So, what are carbohydrates? Well, chemically they contain carbon, and the same hydrogen and oxygen mixture as water. There are two types of carbohydrates, simple and complex. Carbohydrates provide the body with energy and can effect many areas of the body such as digestion, blood glucose levels, weight gain or loss, and GI function and health. As well as causing several health issues such as lactose intolerance, diabetes, and hypoglycemia.
Simple carbohydrates are divided into monosaccharides which are single sugar molecules, and disaccharides which are two sugar molecules. Three common monosaccharides are glucose, fructose and galactose. Three common disacchardies are maltose, sucrose and lactose.
Complex carbohydrates consist of starches and fiber. They are simply chains of monosaccharides, short chains are known as oligosaccharides and longer chains are called polysaccharides.
Sugars and starches are broken down into monosaccharides. Maltose is broken down into two glucose, sucrose into glucose and frutose, and lactose into glucose and galactose. The liver changes fructose and galactose into either energy or more glucose which is then stored or transported to other parts of the body.
Carbohydrates are mainly used for energy, but can help with weight management, blood glucose levels and improves gastrointestinal or GI function. Some complex carbohyrdates such as fiber can not be digested by the body and help you feel fuller longer and help clean out your intestines as they travel through your body.
Include more healthy choices of carbohydrates in your diet. Instead of white bread, chose whole wheat bread to get your whole grains. Add more fruits such as oranges or apples rather than juice. And, of course, more vegetables, such as broccoli or carrots.
Some carbohydrate related disorders are Lactose intolerance, diabetes and hypoglycemia.
You need the enzyme lactase to breakdown lactose, this enzyme disappears with age. When a body no longer can produce lactase it becomes lactose intolerant, or can not breakdown lactose. The intestinal bacteria then metabolizes undigested lactose and turns it into acid and gas which can cause abdominal distention, gas, cramping and diarrhea. This disorder can be managed with lactase tablets consumed before drinking milk, or you can get your calcium from calcium fortified foods or supplements.
When glucose levels in the blood are not decreasing and remains high, due to lack of insulin or unresponsive cells to insulin, this can lead to diabetes. There are three types of diabetes, type 1, type 2 and gestational. Gestational diabetes occurs only during pregnancy, type 1 is an automimmune disease in which the immune system destroys insulin making cells, and type 2 comes from a decrease in the sensitivity of cells to insulin. Diabetes can damage the heart, blood vessels, kidneys, eyes and the nerves. It can also lead to lower extremity amputation in later life. First line of defense against diabetes is diet. A modified diet that lowers glucose intake can help manage blood glucose levels. Second is exercise, with proper exercise a body can regulate how much glucose is made and absorbed into the blood system. The third is through medication to control insulin levels in the blood.
When blood glucose levels are too low it is known as hypoglycemia. This can occur in individuals with diabetes or without. There are two types of hypoglycemia, reactive, which occurs in response to consumption of high carbohydrate foods, and fasting which generally occurs from pancreatic tumors. Symptoms which signify hypoglycemia reactions are irritability, shakiness, anxiety, hunger, weakness, sweating, nervousness and sometimes seizures and coma. The only treatment for hypoglycemia is diet.
In summary, carbohydrates can be good for you and bad for you. Learning the difference between simple and complex carbohydrate sources and proper consumption can lengthen your life and control your blood glucose levels. Proper diet and exercise are keys to correct carbohydrate consumption.
SCI241Susan EldridgeSheila Jones
SummaryReferences – all information taken from weekly reading source chapter four.