Understanding The Role of Insulin in Your Body

May 01, 2023
Understanding The Role of Insulin in Your Body
Your pancreas produces insulin. This important hormone plays a key role in several body processes, including controlling your blood sugar. Keep reading to better understand this critical hormone and its function in your body.

Your pancreas, an organ located behind your stomach, makes insulin. This important hormone travels throughout your body and plays a key role in several body functions, including controlling your blood sugar.

When your body doesn’t make insulin or can’t use it effectively, you can develop serious health conditions, like type 1 or type 2 diabetes. At a dozen locations across Pennsylvania, the medical medical providers at Rural Health Corporation of Northeastern Pennsylvania offer personalized care to men, women, and children who are coping with diabetes.

Let’s take a closer look at the role of insulin in your body, and how we can help manage insulin-related issues, like diabetes. 

What does insulin do?

Your pancreas produces insulin, a hormone that works like a chemical messenger telling your body to carry out certain activities. Released by the pancreas each time you eat, it’s sent into your bloodstream so it can move around your body.

The biggest role insulin plays is helping regulate your blood sugar levels by bringing glucose (sugar) to your muscles to be burned as fuel, or to your liver to be stored as fat to be converted into energy later. 

Insulin also has other roles in your body, including:

  • Breaking down lipids and proteins into fat cells
  • Aiding in the synthesis of fat cells
  • Learning and memory in the brain
  • Building muscle cells after injury or illness
  • Modifying enzyme activity

This hormone also plays a role in regulating the uptake of potassium and amino acids, essential substances your body needs to live and thrive. 

How is insulin related to diabetes?

To function, your body needs fuel. When you eat and drink things that have simple or complex carbohydrates, your body breaks down these substances and converts them into glucose, which your muscles can burn. 

The glucose moves through your bloodstream so it can be used all over your body. By making insulin, your pancreas manages how much gets used by muscles, how much gets stored as fat in your liver for later use, and how much stays in your blood as blood sugar.

Sometimes, your body stops being able to make insulin because of a genetic condition or a problem that damages your pancreas. When this happens, you develop type 1 diabetes or type 3c diabetes. You will need to take insulin in order to live if this happens. 

Most people, however, develop a different kind of diabetes, called type 2 diabetes. With this condition, your body still makes insulin, but it stops being able to use it effectively. 

Consuming more “fuel” than you burn is one of the biggest risk factors for the disease. If you eat more than you should and don’t exercise away the calories, your body stores the extra glucose as fat in your liver. 

Over time, your liver fills with this “stored energy,” and it can’t fit any additional glucose in the liver cells. As a result, the glucose stays in your bloodstream, elevating your blood sugar levels. 

This sends a signal to the other cells in your body that you have enough glucose. This leads to a condition called insulin resistance, since the cells resist using the blood glucose for energy.

When your pancreas detects high levels of blood glucose, it pumps out even more insulin. But the insulin can’t get used, so your blood sugar levels stay high. Over time, your pancreas gets overworked and starts making less and less of this hormone. At this point, prediabetes — the reversible precursor stage for type 2 diabetes — has set in.

Without prompt diagnosis and proper care, prediabetes develops into type 2 diabetes, which increases your risk of many serious health complications — including death. The good news is that with proper management, you can reduce your risk and even reverse the condition. 

What is diabetes management?

If you have diabetes or a condition that increases your risk of developing the disease, like insulin resistance or prediabetes, it’s important to seek medical care from a team that specializes in diabetes management. 

A good diabetes management plan factors in monitoring and making changes in essential areas related to your health. Your Rural Health Corporation of Northeastern Pennsylvania provider works with you to make personalized diabetes treatment recommendations, which may include:

  • Regular “ABC” (A1C and blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol) monitoring, including continuous glucose monitoring
  • Nutrition and diet counseling
  • Lifestyle changes (i.e., weight loss, exercise, smoking cessation)
  • Medications and medication management, such as an insulin pump

For more information or for help managing diabetes, schedule an appointment online or over the phone at your nearest Rural Health Corporation of Northeastern Pennsylvania center in Nuremberg, Freeland, Falls, Hazleton, LaPorte, Wilkes Barre, Noxen, Shickshinny, and Edwardsville.

No car? No problem! Ask about our van transportation services, which take you from your home to our center. We also accept all forms of health insurance and offer a sliding fee schedule for those who qualify.