It's All In Your Head

Ah, hangovers! They’re almost synonymous with the holidays, aren’t they? With eggnog and other lovely “adult” beverages available to us over the holidays, many of us find ourselves waking up the next morning with the tell-tale headache that signifies a hangover.

But what the hell is an actual hangover? Most people assume it’s simply a headache associated with too much drinking; and they would be PARTIALY right. But there’s a lot more to it than that.

A hangover is actually a grouping of symptoms caused by over drinking. Contrary to popular opinion, they can happen anytime during the day and are not limited to first thing when waking up. The symptoms can include but are not limited to:

  • Headaches and dizziness;
  • Dehydration and thirst;
  • Stomach aches;
  • Nausea and vomiting;
  • Diarrhea; and
  • Fatigue and exhaustion.

There are many more, but people often don’t recognize them as they usually sleep through a number of them. The good news, is that hangovers generally tend to go away within one day. You normally don’t have all that long to suffer.

So, what can one do to prevent a hangover? The most obvious answer is to abstain from the consumption of alcohol. Or at the very least, drink in moderation. But the reality is that there is no cure for a hangover. Yes, you read that right! THERE IS NO CURE FOR A HANGOVER! Despite what some over-the-counter medications may have suggested, there is no magic pill to make it all go away. But there are some things you can do to alleviate symptoms:

  1. Drink plenty of fluids: Not the alcoholic ones! Get lots of water in your system to replace the fluids you’ve lost through dehydration, which could also be the cause of the stomach aches, nausea and diarrhea;
  2. Have a cup of java: Caffeine is a natural stimulant and may help alleviate some of the dizziness and grogginess associated with the hangover. Caffeine can also cause further dehydration, so be mindful with this one;
  3. Have some food: No, it isn’t to soak up excess alcohol in your stomach; that’s a myth! The booze will mine its way into your system regardless of the spicy donair you mixed it with at 3 am. But having something to eat may help to regulate blood sugar levels (even in non-Diabetics) and help to alleviate the headaches and fatigue;
  4. Sleep through it: This one has to be my favourite. If you are able to stay in bed and sleep it off, this is the natural and easiest way to get through it. Keep a glass of water on your bedside table to stave off thirst and dehydration and snooze away;
  5. Don’t take Tylenol: Sure, some painkillers can help with the pain, but stick to Ibuprofen or aspirin. Acetaminophen can have adverse effects on the liver, especially if there are still lingering traces of alcohol in your system;
  6. Don’t be a chump: Some people have heard that having a morning eye-opener or “hair of the dog”, as it’s sometimes called, can help alleviate hangover symptoms. If you drink while hungover, all you’re doing is prolonging the process of getting past it. There is NO evidence that having those two or three drinks actually help. Quit while you’re ahead, limit how much you consume and politely decline further drinks, even if you’re in a social setting.

It goes without saying that all the symptoms described above can be worsened or aggravated if you happen to have Type-1 Diabetes. I’ve written recent posts on the effects of alcohol for Diabetics, so I won’t regurgitate the same stuff over and over, but be certain to check your blood sugar often and stay on top of it.

Ultimately, moderation is key. But one needs to remember that hangover symptoms shouldn’t last more than 24 hours. If they do, it could be a sign of an aggravated medical condition or worse. If symptoms persist beyond a full day, it may be time to visit your doctor. ☯

If You Don't Plan Ahead, You'll Fall Behind…

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the Holiday season is upon us, and with it comes a bunch of fun, celebratory things that we all enjoy. These things can include, but are not limited to baked goods, carbohydrate-heavy meals and the consumption of alcohol or other high-sugar beverages such as hot chocolates and egg nog.

I’ve never been much of a fan of egg nog, myself. But it happens to contain an average of about 8 grams of carbs for every 100 millilitres you consume, with all 8 grams being pure sugar! So if you consume an average cup or glass with about 250 to 500 mL of the stuff, you’re looking at 20 to 40 grams go carbs just on that one glass of nog alone! It can add up quickly.

Eggnog with a touch of cinnamon

Baked goods and meals are a special kind of bastard, because they can be extremely difficult to calculate insulin requirements for them. A good rule of thumb is that the average “homemade” cookies or square usually runs at about 20 grams of carbs. This has been my own experience of course, and doesn’t necessarily reflect any specific baked good you may be consuming. For example, when looking at chocolate chip cookies (an old classic) you would be dealing with anywhere between 16 grams to a whopping 30 grams of carbs per cookie depending on the ingredient content and the size of dough you put on your pan.

Last but not least is the consumption of alcohol. I’ve written about this often, because alcohol is such a difficult creature to control and bolus for. Drinking, in some respects will cause your liver to work overtime and your blood glucose to drop. Other types of alcohol may cause your blood glucose to spike, depending on what extra ingredients are included. There’s also the aspect that every person is different and what causes a drop for me, may cause an increase for you or vice versa. It really falls to you to know your body and your resistance to alcohol in order to best prepare for it.

Diabetes Canada posted a fantastic chart on Diabetes.ca that provides a general guideline on the carbohydrate count for most commonly consumed alcoholic beverages. The chart can be found here: https://www.diabetes.ca/DiabetesCanadaWebsite/media/Managing-My-Diabetes/Tools%20and%20Resources/alcohol-and-diabetes.pdf?ext=.pdf

This chart is only a guideline and may not relate to exactly how your body deals with its holiday booze, so monitor yourself carefully. For example, my favourite drink of choice is a rum and diet coke, made with Kraken Rum (the best damned rum in the world). 1 ounce of Kraken Black Spiced Rum is about 1 gram of carbs. My favourite beer is a locally brewed craft IPA that has almost 22 grams of carbs per can. Quite the difference between a drink of one or the other.

The holidays can be a wonderful time of year to spend quality time with family and enjoy some of the little indulgences that you perhaps restrict during the rest of the year. The key to enjoying these indulgences is being prepared. Test your blood sugar often, know the carbohydrate count of what you’re consuming and as is the case with almost everything, moderation is key! ☯

The Open Road Has No Pharmacies…

If you’re anything like me, you tend to pre-plan most of your daily activities. I, for one, usually have my day mapped out before my head hits the pillow on the previous evening. When I wake up the next morning, I have the benefit of being able to hit the ground running with only a few adjustments or details to iron out. Even on a day off, my hours are usually filled with a number of things that need to get done, and I rarely have a moment where I can stop and say, “Wow, I have nothing to do…”

Not everyone is that organized. In fact, even while being THAT organized (and I’m no KonMari), it’s easy to overlook some details and forget things you may have needed. If you have Type-1 Diabetes, overlooking a small detail can mean the difference between healthy holidays or spending Christmas in an emergency room.

First, let’s cover the basics. Unless you were diagnosed last week, you should have a pretty good idea of how much insulin you use and how many supplies you require over a specific period of time.Every person is different, of course. But if you can’t do simple math and figure out that you use X number of insulin units in Y amount of time, therefore you need Z number of bottles, you may have a problem.

Enter: The Holidays! This is a particular time of year, when different pharmacies and businesses have strange and off hours of business, and can be closed on unexpected days. The obvious being that almost all businesses are closed on Christmas Day, of course. But every business is different.

Given that for the most part, we tend to consume higher amounts of food, baked goods and even alcoholic beverages over the holidays, we also face the fact that we may go through more insulin than we’re accustomed. Even IF you have your dosages and supplies down to a fine art, you may find yourself falling short.

Another important aspect of the holidays is the fact that many of us travel. Whether it’s to visit family or go to a warmer destination throughout the holidays, planning out your trip in relation to your Diabetes supplies can be crucial, especially when faced with the possibilities of being stranded due to mechanical breakdowns, snowstorms or other emergencies.

Back in September, I had travelled back to New Brunswick for work. I had only intended to be there for a week, but a change in plans and schedule saw me gone for almost two. I don’t mind saying, shit hit the proverbial fan! I had packed enough supplies for a full week plus a buffer, but now the extension of my stay would outlast my extra supplies.

The town I was staying at did not have a location belonging to the pharmacy I use, my prescriptions were from out-of-Province and a hospital wait to acquire a local prescription would have taken hours that I didn’t have available. I was unfortunately forced to purchase the required supplies out of pocket. And the kicker is that the pharmacy I went to didn’t even carry the pump supplies I use, so I had to purchase insulin (short and long acting), syringes and blood testing supplies (they had my Freestyle Libra sensors, but they were too expensive to pay for up front).

This was a costly lesson, but an important one. I could/should have planned for that contingency. If I had simply brought an added pump set with me, I likely could have gotten away with buying a single bottle of insulin instead of spending several hundred dollars on supplies. Even if you have a buffer, you should also bring a buffer for your buffer!

Although this applies to the entire year, be sure to consider your health and safety over the holidays by ensuring that your supplies are plenty and that you have enough to get you past the black hole in your pharmacy’s business hours. Nothing says “bah, humbug!” like waiting 8 hours in an emergency room for a short supply of insulin! ☯

Keep Your Eyes On The Prize

Most of us go through our daily lives just trying to get through the day so that our heads can hit the pillow. I’ve rather preferred to make it to the rising sun, as it means I’ve lived through the night and can rise to fight another day, but that’s just me. So, what do we rise everyday for? What is it that keeps us from just pulling the covers over our heads and staying in bed? The answer is simple: you need to have a goal.

Goals are important. Even for those who don’t think about it, having a goal can be a driving force behind what keeps you going. You’ll notice I keep saying “goal”, as in a singular goal. One of the biggest mistakes people make is trying to accomplish multiple goals at the same time. Now don’t misinterpret this as not being able to multitask; the two are very, VERY different.

There’s an old proverb that says, “If you chase two rabbits, both will escape.” This is a simple way of saying that dividing your focus on more than one goal at a time likely means you won’t accomplish any of them. It’s important to place your gaze on one goal at a time. And this goal can be simple. There’s nothing saying you need to become a millionaire. If that’s your goal, then by all means, pursue it. Hopefully you will have fixed a singular goal to accomplish it. Nothing is saying that you have to have grand goals, such as finding a cure for a chronic illness. But if such is your goal, it’s definitely one worthy of a life’s work.

Now, if you were to try becoming a millionaire AND find a cure for, oh, let’s say Diabetes… at the same time? Chances are that you’ll fall short somewhere. Focus and effort are required for any definitive goal, and no matter how simple or complicated that goal may be, the requirements are ultimately the same.

So, tackle one thing at a time. Accomplishing one goal can lead into developing the next, and so on… This guarantees that you can wake every morning with a fresh perspective and the ability to focus on your goal. ☯

The Crack That Did Not Break My Back

In recent weeks, I’ve been experiencing a number of irritating symptoms. Well, I say “weeks”, but it’s been closer to two months! The first is when I wake up. Usually, first thing as I sit up in bed, I spend the first five to ten minutes feeling dizzy. This has been accompanied by headaches and a stiff neck, almost to the point where it’s been reducing the mobility of my neck and head. Where’s Dr. House when you need him?

Unfortunately, I was raised during that “unhappy medium” generation where one was expected to “suck it up” when experiencing symptoms that are considered minor, coupled with the period where visiting a doctor’s office became an all-day activity instead a of a fifteen-minute visit!

I should point out that any symptom that persists for more than about a week should be addressed by your family physician or medical practitioner. Even mild symptoms, like persistent headaches or dizziness, can be a sign of something serious. Most people are inclined to think, “Big deal, it’s just a headache…” But a headache isn’t a condition, it’s a symptom!

Enter my chiropractor! For those who may not know, a Chiropractor is a doctor who deals with the musculoskeletal structure, including the spine through hands-on manipulation. The idea is that proper alignment of those systems will allow the body to heal other outlying conditions without the need for surgery or conventional treatments.

Chiropractors have received a bad rap in some circles, in recent years. But lets be honest; there’s risk in any medical procedure, no matter how minor or serious. But I have to say, my chiropractor usually provides a significant level of relief from the pains I experience from, you know, training, karate, the excess strain on my spine from my work…

Yesterday morning, a ten-minute appointment resulted in relief. Once I explained where my back hurt, my doctor cracked the spinal column in ways that aren’t possible on one’s own. Almost as soon as he finished doing his adjustment, my neck and back felt scores better. I had a nap when I got home (one of my favourite hobbies) and I was pleasantly surprised when I got up and noticed that my head wasn’t spinning.

There are a variety of options for taking care of oneself, including massage therapy, chiropractor and acupuncture. Although considered “alternative medicine”, I can personally attest that they provide results for many conditions. But if you feel any pain or stiffness that doesn’t dissipate within days, have it looked after. Your body will thank you. ☯

Here Comes The New Year…

December is in full swing and the holidays are fast approaching. Once Christmas has come and gone, most people enjoy living it up with the New Year’s holiday. New Year’s Eve parties, the countdown and the kiss at midnight… It can be a fun time. This upcoming New Year’s is a special one, because it’s the end of the decade and we get the return of the Roaring 20’s! Cue all the jokes and comebacks here…

With the New Year comes a special tradition that people have been observing for a very long time: the New Year’s Resolution. Although people have been doing this for a while, most don’t put any thought into how long it’s been happening.

According to History.com, the New Year’s Resolution may have been started as far back as 4,000 years ago by the Babylonians, who would make promises to the gods to return borrowed objects and pay off debts. These promises are believed to be the forerunners of the New Year’s Resolution. (https://www.history.com/news/the-history-of-new-years-resolutions)

The Romans also adopted a similar practice when Julius Ceasar established January 1st as the beginning of the New Year. Named for the Roman God “Janus”, it was believed that this God looked back at the past and ahead to the future simultaneously, allowing for the Romans to make promises of good conduct in the coming year. Through this established change in the calendar, Christians began using the New Year as a means of looking at past mistakes and resolving to do better in the future.

These days, people use the prospect of the New Year’s Resolution as a means of self-improvement and a way to make critical changes in one’s life. Some good examples are getting into shape, losing weight, going after that wanted career or cutting out bad habits, such as drinking, smoking or gambling. That’s why most people have difficulty sticking to resolutions and they usually fizzle out by March.

First page of the blank spreadsheet I intend to use for my New Year’s Resolution

I usually don’t worry too much about making a resolution. After all, Diabetes has me observing enough stringent conditions in my day-to-day life that making a resolution has always seemed a bit like overkill. But considering I’m now in that wonderful “change of life” decade known as my forties, I thought it would be a good idea to give it a whirl.

Given that I can never do anything simply, I’ve drawn up a spreadsheet (pictured above) that outlines every week of 2020. The top row outlines the things I’ll be looking to do as part of my New Year’s Resolution. For example, if I get through the week without alcohol I will put in a green checkmark. If I slipped up or had an exception like going for a beer with a friend (Come on, Daryl! Of course we’ll still go for beers!), I would put in a red “X”.

I made it a weekly checklist because, let’s be honest, the spreadsheet would be WAY too huge if I made it a daily checklist. You’ll notice that the last three columns are blank. This is where I’m leaning on you, dear reader, to provide some ideas of what I can include. The only conditions is that it has to be something that can be tracked and/or avoided. For example, my workouts are tracked by my Runkeeper app. My water intake is tracked by my MyWater app. Anything that I’m to avoid, such as “No Added Salt” is pretty easy, I simply DON’T add salt!

Feel free to comment on what added items I should put in the spreadsheet. They’re all good things that should help towards improving health, improving weight, fitness and blood sugars. So hopefully, I won’t fizzle out by March! But I’ll keep y’all in the loop as it progresses. ☯

You Can't Hide From Me, Sugar…

One of the big things people seem to misunderstand about Diabetes is that it isn’t all about the sugar. The total carbohydrate count is what tends to affect overall blood sugar. And a lot of the time, to someone who may not know better, those carbs can sneak up on you.

It’s pretty understandable. For the most part, people have always associated Diabetes mainly with the consumption of sugar. I, myself, only learned about carb-counting in 2015 when I was introduced to the insulin pump. I was amazed at how many things I was consuming that would drastically increase my blood sugar that I always assumed wouldn’t.

Things like crackers, milk and bread, which my parents always considered “sugar-free” caused increases in my blood sugar because of their higher carb-count. And unfortunately, a LOT of labelling advertises “sugar free” when it’s anything but…

Note that this bag of chips indicates 0g of sugar

Stuff like this is the problem… If someone who hasn’t spoken to a nutritionist, dietitian or Diabetes educator picked up this bag of chips, they may be inclined to think that’s it’s fine to consume, since it has no “sugar”. But they’d be wrong…

Meanwhile on the back, the total carbohydrate count is 29g

Once you look at the back of the bag, you see that the total carbohydrate count is 29g. If you subtract the 2g of fibre (fibre doesn’t affect blood glucose), that means that every portion of those chips you eat actually carries 27g worth of carbs.

Depending on your insulin sensitivity, that requires a significant amount of insulin. Especially since the average person tends to consume more than the “portion” amount listed on the back of any product. For example, based on my current pump settings, a 27g portion of carbohydrates requires 4.90 units of fast-acting insulin. It can add up quickly, especially if you don’t know to bolus for it.

If you have Diabetes, be sure to check the total carbohydrate count in order to know how to bolus appropriately. More than that, every person is different. Be sure to recognize how long certain foods take to release those carbs into your system. It could mean the difference between getting the right amount of insulin or bottoming out because the insulin outruns the carbs. ☯