Natural Or Chemical… Both Are Good And Bad…

I hear a lot of talk about the benefits of “natural” products over artificially made products. This is usually followed by some rant about how chemicals are bad for the body and such, and it often leads me to wonder: what exactly do people think a chemical is?

By simple definition, a chemical is simply the combining of two or more elements, either naturally or by artificial means. In fact, just about everything in existence is composed of chemicals. One of the best explanations I’ve found is in an article written by the Science Learning Hub, where they explain: “Matter is everything around you – whether it’s liquid, solid or gas. Atoms are like individual LEGO blocks. […] Matter can also be called a chemical. So if atoms are LEGO blocks, chemicals are the structures you can build with them.”

In fact, some of the most simple things we use in our daily lives are chemicals. One good is example is water. Believe it or not, water is a chemical. It’s called a “pure” chemical because it’s the same throughout its entire structure.

The above-mentioned article goes on to explain that the only difference between synthetic and natural chemicals is that the synthetic ones have been made by people through artificial means. But if we were to artificially create a chemical found in nature, there would be absolutely no difference between them. I’ve kept it pretty simple, but the article touches on a lot of other aspects and can be read here: https://www.sciencelearn.org.nz/resources/363-chemicals-everywhere

The bottom line is that we need chemicals in order to live. Especially since EVERYTHING IS MADE WITH THEM. Whether they choose to acknowledge it or not, even the people who claim that they’re “living naturally without the use of chemicals” are using chemicals. I don’t assume that they’re washing themselves and keeping themselves hydrated with rainbows and dreams!

Being natural or synthetic doesn’t make a chemical bad. In fact, there are some very dangerous and deadly chemicals that can be found in nature. Things like arsenic, urushiol (poison ivy) and snake venom are all chemicals found in nature that can harm or kill you.

In closing, this would be a good time to remind everyone that insulin is a chemical and that 415 million people world-wide would be dead without it. As with most things in life, there’s good and bad to everything. Chemicals are just one example. ☯

Symptoms Often Aren’t The Only Issue

It never fails. You get up from a less-than-satisfying night’s sleep. Perhaps your blood sugar levels are low, or you have some unknown secondary illness, like a cold or a persistent cough. You stagger into the kitchen and you prepare yourself some food in order to bring back some vestiges of normalcy, when an interfering lump of 4-year old waddles in and sticks his nose into the food your making. The conversation usually goes like this:

KID: What are you doing, daddy?

PARENT: I’m making food, pal. Do you want some?

KID: (sniffs your food experimentally) No, I don’t like that stuff!

PARENT: Do you want anything else?

KID: No…

PARENT: You’re sure…?

KID: Yeah! (kid runs off)

You walk away with your plate, satisfied in the fact that you covered the bases and that you’re in the clear. You test your blood glucose and bolus with a dose of insulin specifically measured for the food on your plate. Your pump responds and starts pumping the life-sustaining medication into your subcutaneous tissue and you start enjoying your meal. Then, the 4-year old lump returns and eyeballs your plate. The second conversation usually goes like this:

KID: Mmmm, that looks good… (reaches for my plate)

PARENT: Hold it, buddy! That’s daddy’s food!

KID: But I want some…

PARENT: I asked you if you wanted some earlier, and you said no!

KID: But I want some now… (lip starts quivering and a meltdown is imminent)

What do you do? Considering children of this age are often picky eaters to start with, it’s a little difficult to refuse them when they actually WANT to eat! You can either buckle down and refuse, potentially forced to deal with the meltdown that will ensue. Or you can surrender your food and deal with the aftermath on your health, blood sugar levels and let’s be honest… your sanity.

It’s difficult to weigh the best option; especially when it affects your personal health. I’ll admit to surrendering my food since, in my state of perpetual exhaustion I prefer to scavenge for something else to replace the carbs I’ve given up than deal with prospect of trying to eat my food WHILE having a persistent child drooling over my shoulder. Maybe not the BEST way to approach it, but I’m a martial artist, not a child psychologist.

The challenge is when he takes only a portion of what I have, making it all the more difficult to balance and measure how much food of another type I require to replace the lost carbs. Or what I hate the most is to have him take some of my food and leave me to scramble for something else to eat before my blood sugars start lowering to that point of no return, only to discover the plate with almost the entire uneaten portion sitting on the table because he once again decided he didn’t like it. But I digress…

The food analogy (although the most frequent) is only one example. Children provide an issue for Diabetic parents on many fronts. I remember that when I started on my insulin pump, my son was barely more than a year old. As time went by, issues needed to be addressed in relation to recognizing daddy’s “ouchie” and staying away from my tubes and buttons. Not an easy task for a small child as the temptation is great when they see a small device to play with. What’s been even harder is trying to convince your child that, daddy isn’t eating candy because he WANTS to, he’s eating it because he HAS to and it isn’t sharing time.

I was rather lucky in the sense that I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at roughly the same age as my son is now. As strange as that may sound, it was lucky because I’ve never known any different and I was able to grow with my condition and learn to respect it without allowing it to control me.

Conversation and education is important for children. Although they may not be able to understand absolutely everything happening to you, explanations and reinforcement of the rules can mean the difference between maintaining yourself or having your infusion set accidentally ripped out. ☯

How Sweet It Is…

Having Type 1 Diabetes makes life difficult. No kidding, right? But seriously, most aspects of life are rendered all the more difficult by the onset of type 1 Diabetes, but the aspect that has always affected me the most is my diet.

Like most men in my family, I love my food. I love baked goods and homemade recipes and having them restricted in any way is torture. That’s why, in the early 1980’s my childhood got a significant moral boost with the advent of aspartame and artificial sweeteners.

My mother had purchased a bottle of liquid NutraSweet and found a recipe for chocolate syrup. It was exciting, because there was no sugar content, besides the bare minimum natural occurring sugars in the recipe, and I could use it to make chocolate milk, add to plain sugar-free vanilla ice cream or make hot chocolate. I drove my mother nuts, because she could barely keep up with my demand.

There’s been a significant number of studies and controversy over the past couple of decades about how safe the use of aspartame may be as a substitute for sugar. Although the jury is still out and nothing has been conclusively proven, some studies have claimed that aspartame causes many side effects ranging from headaches to cancer.

As is my usual habit, let’s start by defining aspartame, shall we? Aspartame is an artificial sweetener that is chemically designated as E951. It’s so effective because it stimulates the same parts of the tongue as sugar does, causing us to perceive a sweetness. Aspartame is actually WAY sweeter than sugar (taste-wise), which is why a very small amount is required in order to make something taste sweet.

There are a number of sites that speak out against aspartame use and the supposed side effects it may have on the system, but nothing conclusive has ever been proven. One could venture to say that it falls under the same propaganda as anti-vaxxer disinformation. Granted, it is a chemical. So most people are thrown off and assume it ISN’T a good alternative to sugar.

The FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) as well as the WHO (World Health Organization) have deemed aspartame to be safe in certain measured amounts. these amounts have been measured at a significantly higher level than the average person could possibly hope to consume in a day. An article posted by MedicalNewsToday.com indicates that the FDA has deemed aspartame’s acceptable daily intake at 50 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. this means that you’d have to consume over 19 cans of diet soda in order to exceed that amount (https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322266.php#body-weight).

If you’re die-hard against the use of aspartame, healthline.com offers a number of alternatives to the use of aspartame, which include but are not limited to:

  1. honey
  2. maple syrup
  3. agave nectar
  4. fruit juice (not sure how you’d use this one as a sweetner)
  5. black strap molasses
  6. stevia leaves.

I’ve tried some of these alternatives, but they should be consumed in limited amounts as they can still contain a lot of calories with no nutritional values. (https://www.healthline.com/health/aspartame-side-effects#natural-alternatives)

The jury’s still out as to whether aspartame is safe or not, so many people choose to eliminate it from their diet. But like most things that are considered a chemical, it’s all about moderate consumption. Hell, beer is a chemical (it’s C2H5OH, by the way) and we consume that! So don’t take everything you read at face value (he says as he types on his written blog). ☯

Bring The Noise

Sleep is something that I’ve had an issue with for as long as I can remember. An elusive thing at best, the quality of my sleep often depends on blood sugar levels, stress, PTSD symptoms, other medical issues (ex: colds, flus and the like) as well as the fact I have two small children in the house.

I’ve written a number of posts that outline the benefits of a good night’s sleep. There’s no getting away from it; sleep is a necessary and integral part of a person’s health, well-being and interestingly enough, their sanity (that last aspect is information for another post).

For Type 1 Diabetics, sleep is a mixed bag, because our sleep is affected BY our blood sugar levels, but sleeping through lows or highs can also be extremely dangerous.

After reading a bit on sleep habits and therapies, and having heard about it from different sources, I started trying something new about a week ago that has improved my sleep: white noise.

Before I start describing some of my experiences over the last week, I should start by explaining what the hell white noise actually is. Not everyone is familiar with White Noise, or its lesser-know cousins, Pink Noise and Red (Brownian) Noise. Let’s do some learnin’…

White Noise is described in layman’s terms as a sound that contains all the audible frequencies that can be heard by the human ear. These frequencies are all at the same intensity, giving the sound an almost “static” quality, which is how many people describe it;

Pink Noise is a sound that contains MOST audible frequencies, except the higher ones, and whose intensity decreases as the frequency increases. This can potentially make it more pleasant than white noise, and a good alternative if white noise doesn’t work for you. The sound of a steady rainfall is a good comparison.

Red Noise, or Brownian is similar to White and Pink but with even fewer high frequencies, described as having more bass notes than white noise, which makes it more tolerable and pleasant to listen to than White Noise. An undisturbed ocean wave lapping on the shore is a good comparison.

All three of these are mathematical constructs that do NOT occur naturally in nature, despite what many people think. Although white noise is often generically described as “background noise”, all three of these sounds need to be carefully constructed in order to qualify for the definition. Some people have tried white noise and noticed no benefit. In cases such as those, it would be to their benefit to try pink or red noise, as these could be alternatives that would work well for them.

There are a lot of benefits to using white noise. First and foremost, white noise will buffer out background sounds that have the potential to wake you during the night. A slamming door, a revving engine outside or a family member going to the washroom all have the potential to at least partially wake you, disturbing your sleep cycle. White noise prevents this. It’ll also help you stay asleep as it will mask noise that may wake you and even if you do wake, it’s usually easier to fall back asleep.

White noise also helps to shut off your brain. Have you ever tried going to sleep, only to have life’s problems replaying in your head? Or upcoming tasks lingering in your mind? White noise will help to prevent this, as well. It can also be a helpful tool while learning how to meditate, as it helps the practitioner focus and shut out the distractions that may prevent them from effectively reaching a level of meditation.

There are plenty of other benefits that I’m only just learning about, and the National Sleep Foundation has a great article that defines white noise and offers different aspects, such as falling asleep with your tv on and managing noise in your household in general. Here’s the article: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/bedroom-environment/hear/what-white-noise

I have all of the issues I’ve described above, so this has been a life-saver in recent nights and even during nap times. You can experience the benefits of white noise in a number of different ways, from downloading free apps on your phone that will produce it, all the way to paying moderate money for an actual “white noise machine”.

I use a free app on my iPhone called Noisli. What’s nice about it (besides being free) is that it allows you to experience a variety of sounds such as rainfall, thunder, leaves blowing, rustling trees and has all three “Noise” options including White, Pink and Brownian. It allows you to blend and mix all these sounds to your liking, which means you can have a rainstorm with thunder and heavy blowing winds, if that’s your go-to relaxing sound.

At the end of the day, sleep is one of those things that will affect every other aspect of your life. If your sleep routine sucks, it WILL affect your health, appetite, work and fitness life… all of it! That’s why it’s so important to have a regular and consistent sleep routine (going to bed around the same time every night) and ensuring your sleep is profound and deep. You can take advantages of the methods I’ve described above without breaking the bank, or don’t be afraid to take advantage of sleep therapy if you find that it still isn’t happening for you.

This is one of those things that you have to try for yourself in order to be the judge. Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for a nap! ☯

A Shovel Full Of Common Sense

I don’t know about the rest of you, but winter is in full swing in Saskatchewan, and the snow is falling heavily today. As I look out my window, there’s a flurry of heavy flakes falling, with a decent wind pushing it all about. Some Provincial highways have been closed due to snow and ice. Winter wonderland, indeed…

One of the activities associated with winter (besides pelting my son with snowballs) is shovelling. Let’s be honest: shovelling snow is a major pain in the a$$! I don’t recall ever hearing someone say, “Oh, I LOVE shovelling snow! It’s so much fun…” Yeah, no, it sucks.

But it’s a necessity of winter. Whether you rent, own or otherwise, you’ll likely be required to clear away snow in some capacity, at some point. I currently own my home, and one of my biggest pet peeves is the fact that I even have to clear the sidewalk in front of my home, despite it belonging to the city.

Most people forget that this necessity is also a major workout! Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a workout I willingly include but shovelling out one’s driveway or front sidewalks gets the heart rate up, increases blood flow and works several muscle groups.

Unfortunately, it’s also incredibly taxing on your heart, increases blood pressure and leaves you at risk for blood clots. A decent article article posted by Harvard Health Blog outlines some of the factors to be mindful of (https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/protect-your-heart-when-shoveling-snow-201101151153)

Some little tips I can provide in order to prevent issues include keeping yourself in good physical condition, maintaining your hydration and taking frequent breaks. Consider stretching before you begin shovelling, same as you would with any other workout, and remember to lift with your legs.

Jumping out in the freezing cold and moving hundreds of pounds of snow after being sedentary for months is dangerous and ill advised. We already know that people with Diabetes are at a higher risk for heart disease and heart failure. So it becomes all the more important to remember to test your blood before heading outdoors and keep some fast-acting ready, just in case. ☯

Liquid Courage Or Stupidity? It’s A Fine Line, People!

Although Homer Simpson is definitely not a source of what one may consider to be a source of salient wisdom, he is definitely quotable in Season 8 Episode 18 where he says, “To alcohol!  The cause of… and solution to… all of life’s problems.”

The consumption of alcohol poses a distinct societal issue in modern times, as we have the world’s information and communication at our fingertips… even when we’re drunk!  That’s not a good thing.  How often have you heard of a friend drunk-texting, messaging or contacting an ex-partner?  Or someone who has shopped and made frivolous and even ridiculous purchases online?  It happens more than we care to think about, and most of us only realize our mistake and check our phones the morning after, while in the throws of a hang-over, questioning our life choices.

For someone with Type-1 Diabetes, there’s definitely more to think about when consuming alcohol than declaring one’s undying love for the one you left behind. There’s a great checklist available at Diabetes.ca (https://www.diabetes.ca/DiabetesCanadaWebsite/media/Managing-My-Diabetes/Tools%20and%20Resources/alcohol-and-diabetes.pdf?ext=.pdf) that will help you ascertain whether or not it would be safe for you to enjoy a drink or not.  Further into the article, there a table that provides a general guideline to the number of carbs you may be ingesting, depending on what you drink.

The problem with alcohol is that one can never be certain what effect it will have on one’s blood sugars.  While some drinks may cause your levels to rise, excess alcohol may actually cause your levels to drop dramatically since, you know, your liver is otherwise occupied…

If you’re going to consume alcohol, first and foremost, do it in moderation.  This isn’t always an easy thing if you’re out for a weekend bender with your friends or you happen to be at Burning Man, but it can be helpful.  Further, avoid using mixes that are full of sugar, such as fruit juices or regular pop.

Alcohol (depending on the drink) usually contains a lot of empty calories and can lead to weight gain.  And if you’re anything like me, losing weight around the gut is difficult enough without the added obstacle.  Alcohol may increase blood pressure, triglyceride levels and heart rate, all of which are big no-nos for someone with Type-1 Diabetes.  Last but certainly not least, booze will often trigger your hunger reflex and make you want to eat, and our impaired judgment will often have you making less than healthy food choices while intoxicated.

If you’re going to consume, be sure that you do it with friends who are aware of your condition and some of the accompanying effects.  Have a safe way home (which should apply to everyone, really), which could include a designated driver.  Although I hate them, medical alert jewelry identifying you as a Type-1 is very important as well.  Especially since some effects of alcohol consumption can mimic the effects of low blood sugar or worse; they may hide them.

Look, I enjoy the occasional alcoholic beverage, especially when it can be enjoyed with others.  In fact, I had the opportunity to sit and enjoy beers with a good friend of mine just last week.  Like everything else related to Diabetes, the key is proper control and moderation. And stay off your phone, unless it’s to call for a ride home! ☯

Who Replaced My Shampoo With Numbing Cream?

You would think that cold air would do something to awaken a person.  But the weather seems to be having the opposite effect on me.  With the coming of winter, I have to admit that my head feels all foggy and I’m utterly exhausted.

The result of this fog is that I seem to have a sincere lack of inspiration on what to write today.  Has that ever happened to any of you?  I’d like to say that it’s only the weather getting me down, but that would be an outright lie.

It wouldn’t be the first time I fell asleep at a keyboard!

Fatigue and even exhaustion can often be side effects of stress and depression. You can tell something is wrong if you’ve slept all night but yet still wake up, just as tired as you were the night before, when your head hit the pillow.

In any event, I think I’ll be taking a night to let my creative juices rest. Hopefully, I’m done answering my door for all the trick-or-treat kids in the neighborhood and can retire to my bed sometime in the next short while. ☯