Insulin: you’ve heard of it and may know someone who needs to inject it to survive. But what exactly IS insulin, and why does it sometimes cause us trouble?
This small but mighty hormone is produced by cells in the pancreas, and helps our bodies regulate the metabolism of sugar (glucose) from carbohydrates. Our bodies need a certain amount of sugar for energy, but too much (hyperglycemia) or too little sugar (hypoglycemia) can cause a wide range of problems. When the pancreas senses sugar in the bloodstream, its beta cells create an army of insulin. The insulin brings the glucose molecules to muscle, fat and liver cells for either immediate energy use or for storage for times when blood sugar may be running low. Insulin also assists with the absorption of amino acids and fatty acids.
In an ideal situation, the pancreas is constantly monitoring blood sugar and adjusting the amount of insulin being released. Sometimes, however, problems can occur, including diabetes:
Type 1 Diabetes: Your body doesn’t make enough insulin. Not enough insulin means that the sugar in the bloodstream isn’t getting absorbed, so your body starts depleting fat and protein storage for energy. It can trigger a life-threatening condition called diabetic ketoacidosis, among other problems. People with Type 1 diabetes have to take insulin either through injections or a pump.
Type 2 Diabetes: Your body’s cells are resistant to insulin and won’t recognize the signal to absorb glucose. This triggers a dangerous cycle- the body thinks it needs to create MORE insulin to absorb the glucose still floating in the bloodstream, and the pancreatic cells go into overtime, eventually wearing themselves out.
Both types of diabetes can be managed by working with your medical team, carefully monitoring your nutrition, and maintaining an overall healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately, Type 2 (often called “adult onset diabetes) is often a result of lifestyle choices, so prevention is key.
Here are some key steps to managing and preventing insulin complications:
- Stay up to date on your annual physicals. And be sure to get your bloodwork done when the doctor says to./li>
- Exercise regularly. The National Institute of Diabetes recommends at least 30 minutes of activity 5 times a week. If you haven’t been maintaining an active lifestyle, talk with the coaches at Veritas about a program customized to you.
- Mindful, healthy eating is key. Smaller portions, healthy choices, and an increase in water are all important to maintaining a balanced diet.