The “Tooth” Of The Matter…

My 4-year old son comes around the corner and I have the following dialogue with him…

ME: “Nathan, time to go brush your teeth…”

Nathan: “No, I don’t need to, Daddy…”

His voice carries a light, invisible cloud of noxious breath that causes the paint on the walls to bubble and forces the dog to retreat for cover in the basement…

Oral hygiene and dental health are extremely important. Perhaps more so than most people understand. While growing up, I remember that the standard was simply that you needed to brush regularly and floss in order to keep from losing your teeth. Since then, studies and medical advancements have proven just how serious the problems can become if you don’t pay proper attention to your mouth.

Let’s think about our mouths for a moment: it’s the entry point for your food and the air you breath. This means that you have a lot of stuff from the outside world that enters your body through your mouth. Like most surfaces on your body, your mouth is full of bacteria. Some of that bacteria is good, but the bad bacteria is what can lead to tooth decay, bacterial infections and gum disease.

Bacterial infections can be pretty serious, especially for Type 1 Diabetics. Our weakened immune systems make us more susceptible to infection and makes them worse. Just to make you grit your teeth harder, (see what I did there?) the gum disease caused by improper oral health can make it harder to control your blood sugar levels.

Even if you don’t have Diabetes, poor oral health can leave you susceptible to cardiovascular complications, pregnancy complication and pneumonia. So, what can you do to hep prevent those oral health issues?

Brushing your teeth is an obvious first step. Despite what some of us were taught as children, brushing three times a day (or after every meal, whichever is greater) is not necessary. According to the Mayo Clinic, brushing twice a day is what the current recommendation indicates. This means brushing once in the morning and once before bed. Despite this, most dentists still stick to “old faithful” and tell folks to brush three times a day. It’s not a bad thing.

Although some dentists have indicated that even once can be acceptable, you tend to run into some problems with that, including potential bad breath throughout the day and unsightly food stuck in your teeth if you’re out in public. If you only brush once a day, best to do it first thing in the morning to eliminate morning breath.

Be sure to floss. Most people overlook flossing or it bothers them. But flossing is required to eliminate the bits of food that can’t be removed by a toothbrush. Leaving that food between your teeth against the gum line can lead to an increase in bacteria.

Use an antibacterial mouthwash. Don’t forget that mouthwash is supposed to complement your dental routine and isn’t meant as a substitution for brushing.

Here are some articles posted by Colgate and WebMD that explain some of what I’ve written and can provide further insight: https://www.colgate.com/en-us/oral-health/conditions/gum-disease/how-poor-dental-care-can-affect-your-overall-health-0313 and https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/features/oral-health-the-mouth-body-connection#2

Some other small changes can also help with improved oral health, such as avoiding staining drinks such as red wine or smoking tobacco products. And don’t forget to replace your toothbrush every few months. That s&*t gets gross!

So it may not have been a post about blood sugars or exercise, but proper oral hygiene can help prevent Diabetic complications and other issues that be aggravated by Diabetes. Why take chances when the prevention is so simple? And no, 9 out of 10 dentists did NOT ask me to write this post…☯

My Counting Sheep Fell Asleep, Why Can’t I…?

We’ve all been there, haven’t we? You reach the end of your day, change into comfy jammies and curl into a familiar sea of blankets. You lie there, staring at the ceiling or perhaps thumbing your smart device in the hopes of getting tired enough to fall asleep. Of course, using your smart phone or tablet can actually inhibit your sleep.

Image from The Simpsons

But that sleep never comes. You toss and turn, try different positions and even get up and walk around a bit but none of it helps. Then the morning comes and you feel exhausted, despite having EVENTUALLY fallen asleep.

Sound familiar? You’re not alone. Proper sleep plays an integral role in the control of blood sugar. Proper control of blood sugar also plays an integral role in getting a good night’s sleep. The two go hand in hand.

Studies have shown that blood sugar levels tend to spike during the night as we sleep. For normal people, the excess glucose can be absorbed. But for someone with Type 1 Diabetes, insulin may not be working in your favour the way it should, especially with the rise and fall of specific hormones your body produces during the night. This is why doctors will often recommend testing blood glucose at 3 am when trying to establish a pattern. So here are a couple of issues involving the important relationship between blood sugars and sleep.

High Blood Sugar: When your blood sugar spikes and rises, it places your body in a state of stress. This can make it extremely difficult to fall asleep as the stress will keep your body in an increased state of alertness. This can also be one of the causes of the “restless legs” syndrome (besides damage to the nervous system) you may experience on some nights while trying to get to sleep. I know I personally hate the feeling of being unable to settle.

Low Blood Sugar: If you have low blood sugar, your body responds by releasing adrenaline and cortisol to help you compensate. These hormones will wake you and energize you in order to ensure you can seek out food for your low. Not to mention that eating in the middle of the night causes all sorts of issues for your body as your circadian rhythm hasn’t accounted for it.

Lack Of Proper Sleep: It can very well be possible that you can’t fall asleep for reasons unrelated to Diabetes. Perhaps you have something on your mind, you’re dealing with a lot of stress, etc… Some of the things you can do to increase your chances of a good night’s rest include eating regular meals, following a consistent sleep schedule and incorporating exercise into your daily routine. Meditation is also a great tool, as the deep breathing and calming effects can help send you off to dreamland.

There needs to be a respected balance between sleep and proper blood sugar. That way, you don’t spend the majority of your day walking around in a caffeine-fuelled haze of exhaustion like I’m doing today. Diabetes UK webpage has a decent article on the subject: https://www.diabetes.co.uk/diabetes-and-sleep.html

And don’t forget that ensuring proper sleep means getting to the root cause of why you can’t sleep. And caffeine is only a band-aid and isn’t a replacement for a good night’s sleep. Sweet dreams. ☯

Challenge Is Key

I recently saw an inspirational quote that read, “Someone once asked me ‘Why do you always insist on taking the hard road?’ I replied, ‘Why do you assume I see two roads?'” Life tends to be difficult in ways that often seem unfair and often unnecessary. But life is not meant to be easy; it is meant to be built upon and goals are meant to be fought for.

One of the big problems with reading and studying as many books and subjects as I have, is I often have difficulties remembering my sources. Nevertheless, the above written quote carries the echo of someone who has fought hard through the daily grind of life and chooses to do what’s necessary.

And what is necessary in life? One of the things I’ve come to realize in the past two years, is that we waste a LOT of time. Think about how often within a day that you check your social media, binge watch shows or perform trivial activities that are typical of today’s modern living.

If you have time for any and/or all of those, then you certainly have time to workout and set goals for yourself. People often say to be mindful of what you put into your body. Although they are usually referring to food and nutrition, this concept applies to your life in general, as well.

Not mine, but certainly fitting…

If you expose yourself to constant negative sources of influence, people who complain, who are lazy or who don’t have your best interest in mind, then you’re only doing yourself a disservice.

I’ve been bombarded by a lot of negativity in the past couple of years. The sources of that negativity would surprise some people, but the idea is to work to overcome it and move forward. Despite the stage of life I’m in, I believe I have enough fight left in me to change paths to accommodate a happier and more positive life.

Want a suggestion on how to grow that positive life? Don’t hate. Let it go. No matter how badly others may have wronged you or caused you hardship, forgive easily and move on. Most of all, forgive yourself. When it’s all said and done, this will allow you to move forward towards your preferred goals.

I used to dream about reaching certain goals that I have now accomplished. They seemed impossible back then, and I often faced adversity that I didn’t think I would ever overcome.

It dawns on me that the difficulties I currently face are simply part of the next wave of adversity I need to overcome to reach the next stage of my goals in life. It may not be easy, but we all need to keep at it. No matter how small your goals or how little the accomplishments you reach, you’re still one step ahead of the person who’s standing still. ☯

Please Use Other Door…

I was running errands this morning and when I tried to exit a retail location with my cart, I came face-to-face with a woman who was trying to walk in. We shared a confused look. She was confused because I wasn’t getting out of her way. I was confused because there are large, blue signs that read “please use other doors” on both glass doors that should’ve signalled the woman that she was entering by the wrong entrance and I couldn’t grasp why she’d foolishly walk into the wrong doors. Although I shouldn’t automatically assume that this woman could read, one would think she could have taken a hint from everyone else entering by the other door…

This is a common trend that has become more prevalent these days. It seems that most people are so rooted in their own “little world” that they disregard basic instruction from outside sources. And you can see it almost everywhere; from people who park in handicap spaces without a permit, folks who leave their shopping carts in the middle of parking lots or take up two spaces for their car, people using their cell phones while walking and almost barrel into someone ahead of them (and then keep right on going without any regard or apology)… One of the worst ones is travelling along a high speed roadway and having someone pull into the space I’ve left as a safety pocket between myself and the vehicle ahead of me. That gap was there so I could brake safely in the event of an emergency, not so you could squeeze your jacked-up Chevy pick-up truck in front of me, causing me to brake suddenly. Douche.

But before I allow my temper to compromise my self-control, let’s examine this phenomenon a little deeper. As a martial artist, and given my chosen career path, I consider being firmly aware of my surroundings to be of the utmost importance. But even to someone who doesn’t have this experience or similar training, awareness of one’s surroundings is kind of important. Especially if you consider that most people will walk out into traffic without looking both ways, simply because they believe they have the right of way. They don’t stop to consider that the driver may not see them in time to respect their right of way. This is why we teach our children to “look both ways”, but that’s a lesson that doesn’t seem to carry into adulthood.

According to an article by the Association for Talent Development, “we can take in thousands of bits of sensory data in seconds, cross-reference that data against the information stored in 140 billion brain cells in a micro-second, and retrieve memories of everything from a recipe, to our first date, to our current project plan from the same group of stimuli. And that’s just what we are thinking about on the conscious level.”

Pretty impressive, right? So why the hell can’t the average person just follow simple instructions and courtesy while out in public. A part of the above-noted article seems to be of the opinion that with everything happening on the conscious and sub-conscious level, it’s no wonder that some people don’t quite seem to be paying attention.

Part of the issue may be that we now live in a world where our digital devices provide our conscious mind with all the stimuli we can handle and the simple tasks in the real world depend on our body’s automated functions instead. This is similar to walking into a street sign while your eyes were lowered, reading a book. Not that I’m speaking from experience, of course…

A serious part of our survival depends on our ability to pay attention. This has always been true, throughout the evolution of humanity. And that truth is no less a reality now.

We live in a world of faster machines, increased crime rates and constant hazards and dangers, but our minds have stayed just as fluttery as they always have been. We need to pay attention. We need to keep our eyes up and watch what we’re doing. Our very survival may depend on it. ☯

Are Your Pants On Fire???

Lies. We all use them. Constantly. Don’t believe me? Think back in recent months when you may have declined to attend a social gathering due to other plans, only to be heading home to binge watch Netflix by yourself. Or perhaps you’ve told a loved one that their meal was your absolute favourite, even if it wasn’t all that great.

Sometimes we tell what are referred to as “white lies”, which are small, trivial lies that are mostly meant to spare someone else’s feelings. These are not so bad when they’re done to spare someone’s feelings. The problem comes when we start telling lies to further our own personal agenda or goals and we gain from lying.

First and foremost, I should explain the Buddhist aspect to all this. The Noble Eightfold Path describes one our most important aspects as practicing Right Speech, which essentially explains that you shouldn’t lie. There’s more to it than that, such as refraining from gossip and being rude. Depending on your interpretation, lying will eventually cause suffering, which then leads into The Four Noble Truths.

Let’s talk about what lying does to the body. Believe it or not, telling a lie is not as straightforward as speaking words that are untrue and moving on. Lying has a measured physiological and psychological effect on the body and mind.

According to an article posted by Medical Daily, lying causes a part of the brain to produce negative feelings that help limit the extent to which we are willing to lie. The article goes on to say that we become desensitized to this response the more we lie. As a result, the more you lie the more you get used to it and start lying more often. That’s why you often hear people say “tell a lie once and all your truths become questionable.” Here’s the article: https://www.medicaldaily.com/how-lying-affects-human-brain-telling-lies-desensitizes-amygdala-dishonesty-402310

As far as the body goes, I didn’t manage to find a great deal of studies on it but the ones I found describe that lies cause the body to release stress hormones, affects the heart rate and blood pressure. Over the long term, this can cause a whole bunch of secondary symptoms such as body pains and headaches, to name a few.

I once heard a television character say (I forget what show) that lying is like applying a band-aid to a leaky pipe. The similarity is that in the same way that the band-aid won’t be able to hold back the leaking water, lies will eventually catch up to you and overtake the harmony of your life. The worst problem with lying is that it’s not only about you. It always ends up affecting someone else, and normally in a negative way. I know this to be true, since some of the most difficult problems I am dealing with in my life these days is predicated on someone else’s lies.

Be honest and seek honesty whenever and wherever possible. Not only will it make your life easier, but the amount of energy it takes to maintain the lies in your life is brutal. Karma, “What Goes Around Comes Around”, “You Reap What You Sow”… Whatever your life perspective or your personal beliefs, the message is pretty clear. Eventually, the lies we tell will bite us in the a$$… ☯

The Whole Is Greater Than The Sum Of Its Parts

Aristotle is believed to have coined this saying, although many dispute that it belongs to him. It describes the synergy that can occur between two or more parts that can lead to a greater whole.

Collaboration within a society is a good example of this. Although one person may be good at gathering and building shelter, a group of people will certainly provide more resources, skills and protection than the one would get alone.

So what does this mean in modern society? Certainly, this can apply to the family dynamic. But this has unfortunately shifted drastically with the advent of Millennials and Generation Z. More and more, some believe that a life on their own is more promising and alluring than building a family.

What are your thoughts on this? Although most of the statistics I’ve been able to find are based out of the United States, it appears that there has been a measurable decline in the purchase of homes and having children. There are a number of reasons behind this, from rising housing costs and increasing student loan debts. Psychology Today has a great article that goes into some of the details (https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/singletons/201804/should-we-worry-about-millennials-not-having-babies)

I’m sure many of you have heard about “power in numbers”. I know that I would personally be at a loss without the support of my family and friends. It would certainly be impossible to face and deal with the issues of life without my wife at my side. Even my son adds a certain je ne sais quoi… despite how destructive he tends to get. Four-year olds, am I right?

Although the nature of the world may be changing, the benefits and advantages of having people in your life has not. Don’t be afraid to reach out and be with people. You may come to find that the end result will certainly be greater than the sum of your parts. ☯

Well, Isn’t That Sweet…?

Blood sugar testing is one of the most rudimentary steps towards preventing complications when dealing with Type 1 Diabetes. Unless you’re on some sort of continuous glucose monitoring, most health practitioners would recommend testing at least five to ten times a day to ensure that you stay as consistent as possible.

I was first diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in 1982 (I know, I know… no need to point out how I’m aging myself…) and at that time, the belief was simply “don’t eat sugar.” Although that’s pretty accurate in some respects, there is far more to controlling Diabetes than JUST sugar.

As a child, I did everything I could to avoid sugary foods (with my parents’ support, of course). Staying away from desserts, juices and sugared products was all I assumed was needed. My parents knew no better either. If I were hungry, bread, crackers, milk… These were acceptable foods that weren’t “sugary” and were therefore safe for me to eat.

From the age 4 until about the age of 10, I suffered through a number of Diabetic comas resulting from extreme blood sugar levels. The worst of these comas lasted for a number of days. I can’t begin to explain how disorienting it is to go to sleep on one day, only to wake up several days later in a hospital bed. I often thank my lucky stars for having shared a bedroom with my older brother, as he was the one who ran to get my parents when he’d wake to find me frothing at the mouth. Without his intervention, I’m quite certain I wouldn’t be here today…

My point is, my family and I didn’t really have a firm understanding many of my Diabetic symptoms throughout my childhood. And the terminology of the time, “avoid sugar”, didn’t help. It wouldn’t be until twenty five years later that I would learn about carbohydrates and how they relate to Diabetes.

An example of a typical Nutrition Label found on most commercially sold food items.

Carb counting is not an OLD concept, per se… But it’s one I didn’t learn about until I started on my insulin pump in 2015. When I started consulting with my pump educators and dieticians, they began asking me about how I was carb counting. I was at a loss. I had become one of those people who focused so much on avoiding sugar and exercising, that I had never really bothered to learn anything new. That meant I had no idea what they were talking about.

Blood glucose levels are affected based on the consumption of carbohydrates. This includes sugar of course, but encompasses so much more. If you look at the nutritional label I included above, you’ll notice the portion I’ve encircled.

The Total Carbohydrate line includes all carbs, sugars and fibers included in the food. That being said, dietary fiber does not affect blood sugar. So if we look at the numbers on this label, you would need to subtract 4 grams of fiber from 37 grams of total carbs. This means you would need to take an insulin dose for 33 grams of carbs, not 37.

A 4 gram difference isn’t extreme, the difference over time can result in serious blood sugar fluctuations and all the symptoms and side effects that follow.

Although the medical definition of Type 1 Diabetes doesn’t change, treatment and proper care is a constantly evolving creature. It becomes important to continue learning and studying, and don’t be afraid to do some research of your own.

I know that doctors absolutely hate knowing we check Google and WebMD, but no information is bad information. Don’t be afraid to do whatever is necessary to ensure your proper health. And keep checking those blood sugar levels… ☯