Diabetes is the best disease you can get because it is a wake-up call. Cancer, Stroke, Heart Disease—they may not give you enough time to make changes, diabetes will, and unlike the other conditions diabetes comes with a little tool that can help reacquaint you with what works for your body….it is called a Glucometer.
Health care providers and websites like the Canadian Diabetes Association can really help you but there is no substitute for knowing what is going on in your own body. So here are a few steps to get you started:
- Carbohydrates and Sugars which affect your blood sugars are found in: Grains and Starches, Milk and Milk Alternatives and Vegetables and Fruits. So careful portioning of these foods is one of the first thing people with diabetes learn to do yet often this does not result in good control. Why not, because people are unique and reactions will vary. You need to build a database of your reactions to certain foods and meals. I would often tell clients to note any time they felt “different” after eating even if they think that feeling has nothing to do with diabetes. It could be a headache, a twitching eyelid, really thirsty, suddenly tired or cold, it is hard to define what ‘different’ is but you will catch it if you are watching for it. Make note of those feelings and at the same time check your blood sugar on your glucometer and write down the results. Over time you will come to note that a certain feelings are associated with low or high blood sugars, for example a headache may occur each time your blood sugar is high. Building a file on you helps you to recognize old symptoms and to figure out new ones.
- Beware of Stress. When our bodies are under stress they go into ‘flight or fight’ mode, no time to worry about producing insulin or clearing away that last meal. The result is that your blood sugars rise and once those sugars stay consistently over 10.0 mmol/L the damage begins. Your large and small arteries and veins really hate high sugars and when they are damaged circulation to the eyes, the heart, the toes and many other parts of your body will be damaged too, this is what leads to the complications of diabetes. Start paying attention to stress, even low levels of daily stress that so many of us now take for granted. Maybe write down your stress level too in your new log book because often times it may not be a food or beverage but stress which causes the rise in your sugars.
- Finally, an infection too will cause your blood sugars to rise. For the same reasons outlined above. Your body is fighting off a cold or flu and does not have the time or energy to focus on digesting and clearing away a meal. I once had a family member with an elevated blood sugar that we just could not figure out. No change in their diet, no change in activity level, not stressed about anything special. The following morning she woke up with Shingles, and then we realized she was starting to get sick and it was showing in the blood sugars even though it had not yet shown on her body.
Diabetes then is a call to action, look at these three areas first when you want to get and maintain control of your blood sugars. It does not mean brushing aside things like weight or poor diet or lack of exercise, it means getting to know what works best for you so necessary changes can be more easily made.
Next time I will talk about some of the wacky symptoms of high blood sugars that people have told me about over these many years and a bit more about glucometers.
Maisie Vanriel. RD.