Lethargy and Apathy are NOT countries in Eastern Europe…

One of the many pitfalls of Diabetes is that is can often cause sluggishness and lack of energy. Many people tend to see this as laziness, but it is often attributed to out of control blood sugars and the physical tolls it takes on the human body.

Just to clarify, lethargy and apathy are pretty similar. the first means a lack of energy and enthusiasm; the latter means a lack of interest, enthusiasm or concern. Sometimes it’s easy to confuse the two.

People often wonder how to “push through” and get their workouts or exercise done, despite the lack of energy. This takes concentration and the willingness to push beyond what your body is telling you. Don’t get me wrong; it is important to take rest when it is required. Your body will eventually need to recharge and replenish itself. This is why most trainers and health professionals will tell you that you shouldn’t work out seven days a week. Eventually, you start doing more damage than good.

But as a matter of course, it is important to push yourself. When you get those days where you just don’t feel like getting off the couch, those are exactly the days where you should. Yesterday, I skipped a karate class. This is not a common practice for me, but some days one simply can’t find the motivation. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. But the throbbing pain in my upper back and right shoulder, coupled with my inability to keep my eyes open, told me that if I didn’t take a rest and allow these muscles to heal, I would likely injure or harm myself further.

So it becomes important to know the difference between required rest and lethargy. It is also important to recognize the difference between the ache of a rigorous workout and the pain of an injury. If you are ever uncertain as to which you are feeling, don’t hesitate to visit your family practitioner, chiropractor, massage therapist, whatever you need. Even if it turns out to be nothing, it’s always better to err on there side of caution. Your body will thank you.

Mind Over Matter, It Doesn’t Matter So Never Mind…

When was the last time you sat down at your kitchen table with a hot cup of coffee or tea and just SAT there? No agenda, no tasks or chores that need doing and no work to get to on that particular day? Can’t remember the last time that happened? Don’t feel bad, neither do I! But this likely means that we are lacking something very important in our lives: the ability to be still!

This morning I brought my son with me to check in at work and run some errands. As usual, he was his typical buoyant self, attracting everyone’s attention and fascinated by everything he sees. He seemed to be on a kick this morning of claiming he’s only one year old! According to him, his teacher told him this, although I’m sure something got lost in the translation. I asked him what he’d like to do this morning for an hour before going back to see his mother, and he replied with typical time-proven favourite: breakfast and the play place at a local fast-food eatery.

Now, I include breakfast because it would be ludicrous to think that we’d sit in a restaurant and not order something! But let me be clear; Nathan could care less about the food; he simply wants to play on the play structure with other children. A part of me is pleased that he wants to interact and socialize with other children. Another part of me longs for the silence that I wouldn’t get even if we were there alone.

Since it was an unplanned trip, I had limited resources with which to occupy myself while Nathan played. Oh sure, I had a book in my backpack. I almost always have a backpack when I expect to be out of the house for more than an hour. When you have Diabetes, you have little choice to do otherwise. What with testing equipment, fast-acting glucose and my glasses and other medications, I generally make it a rule to keep at least one piece of reading material with me. This morning’s selection was UechiRyu Karate Do by George E. Mattson.

But as I sat there, I found myself doing something I occasionally fall into: I observed the world around me. And this is what I noticed… People bustling and in a hurry. People raising their voices over mistaken orders and everyone staring at their watch. I happen to be in a position where sitting still at 9 in the morning is a very real possibility for me, but even when I’m at work, I like to think that I live in the moment and take time to do what’s immediately in front of me. Most of the people I observed were getting their coffee and/or their food because they need it to get on with their day, as opposed to sitting and enjoying it.

An important part of one’s mental and physiological well-being is to occasionally take the time to just sit still. Let the world around you melt away and just take the time to enjoy the moment. Sounds easier said than done? You damn right it is! But the benefits can be plentiful. Even for someone with Diabetes. Allowing yourself to relax causes your heart rate to slow, your blood pressure to lower and permits you to relax (depending on how many milligrams of caffeine may be in your beverage of choice, of course), all of which will help with blood sugar levels.

Today’s rat race makes it all but impossible to find time to sit in silence. And thanks to the advent of technology and social media, most of us can’t comfortably sit in silence anymore. But the practice is still sound and should be exercised. So, take some time for yourself. Sit there and let your mind drift. Well-known authors and composers have claimed that they do their best work when they simply let the ideas come to them. Why not emulate this behaviour and let your mind reset. Maybe you’d be surprised at the ideas you could develop!

The Future Is Now!

I still remember how I felt when I was first diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. I was four years old, it was 1982 and technology was a far cry from what it is now.

I recall a number of symptoms that, at the time, made me angry and sad without having the benefit of understanding what was happening. I began wetting the bed again. This was the most humiliating, since my parents felt they had no option but to put me in diapers when I went to bed. I would wake in the morning with a soaked diaper, wondering why I didn’t wake up to use the washroom. My weight and appetite fluctuated and my personality changed almost overnight. My thirst was constant and I was always cranky.

My parents thought that perhaps I was simply going through a phase. I had just turned four, after all. The well-known “fournado” period was well under way. It wasn’t until I awoke one morning and sat at the kitchen table, complaining of stomach pain and feeling strange that things reached a plateau.

One morning, I promptly passed out into my bowl of Cheerios (I don’t know if it was actually Cheerios, just to be clear. But one can assume…). I was transported to the local hospital, but I don’t remember a great deal of the next few days. This is likely because I was comatose. I would later learn that my blood sugar had gotten so high that the glucometers of the time couldn’t effectively read my blood glucose. Considering my modern day glucometer caps off at 33.0 mmol/L, that’s saying a lot.

Once I woke up (several days later), it was discovered through testing that I had been diagnosed as a Type 1 Diabetic. Although I didn’t really know what this meant at the time, it would go on to define me as a person for the rest of my life.

The weeks that followed involved a lot of trial and error as well as a glucometer that took almost three minutes to test with, and was about the size of a brick. My parents had no concept of what carb-counting was, or how to ensure that I didn’t ingest glucose from sources they weren’t aware of (“oh, bread doesn’t have sugar, sweetheart! You can have as much of that as you want”). Back in the 80’s, sugared goods were sugared goods; I’m talking cookies and baked goods and stuff. Bread, milk and potatoes were considered non-sugared goods. Unbeknownst to me, I was causing all kinds of damage to my system from consuming all those carbs without the benefit of calculating how much insulin I would require. It would prove to be a challenge I would have to deal with, later on in life…

I don’t blame my parents. They did the best they could with what they had available at the time. I honestly wouldn’t learn about carb-counting and such until 2015, almost 33 years after I was diagnosed.

My point is, now I’m connected to an insulin pump that is tethered to my body. It weighs less than an ounce and I test my blood using an interstitial fluid glucose reader, which would have have been considered inconceivable ten to fifteen years ago. But it’s how I live my life now.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to meet some people interested in upgrading to a new insulin pump. The latest design, it calculates and adjust one’s glucose levels every five minutes and helps to eliminate a number of steps required to maintain good glucose levels.

I met a gentleman who had been on an insulin pump in the 1980’s, as well as a youth who has only been on the pump for about three months. The variety was humbling, and I’ve ultimately decided to upgrade and move on to something newer.

Although I have always been a believer that technology isn’t the answer to everything, we keep moving one step closer to a point where perhaps someday, we’ll achieve a worry-free system that will take care of itself. We may not be able to create a new pancreas, but we can sure as hell combine technology with biology to provide a better tomorrow for future Type 1 Diabetics.

Lactic Acid, NOT An Ingredient In Your Milk…

We’ve all been there, right? Maybe you’re on a wicked jog, or participating in an intense spinning or Zumba class…. Maybe you’ve lost your mind and decided to drag your wife through a particularly sweating hypertrophy workout because it’s “something different”…

No? Just me? Alright then, think back to a time when you’ve been working out or exercising strenuously. Do you remember feeling that sudden burning feeling in your lungs? A noticeable lack of strength in your muscles and your body is essentially telling you to stop and rest? That, my friend, is a build-up of lactic acid in your muscle tissue.

Lactic Acid, or Lactate, is caused when you’re body is burning through more oxygen than it is carrying while exercising. Lactic Acid can be used by your body to produce energy without the use of oxygen, but it leaves some unpleasant side effects in its wake. The buildup of Lactic Acid is sometimes referred to Lactic Acidosis and the big problem is that your body will generally produce more Lactic Acid than you can quickly burn off and this is what causes you to feel symptoms like pain, cramping, nausea, weakness and exhaustion. One can sometimes fight one’s way through the effects of Lactic Acid buildup, but the result is more Lactic Acid. Rinse and repeat. Fun.

Once you hit that point, or what’s called the “Lactate Threshold”, it’s important to start your cool down. Your body’s exhaustion will likely tell your brain that it’s time to stop completely and maybe lie down for a nap, but this is not the proper thing to do. You need to cool down and allow your excess Lactic Acid to burn away.

There’s no real way to prevent Lactic Acidosis, other than to exercise regularly and increase the intensity gradually. I think WebMD said it best: “Don’t go from being a couch potato to trying to run a marathon […].” But if you build yourself up gradually, it will increase your threshold and make you capable of a lot more physical exertion before Lactic Acid builds up. The reality is that our ancestors sometimes had to face threats that didn’t allow them to build their intensity gradually, and this is why our bodies have this backup. But it is meant to be temporary. Unless your life is in jeopardy or the immediate situation mandates it, continuing to fight through Lactic Acidosis can be harmful (at the very least, it hurts like hell!).

But once you’ve hit that point, be sure to rest up and drink plenty of water as it helps to eliminate the excess acid. In some rare cases, medical conditions can cause Lactic Acidosis without intense exercise. Believe it or not, people who use Metformin for Type 2 Diabetes can experience Lactic Acidosis as a side effect of this medication. If you’re getting any of these symptoms as a result of a medical condition or medications, obviously you should speak with your doctor.

Otherwise, stretch properly, drink plenty of water and eat a balanced diet, chase all of that with a good night’s sleep and keep working out. I often hear people think that they believe Lactic Acidosis lasts for a couple of days after the workout; this is part of the recovery and not the actual Lactic Acid. Lactic Acidosis is an event that happens in the moment, and is usually gone soon after the workout ends.

Water, The True Nectar of Life

How much water do you drink in a day? Think you know the answer? I’ll bet you don’t… Most people don’t get enough hydration throughout the day, and this can lead to problems, especially if you exercise frequently or have Diabetes.

In the old days, we were always told that every person should consume eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day (that’s 1.89 litres for you metric folks). That’s not a lot! But this also doesn’t take into account water contained in foods and other beverages. It’s also no longer correct or relevant.

According to the Mayo Clinic (https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/water/art-20044256) the human body is composed of approximately 60 percent water. Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of different numbers, including as much as 90 percent, but the majority of health professionals all land on 60 percent. But in general, the agreed guideline is to drink roughly one ounce of water for every pound you weigh. So if you weigh 200 pounds like I do (shut up, that’s my actual weight), then you would need to drink roughly 200 ounces a day, which evens out to almost 6 litres of water. That probably seems like quite a bit, but when you account for the water in your fruits, vegetables, food in general and other drinks such as coffee and juice, I can make do at my weight with roughly 3 to 4 litres of water throughout the day. Okay, I’ll be honest, drinking four litres of water in a day still seems excessive!

But this amount is reflected by the National Academies of Science, Engeneering and Medicine who determined that an adequate amount of water is about 3.7 litres for men and 2.7 litres for women. This takes into account fluids from other beverages and food as well. That’s pretty doable, if you sip consistently throughout the day.

The amount of water you need throughout the day will also depend on mass, age, fitness, hot weather, activity level and outlying medical conditions, such as Diabetes. One condition that Diabetics tend to get is what I like to call “The Devil’s Cycle”. When a Diabetic’s blood sugar rises too high, it has a bit of a diuretic effect and causes frequent urination. High blood sugar also causes increased thirst. So you drink more water, which leads to more urination, and so on and so forth. I call it “The Devil’s Cycle” because until the blood sugar comes down, you basically feel like hell.

Drinking water has an immeasurable number of health benefits, including but not limited to maintaining hydration, aiding in digestion and weight loss, energizing muscle tissue and keeping skin looking good. Regular water consumption aids in weight loss because dehydration is often mistaken for hunger, and people will eat when all they really need is to have some fluids. It also helps to alleviate headaches and is the only true cure fro a hangover. Water and time, people. Water and time.

There are a number of signs that indicate whether you are probably hydrated or not. Most prominently, if you’re not thirsty as all hell, it’s a pretty good sign you’re properly hydrated. I’m not going to start describing colour and odour of urine here, but if your conscientious enough to check, there are signs in your urine that will tell if you’re properly hydrated or not and these can verified through your family practitioner or on a reputable medical website.

Bottom line is that if you’re thirsty, drink some water! When you work out, drink some water! When trying to control your blood sugars, drink some water! See where I’m going with this? DRINK SOME WATER!!! Keeping a reusable, disposable water bottle with you around the house will help with this. My wife and I always have plastic, washable water bottles with us. Stay hydrated, folks!

The Unseen Enemy…

General Vegetius, of the Roman empire, once wrote “If you want peace, prepare for war”. (This comes from the book Epitoma Rei Militaris, and was written by General Vegetius) And I can think of no personal struggle that I’ve dealt with in my life that encompasses daily battles like Type 1 Diabetes!

This morning, I woke up in pain. My shoulders were a combination of numb and sharp, stinging pain. I sat up gingerly, as my head was spinning and my arms only seemed to have limited function. I thought maybe I had simply slept wrong and the circulation in my arms was impeded. It was just prior to 8 am. I reached for my phone and checked my blood sugar levels (I use Freestyle Libre Flash Glucose Monitoring System, which runs through my smartphone). Turns out, my blood glucose level was 2.5! Just to provide a frame of reference for my non-Diabetic readers, a normal blood glucose level is anywhere between 5.0 to 7.0.

So there it was! First thing in the morning and my battle has already begun. I stumbled out of bed, got to some fast-acting glucose and chased it with some caffeine. It took about ten to fifteen minutes before the spinning stopped and the headache began. The throbbing in my shoulders had passed, so it seems that I exchanged one level of pain for another. This is just a small slice of what I’ve dealt with since my diagnosis of Type 1 in 1982!

Low blood sugar, or Hypoglycemia as it is known in medical terms, is a marked and significant reduction in glucose in the blood stream. Glucose is required by the body, as a fuel source and to help transport oxygen to the brain. This is one of the reasons that people with low blood sugar will often seem dizzy or disoriented. Hypoglycemia in and of itself is not a disease, but merely a symptom of a related health condition, including but not limited to Diabetes.

In fact, several factors can cause non-Diabetics to experience a drop in blood sugar. Believe it or not (and some of my friends will curse my name for mentioning it), excessive alcohol consumption without eating can cause a drop in blood sugar. Your liver becomes so occupied with processing the alcohol that it neglects to release glycol into your system, which replaces glucose when you go too long without eating. But this is just one of the possibilities, including hormone deficiencies, Diabetes and certain medications or other medical conditions.

This is only one half of the brutal balance of high and low that Type 1 Diabetics have to deal with on a daily basis. The worst is when I actually do my homework, check out how many grams of carbs are contained in something I want to eat only to have my blood drop out on me despite the effort!

That’s why it is SO important to maintain a good exercise regiment, solid meal consumption and decent sleep patterns.

Regular exercise keeps the blood oxygenated and the systems functioning in time with one another. It helps with the propagation of hormones and enzymes throughout the body (insulin is a hormone, BTW) and helps to maintain your sleep habits.

Eating proper meals, at decent times, helps to keep your metabolism fired up and helps to maintain proper blood sugar levels. It also gives you the fuel required to exercise regularly. See how they kind of go hand in hand?

Getting between 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night allows your body’s systems to regenerate and refresh themselves, allowing for better blood sugar levels and overall better health.

All these factors go hand in hand with one another. Much like the proverbial yin yang, you can’t have one without the other. If any of my Diabetic readers are interesting in the glucose testing sensor I use, you can check it out on FreeStyle’s website at https://myfreestyle.ca/en/products/libre?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI3bSD-que4QIVVrjACh1HSQazEAAYASAAEgJssPD_BwE. Just be warned, this is a Canada-only website. If you are from outside Canada, you may have to access FreeStyle’s global webpage instead. ☯

Sleep, The Quiet Training Tool

Sleep can sometimes be elusive. We’ve all been there, right? You hit that certain hour of the evening, do your nightly routine and curl up comfortably on your bed of choice (mine happens to be a memory foam mattress I bought a few years ago at Jysk! It’s absolute heaven!). As you close your eyes, slow your breathing and attempt to slip into the land of nod, nothing happens. You lie there with your eyes open, staring at the ceiling, unable to fall asleep. Brutal. But here’s the bad news: whether you can achieve it or not, sleep is necessary!

According to Dr. Eric J. Olson from the Mayo Clinic, the average adult requires 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. There are varying factors to how much sleep one requires, including the quality of sleep you get, sleep deprivation and change of sleep patterns due to things like aging and pregnancy. (https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/expert-answers/how-many-hours-of-sleep-are-enough/faq-20057898)

If you’re sleep deprived, the amount of sleep you’ll need to get the following night will likely be increased. However, it is important to acknowledge that most health professionals agree that sleep is not a cumulative function. This means that you can’t get three hours of sleep the first night, followed by thirteen hours of sleep the second night, and expect to have the same results. So it is important (shift work notwithstanding) to set aside that required 7 to 9 hours every night. I’m sure we’ve all met that person who claims to be able to function after only a few hours of sleep, but their performance will be invariably affected even if they don’t realize it. WebMD has a good article that outlines some of the dangers and effects of sleep deprivation and “sleep debt”, which can be read at https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/guide/sleep-requirements#1

Regular naps can be beneficial, if your lifestyle and schedule permit them (I’ve covered this in a previous blog) but they shouldn’t “replace” nor can be counted as, part of your night’s sleep. Neither should meditation! Despite how restful a proper meditation session can feel, it doesn’t replace the rejuvenative properties of a full night’s sleep.

Now, we get to the part about how sleep plays an important role in fitness and martial arts. Sleep and exercise go hand in hand. I’m sure that those of you who have ever had a wicked burn of a workout will acknowledge that once the day’s end hits, we crash like a pile of bricks for the night. This is because the physical exertion causes the body to need rest. Makes sense, right? The reality is that you actually tear and destroy muscle tissue during your workouts. (Trust me, ask you doctor next time you speak with them!) Your body’s muscle tissue and essential systems regenerate during your sleep cycle, which is why some professional and hardcore athletes require closer to ten hours of sleep every night. This regeneration causes your muscle tissue to heal and repair itself to be stronger than before. This is why a proper sleep regiment can allow you to be more energized and stronger in the long haul.

Bear in mind that napping, coffee and energy drinks don’t serve as adequate substitutes for proper sleep and will only help to alleviate the grogginess in the SHORT term. becoming dependant on these things can have negative effects in the LONG term. This coming from the guy who starts every morning with an energy drink… I can totally quit if I want to! Who am I kidding; my blood is 90% caffeine.

In all seriousness, the last aspect of sleep I’ll cover is Diabetes. As any of my Diabetic readers can attest to, EVERYTHING affects blood sugar levels. Our eating habits, fitness habits, work habits and sleep habits all play a role on how blood sugar levels are controlled and maintained. So as you can imagine, lack of sleep can certainly contribute to uncontrolled blood sugars.

So no matter what your lifestyle, fitness routines or work habits are, remember to set aside time for a good 8 hours of sleep! Your body will thank you.