Maybe You Should Sleep On It

One of the things I’ve come to realize in recent years is that “dad bod” is a VERY real thing. Having a condition like Diabetes that increases your gut size doesn’t help, either. But I recently made a short video where I filmed myself doing karate katas and when I reviewed the video to do some editing, I was taken aback at how “thick” I looked. And since this isn’t a rap video, being “thick” is NOT a good thing. I work pretty hard at trying to maintain my weight, but the old adage about gaining muscle mass increasing your overall weight holds some truth as well. I guess that classifies me as a muscled fatman (says the word “fatman” with a raspy Batman voice).

This is why I’m usually game to try anything to help trim the fat, as it were, so long as it isn’t dangerous or harmful and doesn’t affect my Diabetes. Granted, let’s agree that EVERYTHING affects Diabetes, so that’s a tough one. But I try to maintain four to six workouts a week, I’ve incorporated reduced-carbohydrates, reduced daily caloric intake, green tea consumption and trying out any supplements that might help in slimming me down. The bottom line is that falling into a caloric deficit that forces one’s body to burn fat as a fuel source is the only genuine source of weight-loss, although there are different ways to achieve this.

That’s why I was deeply fascinated when I read somewhere that proper sleep can help with weight loss. To be honest, no one loves sleep more than I do. Except maybe my wife. But given Type-1 Diabetes, PTSD and small children in the house, getting a proper night’s sleep or even enjoying a decent nap can be a somewhat fleeting thing. Not to mention that as much as I LOVE my insulin pump, it’s frequent alarms for all reasons throughout the night tend to keep both my wife and I from getting a full, uninterrupted 8 hours of rest.

For those reasons, I decided to look into the matter and see what could be potentially inflating my middle, other than my love for a good burger, as it relates to sleep. An article posted by The Sleep Foundation states that there seems to be a correlation between modern families getting less sleep and the fact that obesity is on the rise. One of the concepts the article proposes is the fact that lack of sleep affects the neurotransmitters that control one’s appetite, leading to greater consumption of food throughout the waking day.

This actually makes a lot of sense to me. I used to work with a lady who swore by grabbing a snack when she felt sleepy on the job. I’ll admit that on days where I felt blasted and needed a nap, grabbing a quick bite to eat would usually refresh me for a short period of time, so I personally feel that there’s some truth to this. Not least of which is the fact that lack of sleep will cause a lack of energy for sports and activities.

The article goes on to point out that less sleep means you have more time to snack and eat, a pleasure that I am FREQUENTLY guilty of. Especially during late-night blogging sessions, I’ll often indulge in some of the very snack foods that I should be trying to avoid. It ends by pointing out the usual sleep recommendations: regular schedule, pitch-dark room, no eating before bed and reducing one’s stress. To be honest, I don’t know of any person who can do ALL of those things. So are we just basically screwed and have to surrender to the oncoming “dad bod?”

Another article I found by WebMD brings up most of what the Sleep Foundation article does but it also points out that we tend to make bad decisions when we’re tired, which leads to depending on sugar-filled caffeine drinks to jumpstart our mornings and eating crap all day since our bodies have difficulties fighting food cravings when tired. Add to that fact that if you’re exhausted you’ll be in absolutely NO mood to exercise and BAM! Weight gain! One direct point that the WebMD article makes states, “Too little sleep triggers a cortisol spike. This stress hormone signals your body to conserve energy to fuel your waking hours. Translation: you’re more apt to hang on to fat.”

I found a few more articles from different sources but they basically parrot what I’ve provided already, so I won’t bother. But the take home to today’s post is that sleeping won’t make you LOSE weight, but lack of sleep will certainly hinder your efforts to do so. In fact, lack of sleep can cause you to gain weight. So, let’s clarify this… Getting more sleep can help me to curb my appetite and encourage my efforts to lose weight? Sounds fantastic. Now, to find a way to get a full, uninterrupted night’s sleep… ☯

How I Discovered I Had Type-1 Diabetes

I’ve been a huge fan of Cobra Kai since it was released to YouTube and I was absolutely over the moon when it came to Netflix and even more so with the release of Season 3. About a year ago, I scribe to Mary Mouser’s channel and discovered that she was Type-1 Diabetic as well, and she had made a rather heartfelt and emotional video about how she was diagnosed and how’s it’s affected her life. In that spirit, I decided to do the same and the video below explains the when and how that I was diagnosed with Type-1 Diabetes in 1982, and the impact it’s had on me. Enjoy! ☯

Self-Inflicted Harm…

Objectively-speaking, I’m a bit of a weirdo… I can already hear my friends arching an eyebrow while saying, “Objectively???” But seriously, I tend to dip into the strange and unusual on occasion, but today’s post will be simply something to gross most people out. If you have an aversion to feet, you may want to back out of this post now without proceeding any further.

A couple of weeks ago, I was enjoying a nice half hour of shadow boxing in my home dojo. As I’ve written in previous posts, I purchased a whole batch of black foam mats that interconnect, making for a nice, open-concept area with a padded floor. Perfect for karate, wrestling, circuit workouts and more. During a particularly spirited portion of shadow boxing, I decided to execute a tuck ‘n roll where I come to a stop, delivering an elbow strike to my “opponent” on the floor. During the roll, I discovered an important detail about those foam mats. Toenails don’t slide on them…

My left foot, in all its bloody glory!

When I executed my roll, I pushed off with my left foot. My big toe was the last thing to leave the mat, which caused the nail on my big toe to press down against the mat. When my toe continued moving, the nail decided to stay with the mat. The bloody line that’s clearly visible along the middle of the nail is where the toenail lifted. I completed the technique and continued on my merry way. It wasn’t until a minute or two later when I threw a front kick with the left foot that I noticed a bright, red drop fly out towards the wall. I looked down and discovered the mess you see above.

It’s not a secret that proper foot health is important to anyone with Diabetes. Over time, most people with Diabetes will develop SOME level of Diabetic Neuropathy, which can lead to all sorts of complications with the body’s extremities, namely the feet. The main concern with Neuropathy is that it can cause a loss of feeling in said extremities, meaning you may not feel the injury when it happens and delayed care can lead to infections or worse.

Another particular concern, is that Diabetes can also lead to lessened blood circulation. With less blood circulation (or slower blood circulation) the required platelets, nutrients and cells required for healing will be delivered much slower to someone with Diabetes, hence the reason you always hear that foot injuries take longer to heal. And that’s if they heal at all. For someone with extremely poor blood sugar control, medical intervention can be required in order to help the wound heal as it may not be likely to do so on its own.

A close-up, just because I’m a sick bastard…

For those of you who may be wondering: Yes, I felt the injury. Albeit not immediately. There was a delay due to the music and adrenaline. I was kind of in the zone. But I noticed the blood BEFORE I felt the sting. No, I didn’t halt my workout. I probably should have, in the interest of cleaning the wound and bandaging it appropriately. But I was about 20 minutes into a 30-minute shadow boxing routine and I didn’t feel the 10-minute delay would result in the loss of my toe.

But it’s important to recognize that if you have Diabetes, wounds should be cleaned and bandaged in a timely manner, even if they don’t hurt. Poor circulation issues and Neuropathy are sneaky bastards and can cause damage if you ignore injuries. Like the freshly forged blade of the samurai, my training mats have now been anointed in blood. Even if it’s mine. Damn it. Nathan plays on those mats. Looks like I’ll have some cleaning to do, once I’ve mended my toe… ☯

Isn’t It All Organic To The Conversation?

Something that’s always had me curious is the separation and designation of certain foods within supermarkets that are labeled as “organic.” For years, I’ve walked past these displays while doing groceries and had a laugh at the pop suckers who paid almost twice the price in some instances, for the very same food I was buying from the regular section. My laugh would be accompanied but a mumbled comment to the effect of, “Idiots! ALL food is organic…”

I wasn’t wrong in my assessment… About all food being organic, not the people being idiots! But I digress… The truth is, yes all food is organic. But what’s being referred to is the method in which the food is grown and harvested. To be specific, “organic” foods are foods that are grown without the use of chemical pesticides, fertilizers, growth regulators and additives. In the case of livestock, they’re bred without the use of hormones and antibiotics.

Depending on who you talk to and what source you research, choosing between organic and traditional food can be a tough nut to crack. Although consuming foods that don’t involve everything listed above may SOUND like a good idea, there are pros and cons to “organic” food, just like everything else in life. I apologize ahead of time for the quotation marks I keep using; I can’t get past the fact that all food is organic, so I consider it a label as opposed to a proper description.

First of all, it needs to be understood that organic foods, for the most part, contain the same nutritional value as conventional foods. There are some mild exceptions, and this is where your sources may differ. For example, an article posted by HealthLine.com indicates that some studies have shown that organic foods may be higher in antioxidants and vitamins. One advantage to the lack of pesticides is that the crops need to defend themselves using natural means, namely increased antioxidants.

The evidence is an overall mixed bag of whether the organic version is better for you or not. Either way, you can’t lose. But the cons come into play when you consider how much more expensive the organic option is. The reason behind this is because the lack of pesticides and chemicals means that farmers need to perform most of their weed removal and crop care by hand, which takes more time, labour and extra hands. Hence, why it costs so much more.

The big takeaway is that most studies agree that although consuming organic foods may help reduce the amount of chemicals and pesticides you ingest, the amount contained in conventional foods is negligible at best, and no worse than you’d be exposed to during contact with your day-to-day life. Another important fact is that although organic foods are grown and harvested in a specific way, it doesn’t make them any healthier to your overall health goals. “Organic” baked goods, butter and fatty foods will still be JUST as bad for you as their conventional counterparts.

Last but not least, you want to be careful when spotting the difference between “organic” and “natural,” as they don’t mean the same thing AT ALL. And besides the increased cost, “organic” produce has a tendency of spoiling quicker than their conventional counterparts. At the end of the day, an apple is an apple and both will be just as nutritional and good for you. The choice to buy “organic” is a personal and subjective one, and should be based on preference. ☯

The Perfect Hemoglobin A1C

One of the biggest challenges faced by Type-1 Diabetics is maintaining a good A1C level. I’ve been struggling with it for most of my life. In fact, in 2014 I started with an A1C of about 8.4%, which is a level that’s considered to be the beginning of a dangerous level. In this video, I explain exactly what an A1C is and the fact that for the first time in over 15 years, I achieved my goal of dropping below 7.0% with a result of 6.9%! ☯

Just Because It’s Buffed Doesn’t Mean It’s Nice…

Lifting weights is an important part of health & fitness, even if you’re not necessarily trying to bodybuild. And to be clear, weightlifting and bodybuilding are not one and the same; weightlifting is only one of the activities that a bodybuilder performs in order to build upon themselves, with a score of other important factors at play. I’m certainly no bodybuilder, nor do I aspire to be. I use dumbbells and kettlebells freely, as gaining and maintaining true muscle strength is important in the martial arts and in maintaining the bodily strength required to keep healthy.

And before I go too far into my opinionated rant, let me just say that I have a reasonable amount of admiration for those who are able to sculpt and develop their bodies the way you’d see on a sports network. The old-school Schwarzenegger look may even suit some people, although I find it altogether exaggerated and a bit much. And there’s a significant difference between true strength and bodybuilding. In actual strength training, a person will use the lifting of weight to increase muscle size in order to increase strength, and can use that strength functionally. Bodybuilders are lifting weights solely for the purpose of increasing their size. Although there will be increased strength during the process, it may not be as effective as proper strength training.

The purpose of today’s post isn’t to bash on bodybuilding. As I mentioned earlier, kudos to the folks who are able to sacrifice and work hard towards making their bodies the way they want them to look. Today’s focus is on increasing the mass/size of your body and how it relates to the martial arts and proper health. As it just so happens, being a little too “buff” can have some negative and even detrimental side effects on the human body.

Let’s cover off the martial arts aspect, well… just because! I’ve seen a number of heavily-muscled people walk into the dojo throughout my youth, only to walk out after a few classes. And why do you suppose that is? Well for one thing, increased size will DECREASE your flexibility, mobility and range. You’re stiffer and tend to move much less easier. Just to be clear, I’m referring to people who are REALLY muscled. But in a combat art such as karate, flexibility and mobility are extremely important, for obvious reasons. Are there exceptions to that rule? Absolutely. But the really buff people who still have all the flexibility and mobility are VERY far between.

Speed is another. Your punch may have all the strength of those massive arms behind it, but it means nothing if I can casually avoid your fist because you’re moving like melting butter. The bigger you are, the slower you’ll move. Physics says so. You can only move so fast, as speed equals distance over time. The bigger you are, the more time it takes you to cover the distance, hence slower speed. Picture the difference between a 2-door coupe and an 18-wheeler. It’s easier to achieve a specific speed with the coupe because it takes less time to cover a specific distance due to less weight. There’s your high school physics lesson for tonight. But in the event of a real fight scenario where a person’s wellbeing hangs in the balance, expect that I’ll kick in your knee caps while you’re trying to take a swing. You won’t see it, as your field of vision won’t reach over your massive chest, but you get the idea…

And that’s the other problem is the excess size. You’ll be restricted by your own clothing, for Light’s sake! You’ll have less ability to maneuver in tight spaces, leaving the advantage to the smaller, trained fighter. This is why it’s always been a bit of an issue for me, when people automatically say things like, “Look at how buff that person is. I wouldn’t want to mess with them!” Having big muscles is only one small part of the equation that allows you to use them effectively to protect yourself and others.

And now, because I write about Diabetes, let’s discuss how increased muscle mass relates to health. Don’t forget that the bigger the engine, the more fuel is required to operate it. The human body is very much the same way. The bigger you are, the more calories you’ll need to consume to maintain your body on a daily basis. For someone with Type-1 Diabetes, who needs to calculate carbohydrate intake and take insulin dosages accordingly, this can be a significant problem. I’m not saying it can’t be done; I’m saying that finding that proper balance will be all the harder. And you may cause damage in the process, from a Diabetes-standpoint.

The next issue is the toll it takes on the body. Being too muscular is just as bad as being obese. Don’t believe me? Weight is weight, and your skeletal structure doesn’t grow stronger to accommodate your increase in mass. Your bones, organs and vital bodily systems may not be able to accommodate become too buff. Just think of your heart and how much hard it has to work to maintain all the added mass. That’s why bodybuilders will frequently suffer heart and organ issues. Schwarzenegger himself has had heart surgery. That should tell you something.

There’s nothing wrong with increasing one’s muscle mass. In fact, it’s one of those “happy medium” things where lifting weights a few times a week can decrease the chances of cardiac issues while doing it too much will tax your heart. take it with grain of salt. If we’d pay attention to absolutely EVERYTHING that can be harmful, we’d die of worry instead. Ultimately, the point is that muscle mass for strength good/ Muscle mass for size, bad. Especially from the martial arts standpoint. Just for shits and giggles, here’s a commercial from 2011 for Planet Fitness that makes me laugh every time I see it… ☯

Feel The Burn, But Don’t Ignore The Growl…

In recent months, I’ve been trying to reduce my daily caloric intake in the hopes of slimming down a touch. You’ll notice I said “reduce,” and I mean just that. I don’t allow myself to get hungry and I’ll still permit the occasional snack-based indulgence when I feel it’s warranted. In fact, most research I’ve read has confirmed that this is the best course of action, since denying yourself cravings will usually lead to a slippery slope of binging on junk food. But I digress…

If you work out often and consistently, I’m sure you’ve been there… You’ve got a good sweat going, decent music is blaring on your iPhone, your son is destroying everything in his path… or maybe that’s just me! But suddenly, you feel a hollow gurgling coming from your gut, followed by the telltale growl of hunger. What to do? Do you stop your workout simply to go grab a snack? Out better yet, is it okay to start your workout on an empty stomach? That, dear readers, is the important question!

Speaking strictly from a personal perspective, going into any kind of intense workout on an empty stomach can be somewhat problematic, bordering on the dangerous. After all, depending on the type of workout I perform and for how long, my blood sugars will either drop to the floor or skyrocket. As a simple matter of planning, I usually need to decide what type of workout I’ll be performing before I do it so that I can decide what food (if any) I should be consuming prior to feeling the burn. But the question I posed is whether or not it’s “okay” to work out on an empty stomach.

There’s a prevailing theory out there that if you work out on an empty stomach, your body will be forced to burn fat as fuel and you’re more likely to lose weight through the burning of fat. This is a concept known as fasted cardio and like everything else in the world, its effectiveness has been debated back and forth by various studies over recent years. In fact, according to an article posted by HealthLine.com, a 2016 study showed an increased fat burn and a lower daily caloric intake. But the same article also points to a 2014 study where there was no measurable benefit to doing so.

One of the big problems with working out on an empty stomach is that your body may not necessarily use fat as the next fuel source. An article posted by WebMD explains how the body may lean towards burning the sugars in your muscle tissue, which will actually lead to sacrificing some muscle mass in order to try and lose fat. And both articles agree that even IF your body burns through some fat as energy, it’ll likely just adapt to doing this by storing MORE fat when you finally do eat.

As with most things in life, it’s all about balance. You want to try and consume whole foods that are healthy and prepared at home as opposed to foods that are processed and high in sodium and unhealthy fats. Knowing your body and how your blood sugars respond to specific workouts will go a long way towards helping to ensure you get maximum bang for your buck during your workout. A fasting workout also means that your energy levels and stamina will be much lower, causing you to be far less effective DURING your workout. The flip side is to keep your portions small, which will ensure that you don’t get nauseous during an intense workout from a full stomach.

Personally, I’m not a fan of jumping out of bed first thing in the morning and hammering at it. I’ve done it. But I hate it. But if you keep your portions small and healthy, you’ll have the fuel you need to power your engine and you’ll still hit the fat-burning threshold once you’ve depleted that fuel. I’ve always said that there are no shortcuts or easy steps to losing weight. One needs to be patient and work towards it. And whether you choose to work out on an empty stomach or not, remember that you’ll need to eat in order to replenish yourself within the couple of hours following the workout. Check your blood sugars before and after your workout (and during, if you simply don’t feel “right”), stay hydrated and don’t forget to consult your medical practitioner if you’re starting a new workout routine and you aren’t sure if it’s right for you. ☯

Two Conditions By The Same Name Are Not Created Equal…

You know, I’ve often written about the things I don’t like being said to me or assumed about me, in relation to my Diabetes. I think this is a common issue for most folks; everyone has SOMETHING they don’t like to hear about their specific health condition, lifestyle, choices, etc… But one of the most common misconceptions people have about Diabetes is the difference Type-1 and Type-2 Diabetes. There are a number of other “sub-types,” which I covered quite a while back in my post Everyone Has a Type… but Type-1 and Type-2 are the most common and the most “well-known.” I have that in quotations because it’s amazing how little the general population actually KNOWS about Diabetes.

Every once in a while, I write a fresh post to explain the generalized difference between Type-1 and Type-2. The population at large seem to confuse and even combine the two on occasion, and the questions and “suggestions” I sometimes get from people can border on the ridiculous and dangerous. I once had a guy who claimed to be some sort of holistic healer, who claimed that he could heal my Diabetes by having me sustain myself on a diet of nothing but cruciferous greens and no insulin. Hmm, sounds FASCINATING but I wanna live…

To give you the general difference so that this post doesn’t wind up being a mile long like they usually are, Type-1 Diabetes is a condition known as “insulin-dependent” or “juvenile” Diabetes (although I haven’t heard it referred to as that last one in a long time). It happens when a person’s own immune system attacks the body’s insulin-producing beta cells, leading to the required insulin injections. Although some Type-1’s will continue to produce insulin in small amounts, eventually the pancreas stops producing insulin altogether. There is NO cure (yet), only treatment. It’s a lifelong condition and usually takes hold early in life due to its nature, although some people are diagnosed much later (my father was diagnosed as Type-1 in his 50’s).

Type-2 Diabetes is a much different creature. It usually has to do with your body’s ability to respond to insulin the way it should. It usually has to do with the body’s insulin sensitivity, which is important to remember since most people attribute the condition to obesity (even if that’s only a possible factor and not a definite one). Perhaps the pancreas doesn’t produce the amount of insulin required or the body simply doesn’t respond to it appropriately. That’s the gist of Type-2. It can be treated in a number of different ways, including diet, exercise, oral medication and in some cases, insulin injections as well. Although there is no cure for Type-2 Diabetes, its effects can be reversed through proper diet and exercise so that oral medications are no longer necessary. Type-2’s CAN potentially progress to become Type-1.

It can be frustrating when someone offers the “miracle cure” they saw an ad for on FaceBook or tells you to “just eat this or that” in order to cure the condition. The take home lesson here is that there is currently NO cure for Diabetes. It’s a dark passenger that stays with you for life. And if someone tells you they have Diabetes, don’t be shy to ask what type they have. Most of us don’t object to reasonable questions and you may learn a thing or two that will prevent putting your foot in your mouth. ☯

All The Accoutrements…

When people think of Diabetes, they usually associate its treatment with the injection of insulin. Or should you happen to have Type-2, an oral medication such as Metformin or something similar. But realistically, if you’ve had Diabetes for several years or more, the safe bet is that you’re now taking medication beyond the basics that people associate with Diabetes. This isn’t necessarily to treat something that’s already an issue; sometimes it’s simply a preventative measure, which can be important in order to try and lengthen one’s lifespan and increase one’s health.

This doesn’t necessarily involve medications, either. There are a number of specialists, medical professionals and appointments you need to keep in order to maintain your body and health. I suppose that I can start with the basics, since every Diabetic needs to do it anyway. Testing one’s blood sugar. If you’re on pump therapy with a CGM, you can get away with testing three or four times a day. You’d think CGM would circumvent this need, but you actually need to test frequently in order to keep the CGM properly calibrated. If you’re NOT a pump user and take manual insulin injections, well… I used to test anywhere between five to twelve times during a normal day. But testing my blood and taking insulin is the first requirement.

Next, I take a multivitamin. Depending on who you ask, some people believe a multivitamin is either a daily “requirement’ of their diet or they believe that they get everything they need from a genuine diet and that you shouldn’t NEED a multivitamin. Well, the jury is still out on whether a vitamin supplement delivers any benefits or not. In fact, most studies straddle the fence in terms of whether it’s useful or not. My family physician has always recommended that I use a multivitamin and I’ve stuck to that for years.

Basically, a multivitamin contains a cocktail of the daily vitamins, minerals and essentials that can help boost your diet. It’s no secret that the every day person’s modern diet often falls short of providing ALL the nutrition one needs. Plus, one thing to consider is that B vitamins can help reduce stress and anxiety, which is a nice plus. Of course, I get a massive boost of B vitamins every day from the energy drink I have in the morning. But I digress…

The next item on my list is Ramipril. This is an oral medication I take everyday as a preventative way of maintaining my kidney function and blood pressure. I don’t know about y’all, but my kidneys are rather important to me! And the issue with Diabetes is that uncontrolled blood sugars will damage the blood vessels, which result in lowered kidney function. High blood pressure will also affect the kidneys, which is why Ramipril is a nice “catch all” in order to maintain kidney function. Do I have high blood pressure? No. Except for when I catch Nathan doing something he isn’t supposed to. But prevention can often be more effective than treating the damage.

And then, we have Crestor. This is an oral medication used to treat high cholesterol and prevent heart issues through the lowering of the same. Unfortunately, I can admit that for a few years running, my cholesterol has been on the high side. Crestor helps to reduce the aforementioned cholesterol, thereby ensuring better cardiac health. During my last specialist appointments, I’ve come back down to normal levels. It was mostly diet. Exercising and positive diet change can almost eliminate the need for this medication, although it can be useful as a preventative measure as well. Even more so than my kidneys, I kinda need my heart to keep going’…

I get a yearly physical. This is also a requirement of my current job, though I can easily appreciate the preventative nature of this, as well. A yearly physical allows a person to catch any developing conditions before they become a problem. I like to think that I know my body pretty well, but when you consider that chronic headaches can be a sign of brain cancer, it stands to reason that getting checked once a year even if there’s nothing “out of this world” can be beneficial.

Last but not least, we have the specialists. Besides seeing an optometrist, I also see an ophthalmologist for examination as well as my eye injections and I see my endocrinologist every six months to a year, depending on where I’m at with my A1C’s and my pump usage. That’s just the usual stuff. Job requirements have also required me to visit neurologists and other specialists I’m sure I simply can’t remember.

If all that was needed was a quick injection of insulin every day and testing one’s blood, Diabetes management would be a breeze. But in reality, it’s an intricate mosaic of pieces that need to be held together in order to provide the colourful image that is me! (I’m sure my friends and family are peeing themselves a little from laughing, right now) ☯

Party ‘Til You Drop? No, Eating ‘Til You Drop!

It’s no secret that having Diabetes requires something of a fine balance of give and take for most aspects of one’s overall health and diet. However, when those two factors collide it can cause some chaotic issues that causes a role coaster of events that usually last for hours afterwards. What I’m referring to, is the act of overeating when one slips into Hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. It’s a common issue, but one that can cause untold damage.

Just a few short years ago, I used to have a nasty habit that when my blood sugar dropped below normal I would start eating carbs to bring it up. Sounds reasonable, right? The problem would arise when I’d KEEP eating until I felt better. That’s a problem, because if I’m still eating when I start feeling better it means that carbohydrates have already started correcting my levels quite some time ago and I’ve eaten WAY more than I need. In which case I need to buckle up, because I’m about to slingshot into Hyperglycaemia territory and I’m about to embark on a ride I like to call the roller coaster (but not a fun one!).

A few things to keep in mind when treating a low is that you have to trust that your body will do what it must, so long as you give it what it needs. Treating a low should involve consuming a fast-acting carbohydrate, such as fruit juice, regular sodas or gummy candies. Personally, I like a particular brand of jellybeans because eating a dozen of them packs a wicked carb-punch, kicks in reasonably quick AND I can buy bulk bags of them. You want to avoid things like chocolate, as they’ll take forever to kick in. They’ll still work since carbs are carbs; it’ll just take forever since chocolate is basically a slab of fat and your body will process the fat down before moving on to the carbohydrates.

The next thing to keep in mind is what might be happening with your body at any given moment. If you’re suffering a low during a workout, guess what? You’re gonna have to stop until you’ve corrected. It’s all well and good to “push yourself,” but low blood sugar isn’t one of those scenarios where you can try and reach new levels. Trust me, low blood sugar is not a place that you want to hang out. But I can personally attest to how annoying it is to be in a karate class and get a low. Stopping a workout is bad enough; leaving a class is even worse.

It’s important to know how many units of insulin you have on board at the moment, as well. If you’re suffering a low and you still have 14 units of insulin coursing through your system, your correction may need to be bigger or over a period of time as opposed to all at once, since the insulin will keep working. You want to avoid yo-yo-ing all over the place by correcting this low only to have the carbs in your actual meal kick in and make you skyrocket.

One really good example of this is pizza. The average slice of pizza is approximately 20 grams of carbohydrates (this is based on my specific experience and the pizza I consume, so always be certain to check nutritional information before bolusing) so if I’m having two or three slices, I’ll provide insulin as required. This means I’ll bolus for 40 or 60 grams of carbs, depending on how much I eat. Makes sense, right? But pizza is extremely slow to be processed.

This means that if I take ALL the insulin at once (which my current pump leaves me no choice on Auto Mode), I will likely suffer a low after a very short period of time. If I correct this low, it’s all well and good until the carbs in the pizza actually kick in and I suddenly find my blood sugar levels climbing to Everest-level heights. For foods that are that slow-acting, it’s better to deliver insulin in parts or slowly over a period of time. Some insulin pumps have the option of “square” or “dual” bolusing, which means to deliver over a chosen period of time or, some right away and some over a period of time, respectively.

It can be intimidating, since you have to face the possibility of sitting at low blood sugars for a period of time while your body processes the carbs and you start climbing to a normal level. This can be scary and sometimes not possible. For example, if you’re work doesn’t allow you to sit calmly and wait to go back to normal you may find yourself wolfing down sugar faster than your body will process it, which means you’ll experience high blood sugar soon thereafter. In the case of something like pizza, you may fall DANGEROUSLY low before the carbs finally kick and you may not have the choice but to treat the low and deal with delivering added insulin later to correct.

Riding the insulin roller coaster is no fun and can leave you feeling like crap, during and afterwards. With a little time and experience, you can learnt o adjust and know exactly what you’ll require to properly correct a low, what works for you and what works the fastest. But the important thing is to learn patience. Avoid overeating and give your fast-acting carbs the time to do their job. This is likely the hardest aspect of having low blood sugar, because no one wants to sit still when they feel shitty and they know their levels are low.

But if you correct, sit and rest and allow the carbs to kick in, you can avoid the roller coaster and be all the healthier for it. As usual, this is the part where I recommend a reasonable amount of exercise throughout the week as exercise will help to improve insulin sensitivity and takes at least one element off the table. Having Type-1 Diabetes involves many moving parts, but forewarned is forearmed. So, know your body and stay healthy! ☯