Insulin is a hormone produced by cells on the pancreas, an organ that sits just behind your stomach. Insulin works like a chemical key to open pores in the cell membrane. All cells in your body have a covering that holds them together, but because cells are alive, nutrients must be allowed to pass through this covering and move into the cell. It’s the job of insulin to open this “door” so that foods you eat can pass from the blood into the cell and be burned for energy or used for growth and repair.

Insulin, the key to the door, is normally released by the pancreas every time blood sugars begin to rise. The more sugar in the blood the more insulin has to be produced so you can properly absorb those sugars. Diabetes occurs when a person is no longer able to produce enough insulin or the insulin that is produced is ineffective in keeping blood sugars under control. In other words the body is either missing the key (type-1) or because of insulin resistance the key simply doesn’t work very well any more (type-2).

When you have diabetes, sugars are trapped in the blood in high amounts. Your cells can't absorb sugar properly, and that’s why you may feel hungry and lack energy much of the time. Your body cells are crying out for nourishment despite having sugar all around them. It’s easy for a person with type-2 diabetes to overeat in response to these “hunger feelings” and gain weight. This weight gain, especially when the weight is held in the belly area, actually predisposes a person to type-2 diabetes and makes it harder to control once you have it because it increases insulin resistance. This inability to use insulin properly causes the pancreas to work harder and tire sooner. Lowering insulin resistance, thereby reducing the strain on the pancreas, is one key to successful diabetes management.

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Emily Coles
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