Insulin is one of many essential hormones that keeps your body functioning smoothly. More specifically, it plays an important role in blood sugar (glucose) control.
You’ve probably heard of insulin in association with diabetes, a condition that occurs when your body can’t make enough of the hormone or can’t use its insulin supply effectively. Many people with diabetes must take insulin as an injection or through a pump to control their blood sugar and avoid diabetic complications.
Almost 40% of adults in the United States are insulin resistant, which means their cells have trouble responding to insulin. As a result, the pancreas pumps out more of the hormone as your blood sugar rises. This sets the stage for prediabetes which may lead to Type 2 diabetes if you don’t make some necessary changes to your diet and habits.
Type 1 diabetes isn’t the same as insulin resistance, however. It’s an autoimmune condition that results in little to no insulin production in the first place.
Whether or not you’ve been told you have high blood sugar, learning about insulin’s role in your body is well worth your time. At his private practice on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, New York, Jeffrey H. Graf, MD, specializes in internal medicine and can screen you for insulin-associated conditions like diabetes. He can help you regulate your blood sugar if it’s high or prescribe insulin if you’re diabetic and need to supplement it.
So what exactly does insulin do and how does it relate to glucose? Here, we cover the basics of the critical role insulin plays in your metabolism.
Finding insulin at its source
Your pancreas, a gland behind your stomach, produces insulin. The gland also produces several digestive enzymes as well as a few hormones that participate in digestion and metabolism.
Insulin and blood sugar regulation
You can thank the hormone insulin for facilitating the transfer of glucose from your blood into your cells. Your cells use that glucose as a source of energy, allowing every organ and muscle in your body to function. Glucose comes from the foods you eat and from your body’s own stored supply, but without insulin, it’s essentially useless.
When you don’t have enough insulin or you’re insulin resistant, the glucose has nowhere to go. It builds up in your bloodstream to cause high blood sugar, which is the main cause of serious diabetes complications like vision loss, kidney failure, heart attacks, and neuropathy.
Low blood sugar caused by too much insulin is also potentially harmful, causing complications such as weakness, confusion, and seizures.
Other roles of insulin
While transferring glucose into your cells for use as energy is insulin’s main specialty, the hormone boasts other functions, too. It helps break down fats and proteins, further contributing to your body’s energy supply. Additionally, insulin plays a role in helping you rebuild muscle tissue after it dwindles with sickness or injury.
If you’d like to learn more about insulin, insulin resistance, and diabetes, book an appointment with us today. Call Jeffrey H. Graf, MD, for all of your internal medicine needs.