Skip to content

Take your diabetes medication: all the medication tips you need to know

We know that managing diabetes can seem like a full-time, neverending job. And that sometimes it seems like there are too many things to remember! That’s why we’ve simplified diabetes management into 4 letters: TEEL. Take your medication is the first one.

Take your medication
Eat healthy food
Exercise, a little every day
Lose weight, if you need to


Take your medication

We asked South Africa’s top diabetes experts what advice they would give to people who were struggling to control their diabetes. The first thing they said? Take your medication! We know that it’s not always that simple, though, so we’ve put together a few tips to make it easier.

Type 2 diabetes medication tips

The biggest problem Diabetic South Africans have with taking their Type 2 diabetes medication (usually metformin) is that it often causes diarrhea. We asked endocrinologist Prof Joel Dave what to do about that – here’s what he said. In essence, it’s important to take your metformin after dinner: that way it won’t cause diarrhea.

Type 2 diabetes tip #1:
Put your metformin next to your plate at dinner. That will remind you to take it when you’ve finished eating.

Sweet Life Diabetes Community

Type 2 diabetes and insulin

Moving to insulin is normal for most people with Type 2 diabetes. Needing insulin doesn’t mean you’ve failed at diabetes care. Diabetes is a progressive disease, which means that even when you manage your blood glucose properly, your body will probably create less insulin, or use it less efficiently, as time goes on. Most people with Type 2 diabetes start insulin within 5 to 10 years of being diagnosed. We wrote a whole article about Type 2 diabetes and insulin: 5 facts about insulin for Type 2 diabetics.

The most important thing to remember? Take your insulin before you eat.

Remember: other Type 2 diabetes medications aren’t the same as insulin

Pills you take by mouth and other injection drugs are not insulin. Those medications (like metformin) can help your body use the insulin it already makes. Insulin can’t be taken by mouth: it would be broken down by the stomach before it could be absorbed into the bloodstream. That’s why it has to be injected under the skin. These insulin injections don’t hurt once you know how to give them properly – check out the tips on insulin injection technique below!

Type 2 diabetes tip #2:
If your doctor prescribes insulin, it’s important that you take it! It doesn’t mean that you’ve failed at diabetes, it means that your body needs insulin to be healthy.

Sweet Life Diabetes Community

Type 1 diabetes medication tips

For people with Type 1 diabetes, insulin is a given. You will either take your insulin using injections or an insulin pump (here’s all you need to know about the insulin pump).

But are you giving yourself insulin injections the right way? We put together a whole series on insulin injection technique because so many people haven’t been taught how to take insulin correctly. Take a look:

Insulin-dependent diabetes tip #1:
It’s really important to rotate your injection sites and use fresh needles. If you don’t, you can get lipohypertrophy, which means your insulin isn’t being absorbed properly.

Sweet Life Diabetes Community

Take your medication at the right time

The other essential tip to understand for people with Type 1 diabetes is how much injection timing makes a difference. We are told that rapid-acting insulin works ‘almost immediately’, but that translates to about 15 to 20 minutes, for most people. So if you inject your insulin as you sit down to eat, the food will hit your stomach before the insulin starts working, which means you’ll see an inevitable spike in your blood glucose.

If you pre-bolus, you take your insulin dose 15 to 20 minutes before you eat. There isn’t a perfect amount of time before you eat because it depends on what your blood glucose is, what you’re eating, and how much you’re injecting. It will be different for every person. Here’s a detailed guide to how to pre-bolus.

The most important thing to remember is that you need to document everything to figure out what works! This will be easier if you have a CGM, because you can see exactly what your blood sugar is doing how many minutes after you injected your insulin. You can also do it with an app or even a paper diary, though. The goal is to avoid unnecessary high blood sugar spikes.

Insulin-dependent diabetes tip #2:
Always inject your fast-acting insulin 15 to 20 minutes before you eat, to avoid blood sugar spikes.

Sweet Life Diabetes Community

It’s so important to take your diabetes medication

We know that having to juggle taking diabetes medication on top of every other part of managing diabetes is hard. It can help to be part of a community – join Diabetic South Africans and you can talk about which aspects you find most difficult. But it is so important to take your diabetes medication, as your doctor prescribes it. That’s the only way you’ll be able to live a healthy, happy life with diabetes. Which we all want!

What to read next?

What is normal blood sugar? Exactly what counts as normal blood sugar – what numbers to aim for and how to get your blood sugar in range.

Managing Type 2 diabetes: All you need to know to manage your condition, with terrific food and exercise tips.

Diabetes and depression: We know that diabetes can be a hard burden to carry. Here’s some advice on what to do if you feel depressed.

What to read next
Join South Africans with Diabetes on Facebook

Join our diabetes community


  1. sandra abrahams sandra abrahams

    Thank you for this wonderful article.. I am the champion for LIVING GREAT WITH DIABETES at our day hospital, I will be using some of the information to share with my patients attending our sessions as well as those coming for there chronic visits.. Thank you so much for all the i formation you giving to us.

What do you think?

Sweet Life is a registered NPO/PBO (220-984) with a single goal: to improve diabetes in South Africa. We are funded by sponsorships and donations from aligned companies and organisations who believe in our work. We only share information that we believe benefits our community. While some of this information is linked to specific brands, it is not an official endorsement of that brand. We believe in empowering people with diabetes to make the best decisions they can, to live a healthy, happy life with diabetes.