You’ve likely heard that you need to maintain a healthy blood sugar level but what does this mean, what happens when it gets out of kilter and what can you do about it?
Blood glucose levels simply refer to the amount of this type of sugar within the bloodstream.
The body is so efficient at maintaining energy levels that a 70-kg person only needs a teeny tiny four grams of glucose in circulation, ready for immediate use.
(That’s just under a teaspoon!)
The rest remains in storage for future use…
When you eat, food is broken down into its smallest components by the digestive system.
Glucose then passes through the gut wall and into the circulation.
A virtual alarm goes off when sugar levels rise more than they should (for example, following a large meal)…
The hormone, insulin, is released by the pancreas to move the excess from the blood and into our cells where it can be stored for future use in two ways…
1) It is turned into glycogen and stored in our muscles and liver, or
2) It is stockpiled in fat cells
Another alarm is raised when blood glucose levels fall too low (for example, after fasting or when we engage in intensive exercise)…
The hormone, glucagon, is released — also by the pancreas — and signals the liver to break down glycogen stores and release glucose into the blood, it converts amino acids into glucose, and it breaks down stored fat for use as fuel.
See, glucose is the main source of fuel for the brain and is crucial for sufficient energy to complete necessary bodily processes and remain well…
But too much, results in glucose toxicity: it hurts our cells.
So, as a review in the American Journal of Physiology says, “Glucose metabolism is all about flux control.”
What should your blood glucose levels be?
A simple blood sugar level test is often performed while fasting:
A fasting blood glucose level should be below 5.5 mmol/L.
If it’s above this but below 6.9 mmol/L, your risk of diabetes is increased and you should have a follow-up chat with your doctor…
If your level is above 7 mmol/L, diabetes is likely.
What can you do to achieve healthy blood sugar levels?
Maintaining a healthy blood glucose level is important for your health.
Too much, over an extended time, causes the cell damage that accompanies glucose toxicity, insulin resistance, and type two diabetes…
Too little can result from uncontrolled diabetes, excess exercise and starvation and can harm the body and mind, too.
Balance is the key.
Here are some important steps to help maintain a healthy blood sugar level:
- Follow a whole food, low glycaemic load, nutrient-rich food plan
- Eat ample fibre
- Avoid refined sugar and artificial sweeteners
- Sprinkle cinnamon and turmeric on and in your food
- Manage stress
- Exercise regularly: include relaxing, gentle forms of movement like Yoga and walking, incorporate weight training (it improves insulin sensitivity and your ability to burn fat), unless you are an athlete, avoid exercise extremes, and ensure you schedule appropriate rest in between sessions.
- Prioritise sufficient sleep
- Improve your digestive function as it is intimately linked to insulin sensitivity and the inflammation that can trigger insulin issues
With the right knowledge and approaches, you can maintain a healthy blood sugar level and remain healthy and happy!
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