Insulin and Diabetes are topics that have always gone hand in hand. Diabetes is synonymously associated with Insulin and its levels in our body, be it Type 2 or Type 1 Diabetes. Controlling insulin within our body has always been the primary objective. There is millions of dollars of research spent each year, with much more in production and sale of drugs that help our society across manage our insulin levels. Insulin – a hormone has an entire industry created around it. Why is that? In this article Veronica Yoo, a Functional Medicine Certified Coach and Nutritionist explains – What is Insulin and how does it work within our body?
How is Insulin Produced in Our Body?
Insulin is produced by the beta cells in our Pancreas. The pancreas is an important gland within our body, and is located on the right side of the human body just under the rib-cage.
Insulin is a hormone that is secreted by the Pancreas to process any food that we consume, that can be converted into sugar. In other words, the Pancreas is activated to secrete this much needed Insulin Hormone into our bloodstream as soon as we consume foods that can be converted into sugar.
Foods such as;
- Sweet potatoes
Why does the body produce Insulin?
The purpose of insulin is to reduce the body’s blood sugar level. When we consume foods that are high in starch, or carbohydrates, there is an excess of sugar-rich content entering our body. To maintain the optimal function of the body, the glucose (form of sugar) levels need to be maintained within 70 to 100 Mg/dL (milligrams per decilitre) in our body. Our body just needs approximately 4 grams of sugar to maintain that optimal level of sugar. Hence, Insulin’s function is to process the “sugar-rich” foods and lower the sugar levels such as maintaining the body’s optimal function. In other words, it regulates our blood sugar levels.
How Does Insulin Regulate Blood Sugar levels?
In other words, what does insulin do with all that excess sugar that we consume?
The excess sugar that we consume is converted by Insulin into Glycogen and deposited in the liver and muscle tissue for use at a later date. A reservoir of energy if you will that can be converted from glycogen to glucose by another hormone called Glucagon.
Glucagon like Insulin is another hormone that is produced in the pancreas. Hence Pancreatic function is extremely important to manage our sugar levels in our body.
Let’s say you consume carbohydrate-rich food such as Pasta, Noodles, and perhaps an orange. To process and regulate the increase in blood sugar levels, the pancreas produces insulin. This insulin takes the excess glucose and converts it into Glycogen and stores it in the liver and muscle, thereby removing excess sugars from our bloodstream.
Let’s say you skip a couple of meals and the blood sugar levels within the body drop. The pancreas comes to the rescue again, by releasing Glucagon into the bloodstream that picks up the stored glycogen in the liver and muscle and releases glucose into the bloodstream to increase our blood sugar levels.
Thus, Insulin is required in our body to;
- To regulate our blood sugar levels
- Store excess Sugar in the body
- Insulin also absorbs Potassium & Amino acids
Thus, in the situation where a body experiences Insulin Resistance, the body’s ability to absorb Potassium & Amino acids is dramatically affected. To know more about Insulin Resistance, read our upcoming blog on the topic.