Just a quickie from me this week… I thought I’d share an interesting info-grab with you. The flash glucose monitoring system collects all sorts of info which is easy to see at a glance, such as your daily graph.
The graph shows you how often you have been in or out your target blood sugar range. The Monday one here (right) is me on holiday. Happy days, eh? Let’s loosen the reins on low-carb eating as boy, do the Cretans know how to do miraculous things with potatoes. While over there, I tasted what must count as the BEST CHIPS IN THE WORLD. A bold claim, I know.
And Wednesday is me back from holiday, determined to jump back on the low-carb wagon*. Goodness me, those graphs tell their own story, hmm? From wild jumps—the roller-coaster ride, to a far more sedate and steady line. A week’s potato bingeing is fun, but long-term I prefer to stick with the graph that doesn’t soar and plummet all over the place.
Here at the Diabetes Diet, we’re fully on board with the making life easier message. Living with diabetes is like supporting a part-time job on top of everything else in your life.
And boy, if we were unionised, we’d revolt against the lack of time off and sick pay (ha!), and work conditions that are an uphill struggle all the time… One of the reasons low-carb diets make life easier for the sugar-challenged is that we don’t have to spend ages figuring out how many carbs are in particular dishes and how much insulin we need to cover them. Meat, sauce and salad is a lot easier to work out than meat, veg, roast potatoes and a Yorkshire pudding.
So, with that in mind, here are our favourite hacks:
Make your home carb-proof
If it’s not there, you won’t miss it. Temptation comes in many forms, but it’s much easier to ignore the siren call of crisps or chocolate if you don’t keep them in the house*.
Have easy meals
If you can master the omelette, fried fish, steaks, burgers or open a tin of tuna, mix it with mayonnaise and tip it on a bed of crispy salad, you’re laughing. Diabetes makes you tired. Have some go-to super-fast meals you can make quicker in the time it takes to order and wait for a take-away.
Eat two starters when out
Starters tend to be lower in carbs than main courses, so go for two of them. Three, if you are very hungry.
Stock up on low-carb snacks
Cheese, olives, unsalted nuts, hard-boiled eggs… all help satisfy cravings and have plenty of protein for satiety.
Try some of the substitutes
To be honest, I’ve yet to meet the low-carb bread recipe that convinces me, but some of the baking ideas might work for you. Bread, cakes, biscuits and even fudge are out there so why not give some of them a try?
*Reader, all too often I slip on this one. Or do that thing where I buy crisps or chocolate for my other half, kidding myself that they are for him. No, no, not me oh luscious purple-foil wrapped packet…
Goodbye carbs. It was fun while it lasted, particularly that beef mac and cheese*, but you and I need to rethink our relationship…
While practising for a half-marathon, I upped my carb intakes. Some type 1s have managed endurance training on a low-carb diet, but I wasn’t one of them. My body refused to put one step in front of another without fruit, bread, protein flapjacks or potatoes, but now I’m fed of blood sugar levels that rollercoaster all over the place, and the particularly nasty lows you get thanks to too much rapid-acting insulin where you eventually surface from mental fog surrounded by sweetie packets and the sinking feeling, ‘Blast. I’ve completely over-treated that hypo.’
Hello cheese, meat, eggs and fish! Welcome back butter, cream and mayo in lavish amounts. And planning of course—the writing of endless lists, shopping, menu plans, revisiting old low-carb favourites. I haven’t eaten chorizo for a few months and my mouth waters at the thought of it, dry-fried crispy in the pan, oozing red oil that coats mushrooms and salad leaves… yum.
I’ve eaten low-carb on/off (and mostly on) now for almost ten years. Whenever I come back to it after spells on the bread, a few weeks of super-strict low-carbing make me feel I can conquer the world. I get a rush of energy and mental clarity. Give it a month or so and I’ll be banging on the door of Number 10. Step aside, Theresa May. I’ll deal with Brexit for you!
[Perhaps I should write to Theresa, a type 1 herself, and suggest she try 14 days on a keto diet to help with the thorny issue of how the UK exits the EU. Or keto clarity might give her the strength to say, ‘Citizens! Remain calm. We’re staying in.’]
Then there’s the other thing. Between you and me, reader, the digestive issues of the higher carb diet are a LOT to contend with. We’re talking bloating, rumbling noises and let’s not be coy here—gas. After one race, I ate fish and chips and delicious as it was, the heartburn was horrific. Low carb, high-fat meals don’t make me uncomfortable most of the time. A sore, bloated stomach or having to spend a lot of time trying to hold in gas make a person tired and very grumpy. One of the case studies in our book, the Diabetes Diet reported that several months on a low-carb diet cut out the farting issue for her, much to the relief of everyone around her…
Ah, Instagram abounds with diabetics who perform superhuman feats of athleticism while battling their blood sugar levels at the same time.
Not me. I’m here as your bog-standard ordinary gel whose only prize ever will be persistence. Did you note I got a massive disclaimer in there before going on to write about my latest race?! I like to make sure I’ve lowered the audience’s expectations before I start.
Anyhoos, for those of you still reading, here it is. On Sunday, I ran another 10k in preparation for the BIG ONE (the half-marathon) next month. Conditions were much more promising than the last time. Back in June, Scotland experienced an unprecedented spell of warm weather. Plus, that course was hilly. And I woke up that morning with a blood glucose reading of 13.1.
In theory, the Paisley 10k should have heralded a vast improvement. I’ve been running for longer, the back-to-usual Scottish summer conditions (dreich, grey and cool) were present, and the course is flatter.
Still sensing that disclaimer?
Bah, humbug dear readers. I added three minutes to my previous time. Not only that, the online system was cruel enough to remember I took part in the Paisley 10k ten years ago when I achieved my personal best. There it was, my 2008 time taunting me with its nine minutes faster brilliance.
For those who want the numbers, I awoke on Sunday morning with a blood sugar of 8.5 (I’d knocked one unit off my basal rate the night before). Half an hour before the race, I was 8.1. I ate half a Hike bar before starting (10-15g carbs) and I finished the race at 11.1, possibly because I put on a sprint finish. Nothing like pretending your race pace is much faster than it really is.
I didn’t take insulin afterwards, ate the second half of the Hike bar and went off for a session in the sauna. An hour later, my blood sugar level was 4.9. A massive portion of battered fish and mushy peas later (I know, NOT low-carb), further low blood sugars and indigestion kicked in*… 3.3 one hour after the meal, 5.8 two and half hours later.
Lessons to take—eat more. Try something other than a Hike bar. Drop the daytime basal injection rate. Keep practising. Keep experimenting. Expect fluctuations and weirdness.
All shapes and sizes
Mass running events are special though. I’d recommend everyone takes part in at least one if they are able to—and these days there are loads of 5ks and even 3ks you can do. You see all shapes, sizes and abilities (and the two former don’t predict the latter), the crowds cheer you like a champ and even a slowcoach like me will overtake enough people to feel gratified**. The runners’ high exists.
Now, time to take off my medal. It is two days later after all.
Low carb diets ‘could shorten your life’
And now for something completely different… Last week, headline news suggested low-carb diets were dangerous—more likely to lead to an earlier death.
As it’s a rare week, some nutritional or lifestyle study doesn’t hit the news, I sighed. “Oh, whatever.”
I don’t have the skills or knowledge to interpret the data, but two websites I trust have commented on the studies (and more importantly, the way they were reported). You can read them here:
To recap, I’m reading The Ethical Carnivore: My Year Killing to Eat by Louise Gray and hoping for easy-to-follow guidelines that assuage my conscience about eating meat, falling short of killing it myself as I’m pretty sure I can’t do that.
In the meantime, there is always low-carb vegetarianism. I know vegans argue that vegetarianism is little better than meat-eating given what goes on in the dairy industry, but it’s a start. Besides, I can’t imagine a life without cheese.
Here’s a low-carb veggie recipe for you—a bastardised version of aubergine parmigiana. Allow roughly 10g of carbs per portion.
Chop the aubergine and pepper into equal-sized pieces and toss in one tbsp of the oil. Cook on a griddle until softened—about ten minutes.
Heat the other tablespoon of oil in a saucepan and add the chopped tomatoes, garlic and lemon rind. Allow to come to a boil and turn down to a simmer, stirring from time to time. Cook for about ten minutes to, allowing the sauce to become thick and concentrated.
Season the sauce with salt and pepper and sprinkle some on the cooked aubergine and peppers.
Layer up the vegetables, sauce and cheese in a gratin or rectangular casserole dish finishing with cheese. Cook for twenty minutes.
So, you get to take all sorts of measurements and I need to answer lots of questions about what I eat? Sign me up!
Reader, I adore a study and even more so when it relates to lifestyle. I started work at Glasgow University in April and spotted a poster looking for participants in a low-carb study.
“Aha!” I said to myself. “I’m your woman! A low-carber for years, diabetic to boot and a person well-versed in the filling in of a form.”
While certain aspects of the low-carbohydrate diet have been well researched, such as weight loss, there has been little focus on testing how this way of eating affects micronutrient levels in the body. The Glasgow Uni study, Nutritional and Cardiovascular Risk Factors associated with Long-Term Adherence to Low-Carbohydrate/Gluten-Avoidance Diets, funded by the Faculty of Medicine, Prince of Songkla University, Thailand, concentrates on this.
What is the purpose of the study? Low carbohydrate diets (LCD) such as the Atkins Diet have become common dietary approaches for weight management, and aiming to avoid starchy foods such as bread, cereals, pasta, rice and potatoes which are major dietary sources of B-vitamins, magnesium, and fibre.
The researcher is investigating the contribution of starchy / sweet foods in body composition, micronutrient status and cardiovascular risk factors. To do this, they seek people who either exclude or include these foods in their diet.
I’m not one hundred percent low-carb compliant. Who is? But when I filled in the forms for the study, I realised that I follow a low-carb diet much more closely than I thought. How often do I eat potatoes, rice and pasta, the survey wanted to know—the answer, never or less than once a month for rice and pasta and about twice a month for potatoes.
I eat bread more often (LOVE bread), and ditto chocolate, but I don’t bother with most of the other high-carb foods listed in the questionnaire.
The outline of the survey had said they’d do urine testing. I assumed that meant a sample in one of those little tubes. Not so! The doctor sent me off with two large flasks (pictured) and asked me to collect all my pee over a 24-hour period.
TBH, I wasn’t sure the two flasks would be enough. We diabetics tend to wee more than ordinary folks, anyway. When you add in my daily diet coke, water and peppermint tea intake, a lot of fluid swishes around inside me.
And what goes in must come out!
The survey will be followed up in six months’ time, then another six months after that and so on until two years are up.
At the time of writing, the researchers hadn’t found that many people to take part—nine out of a necessary eighty. If you live in the Glasgow area and follow a low-carb diet (you don’t need to be diabetic and you don’t have to follow it all the time), then they’d love to hear from you—email@example.com
Hello fellow and female diabetics, and the friends who support us. This week, I’d like to talk about The Plunge.
If you are on insulin or other blood glucose-lowering medications, you’ll know The Plunge. It’s where your blood sugar drops at an alarmingly rapid rate usually because of insulin or other medicines. It feels very unpleasant.
What’s it like? Explaining diabetes feelings to non-diabetics is tricky, and it needs a lot of imagination. You search your vocabulary and powers of observation for ways to describe it and still come up short. Metaphors work the best, but they are still hard to think up.
The Plunge works well for me because it signifies a roller-coaster. There you are at the top; then suddenly, you’re heading to the bottom at super-fast speed.
Signs of fast-dropping blood sugars include tiredness, a lot of yawning, shakiness and confusion. They are also all symptoms of hypos.
One of the reasons we promote The Diabetes Diet (low-carb eating) is that it makes The Plunge easier to avoid. This is because you won’t need to take as much fast-acting insulin with your meals. Using fast-acting insulin can be a be a bit like picking up a sledgehammer to crack a nut. It isn’t subtle stuff, that’s for sure.
This isn’t a guarantee. Sometimes, you’ll need extra insulin to cover unexpected high blood sugar levels, and The Plunge may result.
But overall, using lower levels of insulin to cover meals means steadier blood sugar levels overall. Dips up and down are far less dramatic and therefore don’t feel as yucky. (This is a technical term.)
How do you experience The Plunge, and can you think up better ways to describe than I can?
The November/December issue of Balance, Diabetes UK’s magazine, reported that researchers have proposed that we need to take a fresh look at defining low blood glucose levels.
At present, a ‘hypo’ (low blood glucose level) is 3.9mmol and below (70.2mg/dL in the US), which the researchers feel isn’t all that low.
A severe hypo is one where someone needs help from another person to recover, something that rarely happens in clinical trials. Rightly so, as letting someone go so low without help wouldn’t be ethical.
Researchers suggest that there should be three levels of hypo – low, lower and oh f*****g shit. I’m kidding, obviously, but they are looking for the level that, below this point, a person’s health is seriously affected, i.e. where their brain, blood and cardiovascular systems are compromised, the risk of death begins to rise, and the level that has an impact on mental health.
Current research suggests these begin to take effect at about 3.0mmol (54mg/dL in the US). The team’s three definitions are:
Level 1: 3.9mmol or less –a hypo alert
Level 2: less than 3.0mmol – serious and important hypo
Level 3: serious hypo, requiring external assistance, even if none is available.
Like all of us, hypos are individual. One person’s “I’m fine at 3.9” is another’s “oh shit”. I sometimes feel the symptoms of a hypo coming on at 4.6, say. Other times, I’ll prick my fingers, get a 3.9 and wonder where it’s come from.
As you can see from the picture, I had a “serious and important hypo” this morning, thanks to undereating and walking too enthusiastically yesterday. Oof. It happens.
Keeping your blood sugar levels stable without going too low is a huge challenge. One of the reasons we promote low-carb eating for type 1s in particular is that the risk of hypos can be reduced because you don’t need to take as much insulin.
If the researchers could include advice about how to avoid hypos, while also achieving good HbA1c results in the long-term, we will cheer them on…
*Some good news! The NHS has approved flash glucose monitoring technology – i.e. systems such as the FreeStyle Libre. I’m off to investigate the possibilities of getting one. Also, big love to the NHS, a wondrous, wondrous institution.
We are updating The Diabetes Diet! Our book has been on Amazon for a while now, and we’ve decided to give it a makeover (as well as get it ready for print).
We will be expanding the recipe section, and we wondered if any of our followers would like to contribute to this? Or, if you would like to provide a testimonial about how low-carb eating and matching insulin to your meals works for you, we would welcome that too.
We can’t offer you any money, but we will publicise your own blog or anything else. If you want to tell us about your success following low carb but would prefer to do it anonymously, that’s fine too.
We’re following tradition here at the Diabetes Diet. What do you do when it’s Valentine’s Day? Try to squeeze in a reference to love in any online activity. And hearts of course. I’m going to try to do both.
If you have diabetes, type 1 or type 2, your body doesn’t respond well to carbohydrates. You can eat a diet high in carbohydrates – it’s just that you won’t feel very well, short-term. In the long-term, a diet high in carbohydrates can lead to high blood glucose levels. This in turn will damage your body and shorten your life.
So, if you love yourself, follow a low-carb diet to minimise the risks of diabetes!
Here’s how to do it.
Read up on all the advice out there. We have a book, The Diabetes Diet that sets out the benefits of low-carb eating. It also includes recipes, daily menu plans and advice about how to manage your medication on a low carb diet. Check out lowcarbdiabetic, a great website for people looking for information and help with their condition.
Follow blogs. Blogs like ours regularly feature low-carb recipes and information and advice for people with diabetes. There are lots of great low-carb blogs out there. See fittoserve, Authority Nutrition, and the Diet Doctor.
Buy some recipe books. A great all-rounder is 500 Low Carb Recipes by Dana Carpender, although bear in mind it is an American book so the measures and some of the ingredients will be unfamiliar. The celebrity chef Tom Kerridge has a new book out now – The Dopamine Diet*, featuring the low-carb recipes that helped him lose 11 stones.
Get yourself a carb guide. Online dieting apps are the most useful source for carb guides. Remember that might need to minus the fibre content from the total carbohydrate content. Myfitnesspal offers the most extensive database.
Enjoy it! Low-carb eating is one of the most satisfying and delicious diets you will eat. Cheese, cream, juicy pork chops, grilled sirloin steaks, salmon topped with mayonnaise… what’s not to love? Try out some of our recent recipes:
And if you’re after something sweet for Valentine’s Day, try our low-carb fudge.
Think of the benefits. More energy, lower blood glucose levels (leading to less risk of heart disease, see I told you I was going to shoehorn hearts into this piece somewhere), better skin, fat loss if it’s needed – all these are bonuses of low-carbing.