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.
2) Carbs are converted to glucose. The body’s job is to break down the carbohydrates in our foods and convert them to a usable type of sugar, most often glucose. The energy stored in glucose is what your body uses to move, exercise, heal, grow and even think. It’s what powers your body. Once converted into glucose, your body releases it into your blood so other organs can either use it for energy now or store it as fat to use later. (Fat is essentially “stored energy.”)
3) Glucose combines with insulin to enter the cell. In order for your body’s cells to use the glucose, it needs a hormone produced in the pancreas called insulin, which acts like a key to open the cells and allow glucose to enter and provide energy.
When the pancreas detects glucose in the blood, it releases insulin. The more glucose it detects, the more insulin it releases.
In people with diabetes, this process goes wrong in at least one of two ways. Either:
A. Not enough insulin. The pancreas isn’t producing enough insulin to match the sugars, so not enough sugars are paired with keys to enter the cells,
B. Cells are resistant to the insulin. The body has become resistant to insulin so it doesn’t do its job properly. Insulin is no longer “unlocking” the door to the cells.
Either way, the high amounts of unused blood sugars cause other problems.
1. High blood sugar -> dehydration. The body may try to drain the cells of any extra fluids to dilute the sugars in the blood. That’s why people with diabetes often feel excessively thirsty.
2. High blood sugar -> organ damage. Over time, excess glucose causes damage to the heart, kidneys, eyes, nerves and many other parts of the body. Untreated diabetes can eventually lead to heart attack, stroke, blindness, kidney problems, kidney failure, erectile dysfunction, infections that won’t heal and even amputation.
3. Cells without fuel -> fatigue. When the cells resist the insulin, in essence they lock out their source of energy. When cells are not fueled, a person with diabetes may feel lethargic or very tired.
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, a temporary condition during pregnancy, once a body becomes diabetic, diet and health management will be a life-long challenge. Yes, diabetes is manageable and can usually be kept from getting worse with proper diet, exercise and medical treatment, but the condition is permanent. Learn more about the risks and categories, and what you can do for your longest and healthiest life.