Insulin Side Effects
Ish Sharma

December 13, 2019

Why is insulin used?

Diabetes slows insulin production by the pancreas and the use of the crucial hormone by the body. The condition causes high glucose levels.

However, not every individual with type 2 diabetes needs to take insulin. Individuals with type 1, on the other hand, will need to supplement their insulin supply for the remainder of their lives.

There are three major types of diabetes:

1. Type 1 diabetes typically begins in childhood when a person doesn't produce enough insulin. This autoimmune condition results in the body's immune system attacking the healthy pancreas.

2. Type 2 diabetes: typically develops at 45 years but can develop at any age. Either the pancreas doesn't produce enough insulin, or the body's cells become resistant to its actions.

3. Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy also makes it harder for a woman's body to respond to insulin. Typically ceases after childbirth but increases a female's risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are often lifelong problems. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that over 30 million people in the USA have diabetes. The most common is type 2, accounting for 90-95 percent of those with diabetes.

See: Diabetic Shock or Severe Hypoglycemia

Kinds of Insulin

There are several kinds of insulin

A doctor can help personalize a safe and effective insulin treatment regimen for an individual with type 1 diabetes. There are many kinds of insulin that individuals can use individually or in combination.

These include:

Rapid-acting insulins that begin to work within 15 minutes and last around 3-5 hours.

Short-acting insulins that take 30-60 minutes to begin working and have a length of 5-8 hours.

Intermediate-acting insulins that require 1-3 hours to begin working, but can last 12-16 hours.

Long-acting insulins that begin to work in about 1 hour and can last 20-26 hours.

Premixed insulins that unite rapid-acting insulin using a longer-lasting one.


A physician will prescribe one of these insulins or a mix alongside a carefully controlled program. Following this strictly will lessen the chance of side effects and complications.


See: Type 2 Diabetes Diet - One Day Meal Plan Suggestions

Insulin delivery devices

There are several types of insulin delivery devices

Individuals with type 1 diabetes need daily insulin therapy to keep normal glucose levels. However, the precise treatment regimen will differ from person to person.


An individual can deliver their insulin for their body by employing a pump. This machine offers the hormone through a port, removing the need for shots. Some pumps are automatic, while others need more user input.

Some individuals may need to provide two to four doses daily. Extra shots of rapid-acting insulin may be necessary at mealtimes.


Individuals also use injections, pens, and inhalers to take insulin.

See: Are bananas good for diabetics

Insulin side effects

Taking insulin will help you better manage your blood sugar levels and lower your risk for complications from diabetes. But as with other drugs, insulin may cause side effects. Here are some to look out for. If you are feeling any side effects listed below, speak to your doctor. Think of an ideal solution, while keeping your diabetes in check.


- Hypoglycemia

Hypoglycemia, or low blood glucose, is among the most common side effects of insulin treatment. It can happen when insulin lowers glucose levels too much. Signs of hypoglycemia include nausea, shaking, sweating, hunger, sudden changes in mood, difficulty concentrating, and even seizure or loss of consciousness. Hypoglycemia is a real medical emergency, and urgent actions to restore blood sugar levels are required whenever it happens.


You may reduce your risk for hypoglycemia by frequently checking your blood sugar levels and working with your doctor to ascertain the best insulin levels and delivery method for you.


- Weight Gain

In some instances, taking insulin may result in weight gain. Insulin can affect the way your brain experiences hunger. You will notice changes in your appetite and cravings. If you often experience hypoglycemia, taking in more carbohydrates to control your sugar levels may also lead to extra pounds. It can turn into a yoyo game of gaining and losing weight.

Discuss any weight gain with your doctor or registered dietitian, who can help you change your diet to assist weight loss.


- Hypokalemia

Insulin helps move potassium into cells. Potassium may cause hypokalemia or low potassium levels in the blood. Untreated, the condition can cause issues with breathing and heart function--and even death.

You are most sensitive to the side effect if you are currently at risk for hypokalemia as you take potassium-lowering drugs, like diuretics or fluid pills. Always make sure to let your physician know which over-the-counter and prescription medications you take.


- Irritation and Allergy

Insulin injections can also cause redness, swelling, or itching at the area in which you inject. If the irritation does not go away, talk to your doctor. You could be injecting the insulin erroneously.

Although less common, some people could be allergic to insulin. This allergy may result in a rash that covers your whole body, difficulty breathing, decreased blood pressure, racing pulse, or sweating. In certain instances, an allergy to insulin can be life-threatening. If you sense any of these symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.


- Diabetic Ketoacidosis

This severe condition can happen if you take insulin, but are not getting enough. Without enough insulin, your body is not receiving the sugar it needs, so it instead burns fat to convert into energy. This process creates acids called ketones, which can build up in your blood and urine and be toxic to your body.

Ketoacidosis is serious and can lead to diabetic coma or even death. If you experience any of the symptoms such as nausea, abdominal pain, or rapid breathing, notify the 911 (emergency number), or have someone take you to the emergency room for proper treatment.


See: Insulin plant benefits

Research studies on insulin side effects

1. A research team in 2013 compared insulin treatment with metformin treatment. Metformin is another standard glucose-lowering medication treatment for those who have type 2 diabetes.

These researchers found that the insulin treatment group in the study had an increased risk of many complications, such as:

- heart attack

- stroke

- eye problems

- kidney problems


2. Another research report concluded that the risks of insulin treatment might outweigh the benefits for those who have type 2 diabetes. The authors emphasized the following drawbacks of insulin therapy:


the requirement to increase the dose and complexity of the treatment plan over time

the increased risk of severe hypoglycemia

a possible increase in the risk of specific cancers, such as pancreatic cancer


See: Are bananas good for diabetics

Managing insulin side effects

What can you do to decrease insulin side effects?


Your doctor can check these adverse consequences by:

Assessing insulin compatibility with other drugs before initiating treatment

Assessing for allergic reactions to the injection

The insulin shots may be combined with another medication called amylin analogs to help the body manage the insulin better.


Are you currently using insulin on a long term basis?  Insulin gives an excellent contribution to sugar control when used together with amylin analogs. But unless the beta cells of the pancreas are destroyed, going on insulin should be a carefully considered choice. When you decide to regulate your blood glucose with insulin, it may be hard to get off.

There is an increasing number of medical professionals who are questioning the use of insulin as a treatment of diabetes. They suggest trying other methods of 'reversing' diabetes first.

Meanwhile, research shows that dietary supplements and functional medicine can also decrease the adverse effects of prescription drugs and their side effects.

See: Pre-diabetes Diet Plan for Vegetarians

Precautions for insulin side effects

What Special Precautions Should You Follow?

Ahead of the use of insulin,


• Inform your physician if you're allergic to insulin of any sort, or some other drugs.

• Inform your physician about any prescription and non-prescription drugs, vitamins, dietary supplements, and natural products that you may be taking or intend to take.

• Inform your doctor if you have or have had nerve damage brought on by diabetes/heart failure or some other disease related to the heart, adrenal, pituitary, thyroid, kidney, or liver.

• Inform your doctor if you're already pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding. If you become pregnant while using insulin, ask your health team immediately. Insulin side effects during pregnancy can be life-threatening for the mother and the child.

• Alcohol may cause a drop in blood sugar. Consult your healthcare practitioner concerning your intake of alcoholic beverages while you're using insulin medication.

• Ask your doctor about other concerns you may have, such as getting sick, being worried, traveling, or exercising. It's likely that these lifestyle alterations may affect your blood sugar and the amount of insulin you'll need to keep the blood sugar levels in the healthy range.

• How often you test your blood glucose is also essential. You should realize that hypoglycemia may influence your capability to perform specific tasks, like driving. Confirm whether you will need to check your blood glucose before driving or operating any type of machinery.

See: Evidence based ayurvedic approach to treat Diabetes Type 2

Dietary factors & drug interactions

1. Some dietary factors to remember while on medication

Remember to follow all dietary and exercise plans created by your health care practitioner or dietitian. It's essential to eat a nutritious diet. Ideally, you should eat the exact amounts and the same sorts of foods at precisely the same time daily. Skipping, delaying meals, or changing the amount or type of food you eat can cause issues with your blood glucose control.


2. Discuss with your doctor and check for all drug interactions such as a sample list below:

• Reserpine, Beta-blockers, and clonidine may mask some of these signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia.

• Estrogens, isoniazid, niacin, Corticosteroids, thyroid supplements, phenothiazines, and rifampin may increase insulin needs.

• MAO inhibitors, octreotide, oral hypoglycemic agents, Alcohol, ACE inhibitors, and salicylates may reduce insulin requirements.

• Concurrent use with pioglitazone or rosiglitazone may raise the risk of fluid retention and worsen heart failure.


Natural & non insulin remedies

Individuals with type 2 diabetes can often handle their condition without insulin treatment.


Alternative treatment options include dietary and lifestyle modifications and non-insulin drugs, such as metformin. However, if a man is not able to control their blood glucose levels using these remedies, a physician may recommend insulin treatment.


Diabetes takes its toll on the psychological and physical health of a person. However, being a dietary disorder, it's reversible. It may be tough, but it is surely not impossible. Reversing diabetes requires patience, perseverance, and psychological strength.


Anti-diabetic medications often do more harm than good because they rob the body of certain crucial nutrients. According to Dr. Mark Hyman, it's possible to decrease the side effects and long-term health complications from diabetes and its drugs. But you have to bring back these very same nutrients into the body. Dietary supplements can play an essential role in doing just that.


1. Eat whole, fresh foods, and fruits. Food controls your gene expression, hormones, and metabolism. You can choose low-glycemic real foods such as fresh vegetables, fruits, legumes, non-gluten grains, seeds, nuts, and high-quality animal protein.


2. Say no to sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners may raise insulin levels and contribute to insulin resistance.


3. Control inflammation. Dietary sugars of all kinds and processed vegetable oils are the most significant contributors to inflammation. Incorporate loads of anti-inflammatory foods such as wild-caught fish, freshly ground flaxseed, and fish oil.


4. Increase fiber-rich foods. Studies reveal high-fiber foods are often as effective as diabetes drugs to lower blood glucose with no side effects. Fiber can slow down the sugar absorption into the bloodstream from the gut.


5. Get sufficient sleep. A research report in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that in healthy subjects, even a partial night of lousy sleep contributes to insulin resistance. Make sleep a high priority to normalize insulin levels. Try herbal remedies or melatonin as needed.


6. Address nutrient deficiencies. Quite a few nutrients play a role in insulin management, such as vitamin D, chromium, magnesium, and alpha-lipoic acid. Deficiencies in any nutrient can stall your biochemical machinery, knocking your glucose levels from balance and cause you to more insulin resistant.


7. Incorporate the ideal exercise. Exercise may be the most effective medicine to handle glucose levels and make your cells more insulin sensitive. Mixing burst training with weight resistance provides the best, efficient method to normalize blood glucose and insulin levels.


8. Control anxiety levels. You can not eliminate stress, but you can lessen its impact. That may be through yoga, meditation, deep breathing, or a good workout. A healthy lifestyle with a holistic diet, exercise, meditation, intermittent fasting, yoga, good sleep, and support from friends and family can help you fight and even reverse diabetes effectively.


9. Women with gestational diabetes typically get insulin, but they're also able to manage their diabetes with metformin or diet & lifestyle changes. A physician is the best person to explain the most effective way to take these drugs during your pregnancy.


Summary

There may be several common side effects of insulin such as hypoglycemia, headache, weight gain, rash, flu-like symptoms, and skin response at the site of injection. Discuss all the warnings, precautions, and drug interactions with your health care or diabetes team before taking insulin.

References

1. Hanson, P. (2014). Painful fat necrosis resulting from insulin injections. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4176647/

2. Oleck, J. (2016). Commentary: Why was inhaled insulin a failure in the market. spectrum.diabetesjournals.org/content/29/3/180

3. The One Test Your Doctor Isn’t Doing That Could Save Your Life,  https://drhyman.com/blog/2014/08/18/one-test-doctor-isnt-save-life/

4. Bai, X., et al. (2018). The association between insulin therapy and depression in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: A meta-analysis. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6278799/

5. Type 2 diabetes. (2018).  cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/type2.html

6. Why did I gain weight when I started taking insulin? (n.d.). joslin.org/info/why_did_i_gain_weight_when_i_started_taking_insulin.html

7. Insulin basics. (2019). diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/medication/insulin/insulin-basics.html

8. Currie, C. J., et al. (2013). Mortality and other important diabetes-related outcomes with insulin vs other antihyperglycemic therapies in type 2 diabetes.academic.oup.com/jcem/article/98/2/668/2833166

9. Lebovitz, H. E. (2011). Insulin: Potential negative consequences of early routine use in patients with type 2 diabetes.  ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3632184/

10. Low blood glucose (hypoglycemia). (2016). niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/preventing-problems/low-blood-glucose-hypoglycemia

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