The Heat Is On!!!

Guess what, folks? Summer is here, and with it comes the intense heat that often makes me feel like I’m working out in the thirteenth circle of hell…

All jokes aside, summer heat can adversely affect your blood sugars in an extreme way. Exposure to summer heat can potentially lead to dehydration. First and foremost, dehydration will lead to reduced blood circulation and therefore less insulin absorption. This means your blood sugar levels will spike.

When you dehydrate, as your blood sugar rise, you will experience frequent urination, which leads to further consumption of water and further urination… It’s a brutal cycle.

Although it’s important to monitor what you’ve eaten and adjust your insulin dosage accordingly, it becomes even more important to remember that including physical activity in the mix will cause further issues. It would be important to either avoid physical activity during the hottest peak hours of the day, or work out in a properly air-conditioned environment.

Make sure to drink plenty of water, even if you aren’t thirsty. This will ensure you don’t get dehydrated. Avoid alcoholic drinks during extreme heat as they will contribute to dehydration. As much as it kills me to say so, caffeinated drinks should be avoided as well. Caffeine acts as a diuretic and will dry you out further.

The next issue is your Diabetes medications and equipment. They don’t do so well in the heat. In fact, leaving your insulin in the hot sun will effectively cause the medication portion of it to evaporate and will basically become expensive water! The same can be said of your glucometer. Extreme heat will result in malfunction of your electronics and improper calibration of the same items. Keep all your equipment and medications in a cool, shady location during peak hours of the day.

The summer heat is inevitable, especially in the Prairies where I live. But it is possible to take preventative steps to keep it from affecting your Diabetes. Drink plenty of water, test your blood sugar often and remember to adjust your work outs accordingly to prevent issues during the peak summer season. ☯

What Did You Think You Were Eating For?

One of the key reasons behind the consumption of food is to obtain carbohydrates for energy. The human body requires energy to carry on normal functions and, well… stay alive! But what else do we get from the food we eat?

A proper diet will also include a number of vitamins and minerals that we require to maintain proper health, growth and energy levels within the body. We’ve all heard about getting enough vitamins from a young age; I remember getting my Flintstones vitamin everyday as a kid.

But if you’re like most people, you’re likely wondering what these vitamins are for and what they do. My goal is to cover off the main ones here:

Vitamin A: This is an all-around vitamin that provides a number of functions including but not limited to the proper health of various bodily functions, tissues and helps to fight chronic disease and is known to be good for the eyes.

Vitamin B: This one is a bit complicated, as there is a large grouping of enzymes, vitamins and minerals that fall under the “B” category. In general, B-vitamins are used for energy production, immune function and absorbing iron. Some them include B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B9 (folate) and B12. There are a few more that I can’t recall, but B12 is considered amongst one of the most important of vitamins overall because it helps you turn food into energy.

Vitamin C: At some points, this one has been referred to as the sunshine vitamin. I’m thinking that’s mostly because people’s main source of Vitamin C is from citrus fruits. But this vitamin also helps with iron absorption, immune function and is a natural antioxidant that helps with the elimination of free radicals. Eating citrus fruits are also what sailors used to eat on long voyages to prevent scurvy.

Vitamin D: This vitamin helps with the strengthening of bones and teeth. Our bodies are designed to self-generate this vitamin naturally through exposure to sunlight, but obviously that needs to be done in small doses. Modern life has created an environment where more people spend their time indoors, away from the sun. So supplementation becomes important.

Vitamin E: A pretty straight forward vitamin, this one helps with proper blood circulation and clear skin.

Vitamin K: This vitamin is essential for blood-clotting. In order words, if you’re deficient in this vitamin, small cuts or injuries can cause excessive bleeding that can become dangerous.

Folic Acid: We hear people speak about this one as being necessary during pregnancy. And they would be correct! Folic Acid helps to prevent certain complications during childbirth but is important to everyone for proper cell renewal. This one is also known as Folate, or Vitamin B9 (as listed above).

Calcium: Most people should be familiar with this one. Teeth and bones, people! Teeth and bones! Good calcium levels are required to keep those body parts healthy.

Iron: This helps to build muscle tissue naturally and helps with proper health of the blood. As an interesting sidebar, it’s also what makes your blood red through the reflection of light!

Zinc: Immunity and Fertility. I’m a little unfamiliar with this one and haven’t had the opportunity to research it a great deal.

Chromium: This one is near and dear to my heart. Because it helps to control blood sugar levels. Chromium is what helps all the systems of your body to get the energy they need when they need it. Some traditional medicine practitioners will suggest Chromium supplements for Type 1 Diabetics who may have difficulty in maintaining proper levels.

Magnesium: This one helps your body to absorb all the other vitamins and minerals. It also acts as something of a relaxant to muscle tissue and play a role in proper muscle contraction.

Potassium: This mineral helps with the proper hydration of your body and helps to control blood pressure.

There are many others of course, but I’ve tried to cover off the main vitamins and minerals required for a proper diet. For more information and possible food sources for these vitamins and minerals, I’ve found the following two online articles that provide a lot of good information:

https://www.comvita.com/blog-article/10-essential-vitamins-your-body-needs/4100544

https://www.goodnet.org/articles/11-essential-vitamins-minerals-your-body-needs

We get most of what we need by eating regularly and including a variety of healthy foods. A lot of people take a daily multi-vitamin, which is fine. But unless you are experiencing symptoms or unexplained illnesses, there shouldn’t be a need to actively try and take added amounts of anything. Your medical practitioner should be able to advise you if further supplementation is required. For example, patients who are recommended to take Folic Acid and Iron during pregnancy.

Obviously, all of this is extremely important; not only for proper health and fitness, which is important to me, but to help with Type 1 Diabetes as well. A big shout out to my wife, Laura, who provided me with this blog post idea by asking about B12 yesterday. ☯

Be Your Own Hero…

Things can get pretty rough sometimes. Life tends to throw a lot at you, and if you aren’t willing to push through and give yourself the effort you may not overcome it all. They say time heals all wounds, but the scars can sometimes be as bad as the wound itself.

How strong is your will? How much strength of will do you have? If push came to shove, and you or a loved one needed it, how far would you be willing to go in order to overcome the obstacle that you’re facing?

Everyone wants a hero; someone to come along and just fix things and make them all better. How often in your life can you look back and say that this has genuinely happened? I’m not saying it CAN’T happen… Some of us have been blessed to have influential people in our lives that have made a difference. But think back to those situations and take an objective look. Can you honestly say those problems were solved by those outside people? Or were you simply guided and encouraged by these people into accomplishing those goals on your own?

Humanity’s will to survive is amazing. Even when a person is in their last moments of life, the human body will have a number of systems in place biologically designed to try and keep that person alive for as long as naturally possible. YOU try and help yourself without even knowing it. That’s why it’s important to be your OWN hero.

In the late 1980’s, doctors told me I would die from insulin resistance and wouldn’t make my teens. I had to take it upon myself to work on my health and well being in order to restore myself and ensure my continued survival. I had the help of some very important people, but my will to survive is what got me there. I celebrated my fortieth birthday last September.

When I joined the martial arts, my doctors and my family told me that it wasn’t an appropriate “hobby” for someone with Type 1 Diabetes. I was told I would get hurt, my blood sugars would be adversely affected and that I would never make black belt. In March of 2002, I proved all those people wrong by achieving my 1st degree black belt in Okinawa karate.

When I set out to get the career of my dreams, they told me that their health policies at the time didn’t allow for type 1 Diabetics. Even when that policy got rescinded, the candidate application process that would usually take between 6 to 12 months took me 2 years! The increased battery of medical tests and examinations would have caused many to simply drop out of the process. But I stuck with it.

Due to a number of Diabetes-related health complications, it was believed I would never have children. That didn’t matter a great deal when I was younger, but it was life-altering when I became an adult. As many would agree, it can be the sort of thing that can define relationships and futures. But despite all that, my son Nathan will be five years old this year!

I guess my point behind all of this (besides making it look like I’m bragging) is that the strength of will to achieve your goals comes from within you. That isn’t always easy, but it’s what will ultimately get you to where you’re going. You’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish once you stand up and trust that you can do it. ☯

The Doctor Will See You Now… Or Later… Or After That…

In Canada, making a doctor’s appointment and having it be convenient is something of a challenge. Modern trends within medical offices have changed somewhat over the past twenty years, and not all of it has been in favour of the patient.

The days of seeing your family doctor on the day and time of your choosing are long dead, and an unknown receptionist at the end of a phone line will usually respond to your objections by saying “this is the only availability the doctor has at the moment.”

As a diabetic, I have often been faced with the dilemma of scheduling necessary appointments based on my availability. The safe bet is that I usually have to take a day off from work in order to accommodate and accept an appointment to see my doctor.

Once at the appointment, safe money says you won’t be getting beyond the reception desk at the time you were allotted. In fact, you’ll likely wait anywhere from forty to sixty minutes to get in to your “scheduled” appointment. And a common practice to medical offices these days is to restrict the patient to “one problem”. This means that you may have a few issues to bring up to your doctor, but in the interest of getting you in and out as fast as possible your doctor will likely require you to make a subsequent appointment for any added issues you wish to bring up.

Have you experienced this? Let’s say that you have a persistent cough, intestinal distress and your left knee is swollen and painful. Your doctor may only allow you to bring up one of those ailments for diagnosis and require you to return for the others.

Now, let’s be clear on something: doctors are overworked! Don’t believe me? Here’s the reality: In general, becoming a doctor in Canada takes approximately ten years. This includes obtaining an undergraduate’s degree, going to medical school and doing some form of residency. And that doesn’t include the additional time required for specialization.

Once all those steps have been achieved, doctors need to stay current on recent advancements and developments, study and familiarize themselves with all their patient files, write reports and referral letters as well as attend conferences, sit on various boards and committees and spend time in hospital. This is all AFTER spending full days within their medical practice, seeing the patients who complain that they had to wait the added thirty minutes.

Pretty brutal, right? Would you want to do that much work? The average resident works between 70 to 100 hours a week! And it doesn’t get much better once they complete their residency.

Most people see doctors and think “Oh, they make a wonderful salary. I’d love to make as much money as a doctor!” Although most doctors average a little more than $225,000 a year before taxes, the amount of debt and student loans amassed while getting to the finish line of their “MD” can easily match that, and it can take decades to pay back.

The face of medicine has certainly changed since I was a child. I remember walking into a doctor’s office and getting in within minutes of arriving. That still happens on occasion, but it’s become a rare occurrence. And there are good reasons for that. Most times, even while in clinic, doctors can get called away for emergent situations or to deal with an ongoing issue with one of their patients at their local hospital.

I guess my point is that patience is required when dealing with your medical practitioners. Although it would seem that you shouldn’t need to, it’s important to remember that your doctors are people too! And like everyone else, they’re fighting battles you know nothing about! ☯

If Stress Built Muscles, I’d be Mr. Universe…

I’ve written about stress before, but it remains a predominant aspect of daily life for most people. In general, one could easily write about stress indefinitely, given the number of effects it has on the human body and life.

Stress isn’t inherently bad! Although we tend to view it in a negative way, stress is simply your body’s way of dealing with changes within one’s environment. How we adjust to these changes is what defines the response.

Picture this scenario, if you will…

You arrive at the office at 8 am on a Monday morning. You’ve had a reasonably restful weekend and you walk up to your desk in a relaxed manner. Nothing bothers you, no one is disturbing you and although you have some tasks on your desk awaiting completion, you’re not particularly rushed. Then it happens: your supervisor walks in. Within minutes, your supervisor discusses these tasks with you, imposes timelines and completion dates, and advises you of the additional tasks that will be assigned to you once you complete the current ones…

Sound familiar? If we follow the definition of stress in the literal sense, the supervisor is a the change in the environment that requires you to adjust and adapt, creating stress. But what would have happened if you’d been left to your own devices? I’m not trying to call anyone lazy, but one needs to admit that a person’s productivity tends to increase significantly when stressors are introduced.

When produced in small doses, stress can help you cope with daily life, meet goals and achieve deadlines. Believe it or not, if not for stress you likely wouldn’t be here. Since stress is part of your body’s early-warning system, it can often help produce the “fight or flight” reaction required for proper survival. This is something that, from an evolutionary standpoint, is pretty interesting.

But before I start going off on a tangent, let’s refocus on the stress aspect. Some studies have shown that small amounts of stress in the proper environments can actually help boost your immune system and help your body’s defences against infections and the like.

From a Diabetes standpoint, I can safely say that stress plays a major role in the proper control of one’s blood glucose levels. Since every person is different, the after effect will also differ. Stress tends to make my blood sugar spike; for someone else, it may drop.

I’m making a pretty good case in support of stress, but it can obviously be detrimental as well. Sustained stress over long periods of time can lead to many health complications, such as high blood pressure, anxiety and mental health issues.

There are certain signs that will allow you to recognize if your particular level of stress is too much for you. If you can’t seem to sleep properly, if your appetite, mood or weight begins to fluctuate and your immune system seems pooched to the point where you catch every little bug that floats by, it may be time to address the issue.

The mood aspect will have several different colourful sides as well. If you start being angry or irritated (more so than usual) in such a way that interferes with your daily life, there may be a problem.

Although stress is a part of life and there is no eliminating it, it’s important to recognize your limits and deal with stress in a healthy manner. Here’s where I get to suggest my usual dose of exercise, sleep and meditation. Those are a big help, but don’t be afraid to speak to a medical practitioner if you suddenly feel as though it may be getting out of your control. ☯

In With The New, But Don’t Forget The Old…

There’s been an ongoing debate for the past decades regarding what type of medicine is the best. Although some people are a bit more inclined towards the traditional forms of medicine, modern medicine has been the primary form of treatment for the past 3 to 4 centuries.

Let’s start by differentiating the two. When I refer to “traditional medicine”, I mean practices such as acupuncture, acupressure, herbology and homeopathy. Most forms of traditional medicine have been around for at least 2,200 years or longer. Some of the earliest writings, which happen to be from China, are thought to be from as far back as the 3rd century BC. These practices are often referred to as “alternative” medicine.

Modern medicine, or what’s often referred to as western medicine, started to emerge in the 19th century. The industrial revolution helped to spearhead a number of discoveries and inventions that led to the progression and advancement of how ailments were treated. The medical industry’s understanding of viruses and bacteria increased. One of the most important discoveries in my opinion, is the creation of insulin by Sir Frederick Banting (a Canadian, of course!) and Charles Best in 1921.

So, which is better? That part is what’s up for debate.

Some of the benefits of traditional medicine include, but are not limited to the safety behind some of the treatments, minimal side effects and improved quality of sleep and effect on the body. It can be viewed as more trustworthy, since it’s been around and practiced for so very long.

Some of the disadvantages of traditional medicine is the lack of dosage control for some herbs and lack of treatment for serious conditions such as traumatic injuries and serious diseases. One of the most common problems is also the fact that some herbs and natural remedies will interact negatively with modern medications.

Modern medicine has a number of very important advantages as well. For one thing, most branches of modern medicine require its practitioners to be properly educated and licensed to practice. The same can’t necessarily be said of all branches of traditional medicine. Dosage control and advancements are certainly more prominent in modern medicine.

The biggest disadvantage to modern medicine in my opinion, is the cost. If you don’t have medical insurance or coverage through your work, some of the better and more prominent medicines may not be available to you. And that’s taking into consideration that I’m Canadian and we have free public health care. I can only imagine the issue in countries that requires fully paid medical services. Improper diagnoses and mistakes in dosage delivery can lead to patient death or serious medical complications.

I think that something most firm advocates of traditional medicine tend to forget is that medications have evolved, and are based on herbs and traditional treatments. Medicine requires advancement. Imagine if we were still blood-letting or doing lobotomies? Go ahead and Google “Barbaric medical treatments”. Go ahead, I’ll wait… Some of that is pretty frightening.

If it weren’t for modern medicine, I’d be dead right now. No question, no debate. Without insulin, I wouldn’t have survived as long as I have. Does that mean traditional medicine is the loser of the debate? Not necessarily. I think there is a place in the world for both traditional and modern medicine. Both have pros and cons, and both have their benefit. Some of it may be a matter of preference. No matter what you choose, just be certain to do your research and consult your medical practitioner before starting any medical treatment. ☯

Did That Hurt? Well, It Was Supposed To…

I normally try and keep my inner zen and impart information objectively. My goal is generally to impart some wisdom through my stories and experiences, and perhaps teach a little something in the process.

But today, I’m going to hop up on my soap box for a little while and discuss an issue that weighs heavily on my soul. It began in the same way as it often does…

I walk into the dojo. The floor is cold and the hall is empty. The head instructor is setting up the required items for the evening’s class, and I stretch experimentally. I begin slowly; throwing a straight punch at a heavy bag. Then another, and another… Within moments, I start punching faster than I can keep track and am acting upon 30 years of instinct and training. I throw in the occasional kick for good measure, even though I’ve never been a fan of allowing my feet to leave the ground. I step away from the punching bag, allowing my breathing to steady. I fall into several forms followed by a number of knuckle push-ups. I stop and catch my breath, aware that several of the arriving students are watching me. I’m sweating profusely and have already done more on my own in the 15 minutes prior to the start of class than the entire student body…

It’s a sad story. One that has become more prominent in recent years. A lot of fitness and martial arts clubs have become a primarily social gathering, as opposed to a forum for proper training and development.

30 years ago when I started the martial arts, class started promptly at 6 pm and ended only at 8 pm. There were no washroom breaks, no water permitted within the dojo and the energy in the room was electric. Once you were inside, you weren’t permitted to leave the dojo until Sensei dismissed you, barring a medical emergency. Every student present knew their position. Everyone bowed; everyone kept going until the end. No one gave up. No one took it easy.

I feel that some of the genuine strength of the martial arts has become watered down. Let’s be realistic: all those awesome martial arts movies and kung fu flicks you likely watched as a kid (and perhaps still do) are based on real life martial artist who have spent their entire lives training and developing themselves. If not for the hard work of others, those awesome movies wouldn’t exist.

One good example is Bruce Lee. Even though he was an action movie star, he was also a traditional artist artist. Having trained from a young age, he developed himself and built himself to the point where he was able to surpass his teachings and even develop his own martial arts perspective in Jeet Kune Do. He was so skilled that the camera often had to be slowed in order be able to see the actual strike on film…

I use Bruce Lee as an example because he is well known inside and outside of martial arts circles. The likes of him hasn’t been seen since. But his example, as well as some others, set a precedence that effectively set the tone for my martial arts training from a young age well into my current state of being.

I’m a 40-year old man. By no means am I “old”, but I’m certainly not the spry, 21-year old green belt I was in 1999. But yet, I manage to work up more of sweat and burn more calories in 15 minutes than most of the teenage students in my current school will burn throughout the entire class. It may sound like a bit of a conceit, but it’s accurate. The change in the tide almost makes me feel as though traditional martial arts may disappear within the next generation.

It’s important to put in a maximum effort in any training you perform. It will sometimes be painful and it will be exhausting. But this is how you grow and progress. If you give it a minimum effort and basically “half ass” your workout, you may as well stay home. This applies to anything, whether you are training in the martial arts, learning a new sport of learning a new skill such as an instrument.

They say that showing up is the first step. I’ve heard this on occasion. And although I can agree that showing up is the first step, it is also the easiest. The next step becomes more difficult, as it requires the learner to put in a comparable effort for the skill they wish to learn.

So push yourself, damn it! If you don’t sweat, if you don’t feel aches and pains, if you don’t wake up the next morning barely able to walk, you’re not giving yourself the effort. And trust me, you are well worth the effort! ☯