Blood sugar 101, as implied, gives you a basic understanding of what normal, low or high blood sugar is. In addition, we talk about how you can tell if your blood sugar level drops and what happens when it goes up and stays up.
When we measure glucose levels we are counting how many glucose molecules are floating around in a certain amount of blood. Those glucose molecules, what we refer to as blood sugar, come into our body with food or are made by our own cells. It’s mostly the liver’s job to manufacture and supply glucose for the body. Sometimes people think that to reduce blood sugar it’s sufficient to stop eating sugary foods. And although it’s helpful to stop eating sugar, that’s not enough. For more information, here is another article I wrote about different macronutrients and their effect of blood sugar.
Your body works very hard to keep your blood sugar levels within normal ranges. “Normal” can vary slightly from person to person but a normal range for blood sugar levels is usually between 70 and 95 mg/dL. That is about 4 grams of glucose circulating in the blood of a 150 pound person. That’s it – less than a teaspoon of glucose floating in our bloodstream!
Low Blood Sugar
Your body will let you know quickly if your blood sugar drops below normal ranges. Have you ever had a late afternoon energy dip or mood swing (especially if you skipped lunch)? The lower the blood sugar drops the more severe the symptoms you’ll have: fatigue, lethargy, headache, irritability, feeling jittery or shaky.
High Blood sugar
When blood sugar levels go above normal you will not feel it, at least not for a while. You might notice fatigue and sleepiness after a big bowl of pasta or rice, nothing unpleasant. Only when your blood sugar is significantly higher than it should be will your body tell you about it with symptoms like excessive thirst, urination, fatigue and blurred vision.
But just because you don’t feel anything doesn’t mean that you are Okay. When blood sugar levels are above normal, glucose starts attaching itself to proteins in the body forming AGEs (Advanced Glycation End products). These AGEs accelerate the functional decline in cells and tissues, induce inflammation, and lead to all sorts of chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease. In addition, AGEs are what ages us!
Blood sugar 101 historic perspective
Our ancestors never had to deal with carbohydrate overload. We evolved eating low carb diet with regular periods of famine. Our body is well equipped with mechanisms to keep blood sugar up in the ranges. And we are not so efficient at keeping it down in the ranges.
Blood sugar 101 is one of the series of articles I wrote. Stay tuned for my next article on 3 stages of blood sugar regulation: from health to disease.