You’re probably aware that some people with diabetes need to take insulin shots. Why is this?

To best answer that question, it’s important to know exactly what insulin is, why it’s important, and how it is related to diabetes. 

Understanding the physiological link between insulin resistance, diabetes, and diabetes medications can help people take control of their health.  

The goal: To do everything possible to prevent disease or maintain optimal health and wellness after a diagnosis.  

What Is Insulin? Everything You Need to Know About Insulin

The definition of insulin is: A hormone that is made and released by the pancreas, a large gland that is situated behind the stomach. 

The body uses the sugars we eat as a form of energy. Our brain, in particular, needs healthy levels of glucose to function properly. 

Insulin converts dietary sugars into energy. In doing so, it helps balance our blood sugar levels, thereby preventing it from getting too high or too low (hyperglycemia and hyperglycemia).

Sugar cells cannot go into our cells without help. When we eat carbohydrates, the brain sends a signal to the pancreas to release insulin, which, in turn, absorbs the sugar and carries it through the cells. T

This hormone is commonly known as the key that unlocks our cells so that we can successfully convert sugar to energy. 

Unfortunately, some people develop resistance to insulin. What is insulin resistance and why do some people end up with it?

Why Some People Experience Insulin Resistance

People with insulin resistance don’t effectively absorb insulin and glucose. This is due to the fact that the muscles, liver, and fat cells of the body don’t respond like they should to the hormone.

What happens then is that the glucose can’t be carried into the cells and convert into energy. Instead, it builds up in the body, increasing the blood sugar levels. 

The pancreas doesn’t realize that the muscle, fat, and liver cells aren’t cooperating. All it knows is that the person has high blood sugar and the job of the pancreas in that situation is to release more insulin.

When the pancreas isn’t able to keep up with the demand, type 2 diabetes develops. 

Why aren’t the person’s cells responding properly to the hormone?

There are a number of factors at play here. These include: 

  • Heredity
  • Age
  • Ethnicity
  • Smoking
  • Excess body weight, especially belly fat
  • Lack of exercise
  • Lack of sleep. 

The interesting thing about these factors is that most of them relate to lifestyle choices. We can stop smoking, find ways to get adequate sleep, lose weight, exercise, and eat a balanced diet. In doing so, we reduce the risk factors, which means we’re less likely to develop the disease, even if our genes are against us.

How can you tell if you have insulin resistance?

You’ll start to experience the following: 

  • Weight gain, particularly in the belly area
  • High triglycerides
  • Low HDL cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood sugar levels.

How Diabetes Medications Can Help Patients Who Are Resistant to Insulin

One of the first lines of defense against insulin resistance is oral diabetes medications. How do these medications work?

The majority of diabetes medications on the market help the pancreas manufacture more insulin. The goal is to keep up with the demand of backed up glucose in the body. 

Strides are being made, though, to treat the actual cause of the problem: The insulin resistance.

These drugs (called TZDs) make the body more sensitive to insulin production and action. This means that the body is making better use of the hormone that’s already being produced, instead of adding more of the hormone. 

TZDs can be used in conjunction with insulin shots, or it can be used alone – as long as the body is producing the hormone.

But if the hormone is not present at all, these medications don’t work.

Talk to your doctor about which diabetes medications are best for your body’s unique needs. 

Don’t Depend Solely on Medications – How Lifestyle Plays a Role

Some patients with diabetes mellitus need diabetes medications, like insulin. But this doesn’t mean that the medications are going to cure their illness or even help them maintain optimal health. 

The purpose of medication is basically to reduce symptoms and prevent the disease from progressing if at all possible. This sounds good, but there’s so much more you can achieve with some lifestyle changes.

In fact, with tweaks to diet, exercise, and other wellness and self-care practices, you can live a happy, energetic life despite your condition. Most medications can’t do this. 

It makes sense, then, to add lifestyle adjustments to your personal wellness plan, in addition to medications. Doing this will give you the opportunity to life a happy, full, and hopefully symptom-free life.

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