Blood Sugar, the pancreas, liver, adrenal connection

Most of us think that the pancreas is the only organ involved when it comes to our blood sugar (glucose).  This wonderful endocrine gland is only a small part of the issue.  Blood sugar stability requires a trifecta– the liver, adrenals and pancreas. These glands and organs have to work together to raise blood sugar when it drops to low (hypoglycemia) or lower blood sugar when it gets to high (hyperglycemia).

Think of your body as an airplane.  You have to have two wings to fly, and one of those wings is your pancreas.  The other is your adrenal glands.  The pancreas secretes insulin, and glucagon.  Insulin tells your body to use the proteins, fats and carbohydrates you eat for immediate energy, or to put some of that energy into storage, so that  you can keep functioning through your day.  Insulin works to lower blood sugar levels.   Glucagon, also secreted by the pancreas, comes into play when your blood sugar levels drop to low.  Glucagon’s job is to raise blood sugar levels.

If your pancreas has been exhausted by “overcarbsumption”  ( a wonderful term from the book IT STARTS WITH FOOD,)  then it can no longer control the amount of insulin floating around in your blood stream, and your blood sugar (glucose) levels raise up.  Traditional medicine calls this diabetes, insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome.

Your other “wing” is the adrenals.  These amazing endocrine glands sit directly above the kidneys, and control heart rate, body temperature, hormone functions, and our “fight or flight” response.  They do so by producing “cortisol.”  Cortisol is our bodies glucocorticoid steriod hormone, generally known as the “stress hormone.”

When your blood sugar levels raise to high, or drop to low; your adrenals send out cortisol signals to the pancreas and liver to release converted glucogen.  Glucogen was the end product of that initial insulin signal– the one that said “store some energy for later.” This is where the liver comes into the picture.  (I’ll explain more in a bit.)

When your adrenals have to kick up a response due to high blood sugar levels, they become exhausted.  Remember, they control many other body functions, so they are huge “multi-taskers.”  Stress of daily life, poor food choices, frantic work days, kids to ball games, financial worries, you know– life; requires a lot from these little glands.   Prescription drugs, illness, lack of exercise, and enviromental toxins all add to the exhaustion and fatigue of your adrenals.  If the signals that the adrenals are sending out to the pancreas can’t be recognized by the pancreas, then havoc ensues.  The “on-off” switch malfunctions, both with the adrenals and with the pancreas!

So here comes the liver– the body of your personal airplane!  When we had that morning meal, cereal, oatmeal, toast, a bagel, we loaded up on carbohydrates.  Carbohydrates give us immediate energy, but are essentially fast acting sugar.  Especially in the form of “simple” carbohydrates.  Your body knew that it had to store these carbohydrates so that when 10am (or 3pm) came rolling around, you’d need a “pick me up” snack.

Your liver did this by converting the glucagon to glucogen.  Glucogen was then stored as fat in your muscles, and in your liver.  The glucogen in the muscles is supposed to be used up in about 90 minutes.  But we don’t burn the fat from our muscles like our grandparents did, we have jobs that keep us relatively sedentry. So, that glucogen plugs up the receptors in our muscles and liver, creating fatty livers and weak muscles.  Any excess becomes adipose fat, yep, that belly…

So, what to do?  First off, realize that the simple carbohydrates are not just your cakes and cookies and sweets.  They are also pasta, rice, grains, breads and cereals.  Even your oatmeal is a simple carbohydrate.  As for lowering   your “cholesterol”  levels, it is a false hood that cholesterol causes heart disease.   Cholesterol is actually the bodies “bandaid” when there is a wound, or inflammation or injury.  It rebuilds the cells!

The chronic inflammation caused by high blood sugar levels acts in a couple of  ways.  In your arteries it acts much like a skinned knee, causing an abrasion of the inside of your arteries.  Cholesterol then comes to the rescue, putting a scab on the wound.  A couple of hours later, you go back to a lunch full of simple at carbohydrates, and just like the kid that won’t leave the skinned knee alone, picking at the scab, you end up a scarring in the interior of your arteries.  This is the narrowing of our arteries.

Complex carbohydrates require that your body work to digest them, and the sugar release is much slower.  Add good proteins and you have energy that can be sustained.  Add good essential fats, and your body can then burn the garbage fat (adipose) and your blood sugar has the nutrients to keep your blood sugar levels much more stable.

In today’s world, most of us need the help of Whole Food Medicine and nutritional supplements to help our body correct years of improper food choices.  These choices, even for the most “food conscious” of us, are what we have been taught and marketed to by the major food giants.  These choices are our STANDARD AMERICAN DIET – aka “SAD.”

Let us help you teach your body what good nutrition is all about.  Give me a call at TheraFood, Whole Food Medicine.  Your wellness depends on it!


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