Are you sweet? Possibly TOO sweet?

My mother always told me that I’ll attract more bee’s with honey reminding me to be nice to people. But the kind of “sweet” I’m talking about today is the amount of sugar floating around in your body.

Did you know what our organs, especially your liver, adrenals, and pancreas are there to mainly help our bodies regulate blood sugar. But not in the way you might think…your body was more designed to help keep blood sugar up, not keep blood sugar levels down. That is a lot of additional effort and fatigue on our system. But because there is sugar in nearly everything (I mean even dog food and headache medicine), our bodies are near constantly having to remove sugar from our blood to keep us in homeostasis (or balanced).

Acronyms got me through school and I STILL use them today to remember anything of importance. I have one for you here: PAALS. It stands for pancreas, adipose tissue, adrenals, liver and skeletal muscles. These all play a BIG role in keeping you healthy and specifically keeping you sweet but not TOO sweet. Let me share with you how!

The CNS (central nervous system) is the “brains” of the operation…come on, that’s funny! But literally it’s the boss and it tells all the moving parts to when and what to do (kind of like your Mom)! Blood sugar levels are monitored by neurons in the brain. If glucose levels are deemed too high or too low, the hypothalamus (a part of the brain) communicates needed changes in blood sugar levels to the pituitary gland (found in the hypothalamus). The pituitary gland then directs the “PAALS” to either increase or reduce blood sugar. (NTA Blood Sugar Regulation Student Guide pg. 5).

The pancreas (hiding behind the stomach) produces insulin and glucagon…both imperative to regulating blood sugar. Insulin helps store excess blood sugar in our liver, fat and muscles. Glucagon helps release stored energy for the body to use.

Our adrenal glands sit on our kidneys. The adrenals produce epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol. Epinephrine and norepinephrine prepare you to “fight or flight” if your blood glucose levels drop. Cortisol also helps us deal with stress but takes more time to respond than the other two since it relies on a more complex process. This is important to know because if you have chronic stress in your life making your body release these, your blood glucose will be affected as well (despite your eating habits).

Our adipose tissue (body fat), stores energy for us as triglycerides when blood glucose is up and it releases energy when it is down. And fun fact, it also secretes hormones like leptin (inhibits hunger signals) and ghrelin (triggers hunger signals. (NTA Blood Sugar Regulation Student Guide pg. 14)

How about the super organ…the liver. It performs more than 500 functions. It deserves a daily standing ovation in my opinion. Some of its magic is converting glucose to glycogen so it can be stored and converting glycogen back into glucose so it can be used for energy.

Lastly, the muscles (the skeletal kind), have 3 roles in blood sugar regulation. They help normalize blood sugar by taking in excess glucose. They store glucose as glycogen and if needed, they provide protein for a process called gluconeogenesis (where protein is broken down and converted into glucose).