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When we refer to “blood sugar”, we actually mean glucose which is the main form of carbohydrate used by the body. It is dissolved in blood, and hence the name, blood sugar. Glucose is a simple sugar consisting of a single chain or ring structure, belonging to the group of carbohydrates called monosaccharides. It is also called “single” sugar.


[edit] Glucose in Nature

Glucose is a product of photosynthesis in plants. It is abundantly found in nature in free or combined state. It has many sources including grape juice, honey, figs, other sweet fruits and certain vegetables. It is also found in body fluids like blood and lymph to a lesser extent.

[edit] Importance

Glucose is the main source of energy for the body, especially for the brain and the red blood cells. It is utilized by the cells to generate energy that is needed to carry out important cellular functions. If the glucose level becomes very low (hypoglycemia), the cells cannot function normally and it results in headache, confusion, nervousness, convulsions and coma in extreme cases.

Since the brain is so sensitive to the glucose level in the blood, a number of mechanisms are in place to ensure that the blood glucose remains more or less constant. If the blood glucose level increases, it is promptly converted into glycogen in the liver and stored. On the other hand, if the glucose level falls, the stored glycogen is readily converted back to glucose and released in the blood stream.

[edit] Uses

Apart from the crucial role of glucose in the body, it is also used in the manufacture of a number of products. It is used in the making of commercial candies, jams, jellies and syrups, especially due to its property of not crystallizing easily. Other foods where glucose is made use of are soft drinks, baked goods, chewing gum, some processed foods and it is also used in medicine, brewing and wine making.

[edit] Blood Sugar Regulation

When a meal is eaten, it leads to a rise in the blood sugar level. If not removed from the blood, this increased glucose can give rise to a serious condition called diabetes mellitus. Normally, this rise is prevented by the hormone insulin which is secreted by the pancreas. It stimulates the glucose uptake by the tissues to bring it back to the desirable blood level.

Low blood glucose level (hypoglycemia) gives rise to symptoms such as lethargy, irritability, nervousness and impaired mental functioning. On the other hand, if the blood glucose rises very high (hyperglycemia), it leads to serious health problems as it can damage the eyes, kidneys, nerves and blood vessels.

[edit] Ways to Lower Blood Glucose

Fortunately, a number of measures help to lower the blood glucose and make it possible to lead a healthy lifestyle.

Regular exercise: Exercise is an easy and effective way of keeping the blood glucose in check. This exercise need not be vigorous, but walking for thirty minutes each day will help in lowering blood sugar levels. Exercise has other benefits too; it keeps body weight under control which also helps in management of diabetes.

Diet: Diet plays a major role in keeping glucose levels under control. Foods that are digested more slowly result in slow release of glucose in the blood stream. These kinds of foods are called low glycemic foods. Low glycemic foods, which include beans, peas, oatmeal, fruits such as apples and oranges, are better in controlling glucose levels. On the other hand, foods are called high glycemic foods when they are digested quickly and release glucose faster in the blood, giving rise to higher levels of blood glucose. These kinds of foods, including potatoes, rice, and white bread are not desirable for blood glucose management.

Lists of the glycemic index values for some of the common foods can be obtained at the following sites:

  • Fifty50
  • Glycemic Index Food Chart

High water intake: Drinking lot of water (about eight glasses each day) helps in lowering blood sugar levels.

Herbs: Recent research has shown that certain herbs help in lowering blood glucose levels. These include ginseng, cinnamon powder, neem, ginger, bitter melon and huckleberries. More on herbs in management of high blood glucose levels can be obtained at the following sites:

  • Herbs and Vitamins for Diabetes
  • Diabetes, diet and herbs

Herbal products can also be obtained online at sites such as:

  • Blood Sugar Regulation
  • Ayurveda

Although herbs have been in use to lower glucose levels for a long time, claims for the benefits of the same should be viewed with caution. This is so because no preparation standards have been set for them, the label may not mention the known toxic effects and excessive doses may cause harm in some cases. The best option would be to discuss the use of herbs for high blood glucose management with your physician to get the maximum benefits of this knowledge.

[edit] References

  • What is Glucose?
  • Diabetes Health Center
  • Can Herbs Treat Diabetes?
  • Dictionary: glucose