Hormones. Chemical messengers that instruct and coordinate the organs and tissues of your body perform a function.
They are essential for life and a bit of a nightmare when they don’t work as intended or effectively.
Which brings us nicely on to Insulin. If you haven’t already done so, please take a look at our article on the Pancreas.
The Pancreas is one of the unsung heros of our Endocrine system (the group of organs responsible for excreting hormones, including the Pancreas, the Adrenal Glands, the Thyroid and more). Sitting there quietly just behind the stomach, pumping out hormones to keep blood sugar levels in balance, and saving your life when those levels go too high or too low.
One of those life-saving hormones is Insulin.
When we eat food (especially carbohydrates), the body begins to break them up in to their component parts (glucose). This glucose goes in to the bloodstream, resulting in a rise in blood sugar levels. This is a perfectly normal process, as whilst we can run ok on proteins and fats, the body’s preferred energy source is glucose.
In response to this rise of blood sugars, the Pancreas (or specifically the beta cells of the Pancreas) produce Insulin – the hormone, or chemical messenger, responsible for bringing blood glucose back down again.
And Insulin does this by unlocking the cells of the body to allow this extra glucose to enter and be used for energy or stored for later use.
If there is an excess of glucose in the blood, then Insulin helps lower the levels by instructing the liver to store glucose in the form of Glycogen.
Glycogen is critical in the body’s ability to balance blood sugar levels, as when we go for periods without eating (when fasting for example) or there is an extra demand for energy (when exercising), Insulin levels drop which allows the liver to release this stored glucose back in to the blood – it is a readily available source of energy.
We run in to problems when Insulin does not function as intended – see Insulin Resistance.