Essential Oils’ Organ of the Month (November/December/January): Pancreas, Balancing Blood Sugar

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

I know that it has been some time since I have made an appearance, and we can tack that up to a couple months worth of holiday-ing and getting reorganized for 2017. Regardless, I feel as if I am apologizing more than I am writing. So, we’ll skip the “I’m sorry for my absence” and dive right in. I made a reference to balancing blood sugar the other month. So, mysteries aside, that is what we will be talking about. Here are a few questions to kickstart:

Q1: What is blood sugar?

A1: Blood sugar is glucose.

Q2: What is Glucose?

A2: Glucose is the building block to energy, and using specific terminology, is a monosaccharide.

Q3: Why is Glucose important?

A3: Glucose is important because every body cell depends on its presence for fuel.

Side note: The brain and the nervous system depend, almost exclusively, on glucose for energy. Since these activities never cease they have limited ability to store glucose and continually draw on its supply in the fluid surrounding them to maintain their function.

Now that we know glucose is a phenomenon that keeps us running, the next question regards the means to maintaining its homeostasis. The body must maintain blood glucose limits that permit the cells to nourish themselves for optimal function. When there is a drop in blood sugar levels you may start to feel dizzy or weak; i.e. fatigue that could turn fatal if left untreated. When there is an overabundance of glucose it turns into a permanent energy-storage compound also known as fat. So, with that knowledge we tread forward. There are two hormones that primarily regulate glucose in the body. The first is insulin.

Insulin is a hormone secreted by the special cells in the pancreas that is in response to an increased glucose concentration. The primary role of insulin is to control the transportation of glucose between the bloodstream, muscle cells, and fat cells. So, “how does this work Suzy?” Good question as always! After a meal blood glucose rises and in turn sends a message to the pancreas via these special cells. The pancreas responds by secreting insulin into the blood, and logically, the amount of insulin secreted corresponds to the rise in glucose. As the circulating insulin contacts the receptors on the body’s other cells, the receptors respond by ushering glucose from the blood into the various cells. Most of these cells only take the glucose that they can use for energy right away whereas the liver and muscle cells can assemble the small glucose units into long, branching chains of glycogen for storage. These liver cells can also convert glucose to fat for exportation and make way for elevated blood glucose levels to return to normal as the excess is stored.

Side note: normal blood glucose (fasting) is 70 to 100 mg/dl, and homeostasis is the maintenance of constant internal conditions by the body’s control system.

I jumped into insulin having said that “the first is insulin.” This obviously insinuates that there are more hormones to cover. Amongst them is glucagon. This particular hormone is secreted by special cells in the pancreas. This occurs in response to low glucose concentration and elicits release of glucose from the liver’s stored glycogen. When blood glucose falls, as occurs after a meal, other special cells of the pancreas respond by secreting glucagon into the blood. Glucagon raises blood glucose by signaling the liver to break down its glycogen stores and releasing glucose into the blood. As a result, this glucose will become ready for all other cells in the body to use.

So, that’s the second hormone, but there is one more! This third and final hormone is epinephrine. Epinephrine’s job is to signal the liver cells to release glucose. This particular hormone is a **FIGHT or FLIGHT** stress responder. It acts quickly, ensuring that all cells have energy in the case of an “emergency.” It also works to release glucose from liver glycogen into the blood.

In the off chance that this all this information went over your head, here is a seven step solution.

  1. When a person eats, blood glucose rises.
  2. High blood glucose stimulates the pancreas to release insulin.
  3. Insulin stimulates the uptake of glucose into cells and conversion of excess glucose into fat for storage (i.e. glycogen in the liver and muscles).
  4. As the body’s cells use glucose, blood levels decline.
  5. Low blood glucose stimulates the pancreas to release glucagon into the bloodstream.
  6. Glucagon stimulates liver cells to break down glycogen and release glucose into the blood.
  7. Blood glucose begins to rise.

Okay, so there you go! Glucose at its finest. There is more to say, but I am already looking ahead to our next blog post. I cannot promise that there will be a rhyme or reason to the way these following blogs are set up, but I will have an abundance of information for all of you to chew on. So, in that line of thought, look forward to a comment on booster foods! We all know that they’re needed with our new year resolutions in play. Until then, take care of yourself, nourish your body, and listen to it! I can’t wait for all that we will accomplish together with 2017 in play.
~ Suzy Brown, Personal Chef and Nutrition Consultant ~

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