In order to understand blood sugar problems, we need to review what a hormone is. Hormones are proteins released from parts of the body called glands. They help to send messages from one place in the body to parts that are farther away. Insulin is a hormone that tells the body to store the energy we get from the food we eat. Insulin is made in your pancreas, a small organ located just below your stomach. Insulin levels go up in response to the different types of sugar eaten in your diet. Rising insulin levels allow sugar to be saved as energy to be used later. Let’s take a train ride to try to understand things better. ALL ABOARD! Think of the PANCREAS as if it were a STEAM ENGINE on an old-fashioned train, heading out for a ride through the mountainside. INSULIN is the SMOKE that the train engine produces as it chugs along on its journey. Passing through the valley, the train glides along its track. The steam engine works effortlessly, and continuously produces SMALL puffs of SMOKE. When it travels up a hill, the smoke increases, but only by a small amount and for a short period of time This represents the normal everyday function of the pancreas. When the pancreas is not overworked, it churns out small amounts of insulin. A small hill represents a meal that results in insulin levels going up temporarily. When the train begins traveling up a very steep mountain, the engine kicks into gear. As the train climbs, the engine burns more fuel, and the SMOKE output begins to rise. Initially, the speed of the train does not change and the passengers are not aware of the effort required from the engine. This steep mountain represents pre-diabetes! As a person eats more than what is needed, the pancreas has to work over-time and churn out more insulin. The individual does NOT FEEL the stress placed on the pancreas. If the train has to continue up the mountain for a long period of time, the engine will start to burn out and the train will slow, decreasing the smoke produced. Similar to the over-worked engine, the pancreas can begin to tire out as well. In diabetes mellitus, sugar in the blood is high for several reasons. The pancreas cannot produce enough insulin because it is over-worked. Also, weight gain contributes causing the insulin you have to not work as well. The end result is that sugar from the diet builds up in the blood. Adding exercise to your schedule and eating less sugar in your diet can decrease the stress on your pancreas and improve blood sugar levels.