You Put Your Left Foot In, You Put Your Left Foot Out… 🎵

People with Diabetes genuinely have a rough go at life. If it seems as though there aren’t any systems in the body unaffected by Diabetes, it’s because there really aren’t!

One of the more problematic areas where Diabetics have issues is with their feet. Because Diabetes has this nasty tendency of damaging nerve endings and restricting blood flow to extremities, folks with T1D are less likely to feel it when they injure their feet. This is what is referred to as Diabetic Neuropathy.

Because your feet are rather important for things like, you know, walking, running, standing and kicking (if you’re into the martial arts) there are many things you can do to promote proper foot health. Most of these apply to non-Diabetics as well.

Almost forty years of T1D and my feet and extremities are still in great health!

The reality is that Diabetes, regardless of the type, is the leading cause of neuropathic damage in the feet and accounts for almost 80% of all foot amputations that were not the result of a traumatic injury.

According to WebMD (obviously one of my favourite websites), your feet should be inspected daily. You want to check for scrapes, cuts, swelling and unexplained sores or ulcers.

Like everything else, keeping your blood glucose levels under control will go a long way to preventing the nerve damage that can lead to these issues. Exercise is also an important factor. Remaining sedentary for too long will increase your risk.

As much as it breaks my heart to say it, going barefoot is also a no-no. As much as I enjoy being barefooted, your feet need to be protected from debris and sharp objects, as injuries to the feet will take much longer for Diabetics, which can lead to infection and other complications. You should always wear some footwear while exercising to protect the feet and one should avoid wearing high heels or pointed toes (I guess I’ll throw mine out 😆).

Despite the light callouses due to karate, my feet are injury-free, warm to the touch and properly cared for (let’s pretend we don’t see the cuts on my shins!)

When you check your feet, they should be a normal flesh colour (comparable to the rest of your legs and body), only slightly pink and warm to the touch. You should keep your toe nails trimmed and clean and if you use lotion to help with dry skin, be certain not to apply between the toes.

If you do discover sores or ulcers on your feet, don’t try to pop them. Cover them with a bandage and wear comfortable shoes, allowing them to heal on their own. If ANY injury does not heal within a couple of days, consult your doctor or medical practitioner. There are a number of conditions or injuries on the feet that won’t go away on their own and one needs to recognize when it’s time to seek out medical help.

As usual, I like providing some of the sources where I get my information. In that respect, WebMD’s article can be read here: https://www.webmd/diabetes/caring-feet#1

As usual, even though it’s not a cure, exercise, diet and proper blood glucose levels will go a long way to prevent complications related to proper foot health. ☯

We Didn’t Start The Fire… But We’ll Sure Stoke The Flames!

I tend to be a strange creature in terms of the circles in which I travel. I tend to deal with a number of fitness and martial arts circles, all the while dealing with the Diabetic community. Sometimes the two conflict with each other. After all, there some aspects that are observed in the fitness world that Diabetics would have difficulties with.

One of those aspects involves the metabolism. To touch briefly on this, the metabolism is the chemical and biological process through which the body burns fat and processes its calories. This process is necessary for a person to stay alive, and it can be “somewhat” manipulated to help with weight loss and working out.

First of all, one common misconception is that if you want to lose weight, you should eat less. Your body needs to be fed. That HAS to happen, no matter what your goal. in order to lose weight, you need to consistently feed your body.

Don’t skip breakfast! I’m the worst for this. I usually wake up in the morning and reach for caffeine, typically on auto-pilot. But if you fuel your body right from the get-go, you’re setting the bar for how you’ll eat and metabolize throughout your day.

I’ve often heard it said that eating often throughout the day helps to keeps your metabolism fired up and will help to burn more calories. Although this CAN be true, there are some exceptions.

According to Dr. Edward Bitok with the Department of Nutrition & Dietetics at LLU School of Allied Health Professions, the preferred wait time between meal is between 3 to 5 hours. This is the amount of time required for the stomach’s contents got be emptied out into the small intestine.

It’s a bit of a balancing act, since waiting too long can cause issues such as low blood glucose, genuine hunger and other issues. But if you eat too soon, such as folks who eat every two hours, you may be eating more out of habit and cause weight gain through excess calories and such. Here’s the article if you wanna check it out: https://www.insider.com/how-often-should-i-be-eating-during-the-day-2018-5

The ideal proportion that should be on your plate. I’ll admit that I usually don’t have THAT many vegetables on my plate.

Many fitness and nutrition gurus will agrees that eating smaller, more frequent meals will help with weight loss and overall health. Waiting too long between meals will cause your body to go into a panicked “calorie storing” overdrive, since it doesn’t know when its next meal will come. Hence, one of the main reason for more frequent meals.

Here’s the fun fact: if you carb-count properly and check your blood sugars often, your choice of meal plan shouldn’t affect your Diabetes. I eat often throughout the day, although my main meals tend to revolve around lunch and/or dinner. Doing shift work can be problematic as well, since you don’t always get to decide when to eat.

Personally, I make it a point to listen to my body and eat when I’m hungry. What a concept, eh? But eating every few hours will help to ensure to stave off hunger, help to keep your metabolism fired up throughout the day and help to keep you energized for workouts and fitness routines.

Like everything else, what you do will be specific to you. What diet and meal planning one person uses may not be right for you. And if you are a Type 1 Diabetic, straying form the meal plan your nutritionist and/or dietician has set out for you may not be ideal. It may take a bit of experimenting in order to find your niche. ☯

Everyone Has A Type…

I write about Diabetes a great deal, mostly because I have been type 1 Diabetic since the age of 4, which means about 36 years at this point. Over almost four decades, I’ve accumulated a LOT of knowledge on Type 1 Diabetes, its symptoms and treatments and what you can do to make your life easier.

Something that has always blown my mind, is how little people actually know about Diabetes. Last year, just over 7% of Canadians were diagnosed with some form of Diabetes. So it isn’t like this is a passing thing.

When I was diagnosed in 1982, people believed that Type 1 Diabetes meant that your pancreas was totally dead and served no purpose. We’ve since learned that not only is this inaccurate, there are several types of Diabetes, and they differ from one another in the same way as candy bars differ from one another despite all having chocolate (See what I did there? A sugar pun…)

Here are the known types of Diabetes: Type 1 Diabetes, Type 2 Diabetes, Gestational Diabetes, Diabetes LADA, Diabetes MODY and Type 3 Diabetes. I’m gonna try and explain them all…

Type 1 Diabetes: This one is also known as “juvenile Diabetes” or insulin-dependent Diabetes. This type of Diabetes is based on the body’s own immune system attacking insulin production, which is what causes the issue. Because of this attack, the pancreas ends up producing very little or no insulin, and patients rely on insulin injections for the rest of their natural lives. There are a number of complications and issues attached to this type and it is the most well-known. But the pancreas still continues to function for other enzymes and hormones, despite this difficulty. This is also the type that I have.

Type 2 Diabetes: This one is popularly known as “adult onset Diabetes”, and the difference is that people with Type 2 experience insulin resistance or their bodies are affected in the way they metabolize glucose. What causes this type to differ from Type 1 is that obesity and lifestyle choices can CAUSE Type 2. This type of Diabetes can also be reversed, given weight loss, diet and proper treatment.

Gestational Diabetes: This one only occurs in pregnant women. It’s referred to as Diabetes because it affects the way your body uses sugar during the pregnancy. Any complications are cause for concern during a pregnancy, but Gestational Diabetes tends to clear up once delivery has occurred. That being said, it should be noted that women who have experienced Gestational Diabetes are susceptible to Type 2 Diabetes, later on.

Diabetes LADA: This is a weird one. Sometimes referred to as Type 1.5, LADA stands for Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults, and holds many similarities to Type 1. The difference is that it usually occurs later in life, say after the age of 30, and can usually linger for years before insulin therapy is required. This one is often misdiagnosed as Type 2.

Diabetes MODY: This one is an unfortunate genetic gift. The acronym stands for Maturity-Onset Diabetes of the Young, and is usually considered a mutation brought on by factors such as obesity, or passed on by the patient’s progenitor. This one is subject to frequent misdiagnosis since it actually requires a DNA test to confirm.

Type 3 Diabetes: This one is linked to Alzheimer’s Disease. It involves the neutrons in the brain becoming resistant and unable to respond to insulin. This is necessary for memory and learning. There’s still a lot of research and learning required for this one, but it’s ongoing. It’s also a relatively new form of Diabetes, discovered sometime in about 2005.

There are a number of added sub-types, such as Double Diabetes, Steroid-induced Diabetes, Brittle Diabetes, Secondary Diabetes and Diabetes Insipidus. I won’t get into the details attached to these sub-types, but the United Kingdom’s Diabetes website has a great article thatbdescribes these at https://www.diabetes.co.uk/diabetes-types.html

Hopefully, this shows all my readers that there’s more to Diabetes than simply avoiding or not eating sugar. It is a complex condition that can affect a person on multiple levels. As usual, exercise regularly and maintain a proper diet, and don’t be afraid to ask your doctor about symptoms you may have that lead you to believe you may be suffering from one of the types listed above. ☯

Blood Pressure Isn’t Where You Want To Get High Score…

Diabetes is an extremely complicated condition, and it tends to affect all systems within the body. Recently, I’ve been trying to cover off the areas that seem to have the most impact. One of those areas happen to be high blood pressure.

Blood pressure is one of those enigmatic medical measurements that people generally don’t understand until their doctor tells them it’s too high. Speaking in general terms, a normal blood pressure for most people is about 120/80. This is the optimal range for people looking to maintain proper health, although your doctor will advise you what numbers are proper for your specific health and condition.

So what do those numbers mean? According to http://www.healthline.com, “the top number refers to the amount of pressure in your arteries during the contraction of your heart muscle. This is called systolic pressure. The bottom number refers to your blood pressure when your heart muscle is between beats. This is called diastolic pressure.”

Now that we have the medical jargon out of the way, how does this affect someone with Diabetes? There is a known and proven relationship between Type 1 Diabetes and high blood pressure. Having one automatically puts you at risk for the other.

Diabetes tends to cause damage to the arteries, which can lead to hardening and blood pressure issues. High blood pressure issues can lead to eye and kidney disease or aggravate an already existing condition. There are a number of other complications caused by high blood pressure that can be read on WebMD at https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/high-blood-pressure

There are a number of easy things you can do to help with blood pressure levels. Eating healthy and exercising are obvious steps. Maintaining your blood glucose levels and keeping your weight down can also help.

Your medical practitioner may also chose to put you on preventative blood pressure medication. Although I’m not a big fan of taking medication that isn’t needed in the immediate moment, this is one of those rare exceptions that prevention is best. I, myself, am on Ramipril, which is an ACE inhibitor that helps to treat high blood pressure.

Readers will likely notice that eating healthy, exercising and maintaining good blood glucose levels are the aspects I keep repeating over and over. But those three steps will certainly lead to an easier life when dealing with type 1 Diabetes. ☯

Don’t Get Burned…

Recently, I wrote about the issues surrounding fitness during extreme weather and the effects of high heat on blood sugars. I’m going to reiterate by saying that during the summer season, blood sugars can be adversely affected by high temperatures. It can be different for some people, but in my case, my blood will often drop.

This can be caused by the body straining to lower your core body temperature through sweating and an increased heart rate due to the heat. This is why it’s SO important to consistently sip water throughout the day. It helps to keep you hydrated and aids in regulating your core body temperature to avoid issues like heat stroke and dehydration.

But before I start repeating everything I posted on a previous day, let’s address the culprit of all these issues: the Sun!

Now before I get into the crux of this post, I’ll take a moment to explain exactly what our Sun is. It is a star. It creates heat by fusing hydrogen into helium and this process is the reason behind the Sun’s light and heat. This energy travels to the Earth where it is responsible for most of the life on our planet. (Although explaining this shouldn’t be necessary, we live in a world where some people actually believe our world is flat, sooooo… you do the math!)

Ultraviolet light, or UV rays, are present in the Sun’s radiation and prolonged exposure to this radiation can be damaging to living tissue. This is where the application of sunblock or sunscreen lotion plays an important role.

Last week, I decided to be a smart ass and cycle for 21 kilometres. The temperatures that afternoon reached the high 20’s, low 30’s (that’s in Celsius) and I took off from home thinking if I got too hot, I’d simply turn around. By the time I started to feel the effects of the heat, I had already gone about 10 kilometres and would have to peddle another 10 to get home!

I drank plenty of water and stayed hydrated but as it is the beginning of the hotter season, I totally neglected to apply sunblock before taking off on my trek. Needless to say I got a nice red-skinned surprise later in the day.

Let’s talk about sunblock for a moment. Sunblock is a topical gel or lotion that’s applied to the skin. It helps by reflecting UV rays away from the skin, which prevents damage and sunburns.

What many people don’t know or understand (and what I only learned a couple of years back as well) is what the SPF number on your sunblock refers to. SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and the number is a multiplier. So what that means is that if it takes you 10 minutes to start burning and you apply an SPF15 sunblock, you can theoretically be in the sunlight for 150 minutes before you start burning. Theoretically.

You should be applying sunscreen daily, or even any time you step out into the sunlight. According to an article posted by Men’s Health Magazine, the Centre for Disease Control recommends using AT LEAST an SPF15 or higher. To be honest, I don’t recall ever seeing anything lower. Most retail locations in Canada will carry SPF 15, 30 and 50. When I travelled to Japan, they had an SPF110 available, although I can’t speak to whether it was more effective than the 50 or not.

An important factor to consider is to ensure that you apply sunblock properly. Most people tend to dab here and there and assume they’re good to go. But you need to consider full coverage of your bare skin in order for the sunblock to be truly effective. Remember that you may need to reapply more frequently if you are swimming or sweating profusely.

Here’s that Men’s Health article if you want a bit more information: https://www.menshealth.com/health/a19541357/how-much-sunscreen-do-you-need/

Sunblock is important to help with the prevention of certain types of skin cancer and can help you enjoy the hotter season without the perils of getting sunburned. Apply sunblock often, drink plenty of fluids (bearing in mind that caffeinated and alcoholic beverages will contribute to dehydration) and take added precautions by wearing some sun-blocking clothing. Remember, don’t get burned! ☯

The Heat Is On!!!

Guess what, folks? Summer is here, and with it comes the intense heat that often makes me feel like I’m working out in the thirteenth circle of hell…

All jokes aside, summer heat can adversely affect your blood sugars in an extreme way. Exposure to summer heat can potentially lead to dehydration. First and foremost, dehydration will lead to reduced blood circulation and therefore less insulin absorption. This means your blood sugar levels will spike.

When you dehydrate, as your blood sugar rise, you will experience frequent urination, which leads to further consumption of water and further urination… It’s a brutal cycle.

Although it’s important to monitor what you’ve eaten and adjust your insulin dosage accordingly, it becomes even more important to remember that including physical activity in the mix will cause further issues. It would be important to either avoid physical activity during the hottest peak hours of the day, or work out in a properly air-conditioned environment.

Make sure to drink plenty of water, even if you aren’t thirsty. This will ensure you don’t get dehydrated. Avoid alcoholic drinks during extreme heat as they will contribute to dehydration. As much as it kills me to say so, caffeinated drinks should be avoided as well. Caffeine acts as a diuretic and will dry you out further.

The next issue is your Diabetes medications and equipment. They don’t do so well in the heat. In fact, leaving your insulin in the hot sun will effectively cause the medication portion of it to evaporate and will basically become expensive water! The same can be said of your glucometer. Extreme heat will result in malfunction of your electronics and improper calibration of the same items. Keep all your equipment and medications in a cool, shady location during peak hours of the day.

The summer heat is inevitable, especially in the Prairies where I live. But it is possible to take preventative steps to keep it from affecting your Diabetes. Drink plenty of water, test your blood sugar often and remember to adjust your work outs accordingly to prevent issues during the peak summer season. ☯

What Did You Think You Were Eating For?

One of the key reasons behind the consumption of food is to obtain carbohydrates for energy. The human body requires energy to carry on normal functions and, well… stay alive! But what else do we get from the food we eat?

A proper diet will also include a number of vitamins and minerals that we require to maintain proper health, growth and energy levels within the body. We’ve all heard about getting enough vitamins from a young age; I remember getting my Flintstones vitamin everyday as a kid.

But if you’re like most people, you’re likely wondering what these vitamins are for and what they do. My goal is to cover off the main ones here:

Vitamin A: This is an all-around vitamin that provides a number of functions including but not limited to the proper health of various bodily functions, tissues and helps to fight chronic disease and is known to be good for the eyes.

Vitamin B: This one is a bit complicated, as there is a large grouping of enzymes, vitamins and minerals that fall under the “B” category. In general, B-vitamins are used for energy production, immune function and absorbing iron. Some them include B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B9 (folate) and B12. There are a few more that I can’t recall, but B12 is considered amongst one of the most important of vitamins overall because it helps you turn food into energy.

Vitamin C: At some points, this one has been referred to as the sunshine vitamin. I’m thinking that’s mostly because people’s main source of Vitamin C is from citrus fruits. But this vitamin also helps with iron absorption, immune function and is a natural antioxidant that helps with the elimination of free radicals. Eating citrus fruits are also what sailors used to eat on long voyages to prevent scurvy.

Vitamin D: This vitamin helps with the strengthening of bones and teeth. Our bodies are designed to self-generate this vitamin naturally through exposure to sunlight, but obviously that needs to be done in small doses. Modern life has created an environment where more people spend their time indoors, away from the sun. So supplementation becomes important.

Vitamin E: A pretty straight forward vitamin, this one helps with proper blood circulation and clear skin.

Vitamin K: This vitamin is essential for blood-clotting. In order words, if you’re deficient in this vitamin, small cuts or injuries can cause excessive bleeding that can become dangerous.

Folic Acid: We hear people speak about this one as being necessary during pregnancy. And they would be correct! Folic Acid helps to prevent certain complications during childbirth but is important to everyone for proper cell renewal. This one is also known as Folate, or Vitamin B9 (as listed above).

Calcium: Most people should be familiar with this one. Teeth and bones, people! Teeth and bones! Good calcium levels are required to keep those body parts healthy.

Iron: This helps to build muscle tissue naturally and helps with proper health of the blood. As an interesting sidebar, it’s also what makes your blood red through the reflection of light!

Zinc: Immunity and Fertility. I’m a little unfamiliar with this one and haven’t had the opportunity to research it a great deal.

Chromium: This one is near and dear to my heart. Because it helps to control blood sugar levels. Chromium is what helps all the systems of your body to get the energy they need when they need it. Some traditional medicine practitioners will suggest Chromium supplements for Type 1 Diabetics who may have difficulty in maintaining proper levels.

Magnesium: This one helps your body to absorb all the other vitamins and minerals. It also acts as something of a relaxant to muscle tissue and play a role in proper muscle contraction.

Potassium: This mineral helps with the proper hydration of your body and helps to control blood pressure.

There are many others of course, but I’ve tried to cover off the main vitamins and minerals required for a proper diet. For more information and possible food sources for these vitamins and minerals, I’ve found the following two online articles that provide a lot of good information:

https://www.comvita.com/blog-article/10-essential-vitamins-your-body-needs/4100544

https://www.goodnet.org/articles/11-essential-vitamins-minerals-your-body-needs

We get most of what we need by eating regularly and including a variety of healthy foods. A lot of people take a daily multi-vitamin, which is fine. But unless you are experiencing symptoms or unexplained illnesses, there shouldn’t be a need to actively try and take added amounts of anything. Your medical practitioner should be able to advise you if further supplementation is required. For example, patients who are recommended to take Folic Acid and Iron during pregnancy.

Obviously, all of this is extremely important; not only for proper health and fitness, which is important to me, but to help with Type 1 Diabetes as well. A big shout out to my wife, Laura, who provided me with this blog post idea by asking about B12 yesterday. ☯