What’s It All Mean?

This is one of those fun posts where I get to explain and clarify that I am not a doctor or trained medical professional and the information contained herein is strictly for entertainment and reference purposes. Although I research things ad nauseam, and try only to quote from reputable and peer-reviewed sources, one can never be too sure. This is why I always say that anything you may be wondering about should always be discussed with your doctor or medial practitioner to ensure you don’t do something or change something that could have a serious impact on your health.

Now that I’ve gotten the pesky disclaimer out of the way, having type-1 Diabetes has meant that I’ve found myself having to consume different medications throughout my life. And a lot of these medications will come labelled with instructions or warning that can be concerning and off-putting. If you’re anything like me, you’ve likely often wondered what some of these labels mean or what happens if you don’t follow the instructions they indicate. This mostly refers to pills, but also apply to some liquid medications and can be prescription or over-the-counter. I’m going to try and address some of the top ones I’ve seen, in this post.

“Take With Food…”
Let’s start with the most basic one, and an instruction that we can find on numerous different types of prescription and over-the-counter medications and supplements. I’ve learned the hard way that when a bottle indicates that certain pills should be taken with food, those instructions should be followed without exception. If you find a label that says “take with food,” this is an indication that there may be components of the pill or medication that will cause severe stomach upset, nausea or heartburn if taken on an empty stomach.

I remember one instance where I had started the habit of taking my daily multivitamin first thing in the morning. This makes sense, right? Since one should be having breakfast during the first hours of their day, it would make sense to take a capsule that needs to be taken with food during breakfast. But on a particular morning, I was running late and I popped a multivitamin and chased it with an energy drink and dashed out the door. I was minutes away from my work destination when I started to feel nauseous. It got back to the point where I began sweating and had to pull into the parking lot of a local business and threw up all over the lot.

The combination of an empty stomach and carbonated drink didn’t sit well (pun intended) and I emptied what little contents were in there, multivitamin included. Most sources I’ve found have stated that so long as you don’t take your medication no more than about 30 minutes prior to eating, it should be fine. And eating something that will adequately coat your stomach and trigger the digestive process is best. This helps your body to absorb and metabolize the medication faster and avoids the embarrassment of bystanders watching you retch all over a parking lot.

“Take On An Empty Stomach…”
Here’s the flip side… Some medications will actually REQUIRE that your stomach be empty when you take them. A supplement my doctor recently prescribed has this instruction on it, and I got curious. What, exactly, happens if your stomach isn’t empty when you take this medication. This one is what prompted this post, actually. According to a post on NHS.uk, “As a general rule, medicines that are supposed to be taken on an empty stomach should be taken about an hour before a meal, or 2 hours after a meal.”

So the big question becomes, what happens if you don’t. Although forgetting to take them on an empty stomach on rare occasions shouldn’t do harm, per se, doing it as a habit could mean that your medication won’t work as intended, could be adversely affected by certain foods or other medication or may even CAUSE adverse affects against other medications. Taking on an empty stomach allows your medication to be absorbed into your system before other foods or medications join the party to potentially screw things up.

According to a post by HealthLine.com (one of my favourite sites), “Generally speaking, it takes about 2 to 4 hours for food to move from your stomach to your small intestine.” This can depend on a variety of factors since, as you all know, every human body is different and one’s metabolism may differ from others. So if you’re starving and need to eat prior to taking these medications, you should wait at least a couple of hours to let your digestion take place, first. These days, I grab the medication that requires an empty stomach as soon as my feet hit the floor in the morning. Then, by the time I’m prepped and at work, I can take my other meds and have a light breakfast. It can be a bit convoluted depending on how busy my day is, but one’s health is worth it, right?

“Do Not Take If Pregnant, Have Diabetes, blah, blah, blah…”
This one kind of pisses me off a bit, because I see it on almost ALL over-the-counter medication, whether it’s sinus or cold meds, nasal spray, multivitamins… you name it! The everyday OTC products that people grab on the fly when they may be feeling down or trying to address a specific condition usually spit this warning out at me, every time. And yes, you should ALWAYS read the information label to anything you consume. That’s YOUR body you’re dumping that stuff into. You should know what’s contained within. But I digress…

According to an article posted in the endocrinology section of Healio‘s website, the issue is that a number of inactive ingredients contained in some of these medications can raise blood pressure or blood glucose by virtue of carbohydrates or even alcohol content. The best example is NyQuil, which includes 10% percent alcohol. Taking these medications without considering their content could mean spikes in blood sugar or raises in blood pressure, both of which can be an issue for someone with Diabetes. Depending on the labelling required by the prevailing health authorities in your respective country, you may not even be made aware of these inactive ingredients.

Just because some of these meds can raise blood sugar, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take them, According to an article posted by Everyday Health (Wow, I’m heavy on the links today!), some medications that may affect blood sugars can include corticosteroids, beta-blockers, statins (which I take), Niacin, antipsychotic meds, some antibiotics and certain decongestant meds. If you have a cold and grab a generic, store-brand bottle of cold caplets, you may not be considering that the decongestant may cause a spike in your blood sugars.

All of this is to say that one should be mindful and inform themselves when taking something that may fail to work, affect something else you’re taking or affect your overall blood sugars. If in doubt, speak to your doctor before taking anything. I know that the current state of the world makes accessing one’s doctor a near impossibility (especially for something like a medication consult) but a good alternative is talking to your pharmacist. Although doctors are extremely educated and knowledgeable, pharmacists specialize in the ACTUAL pills and meds you take, and can offer insight into possible substitutions, side effects and more.

And let’s not forget the usual outlying problem, where certain medications may not directly affect insulin itself, but can affect how your body processes and uses insulin. This can be critically important for overall blood sugar control. At the end of the day, be sure to read all information available on the meds you take, consult your doctor or medical practitioner and don’t forget to test your blood sugar regularly. Forewarned is forearmed, so if you know something may cause your blood sugars to spike, you can adjust accordingly. ☯️

Conquering The Challenges

Sometime at the beginning of the summer, I wrote about trying an app called “The Conqueror Challenges.” The premise behind the use of this app is pretty simple. Once you have it installed and create an account, you can sign up for virtual marathons. These marathons (at least, that I’ve seen) have been as short as 26 kilometres all the way up to several thousand kilometres. You pay a nominal fee and you are able to choose a time limit (weekly amounts) to complete your challenge.

It’s a fun and interesting way to contribute to one’s overall fitness. The organization that runs the app plants a tree for every 20% of the challenge you complete. You get post cards and updates as you progress. For example, I completed the Mt. Everest virtual marathon, which involved travelling 64.2 kilometres. I gave myself a 3-week timeframe, but I was done within the first week. 64.2 kilometres racks up pretty fast on a bicycle.

At the end of your challenge, they ship you an actual medal depicting the challenge you were on. They’re pretty sweet, made of metal and usually have some special aspect to it specific to the challenge. For example, my “Marathon to Athens” medal has a slot with a Greek coin inside it. A reproduction, of course. But neat, nonetheless.

My swag, so far. #5 is in the mail and I’ve almost completed #6

The app syncs automatically with my Runkeeper app and will include any distance-related workout, such as running, walking or cycling. The St. Francis Way medal you see in the photo above was 502.8 kilometres. One of the best ways that this app keeps you motivated is that you pay money but lose the medal if you don’t complete the challenge in time. Nothing lights a fire under your ass like knowing you’ll actually lose money you’ve paid, if you get lazy and skip a few days of working out. Plus, you get to learn a great deal about all the different countries that are featured in these challenges.

I’m having a blast with these and they’re definitely conversation starters for those who see them. If you’re looking for a way to keep yourself on track, I highly recommend this. As long as you keep your goals realistic. I gave myself an 8-week timeframe for the 502.8-kilometre challenge. It would have been ridiculous to try and have it done in 2! But as long as you keep it realistic and consistent, you’re good to go.

Doing things in a virtual environment is the way of the new world. Why should marathons be any different. I’m always on the lookout for new ways to increase my fitness and new ways to exercise. This one has been loads of fun and it doesn’t hurt that I get a bit of bling to brag about, after the fact. ☯️

I Want To Live…

I want to live. Makes sense, right? Most people do. Most people have the opportunity. Not many people fight for that privilege. And I know what you’re thinking…. Why should someone have to fight for the privilege of living? Well, I don’t mean fighting for the privilege of staying alive because of oppression, war or famine. I mean fighting for the privilege to live against something that came to be, completely out of one’s control. If none of you have guessed that I’m talking about Diabetes at this point, let me clarify: I’m talking about Diabetes.

One of the best things about living in modern times, is that Diabetes is no longer an automatic death sentence. If you were diagnosed with Diabetes prior to the creation and distribution of insulin, that was pretty much it. I’ve written posts about how long a Type-1 can survive without insulin, even if they completely eliminate carbohydrates and continue to exercise. So I won’t get into that part, since that’s not what this post is about. Needless to say, insulin isn’t JUST about lowering blood sugar levels.

People have often asked me why I push so hard when I exercise, or why I do so much. I’ve had folks commenting on the fact that by the time I’ve completed a workout, I look like a wet cat who got stuck in the rain. Sometimes, it’s can be belittling or condescending; as though they’re suggesting that I shouldn’t be a sweaty mess in a public place where other folks can see. It’s almost akin to those who make fun of an overweight person in the gym for trying to get in shape. Granted, not EXACTLY the same, but the concept is the similar.

I learned from a very young age that Diabetes would show me no quarter. If I let up my guard, even for a day or two, it would find a way to swoop in and make my life difficult. Maybe this difficulty would come in the form of high or low blood sugars, which typically fuck with my entire day. Or maybe it would simply make me more susceptible to illness and make my day-to-day interactions all the more dangerous. Or perhaps it’ll take something simple like stubbing one’s toe and turn it into an automatic, infected toenail. Just because it can. Diabetes shows no mercy because it has no emotion.

Fitness is an important part of ANYONE’s lifestyle. It’s no secret that someone who doesn’t exercise regularly will face a host of health problems too numerous to list here. But staying fit and active is an important part of life and all the more so for someone with Diabetes. Again, from a young age I recognized this, especially in light of my doctors telling me I’d die due to Diabetes complications before I reached my teens (I’m now well into my forties, in case you were wondering).

I guess where I’m going with this is that there are a number of different reasons to work out and go to the gym. Some people want to get fit, some want to get muscular and some want to lose weight. hell, some people go to the gym simply to be social and see certain key people they may associate with. And that’s fine. At the end of the day, whatever your reasons for training consistently will never be bad. Anything will always be something more than nothing. My point is you’ll be able to easily discern who’s training to get fit and who’s training to save their lives.

That’s what I do. I train in order to save my life. I train because if I don’t, Diabetes complications will reach me all the sooner and take away something that I need in order to live. That’s why I’ll spend an entire hour on a cardio machine at a high level and end up soaked and breathing hard. That’s why I rarely take break days or rest days. Diabetes never takes a rest, so why should I? I push myself because I’m trying to stay ahead of a condition that will ultimately end my life, despite all the therapies, despite all the available resources and despite all my efforts.

And that’s the ultimate punchline of my existence. This is a race against time and a race against a condition that I will inevitably succumb to, despite my best efforts. But like trying to outrun an oncoming tornado, I have to try. I need to give it my all because I refuse to let it take me down. I have too much to live for. I owe it to myself and to those who matter in my life. I’m fighting against complications. I’m fighting against organ failure. I’m fighting against death. Besides, I’m well aware that there are those who push and train harder than me, anyway. But my efforts are mine and mine alone.

So, the next time you see me breathing hard at the gym, it doesn’t mean I’m “out of shape” or new to working out. When you see me walking away from a machine looking drenched like an alley cat left out in the rain, it isn’t because I couldn’t handle the exercise I was doing or I was doing too much. It’s because I’m fighting for my life. And if you don’t come out of that fight bloody and covered in sweat, you’re not really fighting. And you will lose. Ask yourself why YOU do it. No matter what your reason, you should never judge someone’s efforts or appearance when trying to better themselves. Whether it’s someone trying to get slimmer or fitter or someone who is simply trying to prolong his life long enough to see his children into adulthood. Food for thought… ☯️

Becoming Ill Will Make You Sick…

I don’t think I need to point out that the pandemic is showing no signs of slowing down, with the number of infected fluctuating and outbreaks coming and going with the kind of frequency one would expect from sailing on rough seas. A constant to and fro of cresting a swell and slipping into the depths, only to surface for air long enough for it all to happen again.

I’m certainly not here today to argue the merits of vaccination versus not. There are enough forums on the internet for people to argue about all of this without my involvement. I’ll reserve judgement in that regard since it doesn’t pertain to the actual topic of today’s post. It’s no surprise that most hospitals, at least here in Canada, are facing critical capacity issues as the number of infected patients are overfilling the ICU’s to the point where there is no room for anyone with any other illness than COVID-19. For the most part.

I realize that I can’t back this claim with anything more than what I’ve recently read in Canadian news releases. But the most concerning that I’ve read in recent days is from here in Saskatchewan, were ICU patients have had to be air-lifted to Ontario for care because we no longer have the in-Province resources to do it. Let that sink in for a moment. The second largest city in the Province, with two very large hospitals, no longer have the available staff, resources and room to accommodate potentially dying patients. Setting aside the statistic that the outstanding percentage of COVID-19 ICU patients are unvaccinated for the moment, this new development is frightening in more ways than I can put into words.

Throughout my entire life, there’s been something of a comfort knowing that if I became ill or faced complications with Diabetes, I could attend my local hospital for treatment. During my teens and into my 20’s, it wasn’t unusual for me to become suddenly ill from dehydration, requiring the intervention of an IV drip for a couple of days in order to bring myself back to health. Although one never enjoys laying idle in a hospital bed, it was something I knew was always there and waiting, should I need it. As well it should, but that available resource appears to be disappearing.

It’s no secret that hospital waits have become exorbitantly long, even prior to the pandemic. The best example I can think of, is when my son slipped on the steps of our landing and struck his head. He had a gash on his head, so we rushed him to the emergency room, fearing he may have a concussion (despite having not lost consciousness) or other injuries that we couldn’t identify or treat. Despite explaining that we had a toddler with a head injury, we waited for almost four hours before finally throwing in the towel and simply going home. By then, Nathan started getting fidgety and playing as normal anyway, so our fears were alleviated somewhat. But still…

It’s a fitting example of how low things have become in the health industry and COVID-19 has made it worse, since the majority of hospital resources are allotted to dealing with the pandemic. Any and all medical requirements short of immediate trauma are being rescheduled and/or cancelled. This includes organ transplant surgeries and dialysis treatments. For someone whose immune system is already spotty at best, this scares the shit out of me.

When you consider that a lot of this concern and strained resources comes as a result of people choosing NOT to be vaccinated, one needs to wonder where the line is drawn between “my rights” and “doing what’s right.” I can’t help but feel that if a loved one of mine died as a result of having their organ transplant cancelled because the ICU is overflowing with unvaccinated patients, I might feel some kind of way about that.

Freedom of choice is a staple of any modern, civilized society. It’s up to the individual to recognize that even when it seems or feels that they’re not being offered the choice for something, they really are. Do you need to eat out at restaurants? No. Do you need to go to bars or pubs? Certainly not. Do you need to join sports teams or participate in extra-curricular activities? Definitely not. None of these are your “right” and none of those things will save your life.

There’s a running joke in my household, whenever the boys are playing rough with each other or doing something stupid (which they often do). Either my wife or I will remind them not to get hurt, because there’s no hospital service to lean on, if they do. They’d essentially be at the mercy of my very limited field medic training, which is rudimentary at best. Light help them, if they break a bone and I have to set it myself. It’s almost like being back in medieval times, where becoming sick or injured is basically tantamount to the end of one’s life. Scary time to be alive… ☯️

Ain’t That A Bitch…

I usually try to keep calm in most situations. After all, that sort of lines up with the whole Zen thing, right? Most people, when hearing that I study Zen Buddhism, assume that I’m so calm BECAUSE I study Zen Buddhism. The unfortunate reality is that I study Zen Buddhism so that I CAN stay so calm. If you don’t grasp the difference between the two, don’t feel bad. Most people don’t.

That being said, there are times when my ability to acknowledge and manage my emotions and reactions is strained. Emotions are normal. Everyone has them and it would be foolish to think that one can suppress them. Nor should you. But it’s how you REACT to those emotions that defines you and controls who you are. I recently joked with a colleague that I really only have two emotions: anger and sarcasm. I was only joking, but I wasn’t really far off the mark.

As you may or may not know, I recently started a new job. I’m incredibly happy, the staff are great, my superiors are supportive and the hours can’t be beat. Especially after spending a decade and half doing shift work. And along WITH that job, came medical benefits and coverage. Splendid. I don’t think I need to tell you that medical benefits are almost as important to a Type-1 Diabetic than the salary is. Diabetic and pump supplies are expensive and frequently need to be refilled, making for a heavy financial strain should coverage not be in place.

Not my current pump, FYI

Pump therapy has been an absolute life-saver for me, and has improved my overall control and health in ways I wouldn’t have thought possible without hospitalization mixed with constant, hands-on monitoring. But here’s the thing: it’s expensive as shit! The pump unit alone costs somewhere in the neighbourhood of $7,000 and that’s BEFORE adding in the reservoirs, infusion sets and the actual insulin required by anyone with Type-1.

In fact, when you get right down to it, having Type-1 Diabetes is expensive all around. Between insulin, blood glucose testing equipment and blood strips, lancets, needles, continuous glucose monitoring and any other medications one may need to help or assist in the proper control of one’s Diabetes can not only get costly, it can easily total to over $1,000 per month.

In Canada, we’re reasonably lucky that we have the health care system that we do. Although most people fail to realize that we technically still pay for that health care through the tax system and such. But for the most part, most things are covered, such as yearly eye exams. Under my Provincial health plan, I get a yearly eye exam at no cost. But prescriptions and pump supplies fall under a different batch of bullshit, which is where the need for medical coverage comes in.

When I started my new job last April, I received my coverage card about a month later. I walked into my pharmacy and ordered my required prescriptions and equipment and was pleased to see that everything was covered and paid for. Such as it should be. Diabetes isn’t going anywhere, and neither are the inherent costs of keeping myself alive. If one is provided with medical coverage, then PROVIDE the medical coverage, right? Apparently, not…

Last week, I went into the pharmacy and ordered reservoirs and infusion sets for my pump. Bearing in mind that this equipment comes in at about $400 and I go through a box of each a month, the cost can climb rather quickly. So imagine my surprise when the pharmacy technician walked up to the till and advised me that I had hit my “maximum” and I would have to pay the cost out-of-pocket. Excuse me? What the fuck???

I reached out to my insurance company requesting an explanation since I had been all over my online account and couldn’t find any reference to a maximum, but like most insurance providers, they were slow to respond. When they finally did, they responded with a single sentence reply that indicated that I was only entitled to $1,000 per calendar year for Diabetes equipment.

What does this mean? Is that $1,000 ONLY for the tangible equipment, or doe this apply to insulin and test strips as well? Am I now on the hook for the remainder of the year? Is there a way for me to potentially pay a monthly premium and get an increased limit? You gotta love when an insurance company gives you a generic, one-sentence reply that, although answers the base question, provides no clarity whatsoever.

I recognize that many and perhaps most people don’t have the luxury of medical insurance and often find themselves struggling from month to month in order to obtain the life-saving therapies needed to maintain control over Diabetes. For this reason, I’m extremely grateful for the resources and availability of the things I DO have. But now that life has taken a positive turn and things are looking up, I’m disappointed to find that I now have to make some very important life decisions as they relate to Diabetes. Do I come off pump therapy? Do I eliminate CGM to save on costs?

I shudder to consider going back to a basic version of injection therapy and blood sugar testing. I remember the increased difficulties I faced with my A1C’s and overall health. Some provinces have a 100% coverage for Diabetes in their health plans. I kind of wish Saskatchewan had the same. I somehow find it difficult to understand how this insurance company could actually believe that $1,000 is adequate to cover an entire calendar year of supplies. I guess I’m grateful that it all starts over in just over two months. At least I’ll have a few months of coverage to sort it out in 2022. Just another example of how Diabetes can throw a wrench in life. Not only in a physical and medical way, but a financial one, as well. ☯️

A Little More Than Fried Eggs…

I don’t know if anyone else remembers, and maybe I’m unnecessarily aging myself, the anti-drug commercials that used to air on television. If I had to make a guess, I’d say they came out in the mid-80’s. Basically, the message was showing a raw egg, still in it’s shell and saying “This is your brain…” The, they’d crack the egg and drop it into a hot pan, causing sizzling ands frying of the egg, followed by saying “This is your brain on drugs.” It was an effective means of passing on the message that drug use fries your brain. It worked well for the time and elicited a lot of school yard jokes as well, since memes weren’t a thing back then. Imagine that? We had to get our laughs verbally as opposed to with an electronic device. but I digress…

Some time later, they released another commercial portraying the same scenario, but they started it by saying, “Alright, let’s do this ONE more time…” thereby suggesting that perhaps the message hasn’t gotten through as effectively as it should have the first time. I often feel that this is the case with the information I share. And I don’t necessarily mean with this blog. After all, there’s no expectation on my part that the entire world will read my writing. But when it comes to explaining things about Diabetes, I often feel that I am providing the same information ONE more time.

Generally speaking, non-Diabetics rarely know much about Diabetes beyond the need to take insulin and perhaps that they should avoid sugared goods. Although there’s some truth to that, it isn’t entirely accurate and one of my greatest frustrations is when people throw Type-1 and Type-2 Diabetes into the same basket. Although both called Diabetes, they happen to be significantly different conditions with different methods of treatment. This is while acknowledging that there are other types and several sub-types of Diabetes (LADA, Gestational Diabetes, etc…) but for the purposes of today’s rant, I’ll be focusing on Type-1 and Type-2 as they are the more commonly known and consistent types. Let’s do this ONE more time…

Type-1 Diabetes is an autoimmune disorder that usually shows its ugly face during early childhood but can also develop in adults. That’s why the old term for Type-1, “Juvenile Diabetes“ isn’t accurate. At least not anymore. Back in the 80’s when I was diagnosed, if you get Diabetes as an adult, it simply wasn’t believed to be Type-1. I’m rather grateful that medicine has evolved somewhat, even in the past twenty years.

Although there can be a number of factors behind WHY someone may develop Type-1 Diabetes, excess weight gain and eating poorly aren’t the cause. There have been links to a possible genetic component, but we definitely know that becoming overweight DOES NOT CAUSE TYPE-1! Diabetes develops when our body’s own immune system starts attacking and destroying the cells that produce insulin, known as islets. Once enough of these islet cells are destroyed, the body stops producing insulin and the need for the injections to control glucose levels kicks in. Contrary to popular opinion, the human body NEEDS glucose, even Diabetics, since it’s a source of energy. It’s the level of glucose present in the bloodstream that causes the issue.

Type-2 Diabetes is different in the sense that the body doesn’t use glucose and insulin efficiently. The body’s immune system aren’t attacking the islets, but in some cases the pancreas isn’t producing enough insulin or the body’s cells don’t respond well to the insulin the pancreas DOES produce. this is a condition known as insulin resistance. Now THIS is the type that has been linked to body weight, as being obese or failing to get regular exercise have been linked as contributing factors.

Type-2 Diabetes used to be called “adult-onset Diabetes,” in contrast to Type-1’s “Juvenile Diabetes.” But those are both misnomers now, since children have also been know to develop insulin resistance and Type-2. It can be treated with a variety of oral medications but may also require insulin, depending on the severity of the condition. Weight loss and exercise have also been proven to help in treating it. I’ve also heard of cases where people diagnosed with Type-2 Diabetes have eventually progressed to Type-1.

Ultimately, the only aspects that these two conditions have in common are their name, the possible need for insulin injections and the fact that there’s no cure. For either. Although Type-2’s symptoms can be mitigated through proper diet and exercise, it can’t be cured. If you bought one of those books that’s claim that a certain diet or lifestyle change will cure your Diabetes, you’ve been duped.

Hopefully, this provides clarity on the difference in types. I made a big show with the introduction, but a reminder and an explanation of the different types of Diabetes is never a bad thing. There’s always someone new who may read a post, that may not have been around for the previous one. So, it’s all good. The Mayo Clinic’s website is also a fantastic repository of information, if anyone is interested in looking up the different subtypes of Diabetes. ☯️

When You Start Lacking Some Pep in Your Step…

We’re slowly starting to creep into that time of year when it takes the sun a bit longer to decide to grace us with its presence. Just a short month ago, I would leave to work just prior to 7 a.m. and the sun would already be blinding me on my transit down the road. However, if I take this morning as an example, I stepped outside and walked to the car and I felt the distinctive chill of the season seep through my layers and the sky was still dark. That first little while that this starts happening can be disconcerting and confusing, especially if you leave work late enough that the sun has already started to go down.

The view outside my office window

Depending on the environment you’re in throughout your day, this change in season can wreak havoc on your system. And no, I’m not just referring to the presence of pumpkin-spiced everything… I promise I’ll stop picking on those who enjoy those treats eventually; I just need to get a few shots in before the caffeine levels in my blood make me more reasonable. MOVING ON! My point is that some folks are fortunate enough to work in an environment where they can actively see the daylight. Some are not so fortunate and may work in a remote environment or an enclosed office where access to daylight isn’t always possible.

It should come as no surprise that the daylight plays an important role in a person’s health. First and most importantly, access to sunlight helps our bodies to naturally produce Vitamin D. Since I intended this post as an opinion piece and not necessarily an educational one where I’d have to cite sources and shit, I’ll keep it light. But the reality is that Vitamin D is necessary for all sorts of things like good bone health, stronger immune system and certainly not least or last, it helps with managing Diabetes. That last one is a touch important to me, as you might imagine.

Sunlight plays an integral role in the body’s function, including proper sleep patterns and managing your circadian rhythm. That’s your “internal clock,” which helps you to manage getting to sleep and waking up. So you end up feeling all sorts of fucked up, when you wake up for the day and it’s still looking pitch dark outside. Most people don’t have a regular work day where they wake up with the sun streaming through their window while soft violin music plays.

For all the reasons I’ve described above and much more, it’s important to take some preventative steps to ensure the colder weather doesn’t get you down into the dumps. Once you’re in the groove, these steps can become overall good daily habits. Here are a couple of things you can do to try and ensure you keep your energy levels on the up-and-up:

1. Starts Your Morning With Exercise.
This is the best one, and something I wish I had more drive to maintain. I will FULLY admit that I’m terrible at doing anything, first thing in the morning, other than reaching for some caffeine. But doing exercise first thing in the morning gets you or blood flowing and oxygenated and will help you to hit the ground running far better than any cup of coffee you may grab. My wife is an absolute champion at this, usually starting her morning with a rigorous exercise routine she follows. During the pandemic winter, I used to walk my spin to the bus stop then walk anywhere from 5 to 10 kilometres. The result was the cold air woke me up and brutalized me before facing my day.

2. Drink Some Water.
I’m a huge fan of caffeine for a variety of reasons. So I can’t honestly say with a straight face that I do this one, but there are studies that show that gulping down a glass of water first thing in the morning will jump start your system and help to wake you up. I have no idea if it works or not, since I guzzle caffeine minutes after waking. And don’t ask me what studies I’m talking about. I don’t have enough caffeine to remember where I read them…

3. Get Outside And Take A Walk.
If you don’t work in an environment where you can see the sun, then go to where you can access it. Get some fresh air, take a walk and get some natural light on your body (and no, I’m not condoning stripping down and sunbathing while at work). Twice a day, I’ll take fifteen minutes to take a short walk outside, get some air and move around a bit. It makes all the difference and helps greatly with productivity. Most jobs entitle you to breaks throughout the day, so you should take advantage of them.

4. Control Your Blood Sugars.
It’s obvious that you should be doing this anyway, but maintaining balanced blood sugars will help keep your overall energy levels up. Nothing saps your energy faster than having an extreme high or low, followed by balancing it out. I don’t know about the rest of you, but that usually leaves me feeling like all I want to do is sleep. Keeping your blood sugar levels balanced is not only a good idea for Diabetics in general, it can go a long way towards keeping you energized and moving throughout the day. Especially when in conjunction with everything else on this list.

There you have it. I’m no genius and none of this is reinventing the wheel, it’s simply common sense. But not everyone thinks about these things so maybe this will spark some ideas for the cold weather ahead. Especially here in Saskatchewan, the morning blahs tend to hit all that much harder once there’s snow on the ground and the weather reaches -50 degrees Celsius. That almost guarantees wanting to stay curled up in bed, despite whatever steps you may take. But life happens and facing the day is a necessity. May as well try to make it a energized and motivated as possible. ☯️

It’s Not About The Sugar…

It can be hard to teach an old dog new tricks. And before everyone swamps my comments section (not that any of you ever do), I’m not necessarily calling my parents old dogs. But sometimes we learn something during a time when it’s relevant and important, only to have it disproven or updated decades later. Most people will hold true to the previous knowledge they had learned, especially if the results were quasi-positive. When I was diagnosed as Type-1 Diabetic, or “Juvenile” Diabetic as it was inaccurately called back in the early 80’s, my parents were told that combatting Diabetes only required two things: take insulin and don’t eat sugar.

Obviously, we now know that this isn’t correct. It’s about the proper balance of insulin use and carbohydrate-counting, not sugar intake. You can have something with no sugar indicated on the label but will have lots of carbs and will require a dose of insulin. This was something my parents didn’t recognize, way back when. You’re thirsty? Sure, have a glass of milk. There’s no sugar in that… Not only is that incorrect, milk has approximately 12 grams of carbs per cup depending on the brand. Oh, you’re hungry? Sure, have some a piece of toast. toast doesn’t have sugar… Although wildly incorrect and a slice of bread has anywhere between 10 to 25 grams of carbohydrates, depending on brand, thickness, etc.

I hold no malice against my parents, as they did the best they could with what they knew. But it explains a significant number of issues I’ve had to deal with, such as suffering through a number of Diabetic comas in my youth, as well as having damage to my eyes throughout my 20’s and began requiring eye injections in my late 30’s (as opposed to my 60’s or later). I’ve always fought very hard to be as healthy as possible, and I like to think I’ve done a pretty god job since I still have a clean nervous system, no amputations, good circulation and I can still outrun many people of equivalent station in life who AREN’T Diabetic. But I can’t imagine the different it would have made in my youth, had carb counting been a part of my childhood.

I was reminded of this recently when I was on the phone with my mother and we were talking about how Diabetes and how the total number of people with some form of it in Canada was continuously increasing. Then she made a comment that it was because these people were “eating too much sugar.” Although certain dietary and lifestyle factors will contribute to Type-2 Diabetes, this isn’t the case with Type-1. But try explaining that to someone who was taught and truly believed that “you just shouldn’t eat sugar” as a means of treating ALL Diabetes.

There’s a lot more to Diabetes than avoiding sugar. It requires proper diet, which includes carbohydrate counting. It requires frequent blood sugar testing to ensure you’re remaining “in range,” if you happen not to be wearing a CGM. you also needs regular, consistent exercise, control over cholesterol, blood pressure and ensure good oral and cardiac health. Diabetes is a rich mosaic of crap that one needs to stay on top of, in order to have a full, healthy life. ☯️

Some Cold, Hard Facts…

I’ve noticed in the past week that the weather seems to be at single digits in the morning, prompting a lot of pain in my old joints and signalling that the warmer, summer months are gone for another year. With that comes the need to recognize that one’s fitness routine may be altered or NEED to be altered in order to accommodate the colder weather. We all know what’s coming next…. That wonderful white stuff that makes getting to work ion the morning an absolute nightmare.

But we aren’t going to talk about THAT, since we still have time before it starts hitting the ground. Hopefully. Today, we’re simply going to talk about colder weather as it pertains to fitness. For the most part, our brains tend to tell us that comfier and easier is better. This means that when we notice cold winds or a drop in temperature, we may be less inclined to step outside to do something physical. But there’s some inherently good and bad aspects to working out in the cold.

On the positive side, doing something physical outdoors will help with blood circulation, will wake you up better than a cup of coffee and will leave you feeling even cozier once you DO decide to hit the couch with a blanket and a warm cup of joe. Working out in colder temperatures can improve your mood and provide a somewhat different challenge than working out in the warmer weather.

For me, I’m slowly falling into the season where cycling for long distances is becoming less-favoured as a form of working out. Besides being cold, the colder wind whipping my face while cycling is a definitely no for me. I prefer to work up a sweat than try and defrost myself, so I look to different workouts, such as punching bag workouts or karate in my garage. I’m still outdoors, but without the Prairie winds taking advantage of my award-winning face. Kidding.

There are definitely some things to keep in mind, when stepping outside in cold weather. The first, is that you WANT to feel cold. Don’t believe me? The problem is that if you step outside feeling warm and comfortable, you need to understand that once you start exercising, your body heat will cause an increased amount of sweating, which is a recipe for disaster when you’re outside. Dress appropriately with a layer of moisture-wicking material first, and something insulating and breathable over that. This prevent the sweat from staying wet against your body.

When you sweat, your body inevitably loses heat through the evaporation of that sweat, which can leave you susceptible to being chilled. So, if you start off feeling cold but start working out, your body will take care of itself. The other side of the coin is to know what you’re personal and preferred limits are, and stick with them. Cold is cold, but only you will know what’s TOO cold for you. Is there a weather warning in effect? Maybe work out inside on that day.

Lastly, people tend to ignore a lot of the important steps when training outside, like applying sunblock to your exposed skin if it’s sunny and staying properly hydrated. The cold doesn’t protect you from UV rays and you’ll dehydrate just as easily in the cold. In some cases, easier. Not least of which is the fact that cold weather can have adverse effects on underlying health conditions, like asthma and Diabetes. Although subjective to the person, blood sugars will vary from prolonged exposure to the cold.

Keep an eye on yourself for warning signs of frostbite or hypothermia. Drink plenty of fluids and monitor your blood sugars frequently. And remember that if you FEEL it’s too cold, there’s no shame in moving your workout to the indoors. After all, winter is coming…. ☯️

Supplements? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Supplements…

Supplementation can be an important tool for proper fitness, but it’s one of those things that is very specific to the user. What works for one person may not work for the other, and if you happen to have Type-1 Diabetes, you need to be very careful about what you may be putting in your body, as it may inadvertently affect your blood sugars.

So, what are supplements? As they pertain to this specific post, supplements are anything you consume in order to help improve performance, muscle growth and/or energy levels in order to allow one to develop better. They can come in various forms, including pills, powders and even pre-mixed shakes. They vary in their delivery, meaning some need to be taken prior to working out, some after and some don’t really matter and simply need to be consumed on a daily basis.

I think that one of the important aspects to bear in mind, is that there’s no “magic pill” or supplement that will do anything for you. You have to put the work in, even if you take supplements and use them on a regular basis. I’m always reminded of an old friend of mine, from years ago. I stopped in during early morning to go for coffee. before we left his house, I noticed he scooped out a spoonful of some unknown powder and consumed it with a glass of water. When I asked him what the powder was, he said it was creatine, because he was trying to gain mass. When I asked him what workout regimen he was following, he gave me the curious puppy look and asked, “Workout? What workout? That’s what the supplement is for…”

Here’s the thing: a supplement is defined as something that completes or enhances something else when added to it. This means that there’s no supplement that will make you lose weight, help you gain muscle mass or burn fat on its own. The important thing to remember is that ALL of these supplements need to be used in conjunction with proper diet and exercise. It won’t DO the job for you, it may simply help make it a touch easier.

Another important aspect to remember is that most supplements are substances that you either already get from a proper diet or that your body already produces. Creatine or whey protein for example, can be good supplements to help push you along your fitness routine, but these are substances produced by the body and/or can be obtained by consuming certain foods. “Pre-workout” supplements, that I’m aware a lot of people I know consume, are basically just B vitamins, caffeine and creatine, which you can obtain naturally or elsewhere. I would argue that unless you’re feeling sluggish, there may not be a great need to take a pre-workout supplement.

From a Diabetes standpoint, it’s important to recognize that a lot of supplements may contain sweeteners, carbohydrate amounts or simply affect the body in such a way that will cause fluctuations in overall blood sugars. I’ve noticed over the years that almost everything indicates “not suggested for people with Diabetes” for exactly this reason. It isn’t that it will inherently cause issues. But it COULD affect Diabetes, which is why it becomes important to consult your doctor prior to starting any supplementation.

I’ll be the first one to admit I’d be hitting up my pharmacy, should they ever create a pill that will melt the fat off my gut. Otherwise, know what you’re putting into your body, consult your doctor and remember that there are no shortcuts to fitness. It’s incumbent on the person to include proper diet and exercise in order to reap the benefits of supplements. The body is programmed to do what it needs to, but should you feel the need to use a supplement, just be wary. And keep a close eye on what secondary effects you may get from using them. ☯️