Together, insulin and glucagon help keep conditions inside the body steady. When blood sugar is too high, the pancreas secretes more insulin. When blood sugar levels drop, the pancreas releases glucagon to bring them back up.
Blood sugar and health
The body converts carbohydrates from food into sugar (glucose), which serves as a vital source of energy. Blood sugar levels vary throughout the day but, in most instances, insulin and glucagon keep these levels normal.
- Before breakfast – levels should be less than 100 mg/dl for a person without diabetes and 70-130 mg/dl for a person with diabetes.
- Two hours after meals – levels should be less than 140 mg/dl for a person without diabetes and less than 180 mg/dl for a person with diabetes.
Blood sugar regulation
Blood sugar levels are a measure of how effectively an individual’s body uses glucose. When the body does not convert enough glucose for use, blood sugar levels remain high. Insulin helps the body’s cells absorb glucose, lowering blood sugar and providing the cells with the glucose they need for energy.
Insulin and glucagon are both released by islet cells in the pancreas. These cells are clustered throughout the pancreas. Beta islet cells (B cells) release insulin, and alpha islet cells (A cells) release glucagon.
How insulin works
Low levels of insulin are constantly circulating throughout the body. When insulin rises, this signals to the liver that blood glucose is also high. The liver absorbs glucose, then changes it to a storage molecule called glycogen.
Insulin also supports healing after an injury by delivering amino acids to the muscles. Amino acids help build the protein found in muscle tissue, so when insulin levels are low, muscles may not heal properly.
How blood sugar levels affect the body
High blood sugar
Symptoms of high blood sugar include:
- Urinating more often than usual. The kidneys respond to high blood sugar by trying to get rid of excess glucose.
- Feeling excessively thirsty, especially if also urinating often. As the kidneys try to regulate blood sugar, it can cause dehydration and feelings of intense thirst.
- Feeling excessively hungry. This is not caused by high blood sugar, but by the low insulin effect that often goes with high blood sugar.
Over time, very high blood sugar may cause:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Slow healing times
- Itchy, dry skin
- Increased likelihood of infections
- Fatigue or difficulty concentrating
- Blurred vision
- Constipation, diarrhea, or both
- Erectile dysfunction
Symptoms of low blood sugar include:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Tingling, particularly in the tongue, lips, arms, or legs
- Hunger alongside nausea
- Confusion and difficulty concentrating
- Seizures or loss of consciousness if untreated
There are several types of diabetes, which are described here:
Type 1 diabetes
When a woman is pregnant, the placenta that supports the developing baby can undermine the body’s ability to use insulin. This causes insulin resistance that triggers symptoms similar to those of type 2 diabetes.
Source: Medical News Today