Very few people actually enjoy taking medicine. But it’s often the case that diet, exercise, and other lifestyle changes are not enough to delay or prevent certain diabetes-related health complications. Taking oral medications, and especially giving yourself insulin shots every day, can feel overwhelming for many people living with diabetes. However, they are powerful tools to help you manage your health.
Where the medicines work
Different medications work on different parts of the body to help people manage their diabetes. Many medicines affect how the pancreas makes insulin. Others increase muscle and fat cell sensitivity to insulin. Still, others keep the liver from releasing too much glucose. And some cause carbohydrates to break down more slowly. The diagram here shows where each class of medicine works in the body.
Getting familiar with shots
This is one of the less popular aspects of managing diabetes. Unfortunately, some medicines like insulin simply cannot be swallowed. Instead, they are often injected through the skin into the bloodstream. It’s not hard to learn and, while many of us grew up with an aversion to needle pokes, many people eventually come to find that it’s pretty easy and painless — particularly because insulin injections don’t need to penetrate very deep and so the needles are usually small and short. Plus, if you’re quick, it tends to be less uncomfortable. New devices are being invented all the time, so ask your doctor about your options.
Sticking to your medicine routine
How effective your medications are often depends on timing. Some insulins, for example, should be timed with meals to help your body process the food. But life gets busy, things come up, and sometimes we forget. Here are five tips to help you remember:
- Add meds to your routine. Associate the idea of taking your pills or morning insulin with something else you do every morning, like brewing your coffee, reading the news, or taking a shower.
- Package them by the day of the week. Can’t remember if you did or did not take your meds? It happens all the time. Try a simple pillbox, with medicine in each day of the week.
- Have a system of reminders. Set a daily alert on your mobile device or put a sticky note on the bathroom mirror. Or do both! Whatever works.
- Get help. Enlist a family member or loved one to remind you.
- Change your feelings about it. If you loathe taking your meds, you’re more likely to forget to do it. If that’s you, maybe reconsider your attitude about it and remember that it’s helping you stay healthier and have more energy to do the things you love.
Over-the-Counter Medicines and Supplements
Maybe you take vitamin or herbal supplements. You may catch the flu and want to take some over-the-counter medicine to feel better. Some of these items may have an effect on your blood sugar or interact with your diabetes medication. So be sure to talk to your doctor about it first and fill in your pharmacist about everything that you’re taking so they can call out any potential problems.