Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Expert advice on food should come from a dietitian!

I volunteer with our local type 2 diabetes support group. They are a great bunch of people and so appreciative of everything you do for them and every piece of information you provide them with.

The great thing about our get-togethers are the faces change often and I meet new and interesting people all the time. It's not a requirement that you attend every meeting but I'm happy to say that most people attend most of the time.

At our get-together last week, we talked about a lot of things; from diabetes education options to the shock of being diagnosed and marched out of the doctor's office without any further information (Grrrrrrrr).

One individual asked the group about the fact that they were told not to eat lamb! A separate individual who has a grown up child with type 1 diabetes said they were told at the clinic not to eat pork or goose!!

I've heard so many comments like this over my 22 years with diabetes. Don't eat Grapes! Bananas are full of sugar! Carrots have too much sugar! Stay away from white bread! I have become a cynic and I question everything.

I regret that I did not handle these comments to the best of my ability. I did ask if the individuals knew why this instruction was given to them. And in the case of the goose & pork the reason given was that those meats have insulin. (!?!?)

I poo-poo'd the idea of not eating Lamb, Pork or Goose. I implied that I was more of an expert than a health care professional BUT I am not! I'm not qualified to give anyone health or medical advice and I'm usually very good about sticking to my side of that fine line.

However ridiculous the idea sounds, I do not have a medical degree nor am I a registered dietitian and therefore have absolutely no right to insinuate that I know better. There could have been any number of reasons why patients were told this (I hope). Just because I can't think of one or find one on Google doesn't mean that there isn't one.

I wish I could turn back the clock and that I had asked these individuals if that instruction came from a dietitian. A dietitian is a food expert and a healthcare professional.

However, not every health care professional is an expert (or even knowledgeable) about nutrition. They can't be unless they have received specialised training. A student nurse once told me that her degree covered diabetes in 20 minutes with no further information. That's not enough to cover even all the types of diabetes!

My party line is now going to be "Ask your Dietitian" because that's what I should have said last week. And they're amazing, especially the Diabetes Dietitians!!!

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Food = Maths Problem

Small talk can lead to big revelations sometimes. I just got a reminder of how un-normal I am because I live with type 1 diabetes last week. And it was good!

As I was out with my walking Bud after St. Patrick's day, last week, she mentioned that she was feeling very bloated after having a McDonald's 3 days ago. I replied that McDonald's has a tendency to do that to me too but only for a day! Then she said that maybe it was all the stuffing her face she did over the bank holiday weekend.

She kind of made it sound like this was something that a lot of people do and I think she was kind of looking for someone else to say they did it too and feel less guilty about it.

Well, I don't have to tell you all that she did not find any compassion here and we moved on to the next mundane subject.

However, the thought that a lot of people blindly put food into their mouths, not considering what the consequences are, and actually consider that to be normal, stayed with me. It was half a lifetime ago that I probably did that too.

I had forgotten that that the way I eat and how I feel about food is not normal.

For me, and I suspect a lot of people with type 1 diabetes, food is a maths problem and who wants to do those! When I have to carefully consider every single morsel that goes into my mouth by analysing it for carbohydrate, fat and protein content, try to determine the quantity I'm about to eat, what time of the day it is, what my insulin to carb ratio for that time of day is, then how much insulin I should take, when I have to do all that why bother in the first place?

The only reason I would bother is because I'm hungry or because it looks so good it's going to be worth it.

I only eat to survive, same way I inject insulin to survive.

But if normal is sitting around eating everything in sight just because it's there then I am quite happy to not be normal and feel good about it.

Finally, an upside to having type 1 diabetes..... maybe?

Monday, 16 March 2015

Type 1 Diabetes & Alcohol

I really enjoy a beer! Especially, on Friday and Saturday evening. I'm a stay at home mother so on Friday evening when all the young people in my house are tucked up in bed, I reach for a bottle of beer and that's what signals to me that it's the weekend. I have 2 beers on each of those nights.

This morning, I was thinking about how much I used to drink in my twenties. And about how if I knew then what I know today about the risks of "boozing" would it have made me more responsible with alcohol? I also wondered how the hell I'm still alive!!!

THE major risk (apart from being stupid while drunk) is that while your liver is working hard to eliminate the alcohol from your body it can't protect you if your blood sugar drops. Usually, when a person with type 1 diabetes has low blood sugar, the liver prompts the release of stored glucose and you should come out of it. We try to treat hypos ourselves before that happens because when the liver prompts the release of glucose it releases too much. (Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional and this explanation of what happens when T1D & your liver meets alcohol may be over simplified and my understanding of it may not be wholly accurate.)

But when your liver is busy dealing with alcohol it doesn't realise there is another risk. Livers can't multi-task.

Back in my twenties I was still a bit new to my diabetes. I sometimes tested when I got home from a night on the town. I sometimes gave in to the callings of the chipper or Supermac's. I never would have alternated with minerals (soft drinks) and as for asking for a water!? That was a very uncool word.

How did I survive? It had to be luck, it had to be!

These days if there was a rare occasion to drink more than two beers I would always test before collapsing onto my pillow. I very often have a pint glass of water next to my drink. I go to bed with higher than normal sugars, just to be sure to be sure. And even though the glucagon kit isn't effective with alcohol in your system I still carry it in my handbag (you want people to be able to say they tried everything).

But, most of I really don't drink anywhere near the quantity that I used to in my twenties. I like not to be hungover when answering the 300 thousand questions from my son. I like not to be hungover and glued to my couch on a nice day when I could be outside with my family. Why did it take so long for me to cope on? And I am so glad I did!

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Low Blood Sugars Cause Bad Decision in Co. Clare

I do all I know how to, to keep my blood sugars between the lines on the "good control"graph. But sometimes all the forces in the universe collude against me!

One such occasion occurred last week, I had parked myself on my couch with my night-time herbal cuppa and settling in to watch The Mentalist. The children were in bed and not a peep out of them.

Universal influence No. 1; Hypo. I could feel my temperature rising and I could feel some droplets of sweat on my skin underneath my clothes. I reached over for my glucose meter to test my blood sugars and yes I was a 3.5 mmol/l. I knew that since I injected my dinner insulin one hour and forty five minutes earlier that my blood sugars were likely to be heading further downwards.

I reached into my meter pouch for some glucose sweets because I needed something to work fast. I had forgotten to restock or maybe I chose not to restock as they are always handy in the pantry?
Universal influence No. 2; out of super fast acting glucose.

Turns out the pantry was not convenient enough.

I was reluctant to leave my couch but I knew that I had no choice. So I made it as far as the kitchen (I will point out that our pantry/utility room is off the kitchen and our kitchen is not large) where I got distracted from my mission. I started opening cupboards in search of something nice??? I spotted my mothers delicious fruit cake and decided this was what I was having - it looked soooo good.

Universal influence No. 3; Kitchen put in the way to pantry.

It did taste good. I returned to my spot on the couch. But the sweat was still accumulating under my forehead hairline and I realised that the cake was just going to take too long and I was getting more antsy. So I did what I should have done in the first place before I got distracted and got some glucose sweets.

Once my brain started to pull it together, I realised that now I was going to have the massive spike in my blood sugars. So I tested at one hour after hypo and two hour after hypo (13.0 mmol/m) and took some counteracting insulin going to bed to head it off.

What did I wake up at? Flippin' 17 mmol/l!!!!! It's a vicious circle.
Universal influence No. 4; Take insulin but still have high blood sugars.

Low blood sugar equals fuzzy brain equals BAAD decisions regarding food equals high blood sugars.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

The long suffering life of a type 1 diabetic...

It always grates on my nerves when I hearing myself described as a person who has suffered with diabetes. You know, that fingernails-on-a-blackboard noise type of annoying. I felt that the word "suffer" implied that I was weak or ill. But I don't look like either of those things, so how can I be a sufferer? Especially when I'm having a good day?

But then, I tried to come up with another way to describe my life with type 1 diabetes I have decided that while I don't like the word, it does seem like it's the best one to describe it.

I considered "survivor", but that word implies that somehow I have left diabetes behind me and it is no more. No such luck! Diabetes is never going to leave my life (unless of course there is a cure).

What about "Conquered"? But that would suggest that I battled and won. And again suggests that my diabetes is no more.

I think I would still prefer for people to use another word to describe living with diabetes but until I, or you, come up with a better word, I will have to suffer the word "suffer".