When your glucose levels are well managed, they often go unnoticed. Yet when they dip too low or grow too high, they can affect your body’s everyday functioning.
So what is glucose, exactly?
It’s the simplest type of carbohydrate (carb), making it a monosaccharide, meaning “one sugar.”
Other monosaccharides include fructose, galactose, and ribose. In this form, dietary glucose and other carbohydrates eventually convert to blood glucose in the body.
Along with fat and protein, glucose is one of the body’s primary fuel sources.
Carbs are considered either simple or complex based on how fast the body digests the sugar.
According to the American Heart AssociationTrusted Source, the body digests complex carbs more slowly, and they supply a more steady energy source. This makes them the healthier option.
Your body ideally uses glucose multiple times a day.
When you eat, it quickly starts working to process glucose and other carbohydrates. Then, enzymes begin to break them down with help from the pancreas.
The pancreas, which produces hormones like insulin, is essential to how your body deals with glucose, per 2021 research Trusted Source. When you eat, your body tells the pancreas to release insulin to manage the rising blood sugar level.
Muscle, fat, and other cells then use glucose for energy or store it as fat for later use.
Diabetes might happen when the pancreas doesn’t produce insulin the way it should. In this case, you may need outside help (insulin injections) to process and regulate glucose in the body.
When the body does not respond to insulin the way it should, it stops glucose from entering your cells and being used for energy. Your cells respond by signaling the creation of ketones, which occurs at night and during fasting or dieting.
Over time, with insulin resistance, your insulin levels may become low, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA). Your body may also release fat from fat cells. In addition, the liver keeps releasing more ketones, lowering your blood pH to an acidic level.
When your body cannot use glucose like it needs to, the buildup of ketones and change in blood pH may become dangerous, per the ADA. This event is known as ketoacidosis. It is a severe, life threatening complication of diabetes that requires immediate medical treatment.