Glucagon is a hormone that your pancreas makes to help regulate your blood glucose (sugar) levels. Glucagon increases your blood sugar level and prevents it from dropping too low, whereas insulin, another hormone, decreases blood sugar levels.
What is Glucagon?
Glucagon is a natural hormone your body makes that works with other hormones and bodily functions to control glucose (sugar) levels in your blood.
Glucagon prevents your blood sugar from dropping too low.
The alpha cells in your pancreas make glucagon and release it in response to a drop in blood sugar, prolonged fasting, exercise and protein-rich meals.
Hormones are chemicals that coordinate different functions in your body by carrying messages through your blood to your organs, skin, muscles and other tissues.
These signals tell your body what to do and when to do it.
Your pancreas is a glandular organ in your abdomen that secretes several enzymes to aid in digestion and several hormones, including glucagon and insulin.
It’s surrounded by your stomach, intestines and other organs.
Glucose is the main sugar found in your blood.
You get glucose from carbohydrates in the food you eat.
This sugar is an important source of energy and provides nutrients to your body’s organs, muscles and nervous system.
Glucose is very important because it’s the primary source of energy for your brain.
What is the function of Glucagon?
Your body normally carefully regulates your blood glucose (sugar) primarily with the hormones glucagon and insulin.
When your blood glucose levels trend lower or fall too low (hypoglycemia), your pancreas releases more glucagon.
Glucagon helps blood glucose levels rise back up in multiple ways, including:
Glucagon triggers your liver to convert stored glucose (glycogen) into a usable form and then release it into your bloodstream.
This process is called glycogenolysis.
Glucagon can also prevent your liver from taking in and storing glucose so that more glucose stays in your blood.
Glucagon helps your body make glucose from other sources, such as amino acids.
What tests can check Glucagon levels?
Healthcare providers don’t typically order glucagon level tests for people with diabetes, but they may order the test to help diagnose some rare endocrine conditions.
Your provider may order a glucagon blood test to measure your glucagon levels if you’re having certain symptoms.
During the test, a provider will draw a blood sample from your vein using a needle.
They will then send it to a lab for testing.
What are normal Glucagon levels?
Normal glucagon value ranges can vary from lab to lab and depending on the duration of fasting and blood glucose level(s).
Always compare your results to the reference range given on your blood lab report, and talk to your healthcare provider if you have questions.
In general, the normal range of glucagon levels in your blood is 50 to 100 picograms per milliliter (pg/mL).
A picogram is one-trillionth of a gram.