How our Bodies Combat Hypoglycemia
Glucagon and Intermittent Fasting
Learn more about the other blood glucose regulating hormone
Our bodies have hormonal systems that regulate our blood glucose, keeping it from going too high or dropping too low. This is called the glucose regulating mechanism, and it works with two major hormones: insulin and glucagon.
Most people have a basic understanding of how insulin works. It lowers blood glucose by drawing glucose out of the bloodstream and doing one of two things: transporting it to the parts of the body that require glucose for normal cellular metabolism, or converting it into body fat.
But most people haven’t heard much about glucagon. This hormone balances blood glucose through a counter-mechanism to that of insulin. In other words, glucagon works by pulling glucose from other parts of the body, notably the liver.
Glucose is stored as the “muscle fuel” glycogen. When blood glucose drops below a certain level, glucagon calls on the liver to convert some stored glycogen back into glucose for release into the bloodstream.
When insulin and glucagon are working properly and together in opposite directions, we maintain “normal” blood glucose.
The role of intermittent fasting
This is a reason intermittent fasting can work so well in diabetes. When we go without eating any food for 8 hours or more, our blood glucose has a chance to drop to or below normal. When that happens, our beta cells (the insulin producing cells in our pancreas) stop producing insulin and get a chance to rest. Intermittent fasting can also help people drop weight, which is important in managing diabetes.
As soon as our blood glucose level drops below normal, the alpha cells in our pancreas begin to produce glucagon. Glucagon pulls glucose from our muscles, liver, and other parts of our body so that our blood glucose levels stay within healthy levels.
Fasting isn’t a quick fix or even necessarily right for everyone, but it’s being looked at as potentially beneficial for type two diabetics. In order to use fasting successfully (and without harming yourself), be aware that it could be affected by medications, activity level, and other lifestyle factors.
It’s also important to be aware of how different foods affect blood sugar once you’ve broken your fast. Carbohydrates, especially simple carbohydrates, can cause your blood sugar to spike and should be avoided. This includes fruits and starchy vegetables.
Intermittent fasting may help people with diabetes by prompting the body to produce glucagon. If you’re struggling to manage your diabetes, intermittent fasting may be a good option for you. But don’t go it alone, our Facebook group is filled with people just like you – let us know your experiences with health and intermittent fasting, right here.