A Malfunctioning “Carb-uretor”…

Before you panic and scroll past, this isn’t another post about my car. Evidently, my car is functioning quite well since its last visit to the mechanic. Now I get to focus my “repair” attentions to my newly-purchased cell phone, which I’ve already ranted about here. So I won’t bother getting into THAT again (at least until I get the phone back and find out if it’s working or not). You all know that I like puns in my post titles, and this one is no exception. The carburetor I’m referring to is the pancreas.

A real carburetor promotes the internal combustion process of a vehicle by injecting a mist of fuel with air. This is done to allow for the internal combustion process to “make the car go.” Much in the same way, the pancreas injects insulin and helps control the level of fuel (carbs) in the body in order to also “make it go.” On a slightly different playing field, but the comparison is sound. In the case of someone with Type-1 Diabetes, injections of insulin are required since the pancreas no longer produces insulin after having one’s own immune system attack and destroy the body’s insulin-producing cells.

Now that I’ve explained that definition for what seems like the millionth time in my life, let’s proceed with the post, shall we? I’m a big, big fan of believing that someone with Diabetes can do ANYTHING that someone who isn’t afflicted with the condition can do. This is especially true of food, so long as one’s blood sugar levels are well controlled and you can dose your insulin in such a way to properly deal with the food you’re eating. For many years, I was mostly of the opinion that I should eliminate carbs as much as I can to inject as few units of insulin as possible. But modern therapies, including the insulin pump, have made it possible for me to enjoy a significantly more “normal” lifestyle and eat the way I see fit. Almost.

An example of a delicious but extremely high-carb meal I ate.

Therapies and technologies are only as good as the users who maintain them and even I make mistakes sometimes, despite many decades of dealing with my condition. Take a particular day for example, where things slipped off the rails, ever so slightly. I skipped breakfast. Alright, not deadly on it’s own but never a good thing. I don’t know if it’s age, Diabetes, my specific biology or an unhappy combination of the three usually leaves me waking up with no appetite for much of anything but dropping my head back to the pillow.

That first meal of the day serves a number of purposes, which I’ve written about in previous posts. So I won’t beat a dead horse on this one, but one key point is that eating regularly can actually help to maintain your blood sugars throughout the day and can help prevent highs and lows. So grabbing that quick bagel on the way out the door is never a bad idea (or yogurt, since bagels are pretty high-carb). Nevertheless, I skipped breakfast on this particular day, which meant that by the time lunch rolled around, I was extremely hungry and my blood sugars were slightly out of whack. Go, me (sarcasm)!

I ended up being a bit on the naughty side and ordered out for lunch. It was an extremely high-carb lunch, which should have been no problem. As long as I could bolus appropriately for the food I was consuming. Did I bolus appropriately? What do YOU think? I always like to think that I do, but sometimes bolusing does involve a level of guess work, especially when you’re eating food that’s been ordered and have no immediate way of verifying the total carb count. That’s what happened in this instance and as a result, I faced blood sugar levels in the teens for a number of hours leading into dinner (or supper, depending on where you’re reading this).

By the time supper rolled around, my blood sugars were reasonably back into normal range. My wife and I prepared the delicious supper you see picture above. Chicken balls with a homemade sweet & sour sauce with warm, buttered biscuits. Comparable to Thanksgiving, this meal practically put me into a coma. Between the heaviness of the meal and the high carbohydrate content, I was ready for sleep by 6 pm. And in truth, once the boys were in bed, I joined them and crashed as well. And that’s where I made my next mistake.

Like most people with Diabetes, I’ve dealt with many years where I had to pay for my supplies out-of-pocket. I’m lucky enough to have some solid medical coverage now, but it wasn’t always so. And Diabetes supplies and therapies are surprisingly expensive for something that absolutely necessary for keeping people alive. As a result, I’m pretty thrifty when it comes to insulin, since I’ve often had to make the most out of every unit. As a result, I decided to go to bed with only 12 units remaining in my pump. Normally, this wouldn’t be such a big deal and I could change it in the morning.

But my overnight basal rate is about 1.5 units/hour. Since I crashed at about 8 pm and awoke at 5 am, that’s nine hours of sleep. According to new math, 1.5 units/hour x 9 hours of sleep is 13.5 units. I fell short and had an empty pump for over an hour when I awoke. This left my blood sugar readings in the high teens. Not a great way to start the day. It’s all the little details that make a proper balance so critical. I know and understand the reasoning behind everything I’ve described in this post, but it doesn’t prevent the occasional bad day or a day where one is unable to find a proper balance.

The important thing to remember is that you should always be vigilant in your dealing with Diabetes, but you should also cut yourself a break when things don’t go well. As long as you keep fighting the good fight, you’ll always get ahead. I know a lot of people with Type-1 Diabetes who eat what they want, do what they want and completely ignore their blood sugars and proper insulin dosing. The sad truth is that for those people who just don’t seem to care, it doesn’t take long for Diabetes to completely overtake them. It also doesn’t help that Diabetes can be exhausting. But as much as this post may feel like I’m simply complaining about my condition, it’s mainly to illustrate how even a well-balanced and controlled case of Diabetes can easily have a bad day where things slip out of hand. Monitor your blood sugars regularly, eat well and include exercise into your weekly routine. And stay strong. ☯

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Shawn

I am a practitioner of the martial arts and student of the Buddhist faith. I have been a Type 1 Diabetic since I was 4 years old and have been fighting the uphill battle it includes ever since. I enjoy fitness and health and looking for new ways to improve both, as well as examining the many questions of life. Although I have no formal medical training, I have amassed a wealth of knowledge regarding health, Diabetes, martial arts as well as Buddhism and philosophy. My goal is to share this information with the world, and perhaps provide some sarcastic humour along the way. Welcome!

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