Not everyone is aware of the primary function of the pancreas, but what this often overlooked organ does is produce one of the most important hormones needed for the well-being of our body: Insulin.
The insulin hormone produced by the pancreas helps in maintaining normal blood glucose level. Glucose is produced by the body after the consumption of carbohydrates, and the presence of insulin allows the body to store this glucose or use it as energy. Insulin is the main hormone that keeps a perfect balance of glucose in your body, because without it your glucose levels will be high.
Glucose or sugar is the substance that provides our cells, and subsequently our body, with energy. However, our cells cannot directly absorb sugar directly. This is where the role of insulin comes into play. After every meal, there is a rise in the body’s blood sugar level and this spike is what signals the pancreas to release insulin. The insulin helps the individual cells in absorbing the glucose, and using it for energy. Due to a change in our activities or the amount and type of food we consume there are those times when the sugar levels in our bodies are high, and other times when the sugar levels are low. In both these cases, it is insulin that helps bringing about a balance in our body’s sugar levels. Whenever there is an excess of glucose in the body, the insulin helps in storing the excess sugar in the liver in order to be used when the body’s sugar levels fall.
When the pancreas fail to produce enough insulin, or if your cells become resistant to the effects of insulin, it causes the onset of long term chronic illnesses, the most common of which is diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes is a condition wherein people with this disorder cannot produce insulin at all, because the insulin producing beta cells in their pancreas are either damaged or destroyed. In order for these people to manage their condition, they need to take regular doses of insulin so that their bodies do not reach a stage of hyperglycemia.
In the case of Type 2 diabetes, although the pancreas do produce insulin, the body’s cells become “insulin resistant”, i.e. the cells do not respond well to the body’s natural insulin. Unlike type 1 diabetes, however, type 2 patients can be treated with a combination of oral medication, exercise, and diet. But if the condition is left unchecked over a long period of time, then type 2 patients will also eventually require insulin to manage their condition.
In order to treat diabetes ,insulin is administered in 4 common forms:
- Rapid acting insulin: Is usually taken before a meal, and as a supplement to long acting insulin. The effects of this type of insulin last between two to four hours.
- Short acting insulin: This form of insulin too is taken before meal, and continues to work between three and six hours.
- Intermediate acting insulin: This type of insulin is taken usually twice a day, and lasts between twelve to eighteen hours.
- Long acting insulin: As the name suggests, this form of insulin lasts the longest for around twenty four hours.
The aforementioned forms of insulin can be administered using a syringe, an injection pen, or an insulin pump. The use of any of the three methods is dependent on the patient, and the severity of their condition.
Insulin is one of, if not the most effective ways for patient’s to manage diabetes, and its efficacy and safety is such that it can be used by both children and pregnant women alike. Having the knowledge about insulin and being regular in its usage is one of the most important factors in helping a patient managing their diabetes well.