June 17, 2013
Blood sugar, or glucose, is the body’s main fuel source. The digestive system is responsible for breaking down the foods we eat to create glucose, and a complex system of hormones is responsible for maintaining blood sugar within a tight range. Too much blood sugar is referred to as hyperglycemia, and if prolonged, can lead to damage to the brain, retina, kidney and cardiovascular systems. Too little blood sugar is called hypoglycemia, and means that the body does not have enough fuel to operate, which can also result in damage to the brain and other critical systems.
The body has a number of control systems to regulate the amount of glucose in the blood. Because too little or too much blood sugar can be damaging, our bodies use a sequence of hormones to remove or add sugar to the bloodstream:
Understanding this very simplified view of how your body manages blood sugar helps you to give your body a helping hand – and this starts with the gut. There is a very strong link between the bacteria flora in the gut and blood sugar management – people with blood sugar management diseases have a very different bacteria profile than an otherwise healthy person. Since the health of the gut is considered to be responsible for 60-80% of the immune system performance, this is not entirely unexpected. This is an evolving science, and studies are still being performed on the effects of probiotics on blood sugar levels.
Experts also believe there is a link between gut health and the body’s sensitivity to insulin. If insulin sensitivity is reduced, it reduces the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels, and can lead to health and weight management issues. A part of this sensitivity can be traced back to the interaction between the gut and the brain, as we discussed in last week’s blog. We pointed to evidence that a healthy gut creates improved emotional responses and lower stress levels.
This in turn feeds another blood sugar regulatory system – “stress” hormones such as epinephrine (also called adrenaline) and cortisol. These systems are designed to raise blood sugar levels – they are part of the body’s “fight-or-flight” mechanism that ensures that your muscles are fully fueled and ready to work in high-stress situations. This mechanism counters the role that insulin is trying to play in regulating high blood sugar levels, and reduces the body’s sensitivity to insulin as a regulatory hormone.
Once again, we see that a healthy gut is key to other systems in your body working effectively. Probiotics are a valuable addition to your nutritional intake to help support overall health and balance in your body.
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