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What Is Insulin and Why Does It Matter?

Unless you’re a doctor, you probably don’t know too much about insulin. Maybe you’ve heard about it on commercials for medications or have seen pamphlets about it at the doctor’s office. However, insulin is a very important component of our bodies and you don’t have to be a doctor to learn about it! In fact, it’s probably a good idea for everyone to have a basic understanding of what insulin is and why it matters in our body so that you can be on the lookout for signs that something might not be right in this area. So here is a guide on everything you need to know about insulin: 

What Is Insulin?

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that helps to control your blood sugar. We all consume sugars every day as part of a regular diet, and our body needs them to energize our cells to give us enough energy to function normally. However, our cells cannot directly convert sugar (glucose) to energy on their own – they require the assistance of insulin. In order to properly absorb glucose, insulin attaches to cells and signals them to absorb the existing glucose in the bloodstream from the food you just consumed. If the cells in your bloodstream already have enough glucose, insulin then directs this extra sugar to your liver and other areas so that it can be released when needed.

Why Is Insulin Important?

Insulin is important because it basically regulates one of the body’s most basic functions – energy production. When you don’t have enough energy, you literally cannot complete basic tasks. If your body becomes starved of energy, it tries to find it elsewhere which can cause a chain reaction that can cause a ton of damage to a variety of different systems within your body. In order to keep your body healthy and functioning properly, your body needs to produce the right amount of insulin and use it properly.

What Are Insulin Diseases?

That being said, some people are unable to produce the right amounts of insulin naturally. When your blood sugar is too low, this is called hypoglycemia. When your blood sugar is too high, this is called hyperglycemia. Both hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia can be severe consequences of a few different insulin-related diseases. 

Here are some of the most common diseases that can affect your body’s production of or reaction to insulin:

  • Diabetes: There are two different types of diabetes.
    • Type 1 diabetes is caused by an auto-immune response wherein the body’s immune cells mistakenly attack the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas thinking that they are foreign invaders. This creates an absolute insulin deficiency within the body and can cause hyperglycemia if not treated with insulin supplements.
    • Type 2 diabetes relates to insulin resistance that develops and worsens over time. People with type 2 diabetes still produce insulin but their bodies aren’t able to use it properly which can lead to a relative insulin deficiency and hyperglycemia. Type 2 diabetes can be caused by obesity, poor diet, lack of exercise, and genetics.
  • Insulinoma: Insulinoma is a tumor of the pancreas that makes extra amounts of insulin that the body is unable to utilize – resulting in hypoglycemia. These tumors are relatively rare, are usually non-cancerous, and can be removed in order to solve frequent hypoglycemia.
  • Metabolic syndrome: Metabolic syndrome is a combination of different conditions that can be detrimental to your circulatory system as well as other parts of the body. Insulin resistance and hyperglycemia are components of this syndrome along with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high amounts of fat on the body.
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): Insulin resistance is also tied to PCOS, which is a hormonal disorder in women where a woman is unable to release eggs regularly due to excess androgen levels. PCOS can cause weight gain, excess hair growth, acne, and even type 2 diabetes.

How to Use Insulin?

If your body is unable to make the right amounts of insulin on its own, then you may need to supplement with man-made insulin. There are several different types of insulin that include rapid-acting insulin, short-acting insulin, intermediate-acting insulin, and long-acting insulin. There are also several different ways to administer insulin that include insulin pen needles, insulin cartridges, or a classic syringe and needle. The best place to administer insulin is in your abdominal area, followed by your arms, thighs, and bottom. 

Hopefully, by now you are more aware of the importance of insulin. If you believe that your body is having trouble producing the right amount of insulin, you may need to speak with your doctor and get some tests done. Thankfully, you are able to treat insulin-related disorders by carefully monitoring your insulin levels and supplementing them with man-made insulin when needed.

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