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.

1 comment:

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