9 The Ups and Downs of Blood Sugar

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What Are You Fighting With or Fleeing From?

It's been almost a century since Charles Banting's discovery that high blood sugar (diabetes mellitus) has to do with the production of insulin by islet cells located in your pancreas.

Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) is to this day rarely even diagnosed as a medical condition, and when it is, it's usually thought to be a consequence of incorrect use of diabetes medication.

Diabetes makes you feel heavy, slow. Hypoglycemia makes you feel shaky, restless, hungry.

If blood sugar goes high for too long (diabetes), ketoacidosis, which is slow poisoning from metabolic waste products, will make you increasingly ill. If blood sugar goes too low (hypoglycemia), death occurs within hours. Your brain simply cannot keep functioning without adequate energy supply.

Medically, diabetes is controlled either by controlling sugar intake (dietary restrictions) or by taking medically-prescribed insulin (or both).

Hypoglycemia, much more dangerous than diabetes but rarely diagnosed except as a complication of diabetes, is treated by eating constantly. A snack every 20 minutes during an episode. (And by avoiding carbs the rest of the time)

Normal blood sugar fluctuates around a setpoint so that the range of "normal" blood sugar is 70-110 mg/dL or 700-1100 parts per million (ppm). Normal blood sugar level will go up or down within this range according to whether we’ve just eaten, whether we’ve exercised recently, and other daily activities.

What Causes Low or High Blood Sugar?

Conventional understanding of the blood sugar mechanism is that, when we eat food, the sugars in the food would flood our bloodstream, if not for insulin, a hormone released by islet cells in the pancreas.

It’s believed that insulin causes the cells of the body to “open” and store the sugar, which takes the sugar out of circulation. So the conventional story is that diabetes is a condition in which the islet cells of the pancreas don’t “work” properly, that something goes wrong with the pancreas, and thus, when we eat sugar, it just floods into our system without any controls.

The conventional story about low blood sugar is that, if the blood sugar goes below the normal range, it must be because we have too much insulin. Most health practitioners believe this to be a medical complication from taking the wrong amount of insulin for treating diabetes.

The official story is wrong.

Both the amount of sugar going into our blood and the amount of sugar being taken out of our blood are tightly controlled by hormones. One hormone - glucagon - to put sugar into the blood. Another hormone - insulin - to take sugar out of the blood.

Each of the hormones involved in making your blood sugar go up or down is produced by its own type of islet cell in the pancreas. Alpha islet cells release glucagon, beta islet cells release insulin.

When your blood sugar goes higher and lower than the normal range of 700-1100 ppm, it’s because these islet cells are producing less or more of the hormone than normal.

However, that doesn't happen because the pancreas or the islet cells are broken or damaged or dysfunctional.

Your blood-sugar regulating hormone levels change for a good reason.

That reason is that your brain is telling your islet cells to change their level of hormone output.

And why would your brain want to make your blood sugar go up or down?

Your brain raises your blood sugar levels to fuel your muscles to fight or defend yourself. Your brain lowers your blood sugar levels to help you escape.

Blood sugar changes are the first biological changes you make in the fight-flight response.

Listen to Episode 9 of the Mind Over Symptom Podcast, "The Ups and Downs of Blood Sugar," to the discover the true source of your symptom  ...and how to get off the roller coaster of the fight-flight blood sugar response.

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