Diabetes Management Basics: How Insulin and Glucose Work Together

Diabetes Care|Apr.30, 2019


A diagnosis of prediabetes or diabetes can be overwhelming. There's a lot of new information to process about eating plans, exercise plans, treatments and potential complications. But first, you have to become familiar with terms and concepts that might be foreign to you.

Diabetes is becoming extremely common, and because it's a well-researched disease, there's a lot of information available. Lifelong diabetes management is possible, and your doctor can answer any questions you have.

The first step is to understand the basics, such as how insulin and glucose interact. Understanding your body, your metabolism and your relationship with food — and how those three things work in tandem — is critical to staying healthy and at your best.

Hormones and Digestion

The food you eat every day is made up of three basic macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein and fat. Each of these provides the energy and building blocks you need to stay alive.

When you start to chew your food, several hormones are released to signal to the rest of your body that food is coming and it should get ready to break down and absorb macronutrients. One of these hormones is insulin, which is released by your pancreas. Insulin moves around your body, working like an alarm system that tells individual cells that glucose is available.

Insulin and Glucose Levels

When carbohydrate foods — such as bread, pasta, fruit, milk and sweets — are digested, they're or broken down into smaller sugars and glucose so they can enter your bloodstream.

Insulin's main job is to control blood sugar levels after eating. Think of insulin as a key that unlocks your cell's doors; it tells your cells to open up and absorb glucose as it comes in, preventing it from hanging around in your blood. A diagnosis of prediabetes or diabetes indicates that your body isn't producing enough insulin or that the insulin it is producing isn't working well, resulting in high glucose readings.

High blood sugar levels can be toxic. If left untreated, high blood sugar — called hyperglycaemia — can lead to long-term complications like blindness, nerve damage and kidney disease.

Depending on the type of diabetes you have, there are various reasons why your glucose levels may be high. Your insulin may be unavailable, or your cells may have stopped responding to it. Your doctor can give you more details about the type of diabetes you have and the treatment that is best for you.

Glucose Monitoring and Management

A great place to start if you're newly diagnosed is to learn as much as possible about diabetes, particularly about the lifestyle changes you can make to help you manage your blood sugar levels. Talk to your doctor about the best options for you, and ask for referrals to health professionals and specialists.

Your doctor may also suggest that you start regularly monitoring your blood sugar levels to learn how your body responds to the food you eat. Your doctor can also recommend a glucose monitor that can support your diabetes management. Some monitors on the market today can alert you when your glucose is low or high, and some can give you a history of your glucose levels over several days or weeks.

The important thing is to not get overwhelmed. Focus on learning and taking small steps toward staying healthy. The more you know about what's going on in your body, the more you'll be in control of diabetes.


Disclaimer: This publication/article/editorial is meant for awareness/educational purposes and does not constitute or imply an endorsement, sponsorship or recommendation of any products. Please consult your doctor/healthcare practitioner before starting any diet, medication or exercise.