What is glucose?
A complete guide
Glucose is a simple carbohydrate - aka a monosaccharide -, a type of sugar we get from foods we eat, mainly high-carb foods like sweets, grains, bread, potatoes, fruits, etc.
In other words:
Glucose is our body's primary energy source, and it is essential to keep the mechanism of our body running correctly.
Sometimes, glucose is also called blood sugar; when we eat, the stomach and the small intestine absorb the glucose and release it into the bloodstream. Then, the glucose can be used immediately as energy or stored for later.
Even though glucose is fundamental for us, it’s important to keep glucose levels in a healthy range. Otherwise, we can experience both short and long-term effects. That’s why, every time we eat, our body starts immediately to process glucose and tells our pancreas to produce hormones, like insulin, essential to managing blood sugar.
NOTE: Not sure what graph could work here.
WHY IS GLUCOSE SO IMPORTANT?
If glucose levels are out of balance, dials flash and alarms go off. We put on weight, hormones get out of whack, we feel tired, we crave sugar, our skin breaks out, our hearts suffer. We inch closer and closer to type 2 diabetes.
Flattening our glucose curves is the most powerful place to start for better health.
With flatter glucose curves, we enjoy fewer cravings, better energy, more restful sleep, slower aging, improved fertility and sex hormones, better skin, fewer wrinkles, healthier heart, less cognitive decline, fewer menopause symptoms, easier management of gestational diabetes and type 1 diabetes, and less risk of type 2 diabetes.
NOTE: Not sure what graph could work here.
WHAT ARE THE NORMAL LEVELS OF GLUCOSE?
The guidelines say that fasting glucose levels:
Between 60 and 100 mg/dL is “normal.”
Between 100 and 126 mg/dL indicates prediabetes
Anything above 126 mg/dL indicates diabetes
Also, early studies show that the thriving range for fasting glucose may be between 72 and 85 mg/dL. That’s because there is more likelihood of health problems from 85 mg/dL and up.
HOW GLUCOSE GETS INTO THE BLOODSTREAM?
Each of our cells uses glucose for energy according to its specific function. Your heart cells use it to contract, your brain cells to fire neurons, your ear cells to hear, your eye cells to see, your stomach cells to digest, your skin cells to repair cuts, and your red blood cells to bring oxygen to your feet so you can dance all night long.
Your cells need the energy to stay alive, and glucose is their prioritized energy source.
Every second, your body burns 8,000,000,000,000,000,000 molecules of glucose. To put that in perspective, if each glucose molecule were a grain of sand, you'd burn every single grain of sand on all the earth's beaches every ten minutes.
Suffice to say; humans need a tremendous amount of fuel.
The most common way for us to get the glucose we need is by eating it.
Starch gets turned back into glucose extremely quickly in our bodies. The amylase enzymes snap the bonds of the chain, and glucose molecules are freed. That process mostly happens in our gut, where it goes unnoticed. There they are, running around in the playground once again.
The enzymes that do this vital work also exist in our saliva. When we chew starch long enough, we give these enzymes the time they need to begin their work. That process begins in our mouths, and we can taste it. Hence the power of this experiment.
Fruit contains glucose, sucrose, and fructose:
Glucose from fruit is ready to be used and does not need to be snapped.
Sucrose needs to be photographed, and an enzyme separates it into glucose and fructose molecules, but this does not take long – it happens in a nanosecond.
Fructose is a little more complicated. After we eat it, a portion of it gets turned back into glucose in our small intestine. The remainder of it stays in fructose form. Both permeate through the lining of our gut to enter our bloodstream.
Enzymes work to snap the bonds of starch and sucrose, but no enzyme can burst the bonds of fiber. It doesn't get turned back into glucose. This is why when we eat fiber, it remains fiber. It travels from our stomach to our small and large intestines until its final destination: our colon. And this is a good thing.
While it doesn't turn back into glucose and therefore can't provide energy to our cells, fiber is an essential part of our diet. It is vital in aiding digestion, maintaining healthy bowel movements, keeping our microbiome healthy, and more.
HOW DOES GLUCOSE AFFECT US?
Non-diabetic people can also be affected by high blood sugar levels, in fact, 80% of non-diabetics are likely to experience glucose spikes, with everyday foods such as breakfast cereal.
As we saw earlier, glucose is the main energy source for our body -but it's not the only one- so it's crucial for us. But, if glucose levels are out of balance, we get unhealthy effects: our hormones get out of whack, we feel tired, crave sugar, put on weight, our skin breaks out, and our hearts suffer.
All of these can bring us closer to developing type 2 diabetes and lead to various long-term health conditions, like heart diseases, cancer, Alzheimer's, infertility, etc.
THINGS THAT AFFECT OUR GLUCOSE LEVELS
The primary thing that can affect our glucose levels is what we eat. If we eat a lot of sugar or carbs, our blood sugar levels will go up; especially if we eat them alone.
But there are other things that can affect our glucose levels.
One is stress.
When we're stressed, our bodies release a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol can raise our blood sugar levels.
Another trigger that affects our glucose is the lack of sleep.
People who don't get enough sleep may unknowingly raise their blood sugar levels. That's because when you don't sleep, your body produces more of the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol raises blood sugar levels, which can lead to Type 2 diabetes. Lack of sleep can also make it difficult to control your blood sugar if you already have diabetes.
HOW DO WE TEST GLUCOSE?
There are different ways to test glucose, but the finger-stick test is the most common. To do it, we need a small drop of blood, typically from the fingertip. The blood is then placed on a test strip and inserted into a glucometer machine. The glucometer will give us a reading of our current blood sugar level.
There are several ways to test glucose levels:
1. A finger prick test using a lancet and test strip.
2. A fasting blood sugar test is a blood test taken after not eating or drinking for at least 8 hours. This test can be done with a kit at a doctor's office or at home with a special kit.
3. An oral glucose tolerance test is a blood test taken 2 hours after drinking a sugary solution. It's usually used to diagnose gestational diabetes.
4. A hemoglobin A1c test, which is a blood test that measures your average blood sugar level over the past 2-3 months.
5. A CGM, a continuous glucose monitor, is a wearable device that tracks your blood sugar levels over time.
In conclusion: Glucose is an important sugar for our bodies, but it's important to maintain healthy levels. Too much glucose can lead to health problems like type 2 diabetes and various long-term health conditions. Eating a healthy diet and getting enough exercise can help to keep glucose levels in check.