What Happens When We Eat?

blood sugar

Modern life is busy. We eat on the go, or sometimes not at all. Trouble is, that can cause some serious health issues. The bottom line is the body needs fuel to maintain blood sugar for optimal wellness and energy levels. And the fuel that we run on is food. So, what happens in the body when we eat food or skip meals?

When we get hungry and our body needs energy, our blood sugar drops. This is a sign our body is saying, “Hey you, get my blood sugar back into balance!” In other words, “Please eat something, so I can run efficiently.”

The primary organs for the process of balancing blood sugar are the pancreas, liver and adrenal glands. There are two ways this can work: the optimal (healthy) way and what I call the “fire-alarm” (unhealthy) way.

In a healthy person, the body uses the pancreas and the liver primarily to regulate blood sugar, keep energy levels even, and help the body run optimally. The pancreas releases the hormone insulin, which ushers glucose into the cells for energy. If there is extra glucose left over, it gets stored in the liver or the muscles as glycogen, which can be used later, in between meals for energy.

Now, the “fire alarm” way involves the adrenal glands, which is when things can get a little scary. When there is not enough food/energy in the body, for instance when we skip or delay eating, or rely on stimulants (i.e. caffeine), the body feels we are in a code-red, life-threatening emergency. The well-intended adrenal glands come to attention. They pump the hormone cortisol to replenish the glycogen (our energy reserves), and the body goes into a sympathetic state (a.k.a. the fight-or-flight response). This is that “code red” message.

Adrenaline tells the liver, “Get busy producing glucose, there’s a tiger chasing me!” The liver complies, and the other five hundred or so functions of the liver are set aside in favor of the adrenals. When this occurs, the endocrine system (hormones) suffers.

Poor blood sugar regulation can lead to adrenal exhaustion, which symptoms include: depression, fuzzy thinking, memory loss, lack of energy, increased time recovering from injury/illness, increased PMS, decreased tolerance, decreased productivity, decreased sex drive, decreased ability to handle stress, and many more.

Adrenal exhaustion is related to further endocrine issues, including degrading the sex hormones, pituitary imbalances, and thyroid issues. Furthermore, when there is a chronic output of cortisol, the body performs the “cortisol steal”, where the adrenals steal nutrients and hormonal precursors from the rest of the endocrine system.

All in all, blood sugar regulation is a pivotal part of being healthy. As we age, most of us (especially on the Standard America Diet=S.A.D) will experience hormone issues. If we can balance blood sugar by eating a whole-food, nutrient-dense, properly prepared diet, we’ll have a much better chance of staying healthy and enjoying a high quality of life.

So, have a real-food snack, eat some healthy fats (they support the endocrine system) and vote with your fork by choosing quality, local and seasonal foods that support your body and brain.

Kery Knutson is a Wellness Coach, certified as a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and Wellcoach® and RYT-200. She helps people looking to make changes in their lives in order to increase wellness toward thriving instead of surviving. Kery provides coaching for individuals, creates group workshops on holistic health topics and teaches yoga. You’ll find her at www.YourHealthPath.com.

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