What is Insulin?
Before you were around someone with diabetes had you ever thought about your pancreas? Probably not. But once forced to understand glucose levels and insulin dosage you’re bound to really want to know what this organ was meant to do.
Essentially one of the core functions of the pancreas is to produce a protein hormone called insulin. The production of insulin occurs continuously but fluctuates based on how many carbohydrates you are consuming.
As you eat carbohydrates they change into glucose and travel around your body. The pancreas then kicks into action and produces just the right amount of insulin to counterbalance the glucose (amazing!). As insulin is produced, it too travels around attaching to cell receptors throughout your body. When glucose passes by, these insulin-laden receptors enable the cells in your body to absorb the energy or calories associated with the glucose. The more glucose you have traveling around, the more insulin you need to absorb those calories.
Within the pancreas there are cells called beta cells that are responsible for creating your insulin. This is where things have gone terribly wrong with Type 1 diabetes. The beta cells have been destroyed and so the pancreas is no longer able to produce the insulin needed to help the body absorb glucose.
Without insulin in the body, a person can eat and eat but will eventually starve. The inability to absorb the energy associated glucose (because insulin is not there on your cells) means that your body will start to look elsewhere for energy. This is why extreme weight loss in a child is one of the warning signs of diabetes.
For those with Type 1 diabetes, because the pancreas is no longer able to produce insulin, they must provide their bodies with insulin by giving themselves injections or through a pump utilizing man-made insulin.
Though the onset of diabetes is devastating, it does help to remind us of the amazing complexity of the human body.