Blood sugar testing is one of the most rudimentary steps towards preventing complications when dealing with Type 1 Diabetes. Unless you’re on some sort of continuous glucose monitoring, most health practitioners would recommend testing at least five to ten times a day to ensure that you stay as consistent as possible.
I was first diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in 1982 (I know, I know… no need to point out how I’m aging myself…) and at that time, the belief was simply “don’t eat sugar.” Although that’s pretty accurate in some respects, there is far more to controlling Diabetes than JUST sugar.
As a child, I did everything I could to avoid sugary foods (with my parents’ support, of course). Staying away from desserts, juices and sugared products was all I assumed was needed. My parents knew no better either. If I were hungry, bread, crackers, milk… These were acceptable foods that weren’t “sugary” and were therefore safe for me to eat.
From the age 4 until about the age of 10, I suffered through a number of Diabetic comas resulting from extreme blood sugar levels. The worst of these comas lasted for a number of days. I can’t begin to explain how disorienting it is to go to sleep on one day, only to wake up several days later in a hospital bed. I often thank my lucky stars for having shared a bedroom with my older brother, as he was the one who ran to get my parents when he’d wake to find me frothing at the mouth. Without his intervention, I’m quite certain I wouldn’t be here today…
My point is, my family and I didn’t really have a firm understanding many of my Diabetic symptoms throughout my childhood. And the terminology of the time, “avoid sugar”, didn’t help. It wouldn’t be until twenty five years later that I would learn about carbohydrates and how they relate to Diabetes.
Carb counting is not an OLD concept, per se… But it’s one I didn’t learn about until I started on my insulin pump in 2015. When I started consulting with my pump educators and dieticians, they began asking me about how I was carb counting. I was at a loss. I had become one of those people who focused so much on avoiding sugar and exercising, that I had never really bothered to learn anything new. That meant I had no idea what they were talking about.
Blood glucose levels are affected based on the consumption of carbohydrates. This includes sugar of course, but encompasses so much more. If you look at the nutritional label I included above, you’ll notice the portion I’ve encircled.
The Total Carbohydrate line includes all carbs, sugars and fibers included in the food. That being said, dietary fiber does not affect blood sugar. So if we look at the numbers on this label, you would need to subtract 4 grams of fiber from 37 grams of total carbs. This means you would need to take an insulin dose for 33 grams of carbs, not 37.
A 4 gram difference isn’t extreme, the difference over time can result in serious blood sugar fluctuations and all the symptoms and side effects that follow.
Although the medical definition of Type 1 Diabetes doesn’t change, treatment and proper care is a constantly evolving creature. It becomes important to continue learning and studying, and don’t be afraid to do some research of your own.
I know that doctors absolutely hate knowing we check Google and WebMD, but no information is bad information. Don’t be afraid to do whatever is necessary to ensure your proper health. And keep checking those blood sugar levels… ☯