*We’re very fortunate these days that a diagnosis with diabetes is no longer a death sentence—due mostly to that healing elixir that mimics a natural substance in our bodies known as insulin.

Injectable “insulin analogs,” as these medicines are called, are life-saving substances that have only been available to patients since the 1920’s.

Whether or not you require insulin at this time, it’s probably in your future as a person with diabetes — therefore it’s important to get to know it, without fear.

This tip series is all about living with insulin. (And it’s better than you might expect!)*

Insulin has a bad rap. The very mention of it evokes fear and loathing in many people. This is certainly understandable, since no one likes to be poked with needles (researchers are working on inhalable and pill versions, but have not yet been able to perfect those methods sufficiently for FDA approval). Also, who hasn’t heard about Great Aunt Betty or some other relative who was put on insulin “at the end,” just before they were hospitalized, went blind or even passed away?

Type 1 diabetics require insulin to stay alive, so it’s seen as a “necessary evil.” For type 2 diabetics, doctors used to consider insulin to be a “last resort” therapy. But not anymore. They’re beginning to start treating many type 2 diabetics with insulin sooner, because it is simply the best available medicine.

Insulin is actually a simple medicine, complicated by common misperceptions. It is one of only a few medications that are completely natural. That is, this “medication” is exactly the same substance as the insulin humans already have present in their bodies, circulating in their blood. It very effectively brings your blood glucose (BG) levels down into a “normal,” non-diabetic range, so that you can avoid the long-term damages of diabetes, and also feel better on a regular basis. (Too-high blood glucose over time causes both long-term damage like blindness and kidney disease, but also daily issues like fatigue, irritability, blurred vision, dry mouth, itchy skin, poor wound healing and more). Taking insulin to keep your BG levels in check will do away will all that.

The only tricky bit about taking insulin is in the dosing: we’re tasked with attempting to mimic the way that a healthy body would dose insulin naturally. If you take too little insulin, your daily BG levels, and your A1C, will be too high; if you take too much, your BG may go too low, causing you to have an unpleasant hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) episode.

Read the next tip in this series: “Understanding Long-Lasting Vs. Quick-Acting Insulin.