New Life Brings New Problems

I have certainly written often about the problems and complications associated with Diabetes. However, there’s a sneaky form of Diabetes that tends to hit ladies when they’re at the most vulnerable: Gestational Diabetes.

Basically, Gestational Diabetes is when a pregnant woman has higher blood sugars throughout her pregnancy, which can lead to a number of complications for mother and baby. Even though the symptoms are few and far between for the mother during pregnancy, untreated gestational diabetes can lead to some pretty serious complications for the baby, both during the pregnancy and once the baby is born. These can include the baby being born too large, lowered blood sugar levels and jaundice.

First and foremost, pregnant mothers can take some preventative tests to check for Gestational Diabetes. This includes a “Syrup Test” where you are expected to ingest a high-glucose syrup and then have your blood sugars verified to see how your body reacted. Someone who doesn’t suffer from Gestational Diabetes will have no effect after ingesting the syrup.

The good news is that even if you are diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes, proper diet and control, in conjunction with your medical practitioner’s guidelines will ensure the birth of a healthy baby with no complications.

The Diabetes Canada website has a good article and can direct you to some links, should any of you have questions. Here’s the page: https://www.diabetes.ca/recently-diagnosed/gestational-diabetes-toolkit

There are several different types and sub-types of Diabetes, but this one hits close to home. If you’re pregnant, be sure to speak to your medical practitioner and get tested for Gestational Diabetes. Your health and the health of your baby may depend on it. ☯

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How Not To Get Your A$$ Kicked…

I’ve reached a point in my life where I’ve been doing martial arts for more years than I haven’t. In those decades, I’ve seen some pretty incredible things and have used martial arts to help deal with a number of situations. And most of those situations weren’t fighting.

Most people consider the martial arts to be a fighting art. Although this may true on some respects, this isn’t the reason why they were originally created.

Depending on who you speak to, and what their sources are, the martial arts are believed to be several thousands of years old. Their origins are believed to be rooted in China or India, although there is some debate on which of these two cultures developed it first.

Ultimately, the Shaolin monks in China originally created what is known as their version of the martial arts as a means of staying fit and in shape. It was also considered a means of defending the monasteries if it became necessary. My style of karate is a descendent of this Chinese style.

These days, thanks to mainstream cinema and other forms of media, the martial arts is often viewed strictly as a fighting art. It would be remiss of me not to mention that the concept of the Mixed Martial Arts has unfortunately deepened this view.

“Discipline is not the enemy of enthusiasm” – Joe Clark

But it is true that traditional martial arts has a deeper purpose than simply being able to clear a room of enemies in epic empty-hand battles. The martial arts has shown to improve circulation, maintain proper health and body weight and increase confidence and personal discipline.

Certainly, over the past thirty years I’ve enjoyed the increased benefits of karate in regards to my health and Diabetes. Training hard and consistently has allowed me to be the exception to the Diabetic rule. Unlike most people afflicted with Type 1 for as long as I have, I still have a clean nervous system, clean cardiovascular and renal function. My circulatory system is also clean and clear and I don’t usually have the foot and extremity problems that most type 1 Diabetics have.

Karate has certainly been good to me over the past thirty years and has provided a wide variety of benefits, health-wise and even professionally. And if I were to recount the instances where I used it for actual fighting, I can probably count the number of physical fights on one hand. I’ve come to find that once you’ve trained long enough, the need to fight actually becomes less and less.

No matter what your reasons are for being in the martial arts, make sure that those reasons are for you and and for the betterment of yourself and those around you. If one’s only desire is to fight, there are sports in which one can indulge those desires. Martial arts is not the place for it. ☯

Well, Isn’t That Sweet…?

Blood sugar testing is one of the most rudimentary steps towards preventing complications when dealing with Type 1 Diabetes. Unless you’re on some sort of continuous glucose monitoring, most health practitioners would recommend testing at least five to ten times a day to ensure that you stay as consistent as possible.

I was first diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in 1982 (I know, I know… no need to point out how I’m aging myself…) and at that time, the belief was simply “don’t eat sugar.” Although that’s pretty accurate in some respects, there is far more to controlling Diabetes than JUST sugar.

As a child, I did everything I could to avoid sugary foods (with my parents’ support, of course). Staying away from desserts, juices and sugared products was all I assumed was needed. My parents knew no better either. If I were hungry, bread, crackers, milk… These were acceptable foods that weren’t “sugary” and were therefore safe for me to eat.

From the age 4 until about the age of 10, I suffered through a number of Diabetic comas resulting from extreme blood sugar levels. The worst of these comas lasted for a number of days. I can’t begin to explain how disorienting it is to go to sleep on one day, only to wake up several days later in a hospital bed. I often thank my lucky stars for having shared a bedroom with my older brother, as he was the one who ran to get my parents when he’d wake to find me frothing at the mouth. Without his intervention, I’m quite certain I wouldn’t be here today…

My point is, my family and I didn’t really have a firm understanding many of my Diabetic symptoms throughout my childhood. And the terminology of the time, “avoid sugar”, didn’t help. It wouldn’t be until twenty five years later that I would learn about carbohydrates and how they relate to Diabetes.

An example of a typical Nutrition Label found on most commercially sold food items.

Carb counting is not an OLD concept, per se… But it’s one I didn’t learn about until I started on my insulin pump in 2015. When I started consulting with my pump educators and dieticians, they began asking me about how I was carb counting. I was at a loss. I had become one of those people who focused so much on avoiding sugar and exercising, that I had never really bothered to learn anything new. That meant I had no idea what they were talking about.

Blood glucose levels are affected based on the consumption of carbohydrates. This includes sugar of course, but encompasses so much more. If you look at the nutritional label I included above, you’ll notice the portion I’ve encircled.

The Total Carbohydrate line includes all carbs, sugars and fibers included in the food. That being said, dietary fiber does not affect blood sugar. So if we look at the numbers on this label, you would need to subtract 4 grams of fiber from 37 grams of total carbs. This means you would need to take an insulin dose for 33 grams of carbs, not 37.

A 4 gram difference isn’t extreme, the difference over time can result in serious blood sugar fluctuations and all the symptoms and side effects that follow.

Although the medical definition of Type 1 Diabetes doesn’t change, treatment and proper care is a constantly evolving creature. It becomes important to continue learning and studying, and don’t be afraid to do some research of your own.

I know that doctors absolutely hate knowing we check Google and WebMD, but no information is bad information. Don’t be afraid to do whatever is necessary to ensure your proper health. And keep checking those blood sugar levels… ☯

Sometimes, Laziness Is A Good Thing…

You know, it’s been a long week. I painted and renovated our upstairs bathroom, laid flooring in the downstairs bathroom, eliminated a bunch of stuff we were no longer using and loads of weeds pulled in the yard and laundry.

I usually have a great deal of difficulty sitting still, and any of my coworkers and my family would concur with that. Between my annoying need to keep moving and always be doing SOMETHING and my compulsive need to clean, a day where I simply sit back and relax is usually quite rare.

I had just such a day today. Today is a civic holiday in Saskatchewan, meaning that most people had the day off. I started my day the way I usually do; with a healthy dose of caffeine to supplement the fact that my son woke me up far earlier than I planned on getting up.

A light breakfast and a few dishes later, I found myself sitting in a comfortable rocker watching some television. No chores, no errands… Then, the whole family partook of a short nap. After a short respite, we decided to take our son Nathan to a splash park to get some fun in the sun and play in the water.

We spent the better part of almost two hours playing in the sun. It was quite warm out today, and Nathan had an absolute blast until he managed to hurt himself and decided he wanted to go home.

Once we got home and were shielded from the sun, we all cooled down and had another bite to eat. This was followed by another nap. Now that we’re all fed and refreshed, I’m currently typing and my son is playing with a Uno deck on the floor. Although “playing” may be a very loose term; he’s mostly scattering the cards all over the floor.

Not exactly an exciting day, right? Was this a lazy day? A wasted day? What do you think? Realistically, in today’s busy world of non-stop hustle and bustle, a lazy day where one does nothing is often needed in order to reset your clock and get proper rest. This is almost as important as getting a full night’s sleep or meditating regularly. ☯

Let’s Lighten The Mood, Shall We?

Think back to a time when you’ve dealt with someone exhibiting a bad mood or a temper. How did you deal with what person? How did their mood affect your interaction with them? Did you do the typical thing and tell them to calm down?

That’s usually the worst thing you can do. Never, in the history of humanity has that ever worked. If anything, telling a person to calm down usually just fuels the fire and makes things worse.

Anger, frustration and rage are symptoms that are all too common to someone suffering from type 1 Diabetes. Fluctuating blood sugar levels can cause sudden and violent mood swings, which can often be misunderstood by those around you.

I can remember times when I was a teenager, that I was a real a$$hole. Those who know me personally who are reading this may wonder, What’s changed? Don’t get me started…

But seriously, there were times in my youth where my anger outweighed my ability to control it. And this is one of the lesser knowns symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes.

Depending on what source you look into, low and/or high blood sugar will affect different people in different ways. For example, most medical sources will say that low blood sugar will lead to aggression and irritability. For me, high blood sugar has always led to my bad tempers. In fact, I’ve damaged and even ended relationships in my youth because of my temper. In hindsight, I wish I had been aware of these symptoms back then.

According to an article posted by HealthyPlace.com, severe drops or spikes in blood sugar levels can cause several emotional responses including but not limited to, increased doses of cortisol within the brain, which affects the level of adrenaline in the body as well as a number of systems in the brain that affect things like fight-or-flight and self-control.

This is an effect known as “Diabetic Rage“. As most people would agree, feeling anxious, depressed or angry are normal human responses. Things get a little dicey when that anger intensifies and starts being projected on others. Here’s the article, if you wish to peruse: https://www.healthyplace.com/diabetes/mental-health/diabetic-rage-can-diabetes-cause-aggressive-behavior

The first and most obvious step in preventing such mood swings is the proper and frequent checking of your blood glucose levels. Preventing severe highs and lows will help to stem the symptoms. The deeper issue is learning the difference between what’s caused by Diabetes and what’s caused by normal mood and emotion.

Needless to say, it may be difficult to control oneself in the face of these mood swings but if you feel a sudden fit of rage, it may be in your best interest to test your blood glucose and adjusting your levels as needed. Barring Diabetic symptoms, deep breathing exercises and meditation often works for me although having someone tell me to calm down usually sets me off… ☯

Channel Your Inner Vila…

I remember sitting through many an episode of “This Old House” when I was a kid. My father loved the show, despite having never lifted a tool in his life. I guess it’s a bit like watching wrestling or boxing and never being in a fight.

I absolutely despised home improvement shows at that age, as any kid would. If I’m being honest, I was way more partial to Star Trek, Star Wars or Lost In Space.

I’m a little behind on getting some writing done. Yesterday morning started like any other day. I went into work, then came home to take my son outside to get him out of his mother’s hair. Usually that only includes keeping him busy until lunchtime so she can work, but yesterday I decided to take a drive to Home Depot.

Home Depot is an evil place, because they’re really good at making you believe that you can fix or build ANYTHING. I went in to buy some caulking for my upstairs bathtub, and ended up leaving with flooring, caulking, paint and tools.

What started as a quick shopping visit ended with redoing the bathroom floors and painting all the walls and floorboards. I worked diligently from about ten in the morning yesterday and finished just shortly after lunch this morning. Needless to say, I’m exhausted and I could never do home improvement for a living.

In order to turn my bragging about my renovating prowess into something that qualifies as content for this blog, I should mention my blood sugar levels. I spent almost 36 hours running low.

The idea is that many hours of consistent work tends to make my blood sugar levels drop. It’s not like anything I was doing was intensely rigorous, but even light work stretched over long hours without stopping will have an adverse effect.

I passed out hard last night, after eating reasonable amounts of glucose. When I got back at it this morning, I watched my levels a bit more carefully. It didn’t help that I painted the baseboards outside, with the summer heated quickly rounding the corner on 30 degrees, causing some mild dehydration and blood sugar drops.

This is just another example of how just about EVERYTHING affects you when you have Type 1 Diabetes. It’s important to take this into consideration when doing any sort of activity, especially in the high heat of summer. Drink plenty of fluids and stay hydrated, and test your blood often. ☯

Supplement Yo’self! 💊

Many people say that food isn’t quite what it use to be. Although I think this is true in some respects, as long as you eat a properly balanced diet on a daily basis, you should NORMALLY get everything your body requires. I’m going to point out that “NORMALLY” doesn’t always apply to most diets in today’s society.

As someone with Diabetes, one needs to be cognizant of the potential for a lack of certain nutrients, supplements and vitamins in one’s diet. In some circumstances, the only way to ensure you get everything you need can be through the form of supplementation. Obviously, I feel compelled to point out that no one should include supplements of any kind in one’s diet without first consulting a nutritionist, dietitian or medical practitioner.

There are a number of vitamins and minerals that are ideal for someone with Diabetes. I will endeavour to cover off some of the most important ones.

Chromium: This one is a staple of Diabetes health. I’ve often heard a lot about it, through my youth and it serves a number of purposes. Taken in the correct doses, it can help increase your tolerance to blood glucose, lower fasting blood glucose and help reduce insulin levels. Some studies have shown that intensive exercise helps to increase the concentration of tissue chromium.

Magnesium: This is one that’s been a problem for me, as levels tend to drop to a dangerously low level in people with Diabetic Retinopathy, a condition I’ve actually suffered from. Low Magnesium can lead to increased insulin-resistance, which is a prominent problem for someone with type 1 Diabetes and can often be a cause for Type 2.

Potassium: Believe it or not, this one can be an issue BECAUSE of Diabetes. Insulin treatment can often cause a deficiency in potassium. Potassium is important to counteract the effects of sodium and for the proper function of key areas in the body.

Taurine: Well, this one is good news for me. People with Type 1 Diabetes often suffer form low Taurine levels, which can cause certain heart problems and affect the thickness of your blood. The good news is that Taurine can be found in protein-rich foods. Or in my case, they supplement most energy drinks with Taurine.

Vitamins: Diabetics can, in most cases, have decreased levels in key vitamins including but not limited to B vitamins, Vitamin C, D, E and Zinc. I’ve covered off the use of most of these vitamins in an earlier post (What Did You Think You Were Eating For?), but you can get most of these in their proper amounts by taking a simple daily multi-vitamin.

There are a number of other vitamins and supplements as well, but these are the primary ones that I’ve found in my travels. Obviously, you want to talk to your doctor before starting any of these, with the exception of a generic multi-vitamin.

It IS possible to over-supplement, so it’s important to get the right information before starting to take them. It’s also possible to become paranoid and to start taking supplements simply to ensure you’re getting enough, even though in most cases you don’t need them.

Although some supplements offer the promise of lowered insulin levels and better blood glucose control, most of them need to be tailored and dosed in accordance with each person, specifically. So eat a healthy, balanced diet, test your blood sugars often and keep in touch with your medical practitioner. Those practices on their own, will help to curb some of the issues described above. ☯