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National Diabetes Month Part 3

Monday, November 23, 2015

Welcome to week three of National Diabetes Month.  During this month we are looking at some of the myths surrounding this condition.  Week one was myths about the condition in general, week two was myths about food and this week, myths surrounding some of the treatment options available for diabetes.

Myth #1:  Diabetes pills are oral insulin.

Reality:  Insulin does not come in pill form because it is a protein and the body starts to break down protein as soon as it is consumed and that would destroy the insulin before it could get into the blood stream.  There are many types of insulin, some fast acting, some long acting and all available by injection or insulin pump with one new option available by inhalation.  There are a number of different categories of pills for diabetes; some help the body use insulin better, some help the body produce more insulin, some help the body excrete additional glucose and some slow down the amount of glucose produced by the liver.  

Myth #2:  If I need to go on insulin, I have failed and my diabetes is in its final stage.

Reality:  Diabetes is a chronic and progressive condition that affects the beta cells, those cells that make up 1% of the pancreas and produce insulin. The need to start insulin indicates the progressive nature of the condition, the beta cells are no longer able to produce any or enough insulin to maintain a normal blood sugar reading.

Myth #3:  The more insulin I’m on, the worse my diabetes must be.

Reality:  The amount of insulin any one person is on is very unique to that individual and directly relates to the body’s ability to move glucose from the blood into the cells.

Myth #4:  Once started on insulin, I will never be able to stop.

Reality:  This myth has some truth to it and it depends on the individual and why the insulin is being started.  There are certain medications that increase blood sugar beyond that which the body can handle.  In this case insulin may only be needed for the duration of the medication. Similarly, surgery and pregnancy can both place extra stress on the body and the resulting high blood sugars need to be managed with insulin for a period of time.  If the insulin is being started because blood sugars have not responded to oral medications, then thank goodness it is available!  Just read some of the reports about those individuals with diabetes before insulin was discovered.

Myth #5:  Insulin causes weight gain.

Reality:  When there is a lot of sugar in the blood, the kidneys work to eliminate the excess in urine (not good for the kidneys), but also, these are calories not going to the cells.  You may hear of someone eating lots and still losing weight.  Once insulin is started, glucose is no longer eliminated and is moved into the cells for energy. This means the person retains the previously lost sugar or calories.  If the individual was eating large amounts of food and continues, they will gain weight.  If the diet is high in fat, the person will gain weight, if the person is not exercising, they will gain weight. If the amount of insulin taken is not matched to the amount of food being consumed and the person takes too much insulin, the resulting low blood sugar will have the person eating more food than planned and over time it will contribute to weight gain.  I hope you have gotten the message here. Yes, insulin moves glucose into cells, but there is more to the weight gain story than just insulin.  

When was the last time you updated your diabetes education and learned about some of the new treatment options, such as carbohydrate counting?  Maybe it’s time.

Nancy M. Johnsen RN, CDE is a Certified Diabetes Educator and Community Health Education Coordinator and Coordinator of the Diabetes Education Program at Noyes Health.  The program has locations in Geneseo, Dansville, Hornell and some local physician offices.

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