Know What Affects Insulin Absorption

People with type 1 diabetes do not produce any insulin.  People with type 2 diabetes may produce too little insulin or may not be able to effectively use the insulin they produce.  If you have diabetes and need to inject insulin, it is important to be aware of factors that can affect how well and how fast your insulin works.

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas.  It acts like a key to open cells in the body so they can receive glucose or sugar from the blood.  Without insulin, cells cannot get the glucose they need for energy and unused glucose builds up in the blood, resulting in diabetes.

Insulin sold in the United States is manufactured in a laboratory and may have additives to regulate how fast it starts to work and how long it can continue to work after it is injected.  People who inject insulin count on getting consistent results from their insulin in order to have the best possible control over their blood sugar.

Here are some things that could affect how your insulin is absorbed and how it works:

  • Injection site – Insulin should be injected into the fat under the skin.  Try to be consistent in choosing your injection site.  Insulin injected into the abdomen works fastest.  Insulin injected into the upper arms takes effect more slowly, and insulin injected into the thighs or butt takes effect even more slowly. So changing your insulin injection site could significantly alter your glucose control.  Try to be consistent in the general area where you inject your insulin, but do not inject in the exact same place each time.
  • Exercise – Insulin will begin to work faster if you have just exercised the muscles in the part of the body where you give your injection.  Some people find that exercise increases sensitivity to insulin which means it works better or faster.  Other people have decreased insulin sensitivity after exercise, which means blood glucose could spike after exercise.  The only way to be sure how your body responds to exercise is to check your sugar periodically before, during, and after exercise.
  • Heat – Insulin will get into your system faster in the presence of heat.  Heat increases the size of blood vessels which may increase how quickly your body will absorb insulin. Taking a hot bath or shower, using a heat pack or heating pad on the area where you give the injection, or having a massage in the area where you just gave your injection can make insulin start working faster than normal.
  • Dehydration – If you are dehydrated or are low on fluids in your body, your blood flow to your skin is reduced.  This means insulin will not be absorbed as quickly as normal and will take effect more slowly.
  • Diet – Your blood glucose level is affected by the foods you eat.  Foods high in carbohydrates or sugar are quickly absorbed by the body.  This may mean your blood sugar will rise if you did not take enough insulin or did not take insulin the correct amount of time before eating.  Fatty foods are absorbed more slowly. So rapid-acting insulin could run out or pass its peak before fatty food is absorbed.
  • Insulin storage – Open vials of insulin can be stored at room temperature.  All other insulin should be kept in the refrigerator.  Exposure to temperature extremes can affect how fast insulin will be absorbed.

The type of insulin you take and the amount you inject can also affect how well insulin will work.  The goal with insulin injections is to find the balance between foods and insulin to keep blood sugar in a low, healthy range as much as possible.

Denise DeWitt is a freelance writer for


Sources: The 4 Types of Insulin and Their Potential Side Effects. Web. February 27, 2012.,,20189208,00.html

American Diabetes Association. Insulin Routines. Web. February 27, 2012. Insulin. Web. February 27, 2012.

American Diabates. 8 Things that Can Affect Insulin Absorption. Web. February 27, 2012.

ShareCare. What can affect my body’s response to insulin? Web. February 27, 2012.


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