Glucose is a type of sugar we get from the foods we eat, and it is what our bodies use for energy.

The body makes glucose from carbohydrate rich foods such as sugar, potatoes, rice, bread, pasta, fruit, and starchy vegetables. As part of the digestive process, glucose is released in the stomach. The glucose then travels to the small intestine where it is absorbed into the bloodstream. Our bodies then send signals for insulin to be released so that the blood glucose can be transported into the cells. Insulin helps to unlock cells in our muscle, fat, and liver so that glucose can get in.

Insulin is the hormone that the body produces in response to the foods we eat and is necessary to transport the glucose from our bloodstream into our cells so that it can be utilised or stored.  

The liver and pancreas work together to maintain our blood sugar levels. Once our bodies have utilized the energy from the food we have eaten, we stop producing insulin and the remaining glucose is stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver. When we haven’t eaten for a while and our blood sugar levels start to drop, the pancreas then produces a hormone called glucagon which tells the liver to convert the stored glycogen back to glucose to keep our blood sugar levels stable until we can eat again.

When our blood sugar levels are not well regulated due to the overconsumption of carbohydrates and sugars, we run the risk of developing diabetes. 

Many people become insulin resistant before they become diabetic. With insulin resistance you can still have normal blood glucose levels, but your insulin levels will be higher in response to the foods you eat.

Diabetics typically have too much glucose in their bloodstreams. They will either not produce enough insulin anymore to transport the glucose into the cells or the cell receptors become blunted so the body doesn’t respond to the insulin as it should. Long-term raised levels of glucose can cause damage to the kidneys, nerves, heart, and eyes.

There are two types of diabetes. Type I diabetes is an autoimmune condition where the immune system destroys the pancreas cells, preventing it from making insulin. With type II diabetes, which is usually lifestyle related, the cells become less responsive to insulin and so the body compensates by making even more insulin. After time, the pancreas becomes damaged and stops producing the necessary insulin for the body to function properly. When there’s not enough insulin, the glucose can’t be transported into the cells and the excess glucose floats around in the bloodstream.

Eating a balanced diet, choosing low GI carbohydrates, and exercising are important to maintain optimal blood glucose levels.

Listen to my interview with Brad Kirsten from Radio Cape Pulpit on 7 September 2023 to learn more. Listen to my next interview on Thursday at 7.45am.