It’s no secret that having Diabetes requires something of a fine balance of give and take for most aspects of one’s overall health and diet. However, when those two factors collide it can cause some chaotic issues that causes a role coaster of events that usually last for hours afterwards. What I’m referring to, is the act of overeating when one slips into Hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. It’s a common issue, but one that can cause untold damage.
Just a few short years ago, I used to have a nasty habit that when my blood sugar dropped below normal I would start eating carbs to bring it up. Sounds reasonable, right? The problem would arise when I’d KEEP eating until I felt better. That’s a problem, because if I’m still eating when I start feeling better it means that carbohydrates have already started correcting my levels quite some time ago and I’ve eaten WAY more than I need. In which case I need to buckle up, because I’m about to slingshot into Hyperglycaemia territory and I’m about to embark on a ride I like to call the roller coaster (but not a fun one!).
A few things to keep in mind when treating a low is that you have to trust that your body will do what it must, so long as you give it what it needs. Treating a low should involve consuming a fast-acting carbohydrate, such as fruit juice, regular sodas or gummy candies. Personally, I like a particular brand of jellybeans because eating a dozen of them packs a wicked carb-punch, kicks in reasonably quick AND I can buy bulk bags of them. You want to avoid things like chocolate, as they’ll take forever to kick in. They’ll still work since carbs are carbs; it’ll just take forever since chocolate is basically a slab of fat and your body will process the fat down before moving on to the carbohydrates.
The next thing to keep in mind is what might be happening with your body at any given moment. If you’re suffering a low during a workout, guess what? You’re gonna have to stop until you’ve corrected. It’s all well and good to “push yourself,” but low blood sugar isn’t one of those scenarios where you can try and reach new levels. Trust me, low blood sugar is not a place that you want to hang out. But I can personally attest to how annoying it is to be in a karate class and get a low. Stopping a workout is bad enough; leaving a class is even worse.
It’s important to know how many units of insulin you have on board at the moment, as well. If you’re suffering a low and you still have 14 units of insulin coursing through your system, your correction may need to be bigger or over a period of time as opposed to all at once, since the insulin will keep working. You want to avoid yo-yo-ing all over the place by correcting this low only to have the carbs in your actual meal kick in and make you skyrocket.
One really good example of this is pizza. The average slice of pizza is approximately 20 grams of carbohydrates (this is based on my specific experience and the pizza I consume, so always be certain to check nutritional information before bolusing) so if I’m having two or three slices, I’ll provide insulin as required. This means I’ll bolus for 40 or 60 grams of carbs, depending on how much I eat. Makes sense, right? But pizza is extremely slow to be processed.
This means that if I take ALL the insulin at once (which my current pump leaves me no choice on Auto Mode), I will likely suffer a low after a very short period of time. If I correct this low, it’s all well and good until the carbs in the pizza actually kick in and I suddenly find my blood sugar levels climbing to Everest-level heights. For foods that are that slow-acting, it’s better to deliver insulin in parts or slowly over a period of time. Some insulin pumps have the option of “square” or “dual” bolusing, which means to deliver over a chosen period of time or, some right away and some over a period of time, respectively.
It can be intimidating, since you have to face the possibility of sitting at low blood sugars for a period of time while your body processes the carbs and you start climbing to a normal level. This can be scary and sometimes not possible. For example, if you’re work doesn’t allow you to sit calmly and wait to go back to normal you may find yourself wolfing down sugar faster than your body will process it, which means you’ll experience high blood sugar soon thereafter. In the case of something like pizza, you may fall DANGEROUSLY low before the carbs finally kick and you may not have the choice but to treat the low and deal with delivering added insulin later to correct.
Riding the insulin roller coaster is no fun and can leave you feeling like crap, during and afterwards. With a little time and experience, you can learnt o adjust and know exactly what you’ll require to properly correct a low, what works for you and what works the fastest. But the important thing is to learn patience. Avoid overeating and give your fast-acting carbs the time to do their job. This is likely the hardest aspect of having low blood sugar, because no one wants to sit still when they feel shitty and they know their levels are low.
But if you correct, sit and rest and allow the carbs to kick in, you can avoid the roller coaster and be all the healthier for it. As usual, this is the part where I recommend a reasonable amount of exercise throughout the week as exercise will help to improve insulin sensitivity and takes at least one element off the table. Having Type-1 Diabetes involves many moving parts, but forewarned is forearmed. So, know your body and stay healthy! ☯