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Living with Diabetes

What is blood sugar? on Coaches Corner

5/13/2020 by mySugr

What is blood sugar? on Coaches Corner

Today we have Molly answering a great question from Carol about sugar alcohols, then she and I discuss blood sugar. You hear “blood sugar” or blood glucose all the time, but what does it actually mean? Molly helps us better understand what it is and what you need to know.

Let's chat about what it means to have sugar in your blood, why it is important to check your blood sugar, and individualized plans.

Note: We cannot provide medical advice. Please contact your doctor directly for specific questions about your care.


  • Reading food labels
  • Sugar in our blood
  • Why is it important to monitor our blood sugar levels?



Scott K. Johnson - Hey, thanks for tuning in to another episode of "Coaches Corner". It is great to see you again. We would love to know where you're watching from. Please let us know in the comments. One small way that mySugr is giving back is by hosting these these short conversations with our diabetes coaches to talk about staying healthy in body and mind. We appreciate you sharing some time with us. Now, I do have to give the standard disclaimer. We cannot provide medical advice. Please contact your doctor directly for specific questions about your care. Today, first up we have Molly, answering a great question from Carol, about sugar alcohols and then she and I will discuss blood sugar. I know you hear of blood sugar or blood glucose all the time, but what does it actually mean? Molly helps us better understand what it is and what you need to know. Let's take a look.

Molly Wagman - Hi everyone. It's Molly, the lead coach from mySugr, here to answer a great question that we got at the last "Coaches Corner", live with Scott. And the question was around why is this packaging saying it's low sugar or no sugar, but then it has sugar alcohols? So, it's really confusing sometimes, with this packaging, and you can see on different packages of foods and specifically crackers, candies, things like that, that'll say sugar free or no added sugar, like mine. I have this peanut butter flour that I use, and it says sugar free. No added sugar. And then, look, it has sugar. And it has a sugar alcohol called erythritol, and sugar alcohol has about 50% of the impact that regular sugar does, on your blood glucose, and same for the calorie impact as well. So it's lower calorie, lower sugar, but it still can have some impact on your blood glucose and it can, in large amounts, cause some stomach upset, like cramps or diarrhea, so you want to be really careful when you see that on the packaging, because no added sugar and sugar free, it's technically true that there's no cane sugar or coconut sugar, or agave, or honey that was added, but it was this sugar alcohol, or even some artificial sugars could be added as well, and be called no added sugar or sugar free. Again, it's a true statement, technically, but you always want to read the label to make sure you know what you're getting. And it doesn't mean that sugar alcohols or artificial sugars are not, cannot be a part of your diet, but you just want to know what you're getting. So, it brings me to another point too, that you can sometimes see no gluten or no refined starches, and no gluten doesn't mean carb free, it doesn't mean sugar free. It just means that it doesn't have any glutinous grains, which is wheat, rye and barley. But you can see that there's, the total amount of carbs, and there's even some sugar, just a little bit, in this case from the coconut aminos. But the key here is to read the label. Look at this nutrition label here, go directly to the total carbohydrate or the total sugars and here you can even see, you can have added sugars, instead of it coming naturally from the food, and you can read the ingredients label too. So, the first ingredient on the nutrition label is always the one that it has the most of. So, if the first ingredient is a sugar alcohol, then you know it's going to have a lot of sugar alcohol, even though it says it's sugar free. So, I hope that helps. I have a link here for you, for you to read in some more detail about what these different claims mean. And I hope that this makes it a little bit easier when you go to the grocery store next.

Scott K. Johnson - All right. Hi Molly, great to have you again. Now, diabetes is all about blood sugar and for whatever reasons, there's all these complicated reasons about why we look at blood sugar, but at the end of the day it's what we're measuring, and what we're concerned about. So, what is blood sugar?

Molly Wagman - Yeah, it's a great question, and often that's the first thing that your doctor talks to you about. You have blood sugar or your blood sugar is high, blood sugar may be elevated, your blood sugar is off, we're going to look at your blood sugar. So, it's good to know what that actually means, and blood sugar is also the same as sugar level or blood glucose. Those all mean the exact same thing. So, blood glucose or blood sugar is the amount of sugar in your blood. So, glucose is another name for sugar. And really, sugar is kind of an overarching term for different types of sugars, and glucose is the name for the most simple one that our body loves to use for energy. These glucose molecules come from the foods we eat, so our digestion breaks down different foods and turns it into glucose, to be used for energy. And our cells, especially our brain, really love glucose for energy.

Scott K. Johnson - And it's normal to have a certain amount or some sugar in our blood, right?

Molly Wagman- Yeah, you absolutely need some sugar in your blood, because it's feeding all of your organs, and again, especially your brain and your heart, all these big muscle groups, they love glucose. They eat it right up, so if you had no glucose in your blood, then these would cease to operate. So, you really want to remember that we want some sugar in our blood, but there is kind of a fine balance of where we want that to be, to feel our best and to nourish our body the best.

Scott K. Johnson - And that's really where diabetes comes into play, both, well, all types of diabetes is some irregularity in blood sugar management. Our body's natural blood sugar management systems are not functioning for whatever reason, and we will, we've got other videos or other topics that will dive into that a bit. But, at the most basic level, how do you know what your blood sugar level is?

Molly Wagman - Right, you have to check it. So there's a couple ways that you can check your blood glucose, and it really is directly from your blood. So, your doctor can order a lab test, that can be done in a lab, through a vein draw, just like you would get other lab values done, or you can do a finger stick, just like you may have seen through blood glucose monitoring. So, with your blood glucose, you just do a little finger poke, get a little bit of blood out, and you get your reading in five seconds. And that's what most people with diabetes do at home everyday.

Scott K. Johnson - And why is it important to monitor our blood sugar levels? Why do we need to keep track of it and check as often as we might check our blood sugars?

Molly Wagman - Yeah, and again, like you had mentioned, it's important to have a, to find the balance of what's going to be healthiest for you, and talking to your doctor to see what glucose target ranges you're looking at, 'cause again, it's not just one blood sugar that's a good sugar. And we don't like the term good blood sugar, it just is a blood sugar, and it's important to know it and to be monitoring, because you may not always know how you're feeling. You may not always feel the symptoms of a blood sugar above the target range or below, and the only way then to know is to check. And the best way to find if your treatment plan is working for you, or how different foods or activity affects your blood glucose, the only way to know that is to check.

Scott K. Johnson - And blood sugars can and do change from time to time, right, so depending on, as you just mentioned, activities, foods, medications, stresses, sicknesses, a number of different factors, blood sugars can and do change, and you have to check to know whether what you're doing is working or if you need more guidance and care from your care team. So, yeah, it's important to know.

Molly Wagman - Exactly.

Scott K. Johnson - Wonderful.

Molly Wagman - Because it's so individualized, there are some guidelines out there from the American Diabetes Association, and that would be you want to see the readings 80 to 130, fasting and before your meals, and less than 180, one to two hours after the meal. That's the typical guidelines, but your doctor may give you different types of guidelines, and that's okay too. So definitely talk with your doctor to see what the best target range is for you.

Scott K. Johnson - Great. Thank you, Molly. That's a wonderful summary of what blood sugar is all about.

Molly Wagman - Thanks, Scott.

Scott K. Johnson - All right. I hope that was helpful. If you have additional questions or want us to dive deeper, go ahead and leave us some questions. We're always happy to follow up, and address them in an upcoming episode. I hope you'll come back on Friday, when Maggie and Kristen talk us through a few examples of spotting added sugar in your foods labeling and nutrition facts, which is a topic that we talked about earlier in the week, so it's great to follow up on that and get some real life examples on that. Until then, stay well, and we will see you next time. Bye.


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