Contrary to what some may think about diabetes, sugar does not present the biggest danger to someone with diabetes – insulin and insulin enhancing/sensitizing drugs do.
This is because too much insulin can cause rapid, life-threatening problems, whereas high blood glucose problems usually take hours or even days to present a life-threatening situation (but both hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia should always be addressed immediately).
When we consume food or beverages that contain carbohydrates, the body converts them into glucose. Glucose is a type of sugar that fuels the body, giving it the energy it needs to perform everyday functions. Insulin is a hormone that works like a key. It opens the door in the body’s cells so they can absorb glucose and use it as fuel.
People with diabetes may lack enough insulin or have cells that aren’t able to use insulin as they should. If the cells of the body aren’t able to absorb the glucose properly, it causes excess glucose in blood. This is called “high blood glucose,” which is linked with a number of health issues. It can cause eye and foot problems, heart disease, stroke, kidney problems, and nerve damage.
Insulin and glucagon are hormones that help regulate levels of blood sugar (glucose) in your body. Glucose, which comes from the food you eat, is important to fueling your body. Insulin and glucagon are equally important in managing blood glucose, making sure your body functions well.
Insulin and glucagon are like the yin and yang of blood glucose maintenance. These hormones partner to balance your blood sugar, keeping your levels in the narrow range required by your body. When you eat, your pancreas releases insulin to help lower blood sugar; between meals, your pancreas releases glucagon to help keep blood sugar levels steady.
If you have diabetes or prediabetes, your body either can’t use the insulin you make properly, doesn’t produce enough insulin or doesn’t produce insulin at all. In turn, this causes an improper amount of glucagon to be released. When the system is thrown out of balance, it can lead to dangerous levels of glucose in your blood.
Insulin shots help people with diabetes use glucose more efficiently. Taking an insulin shot before eating helps the body absorb and use the glucose from the food. The result is a more balanced and healthy blood sugar level. Usually, it works great. Sometimes, however, things can go wrong.
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