Category Archives: Diabetes and Diet

Why I Love the Study of Nutrition

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I love the study of nutrition…

  • Because I’ve learned food is medicine
  • Because what we eat influences what we think.  A world that eats high quality food is a world that has more positivity, love, and patience.
  • Because what we eat communicates directly with our genes.  What we eat is information.  And that information helps determine what diseases we’ll develop or not develop and what health issues our children will be predisposed to or not predisposed to.
  • Because to be sick we either have too much or too little of something.  And a huge chunk of that has to do with food and all that’s in it or not in it.
  • Because the more we know and apply, the better we feel.  The better we feel, the more we can do.  The more we can do, well…the sky is the limit.

As people with diabetes, I think we benefit enormously from learning about nutrition because when you have a chronic disease that impacts every part, every organ of the body, you need all the help you can get.  We eat every single day and so every day is an opportunity to give ourselves something that will make us healthier, stronger, smarter, and happier.  The right foods do that.  And I think it’s amazing.

Closing the Kitchen

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Recently, my kids have gone from eating their brown rice and veggies, quinoa with garlic and ginger, and organic poultry, fish, and meats to wanting only fruit and dairy and grains.  They’d probably want coke all the time except that stuff has never passed their lips so they don’t know what they are missing.  And that’s why they prefer the starchier, sweeter stuff.  They’ve had it and they’re not naïve anymore to the big world of junk food.  I should have kept them in the dark…

Anyway, my only hope is to have them be hungry enough at meal time so that they’ll eat what I have to offer.  I don’t plan on being cruel and force feeding them what they don’t like.  But I need them not to eat processed foods and I want to avoid scenarios where they tire me out to the point of desperately feeding them crappy sugar laden breakfast cereal “Fine, you win!  Just stop the whining!” (yes, it’s happened).

I’m going to close the kitchen.  I grew up hearing that children require snacks in between meals because they’re growing and they get hungry more often.  But, I have been learning more and more about nutrition from experts and many of them hold the opinion that we should be hungry before meals and we shouldn’t snack all doggone day-and this includes children.  And while I don’t think snacking is a sin, I do think that for me and my kids it’s become an inconvenient appetite destroyer.

I try to make every meal and not pull it out of a box.  I also eat different foods than my kids.  And my husband eats different foods from me and the kids.  So by the time dinner rolls around I’ve made seven different meals and cut up fruit or vegetables or cheese for snacks and it just hit me that I practically live in the kitchen.  Not cool.  I grew up hearing the whole “pregnant and barefoot in the kitchen” saying and swore I’d NEVER spend too much time in the kitchen.  In fact, when I was pregnant, I looked down to find myself barefoot in the kitchen, freaked out, and quickly got some shoes on my swollen feet.  You can say feminism has scarred me.  Whatever.  Point is, I hate looking at food all day you know?  It says, “eat me!” and so all day I’m fighting the temptation to eat the kid’s whole wheat pasta or my husband’s rice and beans.  Or I’m sneaking in a bite of food here and there and realizing that one bite of food is enough to throw blood sugars and weight loss efforts.  It’s exhausting.

So I’m closing the kitchen.  I’m going to make sure the kids eat a good breakfast and then I’ll have my grapefruit or avocado or whatever I’m having and then kitchen closed.  It will reopen for lunch and then it will close.  It will reopen for dinner and then it will close.  My kids are used to a bottle of milk or coconut milk or almond milk before bed.  I’ll leave them that luxury.  But snacks in between meals?  Nope.  I need them hungry enough to eat what I know is best for them to eat.  I mean who’s in charge here?  Me or them?

Ok, I’ve adequately pep talked myself.  Let’s do this!

(I’ll keep you posted on our progress…or lack thereof :)

Do any of you stick to three meals and no snacks during the day?  If so, how does it work for you?

Thoughts on the Paleo Diet

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Thoughts on the Paleo Diet

I’ve been pondering the paleo diet lately. Not necessarily considering it, although I probably eat a diet people would consider a paleo-like diet. I’ve been thinking about it because it’s getting more popular. The diet plan presumes that humans evolved to best handle foods that were available during the paleolithic era which lasted 2.5 million years according to wikipedia. Supposedly, we’ve been incorporating grains into our diets for only 10,000 or so years. Therefore it is assumed that our bodies are not equipped to thrive on grains because we haven’t had enough time to evolve to assimilate them. If we’re going with this evolutionary train of thought…I wonder if the Okinawan’s of Japan who are some of the longest living and healthy people on the planet do so well on brown rice and vegetables because people have existed in Asia longer than people have existed in say, South America, and therefore had more time to get used to assimilating brown rice. Maybe we evolve faster than we think? Blacks and Hispanics eating the standard American diet suffer certain health consequences sooner and more frequently than Caucasians. Is this because of the predominance of wheat in the diet? And the fact that Caucasians mostly hail from Europe, where wheat has been eaten for longer than it has in Africa, South America, Central America and Mexico? Do you see where I’m going with this?

If I follow the idealogoy of the paleo diet, I get lost you see? Because it’s based on what we are not sure of yet-evolutionary stuff. We don’t know how long it takes us to evolve to foods but it seems like it’s been happening in the last 10,000 years because Caucasian Americans don’t have the same risk for diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease as African American and Hispanic Americans do.  Or maybe not?  I don’t know enough.

I appreciate how the diet emphasizes whole foods and omits processed ones. The thing is, if a paleo dieter can’t afford or isn’t able to find organic animal products, then they are consuming what our ancestors certainly didn’t consume- chemicals and hormones and toxins galore. That’s where I think the greatest downfall of the diet is. The modern implications of it. Back then meat, poultry, eggs were pure. Now it’s all genetically modified to the point of almost needing to be called something else because it’s been changed at the most basic level.

That said, I do try to eat things I don’t pull out of a box, don’t have to cook, or need to pick up the phone to order.  And that’s often at the heart of paleo, so I do very much appreciate that.  Oh, and the fantastic blood sugars I get from eating paleo-like…priceless.

Anyway I was just thinking aloud :)

Any of you have experience with this diet?  What do you think?

Paula Deen and Her Type 2 Diabetes

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Those are some white teeth ya’ll…:)

I do see how some of her comments don’t help us diabetic people out.  She just said that diabetes is “not a life sentence”.  This doesn’t bother me much because I take it into context and I know she is talking about her type 2 diabetes.  However, I do understand that the majority of the world out there doesn’t know that type 1 and 2 are different diseases (though we haven’t actually figured those details out for 100% certain, yet).  Anyway, the point is that I completely understand the frustration to those with diabetes who say, “Wait just one minute!  Diabetes IS life threatening for me and can definitely be for other people with diabetes!”  I get it.  I don’t however, want to punch the lady in the face for not being specific enough when I know she was just trying to spread a little hope to others.  Even if that hope came across a bit rehearsed.  After all, she can most likely pay for any operation she ever needs of pocket and the rest of us, cannot.

I see the backlash on Paula Deen as a way of our collective society screaming out  and saying “I don’t eat enough healthy food and exercise enough and as a result I am not as healthy as I could be and this affects everything in my life”.  We’re speaking through Paula in light of her type 2 diabetes.  I honestly believe that.  We relate to her.  We enjoyed our processed food and then realized the hard way that those delicious foods are hurting us more than they are pleasing us.  Maybe some of us have gained a lot of weight, maybe some developed a thyroid problem, while others might have developed type 2 diabetes thanks to the last kicker of their predisposed genes.  But all of us who have ate a more or less standard American diet HAVE felt the negative consequences of it in some way, shape, or form.  Whether we know it or not.  You see, that food isn’t meant to be abused and since we’re human, and since that food is cheap and convenient and addicting, the easiest thing in the world is to abuse it.  Paula Deen is just one of us.

Those of us who can afford to buy healthy whole foods vote every time we shop.  If we buy cookies and chips every time we go to the store then we have to know that we are part of the ongoing business for these companies who don’t make healthy food.  We help keep them alive.  Does that mean we should be judged for wanting some treats throughout the week?  As a whole I tend to think we have as much power as someone as famous as Paula Deen.  It’s way more complicated than that though isn’t it?  And I assume it’s more complicated for her than we realize, too.

I’ve heard a few people say that they don’t care what Paula does or doesn’t do because it’s none of our business  I believe people’s actions does affect us all.  So I absolutely do care if you are drinking and then driving.  I care if you are making babies over and over again and dropping them all off at an orphanage.  I care if you are dealing with type 2 diabetes.  I care that you have depression.  It affects you if I have type 1 diabetes and if I use up all my FMLA at work and if I smoke and if I neglect my kids and if I find a cure for diabetes (Ah, we’d all like that one wouldn’t we!).  But it’s not a “just don’t hurt me or mine” kind of caring.  It’s a caring that wants good for all.  I don’t want you to drink and drive because you might hurt someone I love or you might hurt some other innocent soul or…you might hurt yourself.  It all matters.

I believe in something between judging and “live and let live” and it’s caring.

That’s how I feel about Paula Deen.  I respect that she has fans and that those fans cook what she teaches them to cook.  I respect that they look up to her as a jolly country hostess who hugs her southern roots, butter, flour, sugar, and sparkling white teeth and blue eyes, and runs with them all the way to the bank.  But, I also know that if she has type 2 diabetes, she suffers and so do her family and friends.  She is a famous type 2 diabetic that others are going to look to as an example.  It’s possible that her diet contributed very much to her diagnosis.  Let’s not pretend that isn’t possible.  Genes aren’t entirely responsible for type 2 diabetes since in most cases obesity is a factor (another issue we shouldn’t judge, by the way).  That doesn’t mean she doesn’t deserve compassion and that doesn’t mean we let her completely off the hook.  But while her diagnosis is her business, her having diabetes is…in an indirect way, our business.  When our society suffers a lot of health problems, we all suffer.  The solution isn’t pointing fingers though, it’s just caring.  After all, the most charming and successful kind of family I’ve ever known is the non-judging, forgiving, communicative, confronting, nosy one.  If we act that way more often as a people, as a society, wonderful changes will come our way.

I think we can say that we want her to be straightforward and sincere and responsible with her position as a famous person with type 2 diabetes and the implications of that.  I think most people rise up to the occasion when we kindly demand that.  Especially if we expect them to with open arms.

As a fellow southern gal, I have a feeling Paula Deen will help us out if we expect her to.  Call me naïve.  The ongoing insults will only make her hide in a closet.  A closet that’s probably as big as a mansion, but still.  We can call her out but do so respectfully. We can ask her questions and persist to get them answered.  If I were her and I read all what is being said online, I’d stick my head in an apple pie for all eternity.  We don’t want that.  We want her on our side.  We gotta stick together, folks.  Diabetes or no diabetes, we’re all in this together.

Interview with Nathan Shackelford about Eating Low Carb

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I like interviewing different people who strive for glucose numbers as close to normal as possible because if that’s what non-diabetics have then that’s what I feel I should work towards (taking in consideration all kinds of factors, of course).  I’m not saying it’s the right decision for everyone, I’m just in the process of figuring out the best diet for me and I know others are on the same wavelength.  I think it’s important that we keep dialogue open about this and by talking with those who feel they’ve made a great decision for themselves we can keep the learning and exchange alive.

Nathan Shackelford is an art teacher, husband, father of three kids, and has had type 1 diabetes for about 26 years.  He also writes a great diabetes blog you can follow here.  Nathan has been eating low carb for some time and I wanted to hear his perspective about it and see what we could learn.

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Nathan, how long have you had type 1 diabetes?

I have been Type 1 since the summer of 1985, so it’s been about 26 years.

And how long have you been eating low carb?

I was motivated to qualify for life insurance in 2003, and going low-carb was one of the things that helped me to get my A1C under 7 so that I could be considered “healthy”. It worked.  Besides better A1Cs I’ve also benefitted from feeling better and getting healthier overall. It’s surprising how many aspects of your life can be affected by poor blood sugar control.

How low carb do you go? About how many grams of carbs do you take in a day?

I go pretty low. My only carbs are usually things like almonds and avocados, and green vegetables. I’d guess that I consume 20-30 grams of carb a day. At this level, carb counting doesn’t have as much of an impact. I find that meals with more protein are the ones that require the most insulin.

Why do you think low carb is the right way to go for you, personally?

I’ve done it both ways, and haven’t been able to get good results with even moderate carb levels. I’ve experimented to see if I can include more carbs and use more insulin and the results always have me back with higher A1Cs. In the day to day, I don’t really see major differences, but the average control over time shows that it doesn’t work as well. For instance, this past summer I took a trip to Europe with a student travel program. I didn’t want to work too hard at getting special food items for myself at hotels with the language barrier, etc. so I ate some of the starchy carbs that came my way and used more insulin. When I got back from my trip I realized that my glucose control was off for most of my trip, and I had picked up a few extra pounds as well. My A1C for summer was up significantly.

What’s a typical meal look like?

I usually have eggs for breakfast, sometimes on top of a pile of arugula. My favorite lunches are tuna salad or chicken salad with greens. Dinners are usually chicken, beef or fish with broccoli or cauliflower and salad. We do a lot of ethnic foods at home, so those look pretty different.

Why do you think so many people with type 1 diabetes choose not to try going low carb?

I think many of us think of eating “normally” as the measure for living a normal life with diabetes. I think if we start defining living normally as having normal blood sugars, we will make changes to make it happen. Carbs are kind of addictive, and most people don’t realize that if you can go for 4-7 days without them, you can leave them behind.

Some people forget to point out that for people who eat low carb, many eat loads of vegetables, which technically, are high in carbohydrate. Are you one of these people who eats a lot of low impact veggies?

My diet doesn’t look vegetarian at all. The protein and fat are the main source of energy and the vegetables are there because I love them. The ones I eat, though, are the types that have small impacts on my glucose levels. If I eat 2 cups of steamed broccoli it would have a pretty noticeable impact on my blood sugars just by quantity in my stomach. If I keep it at ½- 1 cup, it’s fine.

What do you think about the paleo or primal diet?

The Paleo/Primal diets have resonated with me because they are fantastic for diabetics. My sister is also a Type 1 diabetic and she and her family eat Paleo and it has solved many health issues for all of them. I have read the Paleo and Primal literature and think it’s a great thing for people to pursue for better health. I’m already living gluten-free because I don’t consume any grains. I still use cream in my coffee, but that’s the only dairy I typically use regularly. I don’t have any issues with dairy, so I’m not interested in eliminating it. I used to brew beer at home regularly, and that was one place where I was consuming gluten. I found out, almost by accident, that my body responds better to cider than beer. So, I’ve been making my own hard cider at home and haven’t brewed beer in several months.

Does your family eat like you?

My way of eating has impacted the family to some degree. We have less junk food around the house and our typical family meals are centered around protein. My son and my youngest daughter are starting to naturally eat the way that I do. It just appeals to them, and they are thriving. We still have potatoes or tortillas on the table with some meals, but they are not the focus of the meal. I think we have all become healthier since I started pursuing my health goals. People keep asking my wife what she’s doing to get so slim.

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Where would Carmen San Diego be if she had diabetes?

I don’t know her very well, but, I think she’d be at her local farmer’s market geeking out on all the fabulous produce.

What’s the hardest thing about eating low carb?

I’m a pretty easy-going person, so I don’t like anyone to feel obligated to do anything special for me. I try not to put any special attention on what I do or don’t eat, but sometimes you realize that there’s not much in a meal that you can go after… like a spaghetti dinner with garlic bread. I can’t even just eat a polite portion of that. It’s not that I wouldn’t love that stuff… I guess trying to balance between “not being a pain in the neck” with taking the impact of daily food seriously.

You seem to be really optimistic about life with type 1 diabetes. Why is that and have you always been this way?

I’ve always been pretty upbeat about diabetes, despite the seriousness of the disease. My dad is a Type 1 diabetic and he always has had a good attitude about. He lives a rather normal life and views his glucose control as a puzzle to sort out, rather than a drag. You’ll often find him going for an 30 minute walk to get glucose levels back to normal. I find that curiosity about it keeps me motivated to know as much as I can and master it. Instead of accepting the idea that it’s going to derail my life and control it, I plan to be in control. Attitude has a lot to do with that, and I plan to win.

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I really appreciate hearing how someone fits this way of eating into their life and the reasons behind doing so.  I think the reasons for finding foods that lower insulin needs are compelling enough to consider very seriously.  Thanks so much for answering those questions, Nathan!

Remember to check out his blog: Edibles…(the diabetic edition)

Requested Pancake Recipe

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I don’t have a picture because my hungry family gobbled these up before I could get to the camera, but they look like your average pancakes, only they have a lot less grain content simply because we’ve stuffed these full of protein and fruit.  They’re not very low carb but the addition of fruit adds fiber and sweetness (we don’t top these with syrup or anything) and fruit is lower glycemic than the wheat part of the pancake.

I also did this recipe with gluten free pancake mix from Bob’s Red Mill and it worked well that way, too :)

Recipe

1 1/2 cups whole grain pancake mix or flour or pancake mix of your choosing

1/2 cup cottage cheese or ricotta cheese (I usually use low fat versions)

1 small apple, peeled and shredded against a cheese grater

1 cup blueberries (I use the frozen ones because they are cheaper)

3/4 cup of milk or soy milk or almond milk

Want to add more nutrition?  Substitute some pureed beets for milk and you’ll get pink pancakes that don’t taste like beets :)  Come to think of it, I should try adding fresh carrot juice one day…

Anyway, just mix the ingredients with a whisk (or spoon, I use a spoon) and be sure to cook them on low heat on a non stick pan, flipping when lightly browned.

You can also add an egg to the recipe for more protein.  I would do that except my daughter is allergic to eggs.

Sadly, I am really math challenged so I can’t figure out the carb content of these pancakes.  I will say that my insulin carb ratio is typically 1:15 and I gave one unit of insulin for one 4 inch pancake and ended up with blood sugar of 95, two hours later.  So although that’s not exact science, that gives you an idea there.  I could have had two :)

Happy Saturday!

The Case for Lowering Carbs, Part 3

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First off, isn’t my type 1 sister, Ana’s art work (above) fantastic?  Will you Like her Facebook Art page pretty please?  Thank you!

I’ve been discussing my reasons for lowering carbs in Part 1 and Part 2.

It’s also Fabulous Friday and part of what I try to promote is that we treat ourselves right and that includes eating for our health.  That doesn’t mean you have to eat like me.  My point is it’s never a bad idea to assess what we eat and make improvements here and there.

A reader suggested I share my typical carb count for the day and some sample meals.  I thought it was a great idea so:

(Keep in mind each line is one meal, I don’t eat all of this at once, they’re different options ;)

Breakfast:

-One fried egg

-Slice of ezekial sprouted whole grain bread with almond butter or low fat cream cheese.

-Omelet that includes spinach, tomato, and any other vegetable lurking in the fridge.

-One whole grain pancake made with a lot of low fat cottage cheese, shredded apple, and blueberries so that the grain content is low.  The kids love these.

Snack:

-Some fruit (usually berries, and lately, the frozen organic ones)

-Low fat cheese

-Raw vegetables with hummus

-Flat crisp bread with goat cheese

-Avocado slices with salt

-Handful of almonds

-Kale chips

Lunch:

-Salad with vegetables such as onion, celery, spinach, radish, purple cabbage, broccoli and some chicken or fish or tuna topped with salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil, and vinegar.

-Ezekial whole grain bread with almond butter and a side salad

-Lettuce wrap filled with sprouts, black beans, boiled egg, and broccoli (sounds crazy but it’s so good!)

Dinner:

-Tortilla (the low carb ones are pretty good) wrap with vegetables like cucumber, carrots, asparagus with some chicken or fish.

-Very small amount of brown rice, brown pasta, quinoa, or legumes with loads of vegetables (I only have this on days I work out a lot)

-Turkey burger (no bun) with a side of peas and pearl onions

Dessert:  (optional)

-Chocolate (usually 70% cacao and up)

-Fruit (my favorite fruit dessert is some frozen mango or papaya with lime)

-Sweet potato cubes with a little butter

-Occasional beer/wine/liquor (I steer clear of fruity cocktails because the sugar load is so high)

Beverages:

-Water

-Tea (I love Tulsi, Peppermint, and Chamomile-though I’m allergic to Chamomile so I no longer drink it)

-Almond milk (unsweetened)

-Water with lemon or lime squeezed in

-Teeccino Herbal Coffee (Because I can’t handle much caffeine) with a little cream (I like Horizon half and half organic creamer in Hazelnut or Vanilla, only 2 grams of sugar per serving)

-The occasional Diet Coke

By the end of the day I’ve typically had about 50-75 carbs.  I choose what to eat based on how hungry I am.  For me, hunger is best treated with some carbs so I leave those meals on the list involving a little grains for those days when I have a larger appetite.  There are days when I’m not very hungry and on those days, I just enjoy blood sugar heaven.  My focus is to go by what my body is telling me.  Once a month I’ll splurge and have up to about 200 carbs in a day, usually in the form of some Ben and Jerry’s.  And yes, my body tells me to do that, sometimes :)

In general, I find I can add a little bit of carbs as long as they’re not processed and still do ok, like fruit or vegetable carbs. Those tend to match up with the insulin and cancel each other out. Whereas the complex carbs are what give me a headache with their long life span. Processed food carbs are the worst because they increase my insulin resistance for the entire day and totally make me gain weight in the long run. I really limit those if I want to stay sane :)

Well this is me just sharing some thoughts that have been long brewing. Thanks for reading. And if you have thoughts, please, I’m all ears.  Also, I could use food suggestions, I love changing things up!

Have a great weekend!

The Case for Lowering Carbs, Part 2

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So continuing from The Case for Lowering Carbs, Part 1

I often hear/read people remark that so many diabetics have lived decades with 7% and 8% A1c levels and they’re fine. That’s all well and inspiring but I can’t count on that being what will happen to me. How many people with 7% A1c averages are no longer with us because of heart disease? How many people are dealing with complications of diabetes after only two decades with it? Two decades is nothing. To a person diagnosed as a child, a few decades means that their prime of life is going to be rudely interrupted.  Maybe that is why now that I’m done with the high carb needs part of my life that all young people go through, I feel like I really need to buckle down and get blood sugars as close to “normal” as possible.

Growing up people said to me, “I bet the toughest part of having diabetes is the needles isn’t it?” Or they’d substitute “needles” for “testing” or “counting carbs” or “feeling different”. I always felt misunderstood because my biggest issue with diabetes is that you can manage it really well and still suffer bodily damage. I may not have much for complications after 17 years with diabetes but I have other issues that doctors directly attribute to my having diabetes. All of these issues are a big deal to me.  Recently, a conversation with some ladies who’ve had type 1 for several decades made me realize that I’m realistic to expect more challenges or complications from here on out.

I’ve been thinking about how badly I really want to avoid complications. I’ve decided I want this badly. And if that means eating fewer carbs than I’d like in order to keep a low A1c without risking too many dangerous lows, I may have to suck it up for my ultimate desire of being healthy in 50 years. I don’t want to sit around regretting my actions or wishing I’d done different. The truth is that a healthy body makes me happier than just about anything else because of all that leads me to. But that’s just me.

Of course, maybe a lowered carb diet will be the thing to do me in. However, my thoughts return to the fact I have always understood about diabetes: that high blood sugars are extremely damaging to the body, especially in the long term. So I know I’m gambling, but I’m doing it in faith alongside all the hours of research I’ve put in and personalized knowledge of myself. I’m going to be lowering my carbs again and trying to see how that works. I won’t be going as low carb as Dr. Bernstein recommends, but a little lower than I am now. I will also try to eat only healthy fats and keep those to a minimum.  Sounds like I’ll be restricting calories a lot doesn’t it?  Low carb…low fat…well that’s possible.

If your belief or decision is different from mine, I don’t judge or blame you one bit. Everyone longs to live a happy and wonderful life on their own terms. That is as it should be.  Though I do consider taking good care of myself part of my citizen duties since my health or lack thereof does affect others.

I’ll keep you posted on how this goes.

The Case for Lowering Carbs, Part 1

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My brain is scrambled.

With much reluctance, I often ask myself this question:

What’s more damaging to one’s health?  A low carb diet or blood sugars higher than that of a non-diabetic?

The answer to this question is complicated because there are different things to consider:

  • Is a low A1c the healthiest A1c?  For example, is a 4.8 A1c better than a 6.2 providing there is a low standard deviation?  (it seems up for debate?)
  • Do I want to risk having a heart attack or stroke in 30 years and enjoy eating what I like in the meantime?
  • Do I want to endure a strict and limited diet in favor of more easily managed blood sugars?
  • What health issues can arise from low carb?  What health issues can arise from decades of higher than normal blood sugars?
  • Personally, heart disease and metabolic syndrome runs on both sides of my family.
  • I’m Hispanic, so a minority, and more susceptible to heart disease and stroke.

If you’re thinking, “low carb doesn’t mean well managed blood sugars”, well that is true.  However,  assuming you’re not struggling with the basics like the ins and outs of testing, giving insulin, and carb counting, in my experience is does mean well managed blood sugars.  (Key words: my experience)Because of The Law of Small Numbers, low carb really helps me avoid sharp blood sugar peaks and valleys.  The time I tried low carb, my A1c was a 4.6 and 4.7 and I’ve never felt so healthy in my entire life.  Right after that I got pregnant with twins so obviously I had to up my carbs for that.  Though, I still didn’t consume more than 120 carbs per day, even at 8 months pregnant.

But what about too many lows when striving for such a low A1c?  The thing is, if you have type 1 diabetes, low blood sugars occur from too much insulin and low carb means giving very little amounts of insulin, which typically makes it to where one doesn’t experience many lows or at least not many harsh lows.  (Again, assuming everything else is in place)  Low or lower carb helps me avoid more instances where I might get close to passing out from a quickly moving low and for me that’s like buckling up every time I get in my car to drive.

The danger with lows is always explained like this:  “The lower your average blood sugar, the increased likelihood that you will suffer from dangerous lows.”  This statement leaves out an important variable, which is the quantity of insulin given.  I’m not going to drop super low all the time if I’m giving a unit or two of insulin for a meal and have the correct basal rate.  And if I do go low, it won’t often be the type of low that requires assistance.  The times I’ve had wicked lows are the times I’ve had to give a lot of insulin to cover a high carb meal or to bring down a major high blood sugar.

If you’re striving for a low A1c and eat a diet relatively high in carbs, well then yes, you are risking too many dangerous lows.  My diet has lately consisted of more carbs and the extra amount of insulin I have to give is driving me nuts and driving me to eat less carbs.  I don’t want to just give more insulin because then I gain weight and deal with more ups and downs.  Right now, I’m a full time mom of twin toddlers, full time house wife, three meal a day chef, and a part time writer and blogger.  I don’t have the time or energy to tackle these blood sugars.  It’s overwhelming me.  But I also can’t use my current lifestyle as an excuse to have higher blood sugars.  That won’t make me feel better later when I’m dealing with the consequences.

By the way, my last A1c was 5.4 but my hematocrit was 39.7, slightly below 40 which I’ve understood lowers one’s A1c somewhat.  My meter tells me my A1c is more of a 6%.  I thought that was important to clarify at some point.

Anyway, as you see, I’m quite torn.  Torn indeed.  I know it’s not the right decision for everyone considering the multitude of variables involved but in this post I’m simply wondering if it’s the right thing for me, personally.  I will keep thinking on this…

Help me out.  What do you think?  Do you eat low carb or lower carb?  Why or why not?

5 Reasons Why Food Becomes an Issue for People with Diabetes

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Because diabetes management is also food management, you can imagine, if you don’t have diabetes, that the issue of food for a diabetic, is indeed a complicated one (much like this sentence).

5 Reasons why food becomes an issue for people with diabetes:

1.  Carbohydrates must be consumed to level out a low blood sugar or to prevent one due to active insulin.

This is the case even if you’re not hungry, even if you’re nauseated, even if you are stuffed on Thanksgiving Day.  Carbohydrates are full of calories so weight gain can become an issue if someone is having too many lows.  Carbs are also filling and eating while not hungry or just to fix a low tends to push a person into an unhealthy habit of eating to pacify a symptom (perhaps depression or anxiety) or to fix feelings of fatigue or tiredness.  Next think you know, a person is apt to think they need a snack every time they have a headache or feel weak or are nervous or feel sad.  The list goes on and on and since food really is medicine for people with diabetes, the stable use of food easily derails.

2.  Some foods are much harder than others to cover successfully with insulin, creating a good foods, bad foods war.

A popular idea out there is that there are no bad foods.  I understand the thinking behind that train of thought but personally, I do think there are bad foods.  It all depends on your definition.  For me, something that doesn’t support health but rather damages it, is “bad”.  While you and I might disagree on that, we probably agree on this:  Because rice is trickier to cover with insulin than say, chicken, we get into negative feelings about rice over time.  Not all of us, but if rice doesn’t give you any hurdles, just replace it with whatever does-like pasta or pizza.  The point is that a perfectly healthy food like brown rice can become demonized in our minds simply because of our frustration with it’s complex carb load.  I like brown rice but I almost run from it screaming because of how difficult a time I have covering it with insulin.  I eat a few fork full and I know I need to be done.  It’s a shame that we also find that cheese, often full of saturated fat and sodium, tempts us to eat too much of it because it’s so easy to cover with insulin.

3.  More insulin means more fat so people who use insulin therapy have a unique weight management challenge.

Let me explain.  The more insulin one takes, the more fat they will gain.  So let’s say that I’m having a rough year (which is quite human of me, right?) and as a result I don’t carb count and measure and insulin dose as accurately as I should (also normal human behavior), well, because I’m sometimes giving a little too much insulin and needing more food to cover for that fact and because I’m sometimes giving too little insulin resulting in a higher amount of insulin needed to bring blood sugar down after the fact, I’m apt to gain a few pounds between consuming more calories than I’d like and giving insulin to cover a high blood sugar that a non diabetic never has to worry about.  Phew! The key to weight management is carefully counting carbs and covering those carbs at the right time and with the precise amount of insulin.  That key, my non diabetic friends, is not one that humans hold, it’s in the hands of Zeus and his friends.  So, what do diabetics taking insulin do?  I don’t know but I know what I do, I eat less than most people and I exercise more than most people.  That’s what I do.  Others probably count carbs carefully and probably don’t have a disposition to insulin resistance (which causes one to need more insulin and thus gain more weight).  Still, others eat low carb so that insulin intake is low and so is weight.  The rest of us may have a few extra pounds we could do without, seeing as we didn’t even earn them.  Sigh.  What a dilemma.

4.  Due to the above, it becomes tempting to skimp insulin in order to manage weight.

This is a scary one I’ve never personally tried.  However, it’s a realistic problem for many people with diabetes at some point or another.  Some people get quite desperate to manage their weight that they don’t take their insulin.  This causes high blood sugar, ketones, and body fat burning.  This also causes death and if you or someone you know is doing this, get help ASAP.  I write about this one because while it may seem pathetic to the outsider, it’s not at all.  I understand that it probably starts with just a moment of desperation, a longing to be thin without having to work doubly hard as everyone else.  Diabetes that isn’t tightly managed usually begets unwanted pounds so I can understand how it’s tempting.  But like I said, it’s very dangerous and something that you should never ever do if you have diabetes.

5.  Eating becomes an abnormal event.

When someone who takes insulin before a meal does so, they have to start some math in their heads.  They have to take note that their fast acting insulin begins in about 15-30 minutes.  Then they have to recall their blood sugar and figure out how long it will take the insulin to start pushing down the blood sugar.  If my blood sugar is 150, for example, I don’t eat right away.  I wait about 25 minutes instead of my normal 15 minutes because I want to start eating when my blood sugar is a little lower than 150 but higher than 100.  Are you still following?  OK.  Then, I have to make sure that I eat the amount of carbohydrates that I’ve just given insulin for.  So, when one of my toddlers needs something in the middle of dinner and I get up to do it, that means when I sit back down, I have to now speed eat.  I have to stuff myself to make sure I don’t get a low, providing I don’t already have one.  Or let’s say I’m at a restaurant.  I either try to guess when the food is being brought out or I let my food get a little cold before eating.  Sometimes I’m a little high but I’m hungry so I eat really slowly.  Sometimes I have literally inhaled my meal because of a low.  Either way, I can’t always just sit down and enjoy. my. meal.  This speed eating might also become a habit.  And you know what else?  When we eat while low, we become used to eating when feeling trembly or weak or flushed.  So I’ve noticed when I’m nervous or anxious or tired, I eat really fast!  It’s like I’m used to shoving food in my mouth in an effort to make those symptoms associated with low blood sugar, go away.  Why?  Because when we have a low blood sugar, we’re essentially on the way to death and our body makes us feel really awful so that we get the message, follow what our body is saying, and eat some carbs!  Preferably fast acting carbs.

Diabetes and food, they go together like a knot.

So what can we do?

Ok, this post was all doom and gloom so here is the light at the end of the tunnel.  Next week I’ll post what I have set up as some rules that work rather well for me and others I know.  These rules have helped me enjoy food more and stress over it less.  This doesn’t mean some of the above doesn’t still occur but I have lessened the occurrences which is something.

Coming next week:  5 Helpful Food Rules

Can you think of any other ways that the relationship between food and a person with diabetes is complicated?  If so, share!

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