It’s an all-too-common fear for people with diabetes. There is the completely natural fear of needles, but depending on the messages they’ve received from their care providers along with the experiences with insulin from other people in their family or circle, they can feel like insulin is the last resort or that they’ve failed on everything else. We’ll dive into all of that.
- What is insulin
- Why is it prescribed
- Common messages and fears
- Should you be afraid of insulin?
Scott K. Johnson – Hey, thanks for tuning in to another episode of Coaches Corner. It is great to see you again. Let me know where you’re watching from today. I’d love to hear that. Post it in the comments. One small way that mySugr is giving back is by hosting the short conversations with our diabetes coaches, to talk about staying healthy in body and mind. We really appreciate you sharing some time with us. Now I do have to give the standard disclaimer. We cannot provide medical advice. Please contact your doctor directly for specific questions about your care. Today my sugar coaches Kristen and Maggie, talk about if insulin is something to be afraid of. Let’s take a look. And hi Maggie. Today we are talking about being afraid of insulin which is something that is quite common, especially for those who are new to diabetes, don’t really understand some of how it all works. But maybe we should start with some of the basics. So what is insulin?
Maggie Evans – Yeah, great, great start. So it is always useful to break down the basics. So we hear in the word insulin quite a bit. So I agree kind of, you know, understanding what that is. Insulin is a hormone that’s created by our pancreas or pancreas, it’s kind of right next to our stomach, and insulin is released in response to a meal. So when we eat a meal that’s broken down, and it tends to raise our blood sugar. So when that blood sugar response increases, that’s when insulin is released into the bloodstream. Now, when we explain the mechanism, mechanism of insulin, it’s helpful to use a term of just like a lock in a key. So imagine there’s a bunch of little locked doors on the outside of a cell, and insulin is that key to unlock the door to allow glucose into the cell. So when glucose is allowed in, that helps us create energy and helps us live our lives and do our thing. So thinking of insulin in that way, that it’s just simply a hormone that our bodies already make, I think can kind of help break down that barrier a little bit more too in terms of if it is something that ends up being prescribed.
Scott K. Johnson – Yeah, great point. So let’s from there, ask the question, why is insulin prescribed? If our body is already making it, what leads us to then need it as far as a prescription?
Kristen Bourque – Yeah, so Scott, I think, when we talk a little bit about first the differences between type one and type two, and we’ll talk more about this in our conversation. But essentially, insulin is provided as a treatment for diabetes. So with type one, our pancreas is no longer producing insulin. So there are multiple types of insulin that are provided to help essentially regulate the blood sugar right? With type two, generally what happens over time is the pancreas produces less insulin. So maybe additional insulin might be needed along with the use of oral medications to help regulate blood sugar.
Scott K. Johnson – And it’s, there’s actually quite a few misconceptions about insulin right? Can we dive into some of those? So especially, and I think this is one that’s, that I hear most common is the feeling of, of being a failure, right? Or the doctor saying, all right, let’s try with type two diabetes, as you mentioned, let’s try this this and this, and there’s always this phrase that if that doesn’t work, then we’ll start on insulin right, so it can be a hard step for people to take.
Kristen Bourque – And I think that you bring up such a great point Scott ’cause unfortunately sometimes we hear this kind of being almost used as a maybe a scare tactics sometimes for patients as well. If you don’t follow this and that insulin will be put on your regimen. And so I think there is a lot of unfortunately, negative kind of connotation around insulin. But the important thing to remember is with type two diabetes especially is over time. Again, as I mentioned, the pancreas produces less insulin, it can be up to 75%. So even if we’re doing, you know, diet, exercise, oral medications, we still might not get those numbers that we’re striving for. So yes, it’s very important to kind of wash away those ideas of feeling inadequate or like a failure because what we’re doing and those behavior changes may only sometimes bring us so far. So this is important to remember, is to rely on your healthcare team to find a way of providing you with various options for medications and whatnot to kind of find the best thing for you and ultimately, our goal is right to manage our blood sugar. So insulin may be put on the table, as just another option for you and it does nothing to mean that you did anything wrong in your management of your diabetes at all.
Maggie Evans – I think also emphasizing the fact that just like everybody’s body is different, everybody’s diabetes is different. And that your management of diabetes is going to look different than your neighbor with diabetes or someone else with diabetes. So recognizing that your body’s response to somethings just like what Kristen said, might be different than other people, and you just might well, need insulin. And yet again, breaking down the barrier to that and just recognizing that it is simply that hormone that we already produce, and sometimes we just need a little extra help along the way.
Scott K. Johnson – I love that. There’s a one of my good friends. His name is Bennet. And he has a catchphrase that he says that your diabetes may vary. And it really what it comes down to is right, whatever it takes to manage your blood sugars in a way that works for you. And so you’re able to meet your diabetes management goals, and also your quality of life goals. And it’s different for everybody. So I’m so glad that you mentioned that. What are some other misconceptions around insulin?
Maggie Evans – I think there can tend to be a fear of injections or a fear of needles, fairly common for a lot of people with diabetes. But recognizing that now there’s so many different options and the technology in the diabetes world is just advancing. I feel like every day I hear something new. But there’s other ways around giving yourself insulin injections either every day or with every meal. Now we have pumps that are available. So the pump system uses a little smaller needle that tends to just go right under the skin and barely noticeable. But that can be another way to reduce the amount of injections that you’re given throughout the day or throughout the week. And also knowing that the syringes now, the advancement in the needles is much better, they’re much smaller, they’re thinner, so you can barely feel them. So that makes it much less painful. I’ve even had people tell me that their actual insulin injections are much less painful than just their finger pricks for their, for their glucose checks, so, really interesting to hear that. But just knowing that there are other options and now they’re even coming out with an inhalable insulin, which is very effective as well. So if there is that fear of needles or fear of it being painful, reach out to your providers, reach out to your diabetes care team, let them know these concerns. And there’s always going to be options available. So just as long as you let people know what you’re feeling that can help us and your team kind of direct you in the right direction.
Scott K. Johnson – I’m glad you mentioned that, that open conversation. So if my provider has prescribed insulin, but I’m struggling to take that insulin because of the fear of needles, which, by the way, is completely normal, there is nothing normal about poking yourself with sharp objects, so but like you say, maybe talking with your, your team about the challenges that you are facing in doing what they ask of you, that makes a big difference. So what else are we dealing with?
Kristen Bourque – Oh, when I was going to just add to that kind of what you and Scott, Maggie you mentioned is kind of that fear of the unknown. I think too, with that, with the injection piece of it too. So, like you mentioned, Scott is talking to your healthcare team. But also a lot of times especially when initially prescribed that they’ll do a demonstration with you. So that kind of fear of the unknown, maybe having someone kind of walk it through with you, versus just kind of sending you home on your way, also will, I think help kind of minimize that fear over time too. So yeah, the next thing I would say, of course, is the fear of weight gain, we always kind of get this. And this would also be, the case of certain oral medications as well. But I think that insulin and weight gain are oftentimes associated together. But it’s important to remember that some patients will experience this overall, it helps the body to use food more efficiently. But again, this is going back to is everyone’s different, this isn’t going to be a for sure, side effect that happens. But it is again, going back to talking to your health care team about some of these fears or concerns that you have, in regards to I don’t want to gain weight once I go off, go on insulin. So just kind of let your doctor know, but important to still maintain, healthy diet and activity and all those things as well, to help kind of mitigate that as well, too.
Scott K. Johnson – Great, yeah, that makes a lot of sense. So if we, if we were to kind of wrap this question of should I be afraid of insulin? In a summary, few points, what would that look like?
Kristen Bourque – Of course, no. But just to kind of go off of some other reviews that we’ve mentioned, is that, I think, again, it’s very important to talk with your healthcare team about your concerns about your fears about this. They’re there to get, provide support and be there with you through this journey, but let them know kind of what your thoughts are around it, and see if they can kind of help you to feel more comfortable. But and then kind of just going off of what Maggie had mentioned is there’s so many different options for insulin nowadays, too. So this is another conversation to have with your provider is what you feel more comfortable with. Some people like to use a pump. Some people like to use insulin injections. So again, these are great options that we have that we did not have years ago. So you can ask someone that has had diabetes for quite some time, the differences in the technology and the needles and everything. So, you know, it’s great to know that there’s options available as well, so.
Scott K. Johnson – That’s great, that’s great. And I think that, it’s a very, very useful tool in the diabetes management toolbox. And if you’re struggling to meet your goals on the therapies that you’re using now, and the idea of insulin is there, it might be a way that you finally feel successful in doing what you need to do to get your blood sugars where they need to be. So I think it’s a very powerful tool, and not something to be afraid of. So thank you, thank you for breaking that down a bit.
Kristen Bourque – Yeah, and I think it’s like you said, Scott, it’s, and it’s an important thing to remember that it’s, it will get you closer to your goal. And that’s of course, what we want to focus on, is to manage our diabetes to manage it well. So insulin is just one of those other therapy options that’s available to us. And it’s a great option. So something to be again, a little bit less fearful and more open-minded if it comes up in conversation with your doctor.
Scott K. Johnson – Makes sense, great. Thank you. Well, with that, let’s wrap this session up and we’ll be back again soon. All right, I hope that was helpful. Carol, great to hear that this helps with your expectations, should insulin become a thing for you. Today was actually our last live episode of Coaches Corner. We have really enjoyed our time together. And for those of you who are using the mySugr bundle, I encourage you to continue asking great questions to your coach. They are there for you and happy to support you in your journey of living well with diabetes. If you would like to review any of the information in past episodes, we’ve pulled everything together into a single place, and we’ll put the link here for you. With that stay well, have a great weekend, and I hope to see you again sometime soon.
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