Insulin and how it works

Type 1 diabetes, as mentioned in my previous blog, is when the body fails to produce any insulin. So what is insulin and what effect does it have on the body?

Insulin is a hormone produced by the beta cells in the pancreas, it’s needed to transfer glucose from the bloodstream into the body cells. The best way it was described to me was that insulin is like a taxi, it picks up glucose and delivers it to the muscles that need energy. Glucose typically comes from carbohydrate rich foods like pasta, rice, bread etc. and is then broken down to provide energy for muscles. So without inulin, glucose is not converted into energy and will build up in the body, which causes blood glucose levels to rise above optimal levels, which causes log-term damage if not monitored. The body then resorts to breaking down the muscle to try to source energy.

Moral of the story? Insulin is incredibly important.

Currently I’m on 2 types of insulin, my short-acting Novorapid which I take before every meal to ensure that the food I intake is being broken down and converted to energy.

I’m also on long-acting Lantus, which I take every 24 hours. Long-term insulin is a set dose, meaning I take the same amount every night. Glucose that is produced by the liver during fasting or between meals is kept under control using this insulin.

Short-acting insulin is adjustable, so I take more/less insulin depending on the meal I am having. If a meal is carb rich, I take more insulin, if I have a low-carb meal, I reduce insulin levels.

Indulgences: Something sugar and carb heavy like this requires more of my short-acting insulin.

Sounds simple right? Well unfortunately it’s not! Taking the right amount of insulin is tricky, but can be managed using techniques such as carb counting. Take too much insulin and you’re liable to experience a “hypo”, when bloods go below optimal levels. Take too little insulin and you experience a “hyper” when bloods go too high (I’ll explain both these terms in detail in my next post!).

There’s nothing I love more than a challenge, and that’s the way I look at diabetes and insulin. I challenge myself to get my insulin doses right so I won’t suffer from short and long-term health issues. I’ve read posts where people completely resent having type 1, there’s no point in “resenting” the illness, it will just lead to unhappiness and further health issues. Of course there are down days where I pray that I’ll wake up the next day and be cured, but realistically, while research is improving and cures are being tested, we’re stuck with it for now. Take it day by day, do what makes you happy and never let diabetes take over your everyday life.

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