As a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) I strongly recommend that my readers, patients, and friends keep their glucose (sugar) levels low. In today's society where mocha frappuccinos, bread puddings, muffins, and buttery croissants offer such great temptation, and, where an over abundance of bars, restaurants, cookbooks and food blogs surround us, we are ALL in danger of succumbing to out of control blood sugar levels.
Even slightly elevated blood sugar (hyperglycemia) can ultimately lead to the deadly consequences of diabetes.
If on your last fasting blood test (and I strongly recommend that you have your blood chemistry checked once a year) your glucose level ranged from 70 to 85mg/dL (milligram of sugar per deciliter of blood) you are within the safe range and can guiltlessly indulge in the occasional frappuccino; if, however you tested above 85, research shows that you have a 40% increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
The questions to ask are the following:
1) Where does glucose come from?
2) Why is any excess of glucose potentially dangerous?
3) What can I do about it?
Where does glucose come from?
Glucose comes from the foods we eat and primarily from digested carbohydrates. Glucose is our body's primary source of energy (and when glucose is properly balanced all of our cells use it as fuel for energy). However when our body stops producing enough insulin (I'll talk about insulin a little further down), excess glucose starts to accumulate in the bloodstream.
Why is any excess glucose potentially dangerous?
The excess glucose that is not used for energy converts to triglycerides that are either stored in the body as unwanted fat or accumulate in the blood where they contribute to the formation of plaque in the blood vessels. Excess glucose can also cause inflammation which in itself can lead to a multitude of debilitating and lethal diseases. Incidentally, triglycerides levels should not exceed 149dL/mL.
What can I do about it?
Firstly, you need to acknowledge the fact that you may be addicted to carbs (whether you know it or not) and you need to take action. That doesn't mean to eliminate carbs from your diet radically but rather to reduce their consumption dramatically. On a daily basis become "carb conscious" and educate yourself about the benefits of calorie control and balanced nutrition.
Secondly, you need to understand your anatomy and physiology and know how your food is digested and absorbed so you can take care of your internal organs in the same way as you may be taking care of your hair, skin and nails.
Lastly, you need to apply the old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and seek out practitioners that speak your language and will help you lead a more healthy and balanced lifestyle.
A word on pancreas:
On the left side of our abdomen tucked between our stomach and small intestine lies an oblong shaped gland organ called "pancreas".
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) the pancreas together with the Stomach is part of the Spleen system and considered a major organ that controls the digestion and absorption of the food we eat.
THE PANCREAS PLAYS AN EXTREMELY IMPORTANT ROLE IN MAINTAINING OUR GLUCOSE LEVELS BALANCED HENCE THE NEED TO KEEP OUR PANCREAS HAPPY AND HEALTHY
A word on insulin:
Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas which main role is to regulate the metabolism of the food we eat. In other words, insulin lowers the amount of glucose in the bloodstream by signaling to the cells to absorb the glucose that they will use as fuel. Insulin helps the body use glucose for energy. Therefore, the more glucose in the bloodstream the more insulin is released from our pancreas to transport glucose from the bloodstream to the cells for use as energy.
A word on carbs, insulin and pancreas:
The more carbs we ingest the more the body needs insulin to convert the carbs into energy.
So next Sunday just know that while you are devouring that delicious pancake breakfast smothered with maple syrup, topped with sunny side up eggs and bacon, your pancreas - hard at work acting as an organ - is secreting digestive enzymes into your small intestine in order to break down (metabolize) not only the carbs (maple syrup and wheat) but also the proteins (the eggs) and fats (bacon); a little later that same pancreas (this time acting as a gland) will release the important hormone, insulin, in response to the presence of glucose in the bloodstream.
A word on diabetes:
In diabetes, the pancreas doesn't produce enough insulin that the body can use to move glucose into the cells, which leads to an accumulation of glucose in the bloodstream. The cells become starved (lack of energy), you may feel tired, hungry, experience blurry vision, extreme thirst, increased urination day and night and over a longer period of time this condition of hyperglycemia (excess blood sugar) will cause damage to the blood vessels that supply blood to vital organs causing a myriad of potentially lethal health issues.
Why? because we need that pancreas of ours to be fully participating in this complex and vital process of monitoring our blood sugar levels.
A word of Spleen/Pancreas support and Traditional Chinese Medicine:
The importance of supporting the Spleen/Pancreas is not new to Chinese Medicine perspective. It's in fact thousands of years old. The Spleen (and the Stomach) in Chinese Medicine are considered the body's CENTER OF BALANCE and hundreds of Chinese herbs and acupuncture points are available to strengthen the vitality and efficiency of this vital system of digestion.
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