Monday, April 30, 2012

Porch Gardens and Yoga Class

Overall, I had a very successful weekend. Saturday started early as I rose with the sun to go to work. Now normally, working on a Saturday would make me a little glum. But my job (which involves a lot of being on my feet, chasing dogs around, and making decision after decision--did you know, thinking over and making a choice actually uses up to 20% of your blood sugar?) has an incredible capacity for sucking the glucose right out of my blood. And right now, I am on a mission to get my sugars back on track.

Sunday, I enjoyed a peaceful morning on the porch with a cup of tea. After an extravagant breakfast of mushroom, spinach, kale, and green onion eggs, with toast and strawberries, I forced myself to the gym for vinyasa (yoga on speed--especially if the instructor has had a bad week and wants to take it out on the innocent). About ten minutes into class I had a sudden and unfortunate realization: I only had one piece of toast this morning. Now to any normal person, this would be a good thing--way to not overeat, cut those calories out where you can! But for a carb counting diabetic, this spells disaster. I had taken enough insulin for two pieces of toast and five strawberries. In the middle of chaturanga dandasana I felt a pulse of cool blood rush through my system. The realization flooded through my body and into my subconscious before being perceived by my conscience mind. I stared at my hand. When my sugars crash my fingers flush and swell just slightly. (I can't even glance at my hand without my boyfriend asking if everything is okay.) Angrily, I jumped up from downward dog, bypassed the maze of yoga mats and went out to my car to fish some glucose tabs out of my purse.

I stubbornly finished the hour long class with teetering glucose levels (much to the chagrin of my healthcare team), and rushed home to find a more substantial snack (a piece of toast, because I was so angry about having shorted myself the pleasure of it at breakfast). I finished the day by planting my porch garden and praying to the gods of the deceptive Colorado spring to be kind to my vegetables and not strike them down with a late season frost.

Though the weekend held less time for relaxing than I would have liked, all the hard work has brought my long acting insulin needs down to 5u. With a long week of hard work ahead of me, I'm hoping those numbers will only continue to fall.

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Road to an Herbal Treatment

My insulin requirements are slowly coming down from the debauchery of last weekend. After a week on a strict diet, my fast acting dose is back to 1u per 30g carb and my long acting is finally coming down from 8u per day. Before the trip I was down to 4u a day thanks largely (as far as I can tell) to the Nopal Cactus supplements. I hope to be back to that number by the end of next week (assuming I can continue to refuse all temptation--lets be realistic here--most temptation).

This little hiccup reminds me of why I started pursuing alternative treatments for diabetes in the first place. Four months ago, after a holiday season full of poor choices (and a whole lot of fun to match) my blood sugars were less than admirable, my A1C was climbing, and my insulin intake was up up up! I got back on my normal diet routine and hit the gym with more vigor but still could not get things to return to the way they had been at the end of Summer. For the first time since my diagnosis, I couldn’t eat a snack (10-20g of carb) without taking insulin. I had to face reality, my honeymoon period was ending. Whatever function my beta cells had left was spent. My immune system had won the pancreatic war. My insulin needs were going to rise and rise until 100% of my insulin came from a funny looking pen filled with clear liquid. I had no choice but to accept it.

That certainly doesn’t sound like me.

It was around that same time that a friend of mine started working the supplements section at Whole Foods. One day she told me about a customer coming in and buying loads and loads of cinnamon. She claimed to be a Type 1 and claimed to be off insulin shots completely. I was skeptical of course (and still am--I have met more than one diabetic in my life who didn’t even know which kind of diabetes they had--don‘t even get me started on diabetes education in this country). But I looked into it and sure enough cinnamon has a compound in it called MHCP that mimics insulin and opens your cells to glucose.

So we did some research on the effective dose, the type of cinnamon (powder or extract) and I bought myself a couple bottles. I had no delusions about cinnamon curing a disease that’s been plaguing people since ancient Greece (although many ancient cultures claimed to have found effective herbal treatments). All I wanted was to get back to where I had been before the final pancreatic decline. And wouldn’t you know, things began to get a little easier to control.

A door was opened. I was on a mission to find more alternative treatments. With my friends help, I came across more potential glucose tamers. Gymnema Sylvestre. Bitter Melon. Octea. Ginseng. Fenugreek. Chromium Polynicotinate (I actually have to give props to my grandma on this one, she had me on this supplement the second I was diagnosed). And of course Nopal Cactus.

At the beginning of January I was using 12u of slow acting insulin a day and 1u per 15g carb of fast at each meal. I put myself on a strict diet clad with super foods and started taking 2 tsps cinnamon a day (I have almost tripled that dose now), 500mg Bitter Melon, 400mg Gymnema, and 3 drops Octea. By the end of two weeks I was down to 4u of long term and 1u per 60g carbs.

So there is something to this herbalist witch craft after all.

The experiments continue. I have no dreams of being off insulin completely (ok I do, all the time). But if I can find a supplement regiment that is affordable and allows me to hand over fewer of my paychecks to Big Pharmaceutical, then I will be happy. And of course, I will do everything I can to share my findings with others (who are willing to use their own bodies as laboratories).

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Starvation in the Midst of Plenty

Starvation in the Midst of Plenty

Syran Wrap covers my eyes
they’ve decomposed before their time
focus. fail.
focus. fail.
bones cut skin like butter
wasting weight wears away
I’m skin and bones
And hunger
ravenous and extreme
I dream to eat all I see
And do
but not an ounce or gram or inch
do I gain
I remain a fading frame
and I thirst
I want I crave I need
to drink entire seas
And do
but it runs straight through
drains as quickly as it came
I shrivel and dry
skin cracks it lacks it dies
I’m weak
muscles hang on tired frame
of which my body
does consume
I feel my death
its coming on and soon
my eyes grow tired
focus. fail.
I’m weak
still I eat and eat
but not an inch do I gain
and soon,
not an inch will remain

I came across this poem this morning. It was something I wrote for a a class just months after my diagnosis, when the symptoms of uncontrolled high blood sugars were still very much at the front of my mind. 

Focus. Fail. My eyesight had blurred substantially over the course of a single week. One day I could read street signs from blocks away. Literally the next, I couldn't read them while sitting at the stop light they hung from. I forced myself to the eye doctor who persuaded me into believing that I was wrong--this hadn't occurred suddenly, it had been coming on for months. Yes of course doctor, you do know what I see better than I do.

Wasting weight wears away. I lost six pounds over the course of one week. I went from 114 to 101 before I decided (my mom actually decided) that something was wrong.

I dream to eat all I see. And did I! My body, starved of glucose, craved food--sugary, syrupy, sweet food most of all. My stomach was a bottomless pit. I would clear my plate in seconds and then set my eyes on the plates of those unfortunate enough to be sitting next to me. At my friend's birthday dinner at Old Chicago, I ate an entire calzone, half a plate of pasta, and half a sandwich (and I wouldn't have stopped there if there had been food left on the table). My friend and I joke that I once ate her entire kitchen. It would be more amusing if it wasn't true (box of oreos, packets of instant oatmeal, half a liter of soda, chips...). I didn't gain a pound. The glucose cycled endlessly through my bloodstream for days, then slipped out through my kidneys. My body fed instead on the protein in my muscles.

And I thirst. I couldn't sit through a 90 minute movie at the theater without getting up five times to run to the drinking fountain. I got up multiple times a night and guzzled water. I once had an anxiety attack while driving home to my parents' because I hadn't brought a water bottle. I thought I was going to shrivel up on the seat. My lips were so cracked that I had open, stinging cuts in the corners of my mouth. My throat was permanently parched. My tongue was a salted slug.

It runs straight through. Trips to the bathroom were frequent but an afterthought, really. I was in there sucking water out of the faucet anyway. It seemed an obvious consequence.

I'm weak. I didn't want to get out of bed in the morning. I would lie there with a swollen bladder and cotton mouth, but I would not want to get up. I forced myself to the rock gym multiple times a week (after all, I was consuming thousands of calories per meal--my girlish frame couldn't hold on forever). I could barley make it up a 5.7 route, even after weeks of practice. I was fatigued. On weekends I would sleep all day (getting up every hour to drink and pee of course).

After my diagnosis and subsequent hospital stint, things rapidly fell back into place. I gained seven pounds from IV fluids alone. My cracked lips healed. My eyes almost instantly sprung back to 20/20 (still, the persuasive eye doctor refused to give me a refund for the glasses). I felt alive again. The only thing that never got better was the insatiable appetite. My guess is that I wore out all the hormones meant to keep my eating habits in check. Without strict portion control and a focused willpower, I can still easily over eat to the point of pain (and blood sugar explosions). Over the last three years I have developed a system to help keep myself in check. I've turned my obsession with food into an obsession with health through food. Superfoods, supplements, health shakes. I feed my hunger through food education, cooking fresh meals, and the satisfaction of knowing that what I put in my body may not fill me up, but at least it will make me feel good. (Of course, even after years of practice, this can go out the window with a little tequila, a long work week, and reason to celebrate).

A symptom list from Diabetes for Dummies (Wiley Publishing, Inc. 2008)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Live and Learn

This weekend provided an all too brief respite from the stresses of real life, and unfortunately, way too much stress on my pancreas. But sometimes the overindulgences are worth it. Sometimes you just have to let yourself live a little (at least that’s what my fun-loving, care-free self tries to tell my type-A, perfectionist self--usually to no avail). We (including both dogs--which was fun, but definitely took away from the serenity of the trip) drove the car up to Chico Hot Springs in Montana (a short drive from Yellowstone's north entrance). Along with its natural beauty and tranquil environment, Chico also boasts an amazing restaurant. I arrived fully prepared to battle against the seductive tendencies of this world famous kitchen, but lost all will to fight as soon as I heard someone say “breakfast buffet.” I was lured in by the steaming eggs, homemade granola, and an array of salted meats (a treat I rarely indulge in). That night, my fate was sealed when a heaping bowl of wild mushroom risotto materialized on the dinner table before me. Thanks partly to the intoxicating aromas of the dish and partly to the intoxicating alcohol of the two vodka and sodas I had downed at the bar before dinner, I was unable to conjure any self control until it was too late. The hefty serving of food was all but polished off by the time I forced myself to release the grip on my fork.

Early morning walks with the dogs and some swimming in the hot springs helped curve the skyrocketing blood sugars, as did the Nopal supplements (though it seems obvious to me now that I should have packed more than my usual dose as I was eating quite a bit more than my usual amount of food), but in the end, my insulin needs still doubled. It happens every time I travel and really shouldn’t surprise me, but I am still feeling a bit disappointed. It occurred to me yesterday as we made the long drive home, that I could double my Lantus the first day of my trips and save myself a lot of trouble (and possibly save my pancreas a little time). It is a little embarrassing to admit this thought has never crossed my mind before. But what can you do? You live, you indulge, you learn (eventually).

The beautiful Chico Hot Springs Lodge nestled in the hills of Paradise Valley, Montana.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Curse of Routine

I love to travel. I think there is nothing more important to building knowledge than to get out into the world and gain experience in different dimensions than what you are used. My pancreas, on the other hand, hates new anything. Success in blood sugar management, at least for me, relies heavily on routine. Each meal, I choose from a mental list of old standbys. For breakfast its usually oatmeal with coconut milk and a some berries--always 60g of carbs. Lunches vary, but again, they always add up to 60g. Dinner is usually soup or salad. Sometimes grilled veggies, but the amount of carbs is always between 0g and 40g (depending on my insulin to carb ratio at the time). I eat one snack between breakfast and lunch (one serving of nuts), and one between lunch and dinner (an apple or orange). I thrive on routine. It keeps everything simple. It also keeps everything fairly boring. That's what vacations are for (and sometimes weekends).

Traveling, whether in a car or a plane, is not kind to diabetes. I'm not sure if it's the long periods of sitting, the stress of travel, the eating of unfamiliar food, or just the simple act of change, but something about it shoots my blood sugars way up. Last December I went to Hawaii. Armed with the knowledge that travels creates 200+ glucose levels, I decided to avoid carbs that first day. I survived on nuts and salad. When we arrived in Kauai, I was a bit irritable (I do love my food) but my blood sugars were in great shape. I believed, for a brief moment, that I had conquered the traveling curse. And then I woke up the next morning to a BS of 180. There goes that theory. I kept a tight hold of my blood sugars for the rest of the trip. Still, my insulin requirements had doubled by the flight home.

Tomorrow, I am road tripping to Chico Hot Springs in Montana for my birthday. Eight plus hours in the car spells disaster (especially since I have a tendency to snack when I'm bored). But I have a little more hope for this trip than I have had for others in the past. My blood sugars have been holding in the fantastic zone for the last two weeks thanks largely (I believe) to the Nopal Cactus supplement. My long-acting dose is down to 4u a day! I haven't been that low since I played guinea pig for a drug trial at the Barbra Davis Center over a year ago (a post for another time). With any luck, the Nopal will be enough to keep my insulin needs from sky rocketing during the trip. That may be asking a lot of a simple desert cactus (after all, it is my birthday, which entitles me to a little gluttony). I guess only time will tell.

Nopal Supplement Update:

Day 8 (4/16) cont'd:
  • 6:00pm- 85
Day 9 (4/17):
  • 5:00am- 60
  • 5:00pm- 73
  • 11:00pm- 48 (sleeping low--never fun)
Day 10 (4/18):
  • 5:00am- 77
  • 11:00- 56
  • 5:00pm- 74
Day 11 (4/19):
  • 5:00 am- 121
(For those of you keeping track, yes I have gotten a little skimpy on the testing. That's what happens when the cost of test strips goes up 400%. And I had such high hopes for this new insurance plan.)

Insulin Requirements:
  • Short acting- 1u/30g for all meals (yay!)
  • Long acting- 4u per day (also yay!)

Monday, April 16, 2012

Great Blood Sugars, but Other Highs and Lows

This weekend started off great! Saturday morning, we took Ragz to swim class, and although she still does not fully understand that water is supposed to be fun, she is starting to swim pretty well. Next, we went on a hike at the beautiful Reservoir Ridge Natural Area. Then it was back to the house to welcome over friends and begin experiments in fermentation (still pending). We grilled (I forced my nose up at fatty burgers and nitrate filled hot dogs and opted instead for a bun-less, organic veggie burger), we drank (I stuck mostly to white wine spritzers carbonated with La Croix naturally flavored soda water--zero carbs!), and we played The Game of Things (never dull). While I made mostly good choices, there was definitely one too many trips to the snack table and a few too many drinks drank. Incredibly, despite the indulgences, the late night, and lazy Sunday that followed, my highest blood sugar over the weekend was 121! This is an incredible feat considering the easy recipe for disaster (one I have prepared and paid for far too many times). And all I can think is there must really be something to this Nopal Cactus. Blood sugar control that tight despite the grazing, the booze, and the overall lack of blood-sugar concern--it really is exciting. I am excited to see how things look after a few weeks of using the supplement.

That was the high point of the weekend. The low point came when I went to the pharmacy on Sunday to pick up my test strip prescription. I recently had to change insurance companies. It is a process all Pre-Existing-Conditions people fear. Aetna (who had been my provider since way before my diagnosis), decided last year that they were going to pull all their individual-cover plans from the state of Colorado (there just isn't good money in helping individual people stay healthy anymore). After a long and painful process, I was able to find coverage with Cover Colorado. (To qualify for this last-ditch insurance carrier one must have a preexisting condition, have had major health insurance within the last six month--because anyone who has never had health insurance doesn't deserve it, right?-- and have a rejection letter from a major provider. I picked a name out of a hat--Humana--and had a rejection letter in 48 hours.)

But my excitement about having secured health insurance for at least another year (well, that may not exactly be a guarantee), faded quickly when they rang up my 25 day supply of test strips. $98 bucks!? With my old plan it was $25 a month. Add in the fact that the Cover Colorado plan is costing me $50 extra a month and you have one very dispiriting  revelation. Suddenly the need to find alternative treatments for T1D seems paramount. Luckily, it is an adventure I am more than willing to spend a little effort on (though, perhaps, a little less money now).

Nopal Supplement Experiment Update:

Day 5 (4/13) Blood Sugars continued:

  • 11:00am- 68
  • 6:00pm- 122
  • 9:00pm- 126

Day 6 (4/14):

  • 6:00am- 69
  • 5:00pm- 113
  • 9:00 pm 118

 Day 7 (4/15):

  • 8:00 am- 80
  • 12:00 pm- 84
  • 4:00 pm- 104
  • 9:00pm- 121

Day 8 (4/16):

  • 5:00am- 92

Insulin Requirements:
  • Short acting- unchanged
  • Long acting- 5u per day

Friday, April 13, 2012

Rejoice! It's Friday!

Happy Friday (we'll ignore the fact that it's the 13th and celebrate all the same)! This week was stressful (and that's putting it lightly). But I am proud to say that my blood sugars did not suffer because of it. All my levels seem to be fully recovered from Easter (just in time for another weekend full of debauchery!). The dreaded "Psych" phenomenon has dissipated, although my dinner insulin needs remain at 1u/20g carb versus 1/30 like breakfast and lunch (it requires so much less thought when everything is the same).

I will spend the weekend hiking, taking the puppy to swim lessons (yes, those exist and are actually very amusing to watch), celebrating my pre-birthday with friends, and possibly making some homemade mead (an odd adventure for a diabetic, I'll admit).

This seems like the perfect article to read on a Friday:
"The 6 Worst People for Your Diet"

(I know I am one to quickly give into peer-pressure when it involves a food I really want to eat anyway.)

And this is just an interesting article (that kind of makes me want to move to Canada):

"Tories Promise Free Insulin Pumps"

(I have yet to make the switch from pen needles to pump, but if someone were handing them out for free...)

Nopal Supplement Experiment Update:

Day 3 (4/11) Blood Sugars Cont'd:

  • 9:00 pm- 138

Day 4 (4/12) Blood Sugars:

  • 5:00 am- 75
  • 11:30am- 95
  • 7:00 pm- 120
  • 9:00 pm- 108 (The "Psych" curse is finally lifted!)

Day 5 (4/13) Blood Sugars:

  • 6:00 am- 105
Ragz contemplates getting in the water at her first swimming lesson (yes, she is wearing a life vest)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Experiments in True Vitality

A brilliant natro-path friend of mine got me a sample pack of True Vitality plant protein mix by Green Foods. I have been using it along with my breakfast this week (sometimes as a shake mixed with unsweetened coconut milk and strawberries, and sometimes I just add it to my cereal). Eating high protein meals, especially in the morning is supposed to help maintain glucose levels throughout the day (or so the research rumors go). A while back I started using protein shakes before my workouts (with about 15-20g of carb in them) instead of just straight juice or sugary granola bars. The blood sugar crashes I experience after workouts have definitely diminished and I feel much more energized throughout the exercises.

As for using True Vitality in the morning, well I can definitely say that it hasn’t hurt anything. The protein mix is also packed with omega 3’s, enzymes, probiotics, fiber, a full spectrum of multivitamins and DHA (it can easily be used as a full meal replacement). It even has spirulina (one of my favorite super foods that I rarely eat because it tastes like pond scum). I think it may be an exceptionally good choice for people who aren’t as fond of (or obsessed with) eating breakfast as I am. I do have one disclaimer though (because, after all, no one is paying me to sell this product, I only intend to get the information out there): don’t expect this protein shake to taste like the grocery store brand, artificial-sweetener packed powders. It’s all natural and actually good for you (in other words, it tastes a little like earth). But if you mix in some fresh fruit, it is easily drinkable.


Nopal Supplement Experiment Update:

Day 2 Blood Sugars Continued (4/10):

  • 11:00am- 111
  • 6:00 pm- 102
  • 9:00 pm- N/A (Oops! Don’t tell my endocrinologist!)

Day 3 Blood Sugars (4/11):
  • 5:00am- 88
  • 11:30am- 66 (either working too hard or its time to tweak the breakfast dose- time will tell)
  • 6:00pm- 111

Insulin Requirements:
  • Unchanged

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The “Psych” Phenomenon

Has this ever happened to anyone else? You check your blood sugar before bed only to find that it is unusually high (something like 150+). This makes no sense to you because you ate a normal meal of a normal size and injected a normal bolus amount. But you tend to believe the number on the screen (or maybe you sacrifice a few more test strips just to be sure) and so you give yourself a corrective dose and head off to bed. Four or five hours later you suddenly wake. You’re sweaty, disoriented, and your heart is racing. It takes a minute for you to feel the familiar light headedness and shaky fingers. Blood sugar is crashing. You manage to put the thought together through a muddled mind and slowly make your way down to the kitchen for a glass of your favorite glucose packed beverage.

Or maybe you’re a seasoned pro and this is a trick you have experienced before. Instead of correcting for the unusually high blood sugar, you go off to bed without any extra insulin. When you wake the next morning your blood sugar is a very normal 80. But how? It was 190 before bed, and you certainly weren’t exercising in your sleep.

I spoke to Dr. Michaels at the Barbara Davis Center once about what I have termed “The Psych Phenomenon.” While he is a Type 1 himself, he seemed somewhat unfamiliar with the idea. But his best guess seems a good explanation to me. The problem during a Psych episode is that your pancreas makes the same amount of insulin it normally does, but the entire process is very delayed. So that correction you took at 10:00pm brings your sugars down to a normal level, but a few hours later, that gallon of insulin that your beta cells have been trying to create since dinner suddenly rushes into your blood stream.

Generally, I only experience this phenomenon after a couple days of pancreas abuse (knowingly inflicted or accidental). And it tends to last anywhere from a few days to a couple weeks. I have found that upping the initial dose of insulin taken with dinner can sometimes help. But sometimes that leads to the same problems as a corrective dose. More often, the only way I can put an end to the Psych curse is to stop eating carbs for dinner altogether. I’ll have a small salad or a piece of chicken (it is usually the salad as I lean strongly toward the vegetarian mindset). That way, there is no need for blood sugar spikes or insulin. After a few days of carb free dinners I can usually reintroduce a small, well measured portion of carbohydrates and have everything run smoothly.


Nopal Supplement Experiment Update

Day 1 Blood Sugars (4/9):

  • 5:00 am--77
  • 11:00am-- 71
  • 6:00pm-- 105
  • 9:00pm--183

Day 2 Blood Sugars (4/10):

  • 5:00 am-- 90 (a perfect example of The Psych Phenomenon)

Insulin Requirements:

  • Long term-- 6u/day
  • Short Term-- 1u/30g carb breakfast and lunch; 1u/20g carb dinner

Monday, April 9, 2012

Experiment: Nopal Cactus

Recovering from Easter…

My family is not religious, we have no long standing holiday traditions, instead we celebrate every holiday with good food, good drink, and (way too much) fun. And you will never hear me complain about it. But my pancreas on the other hand, well, it yells and screams and whines the entire time. And then it continues to pay me back for all the fun I had for the next week (sometimes longer). Yes, the constant eating, drinking and sneaking foods I normally stay hundreds of feet away from are hard on my already puttering, sputtering, barely-functioning beta-cells, but we can’t all be saints (not even on Easter).

So for the next few days I will be trying to make up for lost time (and insulin). I topped out at 235 on Saturday (a number that far exceeds my Type-A, perfectionist standards for maximum blood glucose levels). I have been “honeymooning” (meaning my pancreas still makes some insulin despite being under constant attack by my immune system) for three full years. Every time I abuse my pancreas with poorly calculated insulin to food intake ratios, I am peeling days off my honeymoon and handing my body over to the prescription drug companies that much sooner. But, despite what I was told at my outpatient classes, there are ways to slow and possibly reverse some of the damage.

There are so many supplements out there that show promise to slow the progression of diabetes. Many of them have been used for centuries. A lot of the articles about these products are geared toward Type 2, but that doesn’t mean Type 1s can’t experiment with them too. (A need for less insulin is a good thing, whether your making it yourself or buying it from a pharmacy).

This week I am setting my experimental sights on one particular supplement that has been used by Mexicans and Native Americans for centuries. Nopal Cactus (commonly known as prickly pear) has a whole list of health benefits, but what I am most interested in is its potential for slowing the absorption of carbohydrates into your system. Slowing the uptake of glucose into the blood gives your entire system a break, not just your fatigued pancreas. In the long run, using this supplement daily has the potential to lengthen the life of your pancreas while keeping your day to day blood sugars at a much healthier and controllable level.

As of today my insulin requirements are (I use insulin pens-- Lantis for my long term and Humalog for my short):

  • 7u of long acting insulin once daily
  • 1u per 30g carb at each meal of short acting insulin (I am a carb counter--taking the same amount of insulin with different sized meals just does not allow for the exactness my mind requires)
  • My average blood glucose level for the last 7 days is 111 (not bad considering the highs that came over the weekend).
My dosage of Nopal cactus supplement starting today will be:
  •  1,500mg per meal (breakfast, lunch, and dinner)
I also currently use cinnamon supplements (a cheap supplement that all diabetics should be on):
  •  2,000mg per meal
The hope is that these supplements will lower my insulin needs and help me gain better, consistent control over my blood sugars. I will be keeping track of my blood sugars and any insulin changes and reporting them here.
Cinnamon supplments vary in their quality--some use only the bark while others include a potent extract as well. Eating simple ground cinnamon with your meals can have the same beneficial effects as supplements. For this experiment I will be using Health Force Nutritional's Nopal Cactus supplement.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Why Can't it be a Tapeworm?

Tomorrow is the three year anniversary of my diagnosis. So here's to a little reflection...

It was twelve days before my twenty-first birthday (just in time to hear my doctor tell me that I couldn't drink anymore--I still do, just a little more intelligently than most). Six weeks early I had written this journal entry:

"I woke up last night smelling smoke."
They were the only words on the page and didn't carry much weight at the time. But now, with a little hindsight, I can pinpoint that as the moment my symptoms first started (I like to think of it as the instant my immune system started burning away at my pancreas). I had every symptom in the book and could write an entire post on that alone (and I will). But on that particular day three years ago, I had managed to push the signs to the back of my head. I had learned to live with them, and for the preservation of my own spirit, had convinced myself there was nothing wrong with me.

I was in my junior year of college and it had been a while since I had made the two hour trek to visit my parents. The second I walked through the door of my childhood home my mom commented on my weight. I knew I had lost a little. A couple weeks before, I had weighed myself at the climbing gym. According to the scale, I had lost seven pounds in a week. I assumed that the scale was wrong. After all, I was eating well over 3,000 calories a day (starvation in the midst of plenty--my favorite symptom). My mom forced me over to the scale. I had lost another six pounds (but that scale was obviously wrong too). I probably would have gone on lying to myself (it's easier than you think), but my parents were there to meddle and force me to list off every health issue that had popped up over the last month and a half. Within the hour, we were on the Internet. My mom was convinced that I had a parasite from my trip to Ecuador the year before. As she typed symptoms into WebMD, I text my friend, who was doing an Internet search of her own. "It's a tapeworm!" I told her. "Give me one!" she joked, "I want to lose thirteen pounds."

The gravity of the situation didn't hit me until the detailed search brought up a second possibility. Diabetes. Sure, I had been peeing a lot. But I had also been drinking a ton. (I got up in the middle of the night to down a gallon of water; going to the bathroom was just an afterthought). As the realization melted down my neck and forced my hair on end, my friend text me again. Her search had brought the same conclusion. The light-hearted conversation suddenly took a serious and uncomfortable turn.

There was no denying it. I called my doctor and scheduled an appointment for the next morning. I ate a small bowl of oatmeal for breakfast (not eating was not an option--I would have chewed through my own hand without hesitation). Two hours later, at the doctors office, a glucose meter revealed my blood sugar to be 326 (a modest level compared to the one that would land me in the hospital that night--but that's another story). A urine analysis sealed the deal. I was, and forever would be, a Type 1 Diabetic.

My first glucose meter.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Why the Blog?

I am a skeptic. I live to question the world around me. I am also stubborn (my first word was “no”). I refuse to put any weight in what people tell me until I do a little research for myself. When I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes 3 years ago, I took it more as a challenge than anything else. I had a lot of people telling me things back then. And I was in a foreign land (in fact it was the first time I had been back to the hospital since I was born) and I was dealing with a foreign disease (I’ll admit, I was one of the ignorant ones who really didn’t know the difference between type 1 and 2). So, I was in a position to listen (for once). It was a lot to take in. I should start eating this and not that. I should take my insulin this way and not that. I should go to this doctor and that. There was no explanation of why and no time for me to question things. And for a while I took every word as law. But as things became less frightening I found myself back to old habits. What if I eat this instead of that? I started experimenting. And from those experiments came adventures. And from all great adventures come stories to share. So thank you for joining me and stay tuned (and of course, question everything, even--and maybe especially--what I say).