Insulin is a hormone made of protein; If one takes it as a tablet or a pill, the acid in the stomach would break it down during digestion, just like the acid breaks the protein in food.

How does Insulin work?

Insulin works like a key to unlock the door of the cells on one body to let blood sugar, or glucose in.  Once the cell door open, glucose is able to move from the blood into the cells.  And once inside the cells, the glucose is able to provide energy to the body.

Insulin as treatment for diabetes:

Injections of insulin can help treat both types of diabetes disease. In type 1 diabetes, people’s body can’t make insulin, or beta cells in the pancreas stop making insulin. This is because the immune system has destroyed all the insulin-producing cells in their pancreas. Therefore, people with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin to control blood sugar. In type 2 diabetes, many people find that as their beta cells stop working over time, they need to take insulin.

Different Types of Insulin:

There are many types of insulin, but each work at a different space to imitate the way the body ordinarily releases insulin. Each one of them also have a different: Onset of action (when they start to work), Time of peak action (when their effect on blood sugar is strongest), Duration of action (how long they work).

There are six main types of insulin available:

  1. Rapid-acting: These include Apidra, Humalog, and Novolog. They have an onset in less than 15 minutes, a peak in 30 to 90 minutes, and a duration of two to four hours. They are often used before a meal.
  2. Regular (short-acting): These include Humulin R and Novolin R. They have an onset of half an hour, a peak of two to three hours, and a duration of three to six hours.
  3. Intermediate-acting: These include Humulin N and Novolin N. They have an onset of two to four hours, and a peak at four to 12 hours, and a duration of 12 to 18 hours.
  4. Long-acting: These include Levemir and Lantus. They have an onset of several hours, minimal or no peak, and a duration of 24 hours or more. They are often called basal insulin.
  5. Ultra-long-acting: These include Toujeo. They have an onset of six hours, no peak, and a duration of 36 hours.
  6. Combinations/pre-mixed: These combine intermediate-acting insulins with regular insulin and are convenient for people who need to use both. These include mixtures of Humulin or Novolin, Novolog Mix, and Humalog Mix. See the chart for actions.
  7. Inhaled insulin: This became available in 2015 and is used in combination with long-acting insulin. Afrezza has an onset of 12 to 15 minutes, a peak of 30 minutes, and a duration of three hours.

Side Effects of Insulin:

Even though insulin is a hormone that the body makes naturally, it can cause side effects. Here are a few to be aware of: Weight gain, swelling, and itching at the site of injection. Changing to a different kind of insulin, and switching the site of injection may solve the problem.

Another side effect is hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). One can get low blood sugar if he or she takes too much insulin, doesn’t eat enough, or are more active than usual. When blood sugar is too low, one may feel weak or tired, dizzy or shaky, sweaty, confused, headache, sleepy, hungry, nervous or upset, and mood changes. However, some people may not have any signs of low blood sugar before they have a problem. This is one of the reasons that regular blood sugar checks are important.

Note: Our body’s needs for insulin goes up and down all day. Our need for insulin depends on what we are doing, and how much sugar we have in our blood. That is why anyone who takes insulin needs a personal insulin plan. The diabetes care team will take of these changes.

Remember: Ask your health care provider which insulin may be the best fit for you. Your doctor will make recommendations based on the type of diabetes you have, your health, and other factors. Your body is the Temple of God, please take good care of it.

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Dr. Jude Fabius Pharm.D
Dr. Jude Fabius Pharm.D

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