Glucose is your body’s fuel, just as gasoline is the fuel for your car. When we eat, a large part of the food we consume is converted into glucose, which passes into our bloodstream. From there it is distributed to the different parts of our body where it is used to produce energy or is stored for when fuel is needed.
What is insulin?
Insulin is a hormone all human beings produce. It facilitates the entry of glucose into our cells so we can convert that glucose into energy, or store it. Insulin works like a key that opens the door to the body’s cells to let glucose in so that it can be used or stored. If you have diabetes, however, the insulin you produce is not enought or it does not work properly. Glucose cannot enter your cells (which act as your body’s motors) and ends up accumulating in your blood instead.
The symptoms: frequent urination and hunger
When your blood sugar rises too rapidly, your kidneys try to eliminate the excess through your urine. You'll urinate frequently and excessively. As a result, you lose a lot of water, feel very thirsty, and may become dehydrated. Because your body cells cannot use the fuel from the glucose in your blood, you lack energy and feel tired. Your cells feel like they don’t have any fuel so you feel very hungry. When this happens, the cells send hunger signals to your brain telling you to eat more. This makes your blood sugar levels rise even higher.
No matter how much you eat, your blood sugar continues to rise and your cells still don't receive any fuel. This can make you lose weight as your cells start to burn up their reserves to give you the energy you need. This is why the following symptoms appear when blood sugar levels rise:
- Polyuria: excessive urination
- Polydipsia: intense thirst
- Polyfagia: intense hunger
- Weight loss
All of the things that happen when your blood sugar rises can be dangerous for your health and in extreme cases can even cause a diabetic coma. Measure your blood sugar levels and consult your health care team at the first sign of danger.
Type 1 diabetes
This type of diabetes is present in kids, teenagers, and young adults. These individuals don't produce any insulin. They require injections to supply their bodies with the insulin that the pancreas would have produced. Symptoms of hyperglycemia, such as polyuria, polydipsia, polyfagia and weight loss, show up dramatically after just a few days without insulin. If these patients are not taken to a doctor immediately, they could fall into a comatose state and put their lives at risk.
Type 2 diabetes
When type 2 diabetes is present (usually found in adults), glucose increases because not enough insulin is being produced or the insulin produced is not working correctly. In this case, oral medication can help the pancreas produce more insulin or allow the insulin that is being produced to work more effectively.
People with type 2 diabetes usually don't experience dramatic and immediate symptoms like those with type 1. The symptoms of polyuria, polydipsia and polyfagia appear occasionally when the glucose is very elevated. Months or even years could go by before the patient notices any symptoms. That's why a lot of people have type 2 diabetes and don't know it.
Many factors like stress, infections, stopping medication, or overeating, can raise blood sugar levels and force your body to overcompensate by increasing glucose levels. It is up to you to control your diabetes. Speak to your health care team and become your best ally.
* Dietitian of the MyDiet™ Team
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