Pre-diabetes and Digestion

Updated:Oct 23,2015

Normal digestion

Healthy Digestion and Converting Foods Into Energy

To understand pre-diabetes and diabetes, it helps to know how our bodies handle the sugars and energy found in our food and drinks.

1) Food is broken down into nutrients in the digestive system.

2) Carbs are converted to glucose. Carbohydrates in our foods are broken down and converted to a usable type of sugar, most often glucose. Blood circulates this glucose throughout the body to provide energy to cells or to store it as fat to use later. (Fat is essentially "stored energy.") The body uses energy stored in glucose to move, exercise, heal, grow and even think.

Insulin is important for the body to use glucose.  Cells in the pancreas respond to the higher levels of glucose in the blood by producing insulin. With the help of insulin, cells throughout the body absorb glucose and use it for energy.

Two types of problems in diabetes

In people with diabetes, this process can go wrong in two ways. Either:

AThere is not enough insulin. The pancreas isn’t producing enough insulin to respond to the glucose in the blood and so blood sugar levels rise
BCells are resistant to the insulin. The cells no longer respond to the insulin signal to take up glucose from the blood and so blood sugar levels rise.

For people with diabetes, the extremely high amounts of blood sugars can be associated with several symptoms;

  • Coma
  • Confusion
  • Convulsions
  • Dry mouth, dry tongue
  • Fever
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination (at the beginning of the syndrome)
  • Lethargy
  • Nausea
  • Weakness
  • Weight loss

How does pre-diabetes compare to diabetes?

Pre-diabetes means that the body is already having trouble getting your blood sugar numbers down to a healthy range, but it hasn’t yet reached a level considered diabetic. It also means you have the power to take important steps that can help you avoid diabetes.

With the exception of gestational diabetes, diabetes that happens for the first time when a woman is pregnant, once a body becomes diabetic, diet and health management will be a life-long challenge. If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, it is important to follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations and take all medications as directed. It is also important to commit to making healthy diet and lifestyle changes which can help manage your condition and may help slow it’s progression.  Learn more about the risks and categories, and what you can do for your longest and healthiest life.

This content was last reviewed August 2015.