With Diabetes, School is Always In Session

Diabetes sux. I took the grandchildren and one of their friends to an amusement park during the weekend and my blood glucose was so high I couldn’t allow myself to indulge in junk food.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m having trouble getting my glucose down, despite raising my basal rates… oh, just about every day or two. I suspect it’s due to a bone infection in my heel, which I’m having surgery for Thursday. At that point, with most of the infection gone and me once again ingesting antibiotics, things should swing the other way and I’ll be having problems with hypoglycemia.

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It’s been said that the only thing consistent about diabetes is its inconsistency. I’ll drink to that! Maybe. Have I ever told you about my glucose going into the toilet after taking a sip or two of vodka and tonic with a lemon twist? I can still see the looks on my friends’ faces. After that, they sure paid attention when I told them where I kept my emergency sugar! Anyway, it put me off drinking for a while. It was back in the days of Regular and NPH, so who knows if it was the vodka or something else.

You’d think that if you did the same thing over and over, your glucose would behave. However, it does have a mind of its own.

“You think you can tame me?” I can hear it asking. And, as my BGs soar, I can hear a “nyah, nyah, nyah” tone saying: “Ha! Take that, acetone breath!” Or the opposite, if hypoglycemia sets in: “Let’s see if you can wrap your nonfunctioning little brain around this problem!”

It’s why we need to know as much about diabetes as we can learn. I don’t know about you, but diabetes brings me new challenges all the time. If I didn’t know the reasons behind why some things happen and know how to manipulate food, exercise, and insulin, I’d be in a melluva hess.

Because things in the diabetes world seem to be moving at lightning speed these days, we need to constantly keep learning new things… and unlearning old ones. It’s kind of like constantly going to school.

I find that it helps me to know why something is happening. After I got my first steroid injection, for an inflamed tendon in my foot, my glucose starting climbing. I rode my bike. I lived on lettuce and sugar-free ice pops. Nothing would stop it. Finally, I called my endocrinologist in a panic.

“Steroids cause insulin resistance,” he told me. Bingo! The little light bulb came on over my head and I knew how to handle the hyperglycemia.

What do you know about your diabetes medicines (and others, for that matter)? Can they cause your blood glucose to drop? Do they increase insulin sensitivity? Cause your pancreas to release more insulin? Slow down absorption of carbohydrates? Contribute to weight gain (as your doctor yells at you to lose weight)?

If you don’t know, ask your doctor, ask your educator, ask your pharmacist, look up the medicines online. (I know you all have access to a computer.)

Do you check your glucose before and two hours after eating a new food to see how it affects your numbers? Do you know that we all have foods that don’t act as they “should”? I know somebody who has problems with popcorn, but who can eat pretzels all day long. I’m just the opposite: I can eat popcorn but not pretzels. (I love pretzels, so I do eat them on occasion, but know that I need to take more insulin than the carbohydrate count says I need.)

Use your meter to tell you what happens after you eat a low-fat meal and try it again when you have a fatty meal. I may be weird, but I find it fascinating to see what my glucose is doing. Having a continuous glucose monitor makes it a bit easier, but I did it with finger sticks for years. Sometimes I even feel sorry for people who don’t have diabetes: How can they go through life not knowing what their blood glucose is?

What about exercise? Do you use your meter to find out what type of exercise affects your blood glucose the most? Walking? Bicycling? Swimming? Weight lifting? Do you know that exercise can lower your blood glucose all by itself? That’s a handy little fact to know if you’re on oral medicines — or none at all. Too much dinner? Take a walk — and start planning your route now for Thanksgiving. Do you wake up a bit high? Do what I do (or used to do): Get on your bike and ride. (I can’t ride a bike this year because of my surgeries.)

  • Gretchen

    “Use your meter to tell you what happens after you eat a low-fat meal and try it again when you have a fatty meal.”

    And it would also be useful to use your meter to tell you what happens after you eat a high-carb meal and then again after you have a low-carb meal, being careful that you don’t go too low.

  • Shelly

    I wish people without diabetes understood this. *I* barely understand it and I have the darned thing. I wish I could say to them “yeah I CAN have this whole turkey sub but no, I can’t have one bite of rice.” They just don’t get it.

    I really enjoy your articles, keep them coming!

    Shelly

  • Sylvia

    This article makes me feel less of a freak. I get so tired of trying to explain to others about the confusion caused by trying to regulate this disease. There is so much to learn.
    Sylvia

  • misskitty3

    I see the diet police in force thru-out these comments.
    Here’s my take – T1 on insulin pump.Don’t have family being diet police because I don’t see them for that reason. My friends (sometime they are “fiends”) have learned that when they question my eating habits, I say “Yes, I can have this. I’ve juggled my carbs to have this. Leave me alone to enjoy this, guilt-free”. But then, I’ve also been lazy & tell myself, insulin will cover this carb binge. Wrong!!
    I have 2 b disciplined & detail driven if I want 2 live more than 5 years, healthy; to live w/o that tired, guilt-ridden,depressed ‘tude.
    the more you know, the more you can live a reduced guiltfree life.
    And if youre 2 frustrated & want to chuck it, read William Polansky’s Diabettes Burnout (book)
    great encouragement.

  • nancy

    is there a printed scale to show readings of glucose to the amount of insulin you need to take?