Is Mealtime Insulin Right for You?
If you’ve been having trouble keeping your blood sugar under control, mealtime insulin might help.
Research shows that adding mealtime insulin to other diabetes treatments can improve blood sugar control in people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. It may also prevent serious diabetes complications, such as damage to the eyes, kidneys and nerves.
But mealtime insulin isn’t right for everyone, considering factors such as your A1c level and your lifestyle. Discuss it with your doctor to learn whether it’s a good choice for you.
When you have diabetes, your body doesn’t produce enough of the hormone insulin or can’t use it well. As a result, your blood sugar (blood glucose) goes up.
Medications can help, but they usually only work for a few years. When medicine isn’t enough to control your blood sugar, your doctor may recommend taking insulin.
There are two main types of insulin: background insulin and mealtime insulin. You take mealtime insulin before you eat to help control the rise in blood sugar that occurs after you eat. Background insulin helps manage your blood sugar in between meals. Most people start with background insulin and add mealtime insulin for additional blood sugar control.
Examples of background insulin include glargine (Lantus, Toujeo), detemir (Levemir), and degludec (Tresiba). Examples of mealtime insulin include aspart (NovoLog), lispro (Humalog), and glulisine (Apidra).
How Mealtime Insulin Works
In people who don’t have diabetes, eating triggers the release of insulin in proportion to the amount of carbohydrates consumed. For people with diabetes, mealtime insulin mimics the body’s normal release of insulin in response to food. This helps prevent high blood sugar after meals.
You might think that you could simply increase your background insulin to control these blood sugar spikes. But that would make your blood sugar too low between meals.
There are two types of mealtime insulin: rapid-acting and short-acting. Rapid-acting insulin starts working very quickly and lasts a few hours. Short-acting, or regular, insulin takes about 30 minutes to kick in and lasts six hours or more. Your doctor might recommend premixed insulin, which combines a rapid-acting and intermediate-acting insulin.
Pros and Cons of Mealtime Insulin
The right insulin regimen for you depends on how your body responds to the hormone, your age, and whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes. In general, your doctor may consider mealtime insulin if:
You’re taking a high dose of background insulin
Your hemoglobin A1c level is higher than the goal your doctor has set for you
Your post-meal blood sugar is often high
Your lifestyle and personal preferences also matter. Mealtime insulin may be a good fit for you if:
You don’t always eat at the same time
You typically eat one big meal a day
You don’t mind giving yourself multiple daily injections and checking your blood sugar several times a day
You don’t find it difficult to give yourself shots before meals
You follow a healthy diet and count carbohydrates
Talk with your doctor about your treatment. He or she can help you find an insulin plan that will control your blood sugar and work with your lifestyle.
Mealtime insulin mimics the body’s normal release of insulin in response to food. This helps prevent high blood sugar after meals.
Your doctor may consider mealtime insulin if you’re taking a high dose of background insulin, your hemoglobin A1c level is higher than it should be, or your post-meal blood sugar is often high.
Your lifestyle and personal preferences also matter. Mealtime insulin may be a good fit if you don’t always eat at the same time and you don’t mind giving yourself multiple daily injections.