Getting Over The Hump Ain't Easy…

It’s going to be a short post today, as my bed is calling and my body is itching to comply! Four days ago, I wrote a post that walked through the process of dealing with an overnight of extreme high and low blood sugars. Although a common problem for Type-1 Diabetics, it’s not necessarily something that SHOULD happen, if one maintains proper control.

When something like what happened to me last Saturday takes place, there’s generally an underlying reason. Either you’ve gone radically off your usual food regiment, have indulged in something you usually wouldn’t, or you’re sick. In my case, I’m happy/not happy to report that it’s the latter.

As I’m sure my fellow T1D’s can agree, we generally catch every little bug that zips past us, on account of the lovely immune system we have. Although I had a bit of a headache on Sunday, I really didn’t notice a difference. But when Monday hit, I started to note the tell-tale signs that something was amiss. My sinuses decided to close up shop and become impenetrable, to air or anything else, my throat decided to mimic the feeling that’s usually reserved for a stiff shot of Fireball (but a lasting feeling as opposed to temporary) and my head thought it would be a good idea to see how well I could function through my day without proper balance by making my head spin, non-stop.

Folks, I’m not the “man flu” type of guy… Sure, I’ll bitch, whine and complain about being sick with the best of ’em, but I still get things done. On Monday morning, I still got my son up, ready for school and to his bus. I still ran errands and still did things around the house. Despite how it sounds, I’m actually not bragging; this is just my typical day. But yesterday, my system decided to double down and increase its efforts to make me feel like I had been struck by a freight train. I think the worst part of it, was swallowing my pride long enough to acknowledge that I should skip karate and allow my body to rest.

This morning, my voice is slowly walking away from the party and although my blood sugars are sitting at an awesome 6.8 mmol/L, my body is racked with pain and nausea has set in. Lovely. Although I have no issues with the whole “adulting” thing, I think the remainder of my day (at least until I go pick up my son from the bus) will include making a fort with a blankie on the couch, maybe watch some Hell’s Kitchen with my wife, and see how long I can become unconscious for.

As important as staying driven and motivated may be, it’s also just as important to listen to your body and allow it to rest when needed. Otherwise, you could be looking at twice the amount of recovery time that you’d typically need. Stay hydrated, test your blood sugars often and make sure to eat something, despite your lack of appetite. Stay healthy, folks! ☯

Riding The Sugar Wave…

It’s been a rough night! And despite it being Saturday, which is a day off for me, I find myself emotionally and physically drained and exhausted. I usually try not to be openly negative in my posts; there’s enough negativity in the world without my adding to it. But having a night of extreme highs and lows can be taxing on the body, and give you what can almost be compared to a “hangover feeling”, without the enjoyment of drinks the night before.

I was up late last night. After receiving some reasonably bad news during the day, I had a rigorous workout to try and burn the frustration out of myself in a productive manner. The rest of the family had gone to bed and I stayed up for a while doing some computer work and watching some Netflix. After ensuring that I was adequately burned out enough to go to sleep, which included a naughty plate of nachos, I stumbled into the comfort of my bed shortly past midnight (And yes, before the “you-know-you’re-old-when” jokes start, I know that this isn’t all that late for some of you younger folks!)

It felt as though I had only been sleeping for a matter of minutes, when I was awoken by my left leg twitching uncomfortably. I couldn’t get settled and my frustration snapped me awake faster than a fresh shot of espresso. I sat up in bed and the spinning of my head warned me that something was amiss. I tested my blood sugars and found that I was too low for my interstitial sensor to read…

My blood sugar reading at 2:47 a.m. this morning

Now, I’ve had lows where I’ve taken blood sugar readings in the 2.0’s! This means that if it’s reading “LO”, I’m critically, even life-threateningly low… Luckily, I’ve groomed myself and my body to be able to act, even at these low levels. I’ve had no choice but to do so, considering the years when I lived alone. I contemplate waking my wife for help but quickly reconsider, knowing that she has to be up for work in a few hours and our infant son will likely not let her sleep that long.

I stumble my way down to our home office, where I have a fun assortment of bags from Bulk Barn, including seasonal jelly beans. I sit at the desk and start enthusiastically wolfing down full handfuls of beans while watching episodes of How I Met Your Mother for the thousandth time… I was up for about an hour before I started to feel better and finally made my way back to bed.

The violent jump, a few hours later

As can often be the case with someone suffering from hypoglycemia, I made the unfortunate mistake of eating UNTIL I started feeling better. This is a bad thing, because in most cases one needs to stop far sooner and let the glucose do its thing. But if you eat until you start feeling better, there’s a likely chance that you’ve taken in too much glucose.

As you can see from the above image, my blood sugar went from being too low to read, to 26.6 mmol/L in just a few hours. The effects on the body are brutal. I woke up with a strange heat in my body, without the sweat. I was ridiculously thirsty and I needed to pee like I had been on an eight-hour road trip after drinking an entire Big Gulp from 7-Eleven. I felt nauseous and could almost guarantee that I might be dealing with some ketoacidosis issues.

I instructed my insulin pump to bolus accordingly, and after briefly explaining to my wife what had happened, fell back asleep for about an hour. It wasn’t a restful sleep, but a required one.

The “Mount Everest” looking curve of my blood sugars this morning

As I woke up, just shortly past 9 a.m. I tested my blood and took screenshots of the previous two results, showing the journey that is a Diabetic’s night. At time of waking, I had dropped from 26.6 to 18.2 mmol/L. Although still not and ideal reading, that nifty arrow that’s pointing down in the image indicates that the insulin is still doing its thing and my blood sugars are slowly dropping.

As I write this, an hour after that last reading, I’m sitting at 14.0 mmol/L. I’m starting to feel somewhat normal and I’m thinking that caffeine may soon do more than just dehydrate me further. I’m somewhat envious of my son, who is currently sitting on the floor watching the Chipmunks and wolfing down his very full bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch with the kind of impunity that can only be enjoyed by someone without Diabetes. Lucky little bastard! But I digress…

There you have it, folks! I consider myself a reasonably well-controlled Diabetic. I spend the better part of fifty percent or more of my time “in range”, and the only reason it isn’t a higher percentage is due to my stubbornness at not wearing Continuous Glucose Monitoring along with my pump. This may change next month when I visit my endocrinologist and ask him to prescribe the new Medtronic pump for me.

As wordy as I made this post, it paints a reasonable picture of what someone with Diabetes has to deal with. When I was first diagnosed with Diabetes, I had the benefit of being too young to understand what the serious issues and the comas I suffered through really meant. I’m fortunate to be at a point in my treatment where I have enough control that every night of sleep isn’t a potential death sentence and I don’t have to be concerned whether I’ll wake up the next morning (no more than the average person, anyway). ☯

Grab The Bull By The Horns…

Anyone who is at least mildly familiar with me, knows that I’m a big fan of caffeine. My day pretty much always starts with a coffee or an energy drink (sometimes both) and I would be lying if I said that I don’t turn into a cranky biatch if I don’t have some levels of caffeine coursing through my veins before I deal with the outside world.

Energy drinks have gotten a bad rap in the past couple of decades, and not always for good reason. Over-consumption, allergies and/or misuse have lead to the popular opinion that energy drinks are bad for you, even dangerous. The bottom line is that it is very much a question of moderation, much like everything else. The average person can safely consume about 400 milligrams of caffeine a day (depending on age, weight and health concerns), and the average 473 mL can of energy drink only has 160 milligrams of caffeine. You’d have to drink four cans to start creeping into that “danger zone”.

Now that we’ve covered off the caffeine issue in all it’s glory (some of my previous posts have been specifically about caffeine so I won’t go crazy here) the actual focus of today’s blog is an often-disputed ingredient that happens to be in most energy drinks: Taurine!

Taurine is an amino acid and is actually produced naturally by the human body. Despite its natural production, it can also be found in reasonable amounts in meat and fish. Contrary to some claims on the internet, Taurine is not derived from the urine and/or semen of bulls. Yes, the word “Taurine” is derived from a latin word that means bull, but unless you’re getting your Taurine from a cut of steak, it has nothing to do with an actual bull.

Taurine, unlike other amino acids, doesn’t contribute to the creation of the body’s proteins. But it has a number of uses that are beneficial to the proper health of the body’s cells. Some studies have even shown that there are measurable benefits in regulating Type-1 and Type-2 Diabetes, as well as some Diabetes-related kidney issues. MedicalNewsToday.com has an excellent article that goes into detail about some of it an can be read here; https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326476.php#why-do-we-need-it

The studies in question seem to indicate that taking Taurine supplements can help improve insulin sensitivity. But like caffeine, the amount of measurable Taurine in a can of energy drink is well below what’s believed to be safe. Although the average can has 2000 milligrams of Taurine, an article by Healthline.com indicates that doses upwards of 3000 milligrams for an entire lifetime still fall within the realm of safety. (https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/what-is-taurine#dosage)

The bottom line is that consuming energy drinks are not inherently dangerous, when consumed in moderation. And Taurine is most certainly not an included ingredient that the manufacturers have gotten from a bull’s testies! The end result is that you should take your caffeinated beverages in moderation, and never beyond mid-afternoon. Otherwise, enjoy your energy drink! There’s nothing harmful in it. ☯

Don't Freeze Your Bits…

Ahhh, winter… The season of freshness. The season when everything is covered in a cleansing blanket of white that seem to invigorate… And take one’s breath away! Of all the things that affect people who live with Type-1 Diabetes, cold is one of the least considered, though it should not be forgotten.

Last Monday, I had my usual bimonthly eye injection appointment in the neighbouring city. As is my habit, I checked into my hotel a bit early so that I could park my vehicle in the relative safety of their parking structure and walk for approximately fifteen minutes across a public park to reach the hospital. This is usually done due to the lack of availability of the hotel’s shuttle and the fact that I’m too cheap to pay for a taxi.

Once I checked in, I took my first few steps in the cold, -40 degrees celsius of Saskatchewan winter. That first breath caught in my lungs and caused me to choke. But the first few steps were bearable. Then, as I continued, my limbs and face started to object to my being outside. They almost seemed to form a linch mob hell-bent on making me regret every step I took in the “great” outdoors.

By the time I had reached the hospital, two things happened: I was frozen to my core despite wearing appropriate winter apparel, and the battery on my insulin pump died on me. It shouldn’t have, since it was barely half used. But exposure to the intense cold caused the battery to bottom out.

This leads us to an important reminder about the cold. First and foremost, extreme cold forces the body into a fight-or-flight state, which can cause the release of adrenaline and similar hormones, which will cause the release of glycol for further energy, thereby affecting blood sugar levels.

There are a score of other problems that spending too much time in the cold will cause. The most important thing to remember is that although insulin is meant to be kept cool and/or cold through refrigeration, it can’t be allowed to freeze. Insulin is a protein, and if it is allowed to freeze it’ll break down and won’t function the way it should. Once broken down, it won’t lower blood sugar the way it’s intended.

As far as equipment goes, the manufacturer’s information for all things Diabetes-related, such as your blood glucose monitor and insulin pump, will indicate that you shouldn’t expose them to extreme cold. The problem I faced, in regards to my pump’s battery, is that the freezing temperature will cause the composition of the battery to become ineffective and possibly even rupture. I was lucky that my battery didn’t pop inside the pump.

If you find yourself having to venture out in the freezing, Saskatchewan winter, be sure to dress for the weather. Dress in layers, stay hydrated to prevent dehydration and cover up to prevent frostbite. But most of all, keep your equipment and insulin shielded from sub-zero temperatures and freezing as much as possible. And certainly not least, trust your blood sugars frequently to ensure you’re staying on top of it. ☯

Balancing What You Eat Can Help At Balancing Your Life

“Wow, my blood sugar is great, right now! Time to f&*k it up with lunch…” This is a typical line I often say to my wife when I test my blood and find it sitting in an ideal range. Having Type-1 Diabetes makes it reasonably difficult to find balance. On the one hand, some food items have some very clearly defined carbohydrate counts. On the other, depending on your current state of health, mood, hydration and the weather (I wish I was kidding), the same food item you ate yesterday can have a measured difference in effect on your blood sugars from the day before.

Finding a diet that works is very subjective, and having that diet work in relation to your blood sugars is by no means an easy task. For example, did you know that about a cup of a rice krispies cereal has about 25 grams of carbohydrates, whereas the carbohydrates in something less generic, like Special K is about 22.75 grams? (Source: https://www.healthline.com/health/best-low-carb-cereal-brands#medium-carb)

Although this doesn’t seem like a HUGE difference, a two or three gram difference in your meal’s total carb-count can make a big difference in the overall blood sugar levels of the day. But are carbohydrates the worst concern in your diet?

Carbohydrates are fuel. That’s the simplest way of looking at it. Along with protein and fat, it is one of the essential aspects of nutrition that’s required. The problem with carbohydrates is that some of them will burn much slower than others. This can play hell with your insulin dosage. If you take X number of units for Y grams of carbs and it has a measured effect on your blood sugar curve, you may see a noticeable difference with the same amount of carbs in a food that’s processed slower.

For example, if you compare 100 grams of red meat against a half cup of beans, the beans clearly win out where total nutrition is concerned. Beans will have more protein, almost four times the iron and magnesium and contains none of the cholesterol that you’d find in meat. However, that half-cup of beans will have 22 grams of carbohydrates to bolus for, where the meat will have none.

The difference is you CAN take insulin for the carb in the beans. Fighting off the long-term (and sometimes not so long-term) effects of cholesterol are a little more difficult; not to mention the effects on the cardiac system and your overall health.

Another good example are eggs versus tofu. I’m gonna start by saying I am a diehard hater of tofu and I refuse to even have it in my house. Although very nutritious, I’m not a fan of eating something that either has a gelatinous feel or looks like something I scraped out of the lawnmower. But I digress…

While half a cup of scrambled eggs will certainly have less carbohydrates than tofu, it also contains more than three times the amount of saturated fats as tofu. I’m still not eating tofu! YOU CAN’T MAKE ME!!! (Hides under the covers in his bed and pouts)

Last but not least are chick peas. I have a friend back home who is a big fan of chick peas, and for good reason. If you compare equal amounts of chick peas with let’s say, chicken breast… chick peas will have an almost equal amount of protein as chicken but with none of the cholesterol. Chick peas also pack a decent amount of fibre, whereas chicken has none. And fibre is one of those dietary staples that most people seem to neglect.

There are plenty of sites around the internet where you can get nutritional measurements for common foods, so I’ll leave it to you to find your own information. Your family doctor or medical practitioner should be able to refer you to a dietitian or nutritionist if you have questions or concerns related to your food intake.

The bottom line is that in the face of all these fad diets and nutritional trends out there, you need to find a balance in what you eat. Lower carb counts can help to lose SOME weight, although this is only in small amounts and usually doesn’t last. So choosing foods high in protein and minerals that your body needs may be worth the added two or three units of insulin you have to inject at mealtime. The key is knowing how your body will metabolize the specific carbs you’re eating, and distributing your insulin accordingly. ☯

If The Smell Doesn't Kill You, The Benefits Will Heal You…

Yeah, it isn’t the prettiest fragrance in the vegetable world, but damn is it delicious! I’m a big fan of garlic, and I use it in most of my cooking. Garlic comes in many forms when used in the kitchen. You can buy garlic butter, garlic powder and even garlic spread. And that’s on top of the usual fresh whole cloves and chopped, freeze-dried garlic.

Most people obviously know that garlic is a vegetable (I hope), but something many don’t know is that it’s related to the onion. And on top of the delicious flavour it adds to my stir fry, it has a number of proven benefits for the body, as well.

Garlic contains a decent amount of vitamins and minerals, including some B vitamins, calcium and potassium.

Fresh garlic has been studied and shown to boost immune systems, reduce blood pressure and lower your risk of heart issues. Taking garlic supplements has even been shown to help reduce pre-meal blood sugar if taken over long periods of time.

According to an article posted on WebMD, there is a bad side to garlic. Considering it has the potential to lower blood sugar, it’s definitely something to watch if you’re eating it in large amounts. Other problematic issues includes heartburn, bad breath and a distinct and noticeable door of garlic when you sweat. Lovely, eh?

There are also some medication interactions to watch for, if you eat large quantities of garlic. You can check them out here: https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-300/garlic

At the end of the day, we mustn’t forget the most important benefit of garlic: it’s delicious! Fresh, chopped garlic always adds a little “je ne said quoi” to your meal, whether it’s a stir fry or a meatloaf. Did I mention it’s delicious? I recently found an in-store made garlic spread that’s pretty good on toast. The best part is that my son seems to have taken to it and can’t get enough, as well (the five-year old, not the three-month old).

So, garlic it up! Just don’t forget to keep your toothbrush close by to eliminate that death-breath afterwards! ☯

Sprinkle A Little Of That Goodness…

When you have Type-1 Diabetes, you have the unfortunate requirement to pay attention to everything you eat, everything you do and the activities in which you participate and monitor your body closely. Most things tend to hit us harder, and we’re not only hit with a shorter life expectancy but our organs all tend to play Russian roulette with life.

Luckily, some of the things we need to watch for do apply to non-Diabetics as well. One of these things is the intake of salt. For many years, it was believed that the best course of action was to eliminate your intake of salt as much as possible. This is a flawed logic and including salt in your diet is actually important.

First of all, let’s clarify: there’s a difference between salt and sodium. Salt is the combination of sodium and chloride, as well as trace amounts of other minerals. Sodium is a stand-alone mineral, and is usually what is measured in terms of dietary and daily intake requirements.

Salt, as I’ll refer to it for the remainder of this post, is a catch-22 seasoning. Too much can cause a score of health and medical issues. But believe it or not, completely eliminating salt from your diet can cause a number of issues for you, as well.

But since people in general tend to think that salt = bad, let’s examine some of the benefits of including salt in your diet. Some of these healthy uses of salt include:

  1. Dental Hygiene: Swishing a teaspoon of salt in a half cup of water can help with good oral health by helping with infections, mouth sores, wounds and some forms of gum disease. It’s also a dentist-recommended natural treatment to help heal canker sores, which are a real sore spot for me (see what I did there?);
  2. It’s a natural disinfectant: It’s no mystery that salt has been used for centuries as a curing and/or preserving agent, as salt prevents certain bacteria from growing and spoiling food. But soaking certain wounds (especially those on your feet) in warm salt water can help with healing;
  3. It eases sore throats: Gargling with salt water can ease swelling and irritation caused by sore throats;
  4. It can ease cramps and dehydration: I know that most people tend to think that salt dehydrates you. And this may be true, if you consume heavy amounts of it. But healthy amounts of salt will actually help you to stay hydrated and by proxy, eliminate muscle cramps during physical activities. Salt is an electrolyte and is required in order to keep you hydrated;
  5. It can help clear your sinuses: Using a saline solution can help to alleviate sinus issues caused by colds or allergies. You can find over-the-counter saline bottles at any pharmacy or if you want to be totally disgusting, you can use a netti pot to pour salt water into your sinus cavities to wash them out.

There are a few good posts that cover further benefits. WebMD has a good one and can be read here: https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/ss/slideshow-salt-uses. HealthLine.com also has a good one and can be read here: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/salt-good-or-bad

As far as eating salt is concerned, the average person pretty much consumes their maximum recommended amount of salt through most of the foods they eat. But if you drink plenty of water throughout your day and are not faced with any outlying medical conditions that prohibit the use of salt, sprinkling a lit bit of goodness on your food is not a big deal. It’s one of those “happy medium” situations where too much is bad, but too little can be just as bad.

According to the HealthLine.com link I provided above, reduced sodium intake can lead to an increase in heart issues, LDL and Triglyceride counts as well as an increase in insulin resistance. So one would likely not want to cut out salt COMPLETELY.

Last but not least, when it comes to choosing your salt, natural salt wins over common table salt. Like most things you find in a consumer’s world, table salt is processed and has a negligible mineral content. Natural salt includes types such as sea salt and Himalayan pink salt.

With salt, much like everything else in life, moderation is key. Although you don’t want to be pouring that stuff freely onto everything you eat, you certainly don’t want to eliminate it completely either. Your doctor or health practitioner should be able to tell you if you need to reduce or increase your sodium intake and as with everything else, drink plenty of fluids along the way. ☯