Glucose is a type of sugar produced when your body breaks down carbohydrates. Your body needs glucose to produce energy. You also need glucose for optimal nervous system and brain activity, which is essential for cognitive functions such as memory, learning and concentration. "Where is it stored?" you may ask.
Where Is Glucose Stored?
The body uses carbs in the food and turns them into glucose. That glucose can then enter your bloodstream, fuel your muscle system, or go into your liver. Irrespective of where glucose is stored, your body always uses it to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a compound that is the actual source of energy.
The most recently converted glucose usually goes directly into your bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, that glucose becomes immediately available for the production of ATP which provides your body with energy to handle certain processes. The oxygen from the cardio-respiratory system also helps facilitate the whole process of energy production.
Your body can also store glucose in the muscle system. For this, your body first converts glucose into glycogen and then stores it in the muscle system. Once converted into glycogen, it cannot enter your bloodstream but the muscle itself utilizes it to produce ATP.
Where is glucose stored? The liver performs the most important storage mechanism of glucose. Again, the liver stores glucose in the form of glycogen. The liver is the largest organ in the body and can contain up to 10% of its volume in glycogen. The liver not only releases glycogen when needed but also regulates the amount of glucose already present in your bloodstream.
The whole process is controlled by the pancreas. The pancreas produces a hormone called glucagon when glucose levels in the blood are too low, which triggers the release of glycogen from the liver. The liver releases glycogen in the form of glucose. In case the blood glucose levels are too high, the pancreas releases insulin to limit the release of glucose from the liver.
Can Your Blood Glucose Level Become Abnormal?
Where is glucose stored? You already know the answer, but it is equally important to understand that while your liver really plays a role in regulating the level of glucose in your blood, things can go out of balance. It means it is possible to have too low or too high blood glucose levels.
- You can develop a condition called hyperglycemia which means your blood glucose levels are too high. Anything above 160 mg/dL is considered high blood glucose. It usually happens when your body produces insufficient insulin or fails to use whatever amount is present.
- You can develop a condition called hypoglycemia which means your blood glucose levels are too low. Your blood glucose is too low when it is less than 70 mg/dL. It is important to talk to your doctor and determine exactly what should be the most appropriate blood glucose levels for you.
You have hyperglycemia if you notice symptoms like frequent urination, high levels of sugar in the urine, fatigue, blurred vision, and increased thirst. People with hyperglycemia may also develop infections frequently, lose weight quickly, and notice slow healing of sores and cuts. You may develop hyperglycemia if:
- You have type 1 diabetes and have not taken enough insulin.
- You have type 2 diabetes and your body fails to use insulin effectively.
- You have exercised less or eaten more than planned.
- You are under stress due to an illness, such as flu or cold.
- You may be dealing with the dawn phenomenon, which causes a surge of hormones around 4 am. to 5 am.
Regular exercise really helps lower your blood glucose levels. But, before you exercise, you should check your urine for ketones and avoid any exercise if you have ketones. Exercising when you have found ketones in your urine can push your glucose levels further up. Paying attention to your diet also helps stabilize your blood sugar. Ask your dietician for advice.
You may develop hypoglycemia if your body reacts to any medications you are taking for diabetes. Many people who do not have diabetes may develop hypoglycemia due to severe hepatitis, long-term starvation, kidney disorder, excessive alcohol consumption and tumor of the pancreas. Many disorders of the pituitary gland and adrenal glands can also cause hypoglycemia.
When you have hypoglycemia, you are going to experience some symptoms, such as shakiness, confusion, irritability, sweating, anxiety, clamminess, sleepiness, fast heartbeat, and lightheadedness. Some people also have to deal with problems like impaired vision, nausea, seizures, lack of coordination, headaches, unconsciousness, and tingling in the tongue or lips.
To treat hypoglycemia, you should consume about 15 g of simple carbs or glucose and check your blood glucose levels again in 15 minutes. Repeat the same if your blood sugar is still low.
To get 15 g of simple carbs, you can take the following:
- 2 tbsp. of raisins
- Gel tube
- Glucose tablets
- 4 oz. of regular soda or juice
- A tbsp. of honey, sugar, or corn syrup
- Jelly beans, hard candies, or gumdrops
- 8 oz. of nonfat milk
In case your blood sugar does not return to normal after consuming simple carbs, your doctor may recommend the use of glucagon, a hormone that stimulates your liver to increase the release of stored glucose. You can use injectable glucagon kits to control your hypoglycemia.