You may know glucose by another name: blood sugar. Glucose is a sugar that is carried throughout the bloodstream to supply energy to our cells. We all need energy to move, think, act, and breath. Our brain uses half of the energy from our glucose in our body. It’s the simplest of the carbohydrates, making it a monosaccharide, meaning it has one sugar molecule.
We get our glucose from the foods that we eat such as bread, pasta, other grains and fruit, to name a few. Your blood glucose levels change throughout the day. They’re at their highest after you eat, and then lower back down after about an hour or so. And they’re at their lowest in the morning before you eat breakfast.
How does the body process glucose?
Ideally, our bodies process glucose multiple times a day. When we eat, enzymes in our pancreas start the breakdown of our food. Our pancreas processes hormones, including insulin, which is a vital hormone in glucose regulation. When we eat, our body sends a signal to our pancreas to release insulin and regulate glucose.
However, not everyone’s pancreas has the ability to work this way. When the pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin, or doesn’t make any at all, (Type 1 Diabetes) blood glucose levels can rise too high. In this case, insulin injections are required to process and regulate glucose. Another type of diabetes (Type 2 diabetes) is when the body is insulin resistant. This means our liver does not recognize the insulin in our bodies, so our bodies continue to make an inappropriate amount of glucose also causing our glucose levels to become too high.
High blood glucose levels can make you feel bad! Thirst, frequent trips to the bathroom, fatigue and weight loss are all symptoms of high blood sugar (hyperglycemia). If not treated properly, more serious conditions can occur such as diabetic ketoacidosis.
What is the normal blood glucose level range?
Per the CDC, the normal range for your blood glucose levels should be 140 mg/dL or below. Your fasting blood sugar levels should be 99 mg/dL or below.
There are many reasons your blood sugar can rise:
- a large meal
- other illness
- lack of physical activity
Checking your blood sugar
My grandparents babysat my brother and I when we were younger and something I always remembered was my Grammy checking her blood sugar every day, sometimes multiple times a day. She used an at home blood glucose monitoring system where she completed a finger stick test, and the monitor would test her the sugar in her blood. She would record the numbers and report them to her doctor whenever needed.
It’s not necessary if you don’t struggle with confirmed high or low blood sugar. But, if you experience certain symptoms (listed below), it might be helpful for you to get your blood glucose tested!
High Blood Sugar
People with high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) may experience:
- blurred vision
Low Blood Sugar
People with low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) may experience:
- tingling lips
- pale face
- increased heart rate
This is not to say anyone who has headaches or nausea instantly have high blood sugar. Or if one day you are excessively sweating, you have low blood sugar. These are a few things to keep an eye on if they are abnormal for you!
Maintaining healthy levels
The glycemic index (GI)
The Glycemic Index is the ranking of carbohydrate in foods on a scale of 0-100 according to how they affect blood glucose levels. Foods low on the GI scale tend to release glucose slowly and steadily. Foods high on the GI scale release glucose rapidly.
GI values are generally divided into three categories:
- Low GI: 1 to 55
- Green vegetables, most fruits, raw carrots, kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils and bran breakfast cereals
- Medium GI: 56 to 69
- Sweet corn, bananas, raw pineapple, raisins, oat breakfast cereals, and multigrain, oat bran or rye bread
- High GI: 70 and higher
- White rice, white bread and potatoes
An avid long distance runner wants to focus on the intake of foods on the higher side of the GI scale to replenish the loss of glucose after a long run as quickly as possible. Whereas someone with diabetes wants to focus on the intake of foods on the lower GI scale because their glucose levels can normally be very high.
Lifestyle choices can often help control blood glucose levels. Eating a diet containing whole, nutrient dense foods will also aid in healthy blood glucose levels.
Tips for controlling blood sugar include:
- Don’t skip meals
- Eat at regular times
- Opt for water instead of juices and soda
- Portion control
It’s important to be aware of signals your body tells you! If something feels off, there’s a chance something is. If you just worked out and feel lightheaded, try eating food on the higher side of the GI scale. I suggest a piece of fruit or rice cakes. Looking at the list above, there are a lot of processed foods on the high GI scale. However, I highly suggest contact your health care provider so you can have a professional on your side!