Is Insulin the Right Choice?
Insulin is a natural hormone produced by our bodies in order to regulate many of our metabolic processes including the allowing of glucose to enter our red blood cells. When we stop making insulin for whatever reason, it’s time to start replacing it exogenously.
Many persons with type 2 diabetes are especially afraid of going on insulin because of many different misconceptions and myths that they might have or believe, and unnecessarily risk their health by attempting to delay their need for insulin. But when it’s time to consider insulin, we should not be afraid and, instead, seek answers from our diabetes specialist.
Here are some things to know and keep in mind when considering insulin:
– Insulin is not addictive: A healthy body naturally produces insulin constantly, so having to inject it frequently might give the impression one is ‘addicted.’ Similarly, it is not injecting insulin that makes the pancreas stop making insulin – but it simply means that type 2 diabetes has progressed and that the pancreas has stopped producing enough insulin so that one needs to replace that insulin externally. Without insulin, our bodies simply cannot process the foods that we eat into energy – our brains and our muscles would starve – and we would die.
– Insulin does not cause weight gain: It isn’t insulin’s job to magically make us gain weight, on its own. While there is some initial weight gain with insulin, it usually stems from the fact that our bodies are now able to actually use energy from the food we eat, and therefore, get properly fed. It then becomes paramount to have a well balanced diet in which we manage our carbohydrate intake, in the same way that a normal person with a functioning pancreas would have to manage their diet. Simply put, insulin is not a license to return to our old habits. Consider speaking to a registered dietitian if this is a concern.
– Insulin does not cause complications: Keeping well controlled glucose levels means we can help keep complications at bay. However, sometimes, a person has gone so long without the proper treatment – or with uncontrolled blood glucose levels – that their going on insulin might coincide with their developing a complication. This does not mean insulin caused the complication. In fact, insulin helps give your pancreas a rest from needing to work hard at producing a hormone that it no longer can, and it helps keep your glucose levels steady so that you reduce your chances of getting any further complications. It is high blood glucose that causes complications.
– Injecting insulin does not have to be painful: These days, the needles in many syringes are so fine they rival the thinness of our lancing devices. There are many gauge levels for comfort, and injection techniques to minimize level of pain. There are even injecting devices to help us get the job done. Seek to speak to a Certified Diabetes Educator, or CDE, if you have questions or fear of injecting.
– Insulin does not have to be feared: While it is true, that there is a higher risk of hypoglycemia with insulin, we can help manage this risk with a proper diet, and being educated on the proper signs of hypoglycemia and how to treat it. This risk is minimal compared to the dangers of having chronic, high blood sugars, which can lead to blindness, kidney failure, heart disease, amputations, and death. Again, seek to speak to a Certified Diabetes Educator and ask to be properly trained on taking insulin, and managing potential hypoglycemia.
Making new changes to our diabetes regimen can be scary, especially if they might mean more pain, or if we’re constantly reading of side effects, or listening to rumors and misconceptions. While we might get the idea that we should fight to ‘get off all medications,’ this is not always possible, and it is not necessarily the best approach. What we need to ‘fear’ are the complications of high blood sugar, not oral agents, and not injecting insulin. Medications are there to help us – not harm us.