When the course of digestion does not run smoothly, the culprit may be a defect in your metabolism. Here are a few of the conditions that lead to malfunctioning:
- Gout medications. Are you being treated with atropine, digitoxin, phenformin, or ethacrynic acid for gout? It’s best to discuss with your doctor the potentials these drugs seem to have for adversely affecting your body’s intake of starches and sugars. A fifth offender in the gout drug category is colchicine, which has been reported to have a damaging effect on the delicate membranes that line your intestines.
- Other drugs. Not all drugs can interfere with your ability to process carbohydrates properly. Common drugs such as aspirin, as far as we know, have no pronounced effect. But some antibiotics such as neomycin, for example, have a short-term damaging effect on mucous secretions in the digestive tract. And if you already have a condition that impairs carbohydrate metabolism, drugs will be an added stress
- Protein deficiency. If this condition is sustained long enough due to a poor diet caused by poverty, by lack of available food, or by a “ fad” reducing diet, the body cells will begin to change. The rate at which carbohydrate digestion proceeds declines dramatically, even though in the initial stages of such a decline a step-up in glucose absorption may occur.67 The subsequent addition of protein to the diet may put the system back on track, but the result of sustained protein deficiency may be continued difficulty in handling the sugars in milk products, say, researchers.
- Galactosemia. This is a disorder in which there is too little galactase enzyme to permit the sugar galactose to be turned into glucose.
- Any flaw in your intestines can result in malabsorption syndrome with symptoms similar to mono- and disaccharide intolerance.
- Your glands regulate your metabolism. Since the proper utilization of fuel mainly glucose (stored as glycogen)is so crucial an aspect of maintaining a balanced metabolism, improperly functioning glands can affect the digestion, absorption, or utilization of carbohydrates. The pituitary gland controls the others. The thyroid regulates the pace of metabolism. The adrenal cortex directly regulates blood sugar levels, by producing a hormone, cortisol, which increases blood sugar levels when you are under stress.
Sugar Metabolism and Your Glands
If your lifestyle is such that you are constantly subject to stress whether from a stressful job; air, food, water, or noise pollution; depression or other psychological problems; or cold, hunger, or other deprivation your adrenal glands may become depleted and less able to secrete the hormones like cortisol that raise blood sugar levels so you can cope with emergencies.
The pancreas is even more directly involved in the regulation of blood sugar levels. We shall discuss it further below.
The malfunctioning of any of these glands may affect your sugar metabolism.
THE ADRENALS AND SUGAR METABOLISM
A primary cause of immune system destruction is adrenal exhaustion from overstimulation of the adrenal glands. There are a multiplicity of factors that can be responsible, including environmental stressors as well as emotional distress such as anger, fear, anxiety, depression. But of primary concern is the environmental stressor of refined carbohydrates i.e., sugar. This causes the adrenal glands to secrete more adrenaline than would be normal to its function. The hypoglycemic and diabetic are even more susceptible, due to radical fluctuations of the blood sugar level.
THE PANCREAS AND SUGAR METABOLISM
Your pancreas controls the delicate balance between two hormones insulin and glucagon. These hormones keep you feeling pooped or peppy or somewhere in between. They do this by regulating the amount of energy in the form of glucose circulating in your bloodstream.
It behooves you to keep your pancreas healthy through a low-sugar, well-balanced diet. Your mood from hour to an hour and day today, and your ability to work efficiently and play energetically, depend on a pancreas that is healthy enough to issue forth these two hormones. These secretions come from a colony of special cells in the pancreas called the islets of Langerhans.
Insulin and Glucagon
Suppose you have just indulged in a sugary donut; your blood sugar level is much too high. Insulin will bring it back down into the normal range of 1 mg /ml. If it then drops too low, glucagon will elevate it to normal.
Insulin Hushes unneeded glucose from the blood. When insulin levels increase, the excess glucose is drawn from the blood by the activation of metabolic processes that control blood threshold levels of glucose. Excess glucose is rerouted so that tissues that need it, have it.
The muscles use it to produce glycogen for energy storage.
The liver converts glucose into glycogen in even larger quantities.
Adipose tissue converts glucose into fatty acids. The energy from the glucose is thus kept handy so when you’re ready for your morning run or swim, it’s there.
Glucagon triggers the reserve processes. If not enough blood sugar is circulating to keep you in high spirits say you’ve taken your usual swim at the Y and postponed breakfast until a more convenient hour to compensate, your pancreas will produce a flood of glucagon. The glucagon forces your liver to send surplus glycogen into the bloodstream to provide energy for all the body’s cells.
We know that insulin and glucagon balance and counterbalance one another, but we don’t fully understand how the whole, complex process works.
There are many other factors that trigger the increase or decrease of production of both insulin and glucagon than just blood sugar levels. For example, there are certain amino acids and hormones whose presence stimulates glucagon production, increasing blood sugar levels. Other amino acids and hormones including glucagon itself stimulate the production of insulin. (However, in states of severe caloric restriction, glucagon, which gives its orders primarily to the liver, seems to adjust insulin production levels downward.) Still, other hormones (including insulin itself), and certain minerals, chemicals, and states (such as starvation), decrease insulin production.
When the islets of Langerhans of the pancreas don’t supply enough insulin, we call the disease state that results in diabetes. The supply of insulin to a diabetic is a matter of life and death. The diabetic’s insulin shortage causes an inability to utilize glucose; diabetics cannot move glucose through the cell walls as you and I do countless times a day with no voluntary effort. This is a serious condition. In juvenile diabetes, because the urine washes away the glucose that would normally be used for energy and life, severe sugar starvation can result in death if insulin replacement does not intervene.
If you have trouble digesting and utilizing carbohydrates, and your diet is good high in complex carbohydrates and other nutritious foods, and very low in refined and junk foods then it’s possible that medical conditions are complicating the process of digestion. Antibiotics and gout medications can disrupt digestion. Victims of drought, war-related food shortages, and fad low-protein diets, whose diets lack protein for extended periods, digest carbohydrates poorly sometimes even after the shortage of protein ends. Occasionally, a person is born without all the enzymes needed for sugar digestion. If your intestines are infected or otherwise malfunctioning, this can affect carbohydrate absorption.
Several glands regulate blood sugar levels, in part by affecting sugar absorption and storage. The two most directly involved are the adrenal glands and pancreas. Your adrenals flood the bloodstream with extra glucose in emergencies, when you are under stress. The pancreas normally produces insulin to lower the blood sugar level, and glucagon to raise it. Diabetics have trouble producing enough insulin.