Tag Archives: diabetes complications

Diabetes and Hair Loss (My Story)

Courtesy of Graeme Weatherston
Courtesy of Graeme Weatherston


You’ve probably heard that diabetes can be related to hair loss.  Maybe you’ve experienced it.  I have.  Here is my story:

I had out of control blood sugars for about a decade.  During this time I was mostly a teenager and remember not knowing that out of control blood sugars could cause things like hair loss.  I wonder if knowing would have given me a kick in the pants to get my blood sugars down. 

Anyways I noticed how my hair was everywhere!  I mean I would vacuum my room and my parent’s really expensive vacuum would choke up and need to be liberated of my hair before I could continue with the other half of my room.  I felt all the hair loss was simply a nuisance.  I didn’t notice my hair thinning however, until I was about 18.  No one else noticed because luckily I started out with a lot of hair (Thank God).  Yet, I noticed.  Everyone told me I was silly or paranoid because “You have gorgeous hair” they would say.  I would sigh and think that maybe they were right.

Yet, with each new year I would notice more and more hair thinning.  When I took out a ponytail I’d have about 30 strands dragged out along with my ponytail holder.  I knew I wasn’t making things up, I was losing hair.

Over the last few years my blood sugars have improved dramatically and luckily I’ve noticed I don’t lose much hair anymore.  I think I lose the normal and healthy amount now.  Yet, the damage has been done.  I decidedly have less hair than before.  I manage to mask it pretty well by having a pretty good understanding of how to style hair.  (I’ve always been a serious student of fashion magazines and their tips on hair.) 

I gently comb wet hair, I use thickening creme, and I blow dry with a large round boar bristle brush.  I finish with velcro rollers and then a flat iron or curling iron and a good amount of hairspray.  I also add some talc to the roots to help give more body and then fluff it up.  This painstaking process works pretty well.  I just can’t help but feel angry many days because I like my wavy hair and wish I could just let it air dry into it’s au naturale form.  I can’t though, because it will be evident that there is too much scalp showing. 

If this sounds at all like you I truly want you to realize there is hope.  Getting your blood sugar levels to the right place will help unless your problem is derived from another source or is genetically linked.  I do know how bad you feel.  I’ve cried a lot over my hair which feels stupid and yet you know what?  It’s not.  It just so happens my hair was my favorite physical trait.  And our society values hair.  It is also a sign of health and virility.  No one wants to have high blood sugars and on top of that show physical signs of unstable health.  I think this is what has hurt me the most.  I wonder if people think I look unhealthy or older than I am because of this.  Well, I hide it pretty well as I’ve explained.  I just wish I could hide it from myself.  Ignorance in this case would really be bliss.

Taming the monster

 In this post I’m not directly referring to diabetes as a monster.  The fear and paranoia it causes-that my friends, is the monster.

Usually I manage to keep the monster lying down in it’s dark cave, sleeping and quiet.

Every now and then though, it creeps up behind me and paralyzes me with terror.

Lately, my one year old twins have been worrying me.  They seem more whiny lately.  (probably due to spending too much time in the house and thus getting bored, and you know what kids are like when their bored)  They also eat and drink anything I give them.  They even eat their books and the furniture for goodness sakes. (Maybe they’re just open minded to all kinds of tastes and textures?)  Every meal has to be ended by me because it seems that if I left it up to them they’d keep going and going and going… (although they are growing well and fast).

The point is, type 1 diabetes is never far from the front of my brain.  How can it be?  I can’t ignore it or else I’m in trouble right?  So every now and then I look at my babies and can’t help but wonder…

I usually snap out of it and tell myself worrying does no good but, then I remember how my little sister was diagnosed type 1 diabetic at age 3…and how my dad (famous in our family for being very cautious) was the one who caught the subtle signs my sister displayed.  I always think to myself, “what if he hadn’t noticed?” 

Yesterday my daughter awoke with a fever yet, no other symptoms.  All day I prayed for a runny nose or coughing but instead she was tired and cranky.

So that night I finally got so charged with paranoia after days of worrying and burst into tears.  My husband asked what was wrong and as I explained my fears I realized I knew how to stop worrying (at least for the time being). 

We crept into our children’s room and tested their blood sugar.  First, we tested Henri.  The meter read 116.  My husband and I looked at each other in confusion.  “He shouldn’t be over 100”, I said.  “Are you sure?  I mean he just had a bottle…” ,my husband replied.  “It doesn’t matter, he shouldn’t be over 100”, I insisted.

We then tried to test our daughter but, being the light sleeper she is, woke up and looked at us as if to say, “why are you bothering me at this hour?”

So we quickly left the room.

I tested my husband who came up 91.  I tested myself because I was beginning to feel low and found I was 74.  I tested my husband again and it read 84.  Then I tested myself yet again and I was 70.  The meter seemed fine…

I got out the two control vials that come with my Accucheck Aviva meter.  Both tests came out just right.

Ok…now what?

We decided the meter must be off for Henri.  We hoped it was.  And we still didn’t know about Aurora so we were still worried about that, too.

Then it occurred to my husband (Alex), “Hey remember we fed them apples tonight?  I didn’t wash Henri’s hands, maybe he has sugar on his finger tips from the apple?”

The glimmer of hope sent energy rushing back to my body.  “Maybe!”

We waited a few minutes and tested Aurora, who jolted when I pricked her finger.  We managed to get enough blood and her test came out 93.  “Yesss…”

Ok, now Henri’s turn again.  Alex wiped his fingers with a baby wipe and let it dry.  He moved Henri in such a way that his hand was sticking out of a gap in the crib railing (luckily he is a deep sleeper).  Then we saw his test result:  88.  “Oh thank God.”

This event reminded me of how important it is to learn to tame the fear that diabetes lashes out on us.  It doesn’t help us and doesn’t get us anywhere.  I was so worried I made myself sick.  I felt nauseated and weak and jittery.  I was caught in a downward spiral that led nowhere. 

When I tested my babies all my fears returned to normal levels and the monster hid back in it’s dark place until next time.  So I learned that the key to controlling fear is to act upon it.  I’m worried I’ll suffer complications so I take care of myself.  I used to be utterly embraced in fear and that kind of fear didn’t allow me to take care of myself.  What helped in that case?  Learning more about diabetes and taking steps to better diabetes management.  Only then did the intense fear lift.

Basically I think we should all act upon the needs of our diabetes while focusing on hope instead of fear.  Kerri at Six Until Me writes about this very poignantly.  You can read it here:  What is the biggest motivator?

I’ll test my children again in the future if needed.  I will observe them like a hawk.  And I will never stop the promotion of widespread education and awareness about diabetes because the question remains when I think of my little sister and countless others,  “What if…?”

Interview with Registered Dietitian, Emilia Klapp

Emilia Knapp
Emilia Klapp

 Emilia Klapp is a Registered Dietitian and author.  She wrote the book called, Your Heart Needs the Mediterranean Diet.  She also has a website dedicated to helping diabetics improve their health through good lifestyle habits.  Go to The Diabetes Club to check it out. 

Emilia works daily with diabetics helping them to learn the basics of nutrition and teaches them about the wonders of the Mediterranean Diet.  She follows this diet herself and was kind enough to answer all of my curious questions.  I think you’ll enjoy her honesty and openness (and bonus recipe!). 

1. Emilia, tells us a bit about yourself.

I was born and raised in Madrid, Spain. I really have wonderful memories from my childhood and teenager years. I always remember how our family, my parents, my sister and I, we all reunited at lunch and dinner time and had our meals together. Since we had no TV set at the time, we spent our evenings conversing with each other, sharing the experiences we had through the day. I also spent a lot of time with my friends. We didn’t have too many toys but we had a lot of fun playing outside.

Early in my life I developed a fear of growing older and being at the mercy of doctors, so although I was an accountant at the time, I started reading every book I could find on the subject of natural health to see how I could protect myself from ending up at the doctor’s office. This led me into my career as a Dietitian. Now, I have my own consulting business where I teach people how to eat to lose weight, prevent or manage diabetes type 2, and lower high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

2. You’re a strong proponent of the Mediterranean Diet and even wrote a book on the subject.  Will you tell us about the book and how you arrived to this recommendation?

Being born and raised in Spain made me a firm believer of the Mediterranean Diet. Spain, along with Italy and Greece, has always been a poor country and I’ll never be able to thank Providence enough for this fact. Living in a relatively poor country forced us to eat what the land produced. There was very little red meat, so we grew up with fish, dry beans, fruit, vegetables, and the best extra virgin olive oil in the world. All this, plus a fair amount of walking, is what has made Mediterraneans some of the healthiest people in the world, so I felt the need to tell the world.

I wrote the book as a dialogue format where patient Al and registered dietitian Emi embark on a journey into good health. Diagnosed with high blood pressure and high levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, Al is at risk for heart disease. Chapter by chapter, he learns about the Mediterranean diet where better health comes from eating the right foods and enjoying a lifestyle enriched by family, friends, and physical activity.

Al discovers ways to avoid harmful foods like saturated fats and processed foods and how to cook with healthy foods such as garlic, tomatoes, and olive oil, and Emi shares healthy and delicious recipes that are easy to prepare. Al learns how to introduce more physical activity into his busy schedule. Walking, dancing, and other activities help strengthen his heart and improve his body chemistry.

Al also begins to discover how to improve relationships with his family, friends, and coworkers. As the sessions progress, he decreases his risk of heart disease, spends more time with his family, and reduces stress at work. Al realizes he is becoming happier and healthier by following the Mediterranean diet.

3. Is this diet for everyone?

Yes, it is. However, people with diabetes need to be careful with the amount of fruit and starchy vegetables they eat.

4. For those who may be interested, are there ways to eat a low carb version of the Mediterranean Diet?

Yes, because the foundation of the Mediterranean diet is legumes such as dry beans, lentils, and garbanzo beans, whole cereals, whole grain breads, fruits and vegetables, olive oil and fish. Legumes for example, are very rich in fiber; fiber prevents a high raise in blood sugar.

But again, diabetics need to pay attention to the amount of fruit servings. In Mediterranean countries we eat a lot of fruit, but a person with diabetes should not eat more than 3 servings of fruit per day. Starchy vegetables also need to be limited. As for pasta, it should always be whole wheat or durum semolina pasta and cooked “al dente”, meaning cooked for just only 5 or 6 minutes.

5. I think your website, The Diabetes Club, is a great resource for diabetics.  Why did you begin the site?  What kind of information do visitors get at The Diabetes Club?

At my consulting business I teach patients who are diabetics or who are at risk of developing the disease. However, I felt that because of the nature of my business, I was limited on the amount of people I could reach. So, I decided that a way to “reach the world” would be to have a site where I could literally tell everyone on earth how to prevent or manage diabetes and other health conditions very much related to diabetes such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. People coming to my site will find articles that will help not only with diabetes but also with their general health. One example is the article I wrote on how to read Nutrition labels. This article can be found at my site, under “Archives”.

6. Being a Registered Dietitian, do you get a different point of view of our society’s state of health?

Because of my profession, I spend most of my days around people who have different health conditions. This means that on a regular day, I see more sick people than healthy ones and if I am not careful and I make sure I put things into the right perspective, I tend to go home in the evenings thinking everybody in this world is sick. Unfortunately, the truth is that this epidemic of obesity we are experiencing, the way we eat, and the lack of physical activity, are causing a large percentage of the population to have at least one chronic health issue. This is a very sad fact, because many of these health conditions can be prevented.
7. What do you think will take for most people to change their eating habits?

Unfortunately people wait until they are sick or overweight to take some action regarding their health. Somehow, they don’t believe in preventing. But part of the reason why people take this position is because they don’t have the facts. People need to be educated on nutrition and the consequences of eating poorly. To give you an example: I haven’t met one single person who has come to my nutrition classes who knows how to read a Nutrition Label. If the person doesn’t know what is inside a box of cereal or a can of juice because they cannot understand the food label, they cannot be selective and make the right choice.

The result is that people keep eating processed foods with a lot of hidden sugar, wrong fats, too much sodium, very little fiber, and so on. There is no doubt that eventually we pay a price with our health for eating this way. At this point, to stop overweight, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and any other chronic health condition, educating the population in nutrition and exercise seems to be the best course of action.

8. Do you yourself, follow the Mediterranean Diet?  If so, what is your favorite healthy meal?

Yes, I do. I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. One item that is never missing in my kitchen is a juice extractor and every day I make my own raw vegetable juice. As for protein, I mainly eat fish, some chicken, and dry beans; red meat once in a blue moon. Extra virgin olive oil, nuts, whole grain breads and pasta are also part of my diet.

One of my favorite dishes is a seafood stew. It is very simple to make. Heat three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a pan, medium heat. Add one large yellow onion finely chopped and 3 or 4 garlic cloves, crashed. Sauté for 3 or 4 minutes. Add one pound of calamari rings. Cover, lower the heat, and let it simmer. After ten minutes, add a can of marinara sauce, low sodium, if possible, organic. Let simmer for five minutes and add six cups of water. Add a bay leaf and some aromatic herbs such as parsley, oregano or any other one you like. When the calamari are tender, add two zucchini cut in small cubes and cook for 3 minutes. Add half pound of medium size scallops and half pound of medium size raw shrimp and cook for three minutes. Remove from the heat. Serve hot. It serves about 4 to 6 people.

9. If you had to give only one piece of advice to a client, what would it be?

Cook more at home. Cooking your own meals gives you a better control of what you eat because you can limit the amount of sodium, sugar and bad fats that come with many of the meals we eat outside. If you like hamburgers, no need to deprive yourself of them. Just buy organic, lean beef and make them at home.


Ah ha! About that last point Emilia makes…  Since I’ve begun cooking most of what I eat, I’ve been able to reduce my salt/sugar intake, UP my good fat intake, AND eat more food all while staying the same weight! 

Something additional we can take away from this interview that I’d like to point out is how a lifestyle habit such as family dinners without the TV can be so beneficial.  I too grew up with dinner at the dining room table with the family.  This habit makes us pay attention to the food we are eating and the people we love.   

Muchas gracias Emilia for all of the great info and tips!  If you want to check out her site you can find it here: The Diabetes Club and if you want to learn more about her book click here: Your Heart Needs the Meditteranean Diet.

Smoking and Diabetes, which do you tackle first?


You might think that the best thing to do if you have diabetes and smoke is to first quit smoking. 

I might disagree.  The first thing you need to do is get your diabetes under control.  If you have pre-diabetes, learn to turn your fate around with some lifestyle adjustments.  If you have type 2 diabetes, work with your doctor to do what you need to do to stabilize your blood sugar levels by diet, exercise, medications, etc.  And if you have type 1 diabetes or type 1.5, be sure to get your diabetes regimen down pat and your A1c at a good level. 

You see, smoking is dangerous.  It kills.  No doubt about it.  Yet, uncontrolled diabetes is more dangerous.  High blood sugars over time do some serious damage to the body and for those who suffer low blood sugars, well you know this can be fatal very quickly.

If your diabetes management is great and your blood sugars are looking good then you are ready to quit smoking. 

If this isn’t you however, I would caution against first quitting smoking.  Quitting smoking often causes people to overeat because their cravings are screaming to fill the void.  There are countless articles on how quitting smoking increases the risk of type 2 diabetes or is helping cause type 2 diabetes.  Don’t get me wrong, I think anyone who smokes should quit ASAP but, I recognize the double whammy of diabetes and smoking and how one affects the other.

Dr. Mercola says that a french fry is worse for you than a cigarette.  This is scary.  It made me think about how we went after the cigarette companies and their advertisements and haven’t made nearly as strong a stand against the fast food industry (although this is slowly changing).

If you feel like your diabetes will suffer at the hands of quitting smoking, get a grip on the diabetes first.  Figure out what you must do to control your blood sugars.  This will give you strength, better health, a more peaceful mind, and the willpower to finally quit smoking.

Those are just my thoughts.  Whatever you do, don’t procrastinate on confronting either issue.  Diabetics who smoke are at much higher risk for health problems.  You deserve better.

Sinus infection cure (hint: it isn’t an antibiotic!)


I began having allergies over a decade ago as a teenager.  I happen to be allergic to trees, grasses, molds, dust mites, cats, dogs, and different foods.  I get allergy shots every week.  Because of these year round indoor and outdoor allergies and a deviated septum, I lived out 10 full years with ongoing sinus infections.  I was given so many courses of antibiotics those antibiotics no longer do the trick.  The diabetes doesn’t respond well to infection so for years I was miserable in more ways than one.

Then one day an Ear Nose Throat (ENT) doctor steering me away from surgery had me try a sinus rinse by NeilMed.  You can go to their website here.  Basically, this squirt bottle comes with packets of special solution for your sinuses.  You fill it with sterile or distilled water, pour in the powder from a packet, give it a shake, and you squirt up one nostril at a time while leaning over the sink.  Sounds gross, but when you feel the mucus you haven’t been able to get out just flowing out (eww, I know) you will never go back.

Why?  Because, you will feel immediate relief.  Right away the tension in your sinuses is relieved and your headache relaxes.  You can breathe through your nose and feel clean and clear.  It gets better!  If you have a sinus infection and do this several times a day for a week, I promise your infection will be gone or almost gone by the end of the week.

Taking antibiotics messes up the balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut and weakens your immune system so you are more likely to develop another infection or catch a virus.

Antibiotics are great if you have a life threatening infection and wham! It saves your life.  What happens if you are in this position but, have taken too many antibiotics for small infections?  What if the bacteria in your body resists the antibiotic?  Uh oh, not good if you need life saving.

I have been using the Neil Med sinus rinse for three years now and haven’t had any more sinus infections.  As soon as allergies start overwhelming me I start rinsing a couple times a week (which takes 2 minutes) and voila!  No, infections here.  Glucose numbers stay where they should.  And I feel great.

I share this with you all because I wish I had known about the rinse long ago.  Instead, I had to suffer through many years of chronic pain and sinus infections (and I missed a lot of school and work, too).  But, you don’t have to.

So, if you have any kind of allergy issues, sinus problems, work inhaling dust or chemicals or smoke, you should try a nasal rinse.  It is cheap, effective, and safe.  Reminder for fellow diabetics:  during an infection, try extra hard to keep glucose levels steady to help your body fight the infection.

Has anyone tried a sinus rinse?  Did it work for you?  Let us know in the comments!

Happy allergy season to ya,



Do not use tap water for your sinus rinse because people have died from doing this when they contracted brain eating amoebas that entered the brain through the sinuses.

Can diabetic nerve damage be reversed?

The Killer Shoe
The Killer Shoe


I would have to say yes.  Why?  Because I did it.

Here is the lowdown:

I had annoying nerve pain in my feet for years during a time where my average glucose was 200-300.  Then I spent several months working especially hard to maintain normalized blood sugar.  During those 6 months or so I felt the nerve pain worsen dramatically.  I felt it was too late, the damage had been done and now was worse than ever.

I wondered how I would live with the constant pain.

Then the pain disappeared.  That was years ago.  The pain has never returned.  Ok it did but only for a week after 7 straight hours of walking and dancing about at my wedding in 5 inch-high-too-narrow-for-my-feet stilettos (that’s what I get for such nonsense).  Other than that, nothing, nada, zilch.  I’m pain free.

I have since researched to find out what happened in my case.  I discovered that nerve damage which has not gone on too long or too far can be reversed.  Nerves are alive and can heal themselves if the body gives itself the chance.  I had terrible glucose for 10 years and in one year of good glucose control my pain was completely gone!

What does this mean for you?  HOPE.  Hope that you can at the very least lessen your nerve pain.  Don’t kick yourself any longer over your bad diabetes control.  Just begin to make steady changes towards better control, never giving up until you wake up and find you almost always have great glucose numbers (like me).

Reversing damage is not something most doctors will talk to you about, only managing the pain with medications.  You deserve better than painkillers, you deserve to feel like you aren’t a diabetic!

Give it a shot and let me know what happens…and remember, if you begin to improve your sugar averages and feel more nerve pain-don’t be alarmed.  This is a sign your nerves are healing themselves.  It won’t last too long, I promise.

Good luck!

Update-August 17th, 2011

This is a highly read post so I wanted to update everyone on how I’m doing two years after writing this post.  I feel the same.  My A1c has stayed below 6% during the last two years.  Once or twice in the past 2 years I’ve hit 400 and when I do, I feel a bit of tingling in my left toe.  Then once I’m back down the tingling is gone.  So…hanging in there and feeling good.  I wish you all the best.  Damage may be far gone in some people but I don’t think it’s ever too late to simply…try.  Maybe some damage will reverse itself…maybe not.  But what if?…

5 Things a diabetic woman must do before wearing high heels

hard work
Creative Commons License photo credit: valeyoshino


Before I became temporarily home bound due to twin babies, I wore 3 and 4 inch heels every day and could even sprint in them if needed.   However, this wasn’t always the case.  

Let me save you the trouble of learning the hard way as I did.

If you are a diabetic and want to wear high heels comfortably, here is what you need to do:

1.  Tightly control your blood sugar

Make sure it is very much controlled or your feet will suffer a price.  Years ago I had neuropathy pain in my feet.  After normalizing my blood sugars, the pain disappeared.  (Just so you know it is possible to reverse!)  Only then could I finally wear all of the cute shoes I loved.

2.  Get to a healthy weight 

If you are overweight the amount of pressure exerted on your feet will likely be too much.  Years ago, I couldn’t wear my favorite type of shoe-4 inch stilettos, until I lost some weight.  Currently, I have 10 pounds to lose after my pregnancy, so I’m not wearing heels just yet.  My feet are worth the wait.  Check out my article on how I reversed nerve damage.

3.  Exercise

If you do exercise and stretch just a little a day, you will greatly improve circulation to your feet.  This is very important if your diabetes has begun to affect your lower extremities.  Personally, yoga has helped me a lot with circulation.  So has running!

4.  Don’t go cheap

This isn’t the place to save.  If you are going to wear high heels, you should buy a comfortable pair.  It is actually better you have one awesome pair that feels good on than 10 different cheap foot killers.  If the shoe doesn’t feel too great when you try it on at the store, chances are it will really hurt after a couple hours.

5.  Do not withstand the pain

If you have done all you can to be able to wear heels and they still hurt, don’t wear them!  You can cause permanent nerve damage to your feet.  There are so many adorable flat shoes these days.  There is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to give up your beloved heels and look and feel fabulous in flat, comfy shoes. 

So DO protect your precious feet.  Unlike shoes, you can’t get another pair!