead to serious damage to the nervous system and coma.
What does high sugar mean?
Hyperglycemia usually occurs because the body does not produce enough insulin or the cells do not respond to it. Most often it is associated with diabetes, but it is not always the cause . Elevated sugar levels can be due to pancreatitis, severe stress, hyperthyroidism, trauma or recent surgery, and taking certain drugs, such as steroids and diuretics.
The following symptoms will help you notice hyperglycemia:
- strong thirst;
- frequent urination;
- blurred vision;
- increased fatigue.
Hyperglycemia, like hypoglycemia, is dangerous for the nervous system, and also harms the condition of blood vessels, liver, kidneys and other organs. This can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke and reduce the body’s ability to heal wounds. In people with type 1 diabetes, hyperglycemia also sometimes causes ketoacidosis, a buildup of ketones in the blood. This is a deadly condition.
If you bring the sugar level back to normal in time and control it in the future, there will be no such consequences. However, it is difficult to notice the shift without analysis: symptoms and decreases and increases can be easily confused with ordinary overwork. Therefore, it is necessary for everyone to check the status of this indicator periodically.
Experts recommend doing this to healthy people at least once every three years. If a person has diabetes or other conditions that affect sugar levels, he needs to monitor blood glucose constantly – several times a week or even a day. The frequency depends on individual recommendations.
Glucometers help to cope with this task at home. Their work requires regular sampling of capillary blood from a finger, but scientists are trying to find more gentle ways to control sugar. Experts from the Competence Center of the National Technological Initiative “Sensorica” at MIET have invented a non-invasive glucometer that works on the principle of a fitness bracelet. It reads the sugar level using photo sensors, which determine the intensity of absorption of radiation by glucose. The device not only eliminates the need for constant blood tests, but also allows you to control your sugar levels throughout the day.
Now scientists are negotiating with customer companies that will be able to sponsor the mass production of non-invasive glucometers. In addition, the inventors plan to improve the device and add new features to it, such as calculating the required dose of insulin.
How to Prevent Sugar Abnormalities
The main assistant in maintaining normal glucose is a proper and balanced diet with a sufficient amount of all nutrient groups. Regular exercise, quitting bad habits, and reducing stress levels will also be helpful. To achieve the latter, of course, is difficult, so it is important to at least learn how to deal with it. For example, through breathing practices or yoga. It is especially important to follow these rules for people over 45, those who are obese, those with prediabetes, and those who have relatives with diabetes – these factors increase the risks.