Hypo Awareness Week

the hypo awareness logo on the Diabetes DietIt’s Hypo Awareness Week—what’s your favourite symptom?!

Kidding. Apart from a brief spell of time as a food-obsessed teenager when a hypo gave me the legit excuse to eat half a packet of Lucozade tablets, most of us hate the hypo.

From people who’ve found themselves in supermarkets eating handfuls of cereal from boxes (one of our lovely readers), to those nasty little spells where your mind goes blank and gives you a taste of what dementia might be like, most of us would banish hypos from our lives if we could.

The symptoms include:

  • hunger—your stomach might growl
  • turning pale and sweaty
  • tingling lips
  • shakes or trembling
  • dizziness
  • feeling tired
  • a fast or pounding heartbeat (palpitations)
  • becoming irritated, tearful, stroppy or moody
  • seeing floaters (a little blob of bright colour that moves) when you close your eyes or experiencing blurred vision

Most diabetics I’ve spoken to will add in another symptom—we don’t like others telling us we’re hypo. It’s to do with hypos making us irritable, and also because many of us strive to lead independent lives. Someone else noticing you’re unwell before you do undermines that ambition. Please bear with us and try not to mind our irritation.

We can’t moan about the symptoms too much, though. Still getting them after decades of diabetes is A. Good. Thing. If you lose the signs that your blood sugar levels have dipped too low, you risk passing out or having a seizure, and ultimately an untreated low blood glucose level can kill.

There are plenty of causes, such as

  • when you skip or miss a meal
  • if you take too much insulin to cover a meal
  • your basal rate being too high
  • exercise
  • unplanned activity
  • alcohol
  • changes to your routine

And because diabetes is a b***h to women, your cycle interferes with diabetes control too. Most women experience insulin resistance in the week or so leading up to their period and thus will need to take extra insulin to cover it. But the day the insulin resistance eases off can vary—it might be the day you get your period, it could be a few days later and BANG, higher than normal insulin doses, hypos left, right and centre…

 

Want to add any of your unusual symptoms or any scenarios you have found yourself in, thanks to a hypo? We love your comments…

FreeStyle Glucose Monitoring – an Update

freestyle libre on the Diabetes DietHashtag love the NHS—and the NHS in Scotland if we’re going to be specific.

Off I trotted to the diabetic clinic on Thursday armed with my best persuasion skills. Oh pleasy-weasy dear doctor, may I have a FreeStyle Libre flash glucose monitoring system? One of my arguments was going to be—Hey, you won’t be paying for it for too long. Did you see the recent research that tells me I can expect to knock eighteen years off my life expectation?!*

In the end, my polished debate wasn’t needed. Just as well as I couldn’t sell hot-water bottles to the Inuit. Or ice-cold beer to Australian sun-bathers for that matter. I brought the subject up. The doctor queried the number of blood tests I do per day and voila. I’m on a list. I’ll need to go to an education event and after that, a letter wings its way to my GP recommending she prescribes the sensors.

Sensors

Flash glucose monitoring for those of you who aren’t familiar with it is where you wear a sensor on your body (usually your upper arm) and you can take a reading from it using a monitor. It differs from blood testing in that it’s super quick and easy. You don’t need to prick your finger and you can check endlessly and the sensor works through your clothing.

Those of us who tend towards obsessive compulsive disorder—it’s hard not to when you’ve got diabetes—might baulk at that, but I am looking forward to monitoring what happens to me during exercise. And when I’m eating.

The device doesn’t come with an alarm—i.e. a warning when your blood sugar goes too far up or down, or it changes rapidly but there is software for that. The cat lover in me is delighted the manufacturers chose to call the software MiaoMiao, and this sends readings to your phone every five minutes, and will warn you of spikes.

Hello Big Brother!

You can even connect it to others’ devices, so they can monitor you too. I’ll skip that as it feels too Big Brother-y to me. Most type 1s hate other people telling them when they are hypo. Imagine how much worse this would be!

Incidentally, all this new diabetes-related tech has had a knock-on effect on the hospital I go to. Thursday’s clinic was running one hour late because it was so busy. The doctor told me he can’t get the GP support (where a GP handles some of the patients to gain experience in diabetes care), thanks partly to the fast development of new tech.

Our GPs are under so much pressure, it’s too difficult for them to keep up with all the tech that type 1s use these days—pumps, continuous glucose monitoring, flash glucose monitoring, software and more. My appointments have been spaced eight months apart for the last few years and that’s likely to change to a year from now on.

But in the meantime, I have my new toy and a whole heap of questions for Google. Can you wear it in the steam room? How much is MiaoMiao? How many actual blood tests do I still need to do to calibrate the thing?

Thanks again NHS Scotland. I look forward to reporting back.

 

*Whatevs. I debated discussing the research here and decided it wasn’t useful. Doom-laden stuff is such a turn-off isn’t it? 

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?

Treating hypos post sugar tax

Lucozade just isn’t what it used to be. With the sugar tax affecting the diabetics favourite emergency beverage the Independent Diabetes Trust have compiled a list of substitutes that you may wish to use.

For shear portability and cuteness Emma and I are great fans of Jelly Babies but you may have your own.

 

5-7 Dextrosol

4-5 Glucotabs

60 mls Glucojuice (one bottle)

150-200mls pure fruit juice

3-4 heaped teaspoons of sugar dissolved in water

4-5 Jelly Babies

The Good Ol’ Days of Diabetes

Ah, the good ol’ days of diabetes – glass syringes, peeing on sticks and rigid eating times.

cover of Artists Town by Emma BairdWe veterans remember them fondly and with the odd head shake in disbelief. Did it really used to be like that? by ‘eck, we have come far… Recently, I wrote a book, Artists Town, which features. a type 1 protagonist. My book is set in the early 1990s and life for we pancreatically-challenged has changed substantially since then.

My own diagnosis came in the 80s. Here’s what used to happen then. See if you remember any of this stuff, and newbies read it and gasp.

  1. Glass syringes. Yup! The environmentally-friendly option too, given the waste your average type 1 inadvertently produces these days.
  2. Urine, not blood testing. It was a lot less painful; a lot less accurate too.
  3. Dextrosol. Standard treatment for hypos were these chalky, horribly-flavoured, expensive sweets. After a while they turned rock hard too. When Lucozade tablets appeared on the market, I was in HEAVEN.
  4. Exchanges. Long ago, doctors and nurses taught us carbohydrate counting. One exchange was roughly 10g of carbohydrates and you were given an amount for every meal and snack. To make it simple, one tbsp. of cooked rice or potatoes equalled an exchange, as did a slice of bread or an apple.
  5. NO SUGAR. It astounds me that at some point post my diagnosis, advice for diabetics included ‘eat anything you want and cover it with insulin’. As a wee girl, doctors said no cakes, no biscuits, no sweet, ice-cream and watch out for sugar in ketchup. Nine-year-old me burst into tears.
  6. Tab – the only no-sugar fizzy drink on the market. It tasted of grapefruit. The no-sugar market exploded in the mid to late 80s.
  7. The all-knowing doctors. In the 80s, doctors were still viewed as all-knowing, authoritative figures and you didn’t question them when they told you why you were having so many highs/lows. They were the experts. Your day to day experience of living with diabetes counted for naught.
  8. Fruit salad. Young me got offered a lot of fruit salad for dessert – the world’s worst pudding when it comes to taste, and not that great for your blood sugar levels anyway. I haven’t eaten the stuff in decades.
  9. Terrible chocolate and carob bars. Boots had a line of chocolate they advertised as suitable for diabetics. It was a) not very nice and b) little better than the real stuff for blood sugar control. And as for carob bars… carob is one of those acquired tastes, and I never got it.
  10. Two (count ’em) injections a day. This is the one that will astound the newbies, what with today’s regimes of multi-daily injections or pump therapy. I took one long-acting and one-medium acting insulin, mixed together twice a day. This meant meal times had to be the same and stuck to every single day. While flexibility is nice, sometimes I think there are advantages to rigidity. “Sorry, I need to go. If I don’t eat now, I’ll collapse” – a great excuse to get out of anything.
  11. Thrift. My mum and I used to cut up my blood testing sticks to make them last longer, possible then because you measured your blood sugar level by comparing the colour the pad on the stick turned to a chart on the tube. We cut them lengthways, a fiddly but effective job.

Artists Town is now available for pre-order on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk Please note – this book contains adult content and strong language. 

RCGP: What doctors need to know about types one and two diabetes in young people

The Royal College of General Practitioners have recently released an educational programme for UK doctors which they have very kindly allowed me to link to our website.

I recorded this over a year ago and I think the college held off production until their type two diabetes low carb course was also released for doctors.

This means that the RCGP joins the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists as supporters of low carbing  for both type one and two diabetes.  Surely the other clinical associations and Royal Colleges will follow in due course?

The screencast includes information on diagnosis, emergency situations, blood sugar and dietary management and contraception.

“I have also separately produced an educational screencast on Diabetes in adults (type 1), children and young people (type 1&2) for the Royal College of General Practitioners in my role as an RCGP Clinical Adviser”

http://elearning.rcgp.org.uk/mod/page/view.php?id=8368

 

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.