My Favourite Health & Fitness Freebies

free sign on the Diabetes DietA continuous glucose monitoring system, the MiniMed 670G self-adjusting insulin pump, a personal trainer AND an unlimited food budget so I can buy organic, ethically sourced food all the time…

And, whoops—you interrupted me there in the middle of a reverie relating to the things I’d have to help me manage my diabetes if money were no object. The top of the range monitoring and pump therapy tech is obvious while the food and exercise one less so—but activity and an excellent low-carb diet can help you manage your blood glucose levels.

Stable blood glucose levels don’t guarantee you riches or the partner of your dreams, but a person who doesn’t ride the blood sugar roller coaster is far more energetic, and free to pursue what they want unhindered by the hell of mood swings.

In the meantime, what can we fiscally challenged diabetics do so we can fix our blood glucose levels to the best of our abilities? Here are suggestions for freebies that can help you manage your condition…

YouTube—otherwise known as the exercise channel in our house. Online, you’ll find tens of thousands of exercise uploads—from yoga to Pilates, barre classes, HIIT workouts and weight-lifting. You could spend several years working your way through them and not do the same workout twice. If you find gyms off-putting or their membership fees too expensive, YouTube’s perfect. Look for workouts that don’t need equipment either.

Start with walking workouts (Lesley Sansome’s Walk at Home channel is great). Fitness Blender’s videos are explained well, and the exercises done at a speed you can keep up with. Jessica Smith TV does a huge variety of workouts that offer different fitness benefits, and Heart and Soul Fitness does the same.

MyFitnessPal—there are studies that claim food tracking helps you maintain your weight. Food logs are useful for we diabetics too as they allow us to work out how much insulin we need for meals we eat regularly. MyFitnessPal has a huge database, but you can also add your own recipes and the site will give you a full nutritional breakdown of each.

MySugr – a free app for logging blood sugar results and additional information such as insulin does, exercise, weight, blood pressure and more. The app is useful, but if you don’t log for a day or so you will struggle to remember all the information you need to input for a complete picture of what is going on.

The internet—thanks to the world-wide web, there’s a wealth of information at our fingertips. As a teenager and twenty-something with diabetes, I only knew one or two others with the condition, and we didn’t meet up regularly to swap notes. Now there are forums, websites, charities, blogs, recipes and more online where we can find out more about the ol’ defunct pancreas problem.

A word to the wise… We all know the internet allows unprecedented freedom of speech, which is mostly for the good. But it’s also a place where information spreads unchecked. Blogs—and I include this one too—offer opinions and personal experience, which do not always equate to fact and recommendations suitable for you. Still, the Diet Doctor, Diabetes.co.uk, radiabetes.com and diabetesdaily.com offer gems. (I  apologise if I missed your great site out—limited room here.)

NHS 70 logo on the Diabetes DietAnd finally…drum roll… the NHS! Here in the UK, we folks with type 1 diabetes get free healthcare and prescriptions. I mump and moan occasionally about wanting the latest tech, but I’ve had diabetes for more than 30 years and in that time, I’ve never paid for medications, appointments or equipment. Our fabulous healthcare system has existed 70 years now. It’s shaky on its feet sometimes, but you can’t argue with the wonderful principles at its core—free healthcare for all, based on clinical need.

What are your favourite diabetes freebies? And what websites or blogs do you like?

Retirees are happier when they are active

An Australian study has shown that getting a good sleep at night and being active during the day was the most effective way to boost mood in retirees.

105 people took part in the Life After Work study. They were followed for six month before retirement to 12 months afterwards. They carefully logged their activities and their mood was measured.

The time spent on chores, physical activity, quiet time, screen time, self care, sleep, transport and work, all changed over this period of time. The most favourable substitution was replacing work time with physical activity and sleep.  Replacing work with screen time and social activity showed less effect on mood enhancement.

After retirement, depression, anxiety and stress all reduced.

Olds T et al One day you will wake up and won’t have to go to work: The impact of changes in time use on mental health following retirement. PLoS ONE.2018;13(6);e0199605.doi:101371/journal.pone.0199605. PMID:29953472

Most of the public are blissfully unaware of serious diabetes complications

A survey by Walnut Unlimited asked 1,000 UK people, what can the effects of having diabetes be?

None of them were aware of the pregnancy related consequences of diabetes.

2% knew about stroke, 4% about kidney damage, and 6% about heart disease.  Similarly low numbers knew that diabetes is related to a shorter life span.  A quarter of those surveyed however did know that amputation and sight loss were complications of diabetes.

Diabetes affects more individuals in the UK than any other serious health condition such as dementia or cancer. 3.7 million people in the UK have diabetes. There are 8,700 diabetes related amputations and 1,600 cases of visual impairment every year.

Diabetic complications can be minimised or avoided by early diagnosis, education and support.

Brexit and Insulin Shortages

a plstic box c ontaining insulin on The Diabetes DietInsulin shortages and low-carb dishes—no obvious connection, I grant you but bear with me.

The first relates to a news item on Channel 4 last night, which warned of insulin shortages post-Brexit in the UK as the country produces little to no manufactured insulin (apart from a factory which makes the stuff derived from pigs).

Sir Michael Rawlins, the chair of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, told the Pharmaceutical Journal last Friday that, “We make no insulin in the UK. We import every drop of it. You can’t transport insulin around ordinarily because it must be temperature-controlled. And there are 3.5 million people [with diabetes, some of whom] rely on insulin, not least the Prime Minister.”

412,000 people on insulin

Strictly speaking, that’s no true as the Channel 4 story pointed out. Wockhardt UK produces the animal insulin, but its products are used by some 1,500 to 2,000 patients every year. And that’s less than 0.5 percent of the estimated 421,000 people in the UK who rely on insulin.

Channel 4 News spoke to the major manufacturers, Sanofi, Novo Nordisk and Lilly. All of them make insulin in Europe.

The Healthcare Distribution Association (HDA) UK which represents medical suppliers in the UK wrote to the UK Government post the referendum in 2016 to warn of serious upsets to the supply chain should Brexit negotiations go wrong.

Buffer stocks

HDA UK said the UK medicines supply chain had “inbuilt resilience” and “flexibility”, and that they were aware of proposals by the government and manufacturers to develop plans for a buffer stock of all medicines.

A spokesperson for the Government said they were confident of reaching a deal, there were contingency plans in place to ensure no disruption to supplies.

Channel 4 News’ fact check conclusion is that as the companies and the Government don’t anticipate shortages, we should be okay.

Back to low-carb recipes and my tenuous attempt to link the two. If you follow a low-carb diet and you use insulin, in general you don’t need to take as much insulin. If shortages come, you’ll have more time to use your insulin while the powers-that-be attempt to sort out this almighty mess.

Cue plug for this blog and The Diabetes Diet! Is that distasteful of me?! Probably.

 

 

 

Thrity-One-Year-Old Claims Cure for Type 1 Diabetes

A PICTURE OF BLOOD TESTING EQUIPMENT AND NEEDLES

A PICTURE OF BLOOD TESTING EQUIPMENT AND NEEDLESGoogle alerts frequently pairs ‘diabetes’ and ‘cure’ together, but most of the time the words don’t capture my attention. Even when ‘type 1 diabetes’ and ‘cure’ make the same sub-heading, I’m not jumping up and down.

Yeah, yeah, heard it, bought the tee shirt, and no impact on my life so far…

But The Sun newspaper carried a story this week about a 31-year-old who claims to have cured his type 1 diabetes with diet and exercise alone. Again, that approach can achieve results with type 2 diabetes but it’s the first time I’ve seen it accredited to a cure for type 1.

Exercise and diet

Daniel Darkes’ regime isn’t for the faint-hearted. He eats a diet high in zinc (nuts, oily fish and veg) and runs more than sixty miles a week.

But before you dig out your trainers and start stock-piling the Brazil nuts, Daniel’s type 1 diabetes has some qualifications. He has a rare, abnormal gene, which doctors believe might have restarted his pancreas.

The 31-year-old from Daventry in Northants developed diabetes eight years ago and stopped giving himself insulin last January (2017)*. He started cutting down on insulin after experiencing hypos in 2016. He travelled to the US in March 2017 to find out more. Doctors ran further tests to find out what we happening to his body.

Brain sending messages to pancreas

He was put on a fasting diet and exercised at the same time. The medical staff noted his brain had begun sending new signals to his pancreas, and he hasn’t injected himself with insulin ever since.

Daniel told The Sun that doctors believed his abnormal gene combined with exercise is the reason he’s been able to cure himself—it’s as if the gene acts as a back-up immune system and has recharged his pancreas.

He is still being monitored at Northamptonshire General Hospital.

Abnormal genes

I’m fascinated by this story—as I suspect most type 1s will be. I’m no medical expert so my opinions are qualified, but I suspect that Daniel’s abnormal gene plays a huge part in his ‘cure’ (and this won’t be regarded as such until he reaches the two-years-without-insulin mark). It’s also interesting that the description of his diet (scant as it is) sounds like a low-carb diet.

The article said that Daniel’s case “could provide a revolutionary new approach to treating type 1 diabetes”, while Diabetes UK said it couldn’t speculate on whether Daniel had ‘cured’ his diabetes or not, and that there was “no clear cure for type 1 or type 2 diabetes”.

 

*DISCLAIMER – please, for the love of all things injectable, do not skip your insulin injections if you have type 1 diabetes…

 

Public Health Collaboration Conference 2018: a great success for Lifestyle Medicine

I was delighted to attend and speak at the third PHC conference in London this year.  We met at the Royal College of General Practitioners in London on the sweltering weekend of the Royal Wedding. Apart from superb international speakers we were treated to low carb, high protein food, such as one would typically eat on a ketogenic diet. Instead of picking at our dinners as we often have to do with mass catering  we could eat the whole lot. Great!

Dr Peter Brukner from Australia started off the weekend with a review of what was happening in the low carb world. There are more and more reports coming out describing the advantages of ketogenic and low carb diets to different groups of people but the establishment are fighting back viciously as can be seen by the attack on Professor Tim Noakes in South Africa.  Indeed if his defence lawyers and expert witnesses had not worked for free he would be bankrupt.  This is a terrible way to wage war on doctors who are acting in the best interests of their patients.

Dr Aseem Malhotra also described bullying tactics that had been used against him when he was a junior doctor and first becoming publicly engaged in the low carb debate. I have been subjected to this as well.  Professor Iain Broom showed that the proof that low carb diets are superior to low fat diets goes back 40 years.

Dr Zoe Harcombe gave us an explanation of how the calories in- calories out idea just doesn’t add up. The well known formulas about how many calories you need to avoid to lose weight don’t work in practice because of the complex compensatory mechanisms we have to avoid death from starvation.  How you put this over to patients and give them useful strategies for weight loss and blood sugar control was explored by Dr Trudi Deakin.

Food addiction is a real issue, at least it is for the majority of the audience in attendance, who answered the sort of questions usually posed by psychiatrists when they are evaluating drug addiction.  Unlike drugs, food can’t entirely be avoided but ketogenic diets are one tool that can be used to break  unhealthy food dependence. This worked for presenter Dr Jen Unwin who at one point had a really big thing for Caramac bars.  I haven’t seen these in years but they did have a unique taste.

Dr David Unwin showed clearly that fatty liver is easily treatable with a low carb diet.

Dr Joanne McCormick describes how her fortnightly patient group meetings are making change accessible for her patients and how many GPs in the audience could broach the subject in a ten minute consultation.

The website Diabetes.co.uk will shortly be starting up a type one educational programme online that all are welcome to join. I discussed the issue of what blood sugar targets are suitable for different people and how they can achieve this with dietary and insulin adjustment.

Dr David Cavan spoke about reversing diabetes in patients in Bermuda. Although Bermuda looks idyllic the reality is that good quality food is about five times as expensive in the UK as it is all shipped in. Many inhabitants work their socks off but barely cover their costs and cheap sugared drinks and buns are their staple diet. Despite these setbacks he managed to persuade a lot of diabetic patients to ditch the carbs and this had favourable results even after the educational programme had stopped.

A cardiologist Dr Scott Murray described the effects of metabolic syndrome on the heart and really why sticking stents in diseased arteries is too little, too late. He is convinced dietary change is needed to reverse and prevent heart disease. This is the first time I have been told that certain types of heart failure and atrial fibrillation are direct effects of metabolic syndrome on the heart.

The importance of exercise for physical and mental well being was not neglected and we had Dr Zoe Williams describing the great benefits that even the minimum recommended exercise can produce.

Dr Simon Tobin and Tom Williams spoke enthusiastically about Parkrun. This is a free event that runs every Saturday morning in parks all over the world. You can choose to walk, jog or run the course.

Claire McDonnell-Liu is the mother of two children who have greatly benefited from a ketogenic diet. The conditions are urticaria and epilepsy.  Although NHS dieticians do help families with childhood epilepsy who want to use a ketogenic diet, they can’t do it unless drugs have failed, as this is NICE guidance. I wonder how many children would benefit in fit reduction without side effects of drugs if this guidance was changed?

This was a fabulous conference with a positive enthusiastic vibrancy. Thanks to Sam Feltham for organising this event especially since he has become a new dad as well.

The Public Health Collaboration are putting all the talks on You Tube.

I was interviewed about diabetes and women’s health issues for Diabetes.co.uk and Diet Doctor and these interviews and many others will be available for you all to see to improve your lives with diabetes.

 

 

 

#TalkAboutDiabetes – Diabetes Awarness Week June 2018

What do you struggle with when you’re talking about diabetes? It’s Diabetes Week 2018 (June 11-18) and the theme of this year’s awareness-raising seven days is the stuff we find awkward, embarrassing, difficult or even funny to mention.

Here are mine:

  • I don’t like telling people in general. I’m not ashamed or embarrassed; I just don’t like drawing attention to myself.
  • Jelly baby etiquette. When you eat sweeties in front of someone, politeness dictates you offer them around. But they’re the medicine that corrects low blood sugars*, so stinginess is understandable.
  • Explaining a hypo when you’re in the middle of one. Most of my low blood sugar episodes are manageable. But I can be in the middle of a conversation and my mind goes blank. “Bear with me! My mind’s distracted. It’s screaming ‘SUGAR, SUGAR, SUGAR’ at me. My word power will return in a few minutes,” is what I should say.
  • Or don’t talk to me. When I’m high, conversation is too much effort. Please don’t take it personally.
  • I don’t talk much either when I’m high because I’m conscious of the nasty taste in my mouth and am reluctant to impose halitosis on anyone.
  • And don’t take the grumpiness low blood sugars produce personally either. First aiders once told me about diabetics who punched people when they were low, so grumpiness seems moderate in comparison.
  • Please know that managing diabetes is like having a part-time job that you do on top of everything else.
  • If you manage to work out I’m hypo long before I do, be aware I’ll deny it in an exasperated fashion. “Flip’s sakes, no I’m not. Look I’ll even do the blood test to show you and here it…oh. Alright then.”
  • Sometimes when I say I can’t do something because of the diabetes, I might be using it as a fab, ready-made excuse. It’s not me, it’s you. OH NO! I’ve just given away diabetes’ best-kept secret!

*I told a little girl my jelly babies were medicine once. She gave me one of those, ‘why do adults lie to me?’ looks.