Grab The Bull By The Horns…

Anyone who is at least mildly familiar with me, knows that I’m a big fan of caffeine. My day pretty much always starts with a coffee or an energy drink (sometimes both) and I would be lying if I said that I don’t turn into a cranky biatch if I don’t have some levels of caffeine coursing through my veins before I deal with the outside world.

Energy drinks have gotten a bad rap in the past couple of decades, and not always for good reason. Over-consumption, allergies and/or misuse have lead to the popular opinion that energy drinks are bad for you, even dangerous. The bottom line is that it is very much a question of moderation, much like everything else. The average person can safely consume about 400 milligrams of caffeine a day (depending on age, weight and health concerns), and the average 473 mL can of energy drink only has 160 milligrams of caffeine. You’d have to drink four cans to start creeping into that “danger zone”.

Now that we’ve covered off the caffeine issue in all it’s glory (some of my previous posts have been specifically about caffeine so I won’t go crazy here) the actual focus of today’s blog is an often-disputed ingredient that happens to be in most energy drinks: Taurine!

Taurine is an amino acid and is actually produced naturally by the human body. Despite its natural production, it can also be found in reasonable amounts in meat and fish. Contrary to some claims on the internet, Taurine is not derived from the urine and/or semen of bulls. Yes, the word “Taurine” is derived from a latin word that means bull, but unless you’re getting your Taurine from a cut of steak, it has nothing to do with an actual bull.

Taurine, unlike other amino acids, doesn’t contribute to the creation of the body’s proteins. But it has a number of uses that are beneficial to the proper health of the body’s cells. Some studies have even shown that there are measurable benefits in regulating Type-1 and Type-2 Diabetes, as well as some Diabetes-related kidney issues. MedicalNewsToday.com has an excellent article that goes into detail about some of it an can be read here; https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326476.php#why-do-we-need-it

The studies in question seem to indicate that taking Taurine supplements can help improve insulin sensitivity. But like caffeine, the amount of measurable Taurine in a can of energy drink is well below what’s believed to be safe. Although the average can has 2000 milligrams of Taurine, an article by Healthline.com indicates that doses upwards of 3000 milligrams for an entire lifetime still fall within the realm of safety. (https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/what-is-taurine#dosage)

The bottom line is that consuming energy drinks are not inherently dangerous, when consumed in moderation. And Taurine is most certainly not an included ingredient that the manufacturers have gotten from a bull’s testies! The end result is that you should take your caffeinated beverages in moderation, and never beyond mid-afternoon. Otherwise, enjoy your energy drink! There’s nothing harmful in it. ☯

Don't Freeze Your Bits…

Ahhh, winter… The season of freshness. The season when everything is covered in a cleansing blanket of white that seem to invigorate… And take one’s breath away! Of all the things that affect people who live with Type-1 Diabetes, cold is one of the least considered, though it should not be forgotten.

Last Monday, I had my usual bimonthly eye injection appointment in the neighbouring city. As is my habit, I checked into my hotel a bit early so that I could park my vehicle in the relative safety of their parking structure and walk for approximately fifteen minutes across a public park to reach the hospital. This is usually done due to the lack of availability of the hotel’s shuttle and the fact that I’m too cheap to pay for a taxi.

Once I checked in, I took my first few steps in the cold, -40 degrees celsius of Saskatchewan winter. That first breath caught in my lungs and caused me to choke. But the first few steps were bearable. Then, as I continued, my limbs and face started to object to my being outside. They almost seemed to form a linch mob hell-bent on making me regret every step I took in the “great” outdoors.

By the time I had reached the hospital, two things happened: I was frozen to my core despite wearing appropriate winter apparel, and the battery on my insulin pump died on me. It shouldn’t have, since it was barely half used. But exposure to the intense cold caused the battery to bottom out.

This leads us to an important reminder about the cold. First and foremost, extreme cold forces the body into a fight-or-flight state, which can cause the release of adrenaline and similar hormones, which will cause the release of glycol for further energy, thereby affecting blood sugar levels.

There are a score of other problems that spending too much time in the cold will cause. The most important thing to remember is that although insulin is meant to be kept cool and/or cold through refrigeration, it can’t be allowed to freeze. Insulin is a protein, and if it is allowed to freeze it’ll break down and won’t function the way it should. Once broken down, it won’t lower blood sugar the way it’s intended.

As far as equipment goes, the manufacturer’s information for all things Diabetes-related, such as your blood glucose monitor and insulin pump, will indicate that you shouldn’t expose them to extreme cold. The problem I faced, in regards to my pump’s battery, is that the freezing temperature will cause the composition of the battery to become ineffective and possibly even rupture. I was lucky that my battery didn’t pop inside the pump.

If you find yourself having to venture out in the freezing, Saskatchewan winter, be sure to dress for the weather. Dress in layers, stay hydrated to prevent dehydration and cover up to prevent frostbite. But most of all, keep your equipment and insulin shielded from sub-zero temperatures and freezing as much as possible. And certainly not least, trust your blood sugars frequently to ensure you’re staying on top of it. ☯

Balancing What You Eat Can Help At Balancing Your Life

“Wow, my blood sugar is great, right now! Time to f&*k it up with lunch…” This is a typical line I often say to my wife when I test my blood and find it sitting in an ideal range. Having Type-1 Diabetes makes it reasonably difficult to find balance. On the one hand, some food items have some very clearly defined carbohydrate counts. On the other, depending on your current state of health, mood, hydration and the weather (I wish I was kidding), the same food item you ate yesterday can have a measured difference in effect on your blood sugars from the day before.

Finding a diet that works is very subjective, and having that diet work in relation to your blood sugars is by no means an easy task. For example, did you know that about a cup of a rice krispies cereal has about 25 grams of carbohydrates, whereas the carbohydrates in something less generic, like Special K is about 22.75 grams? (Source: https://www.healthline.com/health/best-low-carb-cereal-brands#medium-carb)

Although this doesn’t seem like a HUGE difference, a two or three gram difference in your meal’s total carb-count can make a big difference in the overall blood sugar levels of the day. But are carbohydrates the worst concern in your diet?

Carbohydrates are fuel. That’s the simplest way of looking at it. Along with protein and fat, it is one of the essential aspects of nutrition that’s required. The problem with carbohydrates is that some of them will burn much slower than others. This can play hell with your insulin dosage. If you take X number of units for Y grams of carbs and it has a measured effect on your blood sugar curve, you may see a noticeable difference with the same amount of carbs in a food that’s processed slower.

For example, if you compare 100 grams of red meat against a half cup of beans, the beans clearly win out where total nutrition is concerned. Beans will have more protein, almost four times the iron and magnesium and contains none of the cholesterol that you’d find in meat. However, that half-cup of beans will have 22 grams of carbohydrates to bolus for, where the meat will have none.

The difference is you CAN take insulin for the carb in the beans. Fighting off the long-term (and sometimes not so long-term) effects of cholesterol are a little more difficult; not to mention the effects on the cardiac system and your overall health.

Another good example are eggs versus tofu. I’m gonna start by saying I am a diehard hater of tofu and I refuse to even have it in my house. Although very nutritious, I’m not a fan of eating something that either has a gelatinous feel or looks like something I scraped out of the lawnmower. But I digress…

While half a cup of scrambled eggs will certainly have less carbohydrates than tofu, it also contains more than three times the amount of saturated fats as tofu. I’m still not eating tofu! YOU CAN’T MAKE ME!!! (Hides under the covers in his bed and pouts)

Last but not least are chick peas. I have a friend back home who is a big fan of chick peas, and for good reason. If you compare equal amounts of chick peas with let’s say, chicken breast… chick peas will have an almost equal amount of protein as chicken but with none of the cholesterol. Chick peas also pack a decent amount of fibre, whereas chicken has none. And fibre is one of those dietary staples that most people seem to neglect.

There are plenty of sites around the internet where you can get nutritional measurements for common foods, so I’ll leave it to you to find your own information. Your family doctor or medical practitioner should be able to refer you to a dietitian or nutritionist if you have questions or concerns related to your food intake.

The bottom line is that in the face of all these fad diets and nutritional trends out there, you need to find a balance in what you eat. Lower carb counts can help to lose SOME weight, although this is only in small amounts and usually doesn’t last. So choosing foods high in protein and minerals that your body needs may be worth the added two or three units of insulin you have to inject at mealtime. The key is knowing how your body will metabolize the specific carbs you’re eating, and distributing your insulin accordingly. ☯

If The Smell Doesn't Kill You, The Benefits Will Heal You…

Yeah, it isn’t the prettiest fragrance in the vegetable world, but damn is it delicious! I’m a big fan of garlic, and I use it in most of my cooking. Garlic comes in many forms when used in the kitchen. You can buy garlic butter, garlic powder and even garlic spread. And that’s on top of the usual fresh whole cloves and chopped, freeze-dried garlic.

Most people obviously know that garlic is a vegetable (I hope), but something many don’t know is that it’s related to the onion. And on top of the delicious flavour it adds to my stir fry, it has a number of proven benefits for the body, as well.

Garlic contains a decent amount of vitamins and minerals, including some B vitamins, calcium and potassium.

Fresh garlic has been studied and shown to boost immune systems, reduce blood pressure and lower your risk of heart issues. Taking garlic supplements has even been shown to help reduce pre-meal blood sugar if taken over long periods of time.

According to an article posted on WebMD, there is a bad side to garlic. Considering it has the potential to lower blood sugar, it’s definitely something to watch if you’re eating it in large amounts. Other problematic issues includes heartburn, bad breath and a distinct and noticeable door of garlic when you sweat. Lovely, eh?

There are also some medication interactions to watch for, if you eat large quantities of garlic. You can check them out here: https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-300/garlic

At the end of the day, we mustn’t forget the most important benefit of garlic: it’s delicious! Fresh, chopped garlic always adds a little “je ne said quoi” to your meal, whether it’s a stir fry or a meatloaf. Did I mention it’s delicious? I recently found an in-store made garlic spread that’s pretty good on toast. The best part is that my son seems to have taken to it and can’t get enough, as well (the five-year old, not the three-month old).

So, garlic it up! Just don’t forget to keep your toothbrush close by to eliminate that death-breath afterwards! ☯

Sprinkle A Little Of That Goodness…

When you have Type-1 Diabetes, you have the unfortunate requirement to pay attention to everything you eat, everything you do and the activities in which you participate and monitor your body closely. Most things tend to hit us harder, and we’re not only hit with a shorter life expectancy but our organs all tend to play Russian roulette with life.

Luckily, some of the things we need to watch for do apply to non-Diabetics as well. One of these things is the intake of salt. For many years, it was believed that the best course of action was to eliminate your intake of salt as much as possible. This is a flawed logic and including salt in your diet is actually important.

First of all, let’s clarify: there’s a difference between salt and sodium. Salt is the combination of sodium and chloride, as well as trace amounts of other minerals. Sodium is a stand-alone mineral, and is usually what is measured in terms of dietary and daily intake requirements.

Salt, as I’ll refer to it for the remainder of this post, is a catch-22 seasoning. Too much can cause a score of health and medical issues. But believe it or not, completely eliminating salt from your diet can cause a number of issues for you, as well.

But since people in general tend to think that salt = bad, let’s examine some of the benefits of including salt in your diet. Some of these healthy uses of salt include:

  1. Dental Hygiene: Swishing a teaspoon of salt in a half cup of water can help with good oral health by helping with infections, mouth sores, wounds and some forms of gum disease. It’s also a dentist-recommended natural treatment to help heal canker sores, which are a real sore spot for me (see what I did there?);
  2. It’s a natural disinfectant: It’s no mystery that salt has been used for centuries as a curing and/or preserving agent, as salt prevents certain bacteria from growing and spoiling food. But soaking certain wounds (especially those on your feet) in warm salt water can help with healing;
  3. It eases sore throats: Gargling with salt water can ease swelling and irritation caused by sore throats;
  4. It can ease cramps and dehydration: I know that most people tend to think that salt dehydrates you. And this may be true, if you consume heavy amounts of it. But healthy amounts of salt will actually help you to stay hydrated and by proxy, eliminate muscle cramps during physical activities. Salt is an electrolyte and is required in order to keep you hydrated;
  5. It can help clear your sinuses: Using a saline solution can help to alleviate sinus issues caused by colds or allergies. You can find over-the-counter saline bottles at any pharmacy or if you want to be totally disgusting, you can use a netti pot to pour salt water into your sinus cavities to wash them out.

There are a few good posts that cover further benefits. WebMD has a good one and can be read here: https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/ss/slideshow-salt-uses. HealthLine.com also has a good one and can be read here: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/salt-good-or-bad

As far as eating salt is concerned, the average person pretty much consumes their maximum recommended amount of salt through most of the foods they eat. But if you drink plenty of water throughout your day and are not faced with any outlying medical conditions that prohibit the use of salt, sprinkling a lit bit of goodness on your food is not a big deal. It’s one of those “happy medium” situations where too much is bad, but too little can be just as bad.

According to the HealthLine.com link I provided above, reduced sodium intake can lead to an increase in heart issues, LDL and Triglyceride counts as well as an increase in insulin resistance. So one would likely not want to cut out salt COMPLETELY.

Last but not least, when it comes to choosing your salt, natural salt wins over common table salt. Like most things you find in a consumer’s world, table salt is processed and has a negligible mineral content. Natural salt includes types such as sea salt and Himalayan pink salt.

With salt, much like everything else in life, moderation is key. Although you don’t want to be pouring that stuff freely onto everything you eat, you certainly don’t want to eliminate it completely either. Your doctor or health practitioner should be able to tell you if you need to reduce or increase your sodium intake and as with everything else, drink plenty of fluids along the way. ☯

To Be Born Twice…

When I take stock of my life, I realize that through time and circumstance I have experienced something of a rebirth on more than one occasion. In my youth, the path of my life and how I grew up was determined by a single diagnoses of Type-1 Diabetes at the age of 4. I’ve often reflected on how differently my life may have been had I not been diagnosed as such.

Later on, I would start my training in karate; a move that I would ultimately come to see as a rebirth. The person I became and the health I gained showed a marked departure from where I began. It also helped define the kind of drive and ambition I would have in almost everything I’d do in my life.

My chosen career, although started later than most, was most definitely a rebirth. It was almost like being under water for so many years, only to finally come up for air. When you finally find what you were meant to do, it seems like a perfect fit and everything else seems to melt away.

But sometimes, these rebirths don’t happen on their own. Sometimes you have to take yourself in hand in order to make them happen. I’ve often said that life doesn’t are about our plan. Things will happen in due course, but this doesn’t mean you should just sit back and wait for it happen.

Change may be organic to life, but POSITIVE change requires your active involvement. You can’t remake yourself by hiding away from the outside world. You are part of the living organism that is the world, and the only way to have a positive impact is through positive thinking and positive action. ☯

What Goes In, Must Come Out

I thought I’d finish out 2019 with the grossest topic I can think of, because, why not? As I’ve often written, having Diabetes can lead to a heavy score of complications and we already know that our immune systems are total crap. And crap, as the turn of phrase would have it, is the focus of this post…

How often do you go to the bathroom and look at what comes out? Before most of you start wondering if I have a pitcher of eggnog or a spiced rum at my desk as I write, this is an important part of proper health. Because what comes out of you is important and can tell you a great deal about your health.

I’ve looked into a few different sources and referenced some medical practitioners only to find a batch of common consistencies that they all bring up, as it relates to going #2. Here’s what I found:

  1. It shouldn’t take forever: There are always jokes made about how if someone is taking too long in the bathroom, it’s because they’re going #2. As funny as that joke might be (I guess), the average bowel movement shouldn’t take you more than fifteen minutes. And that’s pushing it (pun intended). A healthy bowel movement should come easily with little pushing effort to move. And the time frame doesn’t include how long you waste getting past that tough level on Angry Birds;
  2. It shouldn’t hurt: The human body is an exceptionally well-designed machine, and your digestion and elimination systems are no exception. If a bowel movement is painful or difficult to pass, this can be a sign of further concern. It should be closer to spitting a grape out of your mouth, not giving birth to a rhino;
  3. It should look normal: What is normal? I’ll get to that in a bit, but the basic is it should be solid or semi-solid and have at least SOME shade of actual brown to it. Anything else can be a sign of dehydration, lack of fibre, diarrhea, food intolerances and even stress;
  4. You should be going once a day: An article posted by HealthLine.ca indicates that, “On average, a person with healthy digestion will poop anywhere between every other day to three times a day. Any less could suggest constipation […].” (https://www.healthline.com/health/digestive-health/types-of-poop#3);
  5. “Regular” is a real thing: Despite point #4, I feel there’s a hell of a difference between going every two days and possibly going three times a day. As long as your diet and health are consistent, you should have a regular regiment and even go around the same time every day. If you’re used to going every morning at 7 am after your first coffee and all of a sudden you’re running for the nearest washroom three or four times, there’s likely something amiss.

These are only general guidelines based on the articles and references I’ve found, of course. As is the case with almost everything related to one’s health, every person is different and proper health is based on your specific diet, exercise routine, outlying medical conditions and hydration.

But let’s talk consistency for a moment, shall we? Back in the late 90’s, Dr. Ken Heaton from the University of Bristol, developed a chart that outlines the different shapes and consistencies of bowel movements in order to provide a baseline of what your particular bowel movements may be telling you. It was named The Bristol Stool Chart, but is also known as the Meyers Scale.

An example of the Bristol Stool Chart as found on Wikipedia

The chart can be easily found by Googling it, and they all show the same thing, despite some differences in design and appearance. What you’re looking for is either Type 3 or 4, with all other types signifying some potential problem or issue with your elimination and/or health. If you have Type-1 Diabetes and can basically dehydrate at the drop of a hat, diarrhea can be a serious issue. Remember to drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.

Next is colour! The poo emoji got it right; your bowel movements should be a shade of brown. There are, however, a number of other colours that may suddenly show up in the bowl.

Black or red could be an indicator or internal bleeding, however mild or severe. Of course, red could also be an indicator that you ate something pertinent, such as beets, red berries or drinking heavy amounts of tomato juice, which can add a tinge of red to your bowel movements.

White bowel movements can indicate potential liver or gallbladder issues and shouldn’t be ignored. Green colour can be an indicator of something you ate, but is also dependent on the consistency. An article posted by MedicalNewsToday.com gets pretty descriptive and can be read here: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320938.php#colors-of-poop

At the end of the day, the best ways to ensure proper elimination is to stay hydrated, exercise regularly and try and eliminate stress from your life (that last one isn’t the easiest). And there can always be one or more of these factors that suddenly make an appearance in your porcelain opera. It becomes a problem if colour, consistency or frequency change in such a way that it is no longer a one-off and doesn’t feel normal.

If you begin to feel pain, identify blood in your stool or have a colour or consistency change that doesn’t go back to normal after two or three days, you should go see your doctor or medical practitioner. Most people consider their bathroom trips to be an opportunity to get a few minutes of quiet time, read a chapter or play on their phones. But keeping an eye on what comes out can be a good indicator of your health. ☯