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Everything You Need to Know About Insulin

Ayurved, India’s holistic, integrated, physiotherapeutic medical system is based upon the universal natural law of balancing the five elements (ether, air, fire, water and earth) that make up the physical body.  Hakim’s Green Life, When one or more of these elements go out of balance because of improper diet and life style, various diseases and mental disturbances can manifest

Insulin is a crucial hormone for regulating blood sugar levels and ensuring the body’s cells receive energy. Here is a comprehensive guide to understanding insulin:

What is Insulin?
Insulin is a peptide hormone produced by the beta cells of the pancreas. It plays a central role in carbohydrate, fat, and protein metabolism by promoting the absorption of glucose from the blood into liver, fat, and skeletal muscle cells.

Functions of Insulin
1. Regulates Blood Sugar Levels:

  • Lowers blood glucose levels by facilitating cellular uptake of glucose.
  • Stimulates the liver to store glucose as glycogen.

2. Promotes Anabolism:

  • Enhances the synthesis of proteins, fats, and glycogen.
  • Inhibits the breakdown of fat and muscle tissue.

3. Cellular Uptake:

  • Facilitates the uptake of glucose into cells for energy production.
  • Promotes potassium uptake into cells, which is crucial for cellular functions.

How Insulin Works

When you eat, carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, which enters the bloodstream. In response to rising glucose levels, the pancreas releases insulin. Insulin binds to receptors on cell surfaces, signaling the cells to take in glucose. The liver also stores glucose as glycogen under the influence of insulin, to be released later when blood sugar levels are low.

Types of Insulin

1. Rapid-Acting Insulin: Begins to work within 15 minutes and lasts for 2-4 hours.

  • Examples: Insulin lispro (Humalog), insulin aspart (NovoLog).

2. Short-Acting Insulin: Takes effect within 30 minutes and lasts 3-6 hours.

  • Example: Regular insulin (Humulin R, Novolin R).

3. Intermediate-Acting Insulin: Starts working within 2-4 hours and lasts up to 18 hours.

  • Example: NPH insulin (Humulin N, Novolin N).

4. Long-Acting Insulin: Takes effect after several hours and works for 24 hours or more.

  • Examples: Insulin glargine (Lantus), insulin detemir (Levemir).

5. Ultra-Long-Acting Insulin: Lasts for more than 24 hours.

  • Example: Insulin degludec (Tresiba).

Medical Uses of Insulin
Diabetes Management:

  • Type 1 Diabetes: The body does not produce insulin, so daily administration is essential.
  • Type 2 Diabetes: The body does not use insulin properly (insulin resistance) and may not produce enough insulin. Insulin therapy may be needed if other medications do not control blood sugar.

Administration of Insulin
Insulin can be administered through various methods:

1. Syringes: Traditional method involving drawing insulin from a vial and injecting it.
2. Insulin Pens: Pre-filled or refillable pens that are easier to use than syringes.
3. Insulin Pumps: Devices that deliver a continuous subcutaneous insulin infusion.
4. Inhalable Insulin: A newer method where insulin is inhaled through the lungs (e.g., Afrezza).

Side Effects and Complications

  • Hypoglycemia: Too much insulin can cause blood sugar levels to drop too low, leading to dizziness, confusion, and in severe cases, loss of consciousness.
  • Weight Gain: Insulin can promote fat storage.
  • Injection Site Reactions: Redness, swelling, or pain at the injection site.
  • Allergic Reactions: Rare, but possible.

Monitoring and Adjustments
Patients using insulin need regular blood sugar monitoring to ensure proper dosing. This can involve:

  • Fingerstick Blood Tests: Using a glucometer. 
  • Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM): Devices that provide real-time glucose readings.

Advances in Insulin Therapy
Recent advancements include:

  • Smart Insulin Pens: Devices that track dosing and timing to help manage insulin therapy more effectively. 
  • Artificial Pancreas Systems: Closed-loop systems that automate insulin delivery based on glucose levels.
  • New Formulations: Development of faster-acting insulins and combinations with other diabetes medications.

Hakim’s Green Life

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