People suffering from diabetes, especially type 2 diabetes, often ask whether they can ever get off insulin. The short answer, as per experts, is yes, they can. Although people with type 1 diabetes cannot stop using insulin due to the nature of the ailment, those with type 2 diabetes can very well endeavour to discontinue using the hormone. This is because, in the case of people with type 2 diabetes, insulin is used as a tool to control blood sugar and can be reduced (or stopped) with proper diet and exercise.
In an interview, Dr Richard Hellman, MD, former president of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, said, “A person who is obese or very heavy will find that if they lose a large amount of weight, their insulin requirements or their oral medication requirements may drop tremendously or even disappear.”
The link between insulin and weight gain
That being said, taking insulin can lead to some weight gain since it is a hormone that regulates the absorption of glucose from the food one consumes. The situation worsens when one eats high-calorie foods that the body does not need, which then gets stored as fat. Therefore, making sure that your caloric intake is well balanced with the insulin you use is essential to maintaining a healthy weight and eventually, giving up the use of insulin.
Steps to lose weight and get off insulin
- Eat healthy and be physically active: Counting calories and keeping a close watch on what you eat is a great way to ensure gradual and healthy weight loss. Apart from that, planning every meal such that it has the right mix of carbohydrates, proteins and fats, and including fruits and vegetables into your daily meals also makes a significant difference to your weight loss goal.
- Be physically active: Exercising for a minimum of 30 minutes a day is essential for weight loss. Engaging in a moderately intense aerobic activity like aerobics, walking, dancing, bicycling or even gardening can go a long way in promoting weight loss.
- Don’t skip meals: If you thought that skipping meals will help you lose weight, think again. Not only will the practice leave you with low blood sugar levels, but it may also leave you craving for any food that comes your way, including high calorie, unhealthy food.
- Ask your doctor about diabetes medication that may help: There are certain diabetes medications that may aid in weight loss. You could ask your doctor about including those medications into your regime in order to help you lose weight.
- Stick to your insulin regime: Do not stop taking insulin as prescribed by your doctor in an effort to speed up the weight loss process. Without insulin, not only will your blood sugar levels rise inordinately but it will also raise your risk of developing diabetes-related complications.
A word of caution
Diabetes is a progressive illness and, therefore, there are times when the condition may be diagnosed a lot later, after its onset. If the insulin-producing beta cells in your body are too far gone, beyond salvage, you may need to take insulin permanently. At the same time, if you were healthy, i.e., you are exercising and not obese, when you were diagnosed, it is possible that you may get less immediate traction from lifestyle changes. Talk to your doctor before you make any alterations to your plan.
- Weight gain during insulin therapy in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. SimonHeller
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- Management of Blood Glucose in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, CYNTHIA M. RIPSIN, MD, MS, MPH; HELEN KANG, MD; and RANDALL J. URBAN, MD, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas