I Promise It Isn’t A “Man Flu”…

So I took a nap, yesterday afternoon when I started to feel a bit sluggish. My blood sugars were fine and I was waiting for a buyer to come pick up some furniture I’m trying to sell. It was mid-afternoon and the sun was warming the living room and my couch was doing that strange whispering thing: “Go to sleep… Go to sleep…” No? Maybe that’s just me. So, anyway I fall asleep for a short nap. When I awoke a little while later, my head felt as though someone has tightened a vice on it and my throat felt as though it had been refinished with a belt sander. I had apparently caught a cold…

I know, I know… There’s a standing joke that when a guy catches a cold, he makes it seem like it’s the end of the world. Although I know a few guys who fall under this category, I assure you this isn’t the case.

One of the big problems with being a Type 1 Diabetic (Like there aren’t plenty!) is that it compromises one’s immune system and causes one to catch every little bug that comes along.

According to the Mayo Clinic, a cold is a viral infection of the nose and throat. It’s generally harmless, although symptoms often don’t make it feel that way. The average person recovers from the common cold within 5 to 10 days, unless it’s accompanied with a fever or other aggravating factors, and the symptoms usually show up days after you’ve actually caught the cold. The Mayo Clinic website explains this in further detail and can be read here: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/common-cold/symptoms-causes/syc-20351605

For someone with Diabetes, some symptoms become aggravated and blood sugar levels are often affected. This is because the body will release particulars hormones to help combat the viral infection. That added release of hormones makes it difficult for your insulin to be effectively used and can cause a raise in blood sugar levels.

Not that this doesn’t apply to non-Diabetics, but it becomes extremely important to consume fluids regularly to help prevent further issues. This will also help to better control your blood sugar while trying to combat the illness. unlike most people, we don’t have the benefit of a loss of appetite. Although you may not be hungry, a Diabetic needs to try and eat at least small amounts every hour or so.

Over the counter medications are doable, but one has to be sure to read the information label to ensure that they don’t contain sugar. This is especially the case with cough syrups and cough drops.

Test your blood sugar frequently and do your best to try and maintain your levels. The only thing worse than cold symptoms would be slipping into ketoacidosis, which would be side effect of dehydration during illness.

Now if you’ll all excuse me, I’m going to curl into a ball on the couch with my blankie…

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No Pain, No Gain! Let’s Be Honest… There Was Pain!!!

It’s important to keep some variety in your workouts. Doing different things helps to build different muscle groups and keeps things interesting. In my case, it also helps with better blood sugar management. This is referred to as Cross Training.

Cross training refers to training in a routine that covers off several different forms of exercise. In order to excel in your chosen sport (such as martial arts), it’s important to train consistently in that discipline. however, cross training allows you to vary your workouts and helps to develop an overall high level of fitness. It can help to prevent injury by ensuring more areas of the body are developed, can help with weight loss and will help to ensure you stick to exercising since it won’t get boring.

Ace Fitness has a good article on this and can be read here: https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/lifestyle/blog/36/what-is-cross-training-and-why-is-it-important

This morning, I decided to do something different. I got up at 6:30 am, slipped on some dry fit gear and a helmet and hit the frosty streets on my bicycle. It was -3 degrees Celsius, the windows of most vehicles were frosted over. Since I was wearing a bike helmet, I had no protection for my nearly bald head and my face was seized with cold.

One of the benefits of biking like this is that no matter how uncomfortable or cold I got, the only way for me to get home is to keep peddling! This morning, I faced that exact situation. Within five minutes, I had left the suburban neighbourhood and was faced with endless open fields (I live in Saskatchewan, after all). The morning breeze was light, but combined with the speed of cycling along, caused the muscles in my face and neck to twitch and beg me to seek shelter.

By the end of my run (when I reached my driveway and hit stop on the tracker app), I had reached 4 kms in 21 minutes. That’s a far cry from what I wanted to accomplish and it sure didn’t burn as many calories as I expected, but I got outside, stuck with it and did something different. I’m hoping to start shaving that time through consistent biking over the months to come. Who knows? I may even start biking to work… (someone’ll make me eat those words eventually)

It was nice to do something different. I spend so much time lifting weights and doing martial arts, I realized I have a few muscle groups I don’t use often, and I don’t often include cardio. I may or may not be cursing my legs at the moment.

Right now, I’m using an app called RunKeeper. It’s pretty sweet, it allows me to track distance, time and pace with just about any type of workout one can imagine. In fact, I also use it as a passive log to document my karate classes and weight workouts.

A screenshot of this morning’s bicycle adventure

The above image is what you can look at once you’ve ended your workout. There’s a lot more information available on the previous screen and as you screen down, I just think the map function is super cool!

Although you kinda need to download the app on your smart phone, since that’s the point, you can check it out at the following website: https://runkeeper.com and sign up for it for free.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go load my legs with analgesic cream and nap before karate class tonight!

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!