Diabetes (part 2)
Ok, well that was completely confusing. I thought you were going to make this easy! What I get is that there is sugar in my blood, which is bad, and Diabetes is bad because my blood sugar is too high. I don’t quite get the how though.
Understanding Diabetes, almost all versions, starts with the cells. Your whole body is made of cells. They do different things, like muscle cells and blood cells and skin cells and a million other types. As we said before, every cell needs sugar, also called glucose, to work. Without glucose, they will eventually die. But sugar is a big molecule (Ah! I hated chemistry!) and cells can’t just suck it up. The big molecule can’t squeeze through the walls. It needs a door. Insulin goes into cells, kicks the guard awake who then opens the door, letting the glucose in. Yay! Now the cell can use the glucose, do a bunch of complicated things, and make energy. The insulin does other stuff with cells, helping get a bunch of things moving. It’s kinda like the drill sergeant in your body, keeping cells in line, and getting the process of using glucose going.
What do you think happens if the cells don’t listen to the drill sergeant? What if there isn’t a drill sergeant at all? That’s diabetes. It’s the state of not having a drill sergeant. Where does the drill sergeant, I mean insulin, come from? The pancreas. An oddly shaped white organ in your stomach kind of wrapped around your actual stomach and kicking the liver. It is the home of the cells that make insulin. There are special cells and special ways things are made, but we’re focusing on the basics. If it stops making insulin, the cells have no drill sergeants, they get no glucose, and they die. If your pancreas makes some insulin but not enough, some cells get drill sergeants, some don’t, and the ones that don’t will die. If your pancreas makes drill sergeants but your cells are insubordinate, refusing to recognize or use the insulin, the cells get no glucose and, you guessed it, they die.
That’s a lot of death.
Yup. So let’s recap what we’ve learned so far. We have sugar in our blood, called glucose. Cells need glucose to work; without it, they die. Insulin is the chemical needed to open the walls of the cells to take in the glucose; insulin is the drill sergeant needed to make a cell eat the glucose and use it. Without insulin, the cells don’t eat so the cells die. We learned last week that most glucose goes out of your body in your pee, so it relies on the kidneys working correctly. And we learned the pancreas is where the insulin comes from. You eat. Glucose enters your blood. Pancreas makes insulin. Insulin travels to the cell and wakes it up. Cell opens walls and takes in glucose. Cell eats glucose. Cell is happy. Got it? Good.
Phew! Tell me that’s it. Cuz I can’t take anymore of this sciency stuff.
We’re almost there. I promise. Your body needs to be in balance to work. Your glucose needs to be at a certain level with your insulin so the cells get exactly what they need to live, but not more. That is why your body made some safeguards so you will never have too little glucose. Fat cells are full of fat (duh), which is the storage form of glucose. So your fat is like a grain silo. Your liver is also a storage site. In fact, your liver is the first place your body goes to when it needs a little more glucose but you haven’t eaten lately. Your blood glucose, so blood sugar, gets low, the liver dumps the glucose it has been saving up, and your blood sugar goes up so your cells can eat. Now we’ve added another organ to our chain of organs affected by diabetes.
Holy moley, that’s a lot of work! I had no idea so many organs were needed to keep my cells eating. Actually, I didn’t know I even had all of those organs. So what does any of this have to do with diabetes?!
Well, we know the order of operations: glucose into blood, pancreas drops insulin into blood, insulin opens doors to cells, cells eat; if there isn’t enough to eat, liver drops extra glucose in the blood, insulin ….. You get the idea. But now I’m going to make you wait until next week to find out more. Ha!
As always, I teach medical lessons specific to your body at First Priority Medical Clinic at 15th/Lewis. We have openings everyday. Give us a call, make an appointment, ask me about your personal medical issue, and boom! You learn something new (about you).