my experiences with diabetes (6)
I had my diabetes completely under control until early November. With a weekly average around 118-120mg/dL (which converts to 6,5-6,6%), my blood sugar levels resembled that of a healthy human. However, my skin is still thinner than usual and the nail of my left thumb easily rips (from the tip of the nail downward into the flesh which hurts like hell). I blame these symptoms on my diabetes since I’ve never had them before the diagnosis.
Then, Stress (yes, capitalized) hit me hard. My eldest, her best friend, and my youngest decided to move, and I had to fight myself through a mountain of paperwork, battle off an unreasonable landlord, help carry furniture and clothes six floors down and four flours up.
During that time I still managed to eat only twice a day, and I’m proud to say that despite the Stress, I did not gain weight again (something I’m prone to do when stressed). I also managed to eat reasonably well during Christmas. Only the Chinese food we had on the 25th was a disaster for my diabetes, but I’d already anticipated that. Still, my blood sugar levels worsened from early November on until past x-mas. Then, I got a cold (seems obligatory for me between the years) and my sugar levels exploded. Some days they didn’t even go below 160mg/dL no matter how much exercise I got or how little I ate.
Some research revealed that my own liver was at fault. Due to the fact that my body was battling the cold, it had decided we’d need more energy to get that done. So it freed sugar from its fatty deposits. Unfortunately my cells weren’t responsive enough (yet) to funnel the high amount of sugar out of the blood stream fast enough.
Now that the cold and the Stress are mostly over, blood sugar levels are getting more normal again. I’ll keep monitoring them and will keep you posted on my progress. I’ll also return to a one-carbohydrate-free-meal-a-day strategy as soon as it gets a little warmer. After all, I want to lose some more weight this year.
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my experiences with diabetes (5)
To get my weight down and become free from diabetes, I decided to start a second round of strict application of Dr. Fung’s recommendations. Since I love science (after all I’ve got a PhD in science), I decided to document my journey.
Therefore, I got my husband to wear one of my Freestyle Libre pads for a week as a first step. He is slim and non-diabetic, so I got a baseline I could aim for. In the picture on the left, you see the data for two typical days for me (and that’s already spectacular for a diabetic). On the right is a picture of the data of two typical days of my husband (the baseline I’m aiming for). You can increase the sze of the pictures by clicking on them (they’ll open in a new tab).
You can see that his measurements (the blue line) are nearly always (99%) inside the grey area that indicates good blood sugar levels. Also, his spikes are much more pointy, which means that even when his blood sugar spikes, it comes down fast. My blood sugar spikes are much more rounded which means it takes my body a lot longer to get it transported out of the blood stream. Also, on average, my blue line is higher than his and more of my spikes leave the grey area.
For better comparison, I accumulated data for one week for both of us (an option of my analytical program) into a graph of daily averages (see the next two graphs, mine is on the left, hubbys on the right).
Not only is my Median (that’s a special kind of average; if you’re into math, you can find an explanation here) much higher than his, the spread is much wider (meaning that there are more data points with much higher or lower values than the Median than in my husband’s data pool) and the nightly dips aren’t as pronounced.
So my goal is to get my weekly accumulated Median as close to his as possible over the next months. I’d be happy if you’d share my journey. If you decide to play along, please let me know if Dr. Fung’s advice works for you. Next week I’ll tell you more about my journey (mostly how I felt, how successful I was at keeping to Dr. Fung’s recommendations, and the changes to my weight and diabetic data).
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my experiences with diabetes (4)
In a nutshell, Dr. Fung recommends to eat more fat and less carbohydrates (because those are responsible for high insulin levels that trigger weight gain and diabetes) and condense the times you eat into as small a time window as you can stand. The minimum time between the last meal of the day and the first meal of the next day should be 16 hours or more. That is called intermittent fasting.
The first time I followed Dr. Fung’s method, I ate once a day from Monday to Friday and kept carbohydrates (see picture on the left) to a minimum. On Saturday or Sunday, I allowed myself to eat bread (the one craving I had) and ate three times a day (late breakfast, normal lunch, early dinner; keep in mind that Germans usually eat a cooked lunch and bread for dinner). I did not touch any alcohol.
What surprised me most was that I did not feel tired and that I did not crave food all the time. My energy levels were up, I was alert and felt well rested even if I slept too little. My blood pressure and heart rate went down too (I kept measuring those because I also have high blood pressure). At the end of my first time (taken out of context that phrase suggests something completely different, grin), I’d lost 10kg/22lbs without a struggle and all of the health parameters I’m controlling improved.
But why? Well, the reason is insulin.
With the constant availability of food, sweetened drinks, and alcohol, people started eating more than 3 times a day and increased the average intake of sweet drinks and alcohol. That forced the body to produce insulin 24/7. The bad thing about insulin is that as long as it’s there, the body cells will get less and less receptive to it. An insulin resistance develops = Diabetes II!
Also, insulin is responsible for the storage of energy. The more insulin a body produces and the longer it’s in the blood, the more energy will get stored in your fat cells: weight gain!
Therefore insulin is responsible for obesity and diabetes type II. Dr. Fung’s recommendation to eat more fat (which triggers a much lower discharge of insulin) and less often (reducing insulin levels to zero between meals) helps in both cases.
At the end of the summer, after being completely certain that his method is the solution to both of my problems, I decided to go about this a little more scientifically. I’ll tell you all about it next week.
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my experiences with diabetes (3)
When I kept to the dietary recommendations of the doctors I’d been talking to, I hated every minute of loosing weight (although I was happy with the result). The constant hunger made me think of food all the time, and the added sport ate into my writing time until I began to loathe it. Enter Holly Lisle, writing coach extraordinaire. She’d been battling tongue cancer and beginning diabetes successfully and recommended two books by Dr. Jason Fung, a nephrologist (specialist for kidneys) who had decided it would be better to battle diabetes than handling the fallout (kidney failure with dialyses).
So I bought The Obesity Code and The Complete Guide to Fasting by Dr. Fung and read them both. They were eye opening and pointed into a direction I’d been unconsciously aware of for a long time.
Like all other doctors I’d consulted, he recommends weight loss to battle diabetes. However, he said that reducing fat and carbohydrates was the wrong strategy. And the reason—how surprising—is the body’s reaction to such a diet: the permanent craving of food. His solution is as simple as it is logical.
Reducing fat and carbohydrates forces the body to live on proteins, and they do not provide enough energy. Since carbohydrates are what’s causing the biggest insulin problems (I’ll talk about that next week), the amount of fat in the diet needs to go up.
When I was studying in Scotland (about x years ago), I was always pressed for time. So my main dish was bread with fried cheese and some cress or salad. Naturally the bread dripped with fat. I lost a lot of weight back then, an unforeseen but welcome effect. Unfortunately I drew the wrong conclusions thinking the weight loss a result to the stress at university, especially when it came back after returning to Germany. With Dr. Fung’s finds, I finally got the right perspective.
Dr. Fung also said that the time a person eats has a significant influence on how the body reacts to food (read the books for proof). Since that was exactly what I found when I monitored my diabetes, my initial skepticism melted away and I set out to see if his method truly worked.
Right before the summer holidays, I followed his recommendations for six weeks and lost 10kg/22lbs without feeling hungry once. During the holidays, with the kids at home, it was impossible to keep this up, but I did manage to keep my food intake to two low carbohydrate meals a day. I did not gain a singe gram over the summer (something I normally find very hard to do). Next week I’ll tell you more about the method and why it works.
For more information watch Dr. Jason Fung’s videos on YouTube.
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my experiences with diabetes (2)
So, by the end of the first year I’d had about enough, especially of my inability to really tell how the sugar in my blood reacted throughout the day and for the different kinds of food.
Grinding my teeth at the price, I got myself a Freestyle Libre system (which isn’t paid for by German health insurance unless the diabetic is already using insulin) around Christmas 2016. It consists of a reading gadget (or an app for a mobile phone, only the most up to date kind, that they developed recently) and the pads (that’s the expensive part since each pad costs 60€ and has to be replaced every two weeks).
The gadget measures the sugar in the liquid in the subcutis tissue continuously. Setting the pad into my upper arm was easy and hurt me very little. Wearing it is no bother. However, I’ve had to learn to keep the arm on the side I’m wearing it away from door frames and other obstacles at arm height. Bumping into one can result in ripping out the pad. That doesn’t hurt much but empties your wallet pretty fast.
With the first pad put in place and activated, I began to experiment right away. I found a couple of patterns that helped me a lot in adjusting my everyday eating habits. I found that for me, eating a late breakfast (past 9am) led to less pronounced spikes of blood sugar than an early breakfast (6am) even though I ate exactly the same things. My body processes rice better than pasta. And taking Metformin after a meal helped me better than before a meal.
Of course those finds will differ from person to person, so it’s not too helpful for you. Still, it was a big improvement to be able to see how my blood sugar reacted when I ate. With the gadget I managed to keep my long term blood sugar HbA1c between 7.7% and 7.3%, but I did not lose another g/lbs of weight.
Then came chaos and stress (health issues in my whole family) and my blood sugar shot up. I was running around so much at that time that I did not gain weight again, but my long term blood sugar rose to 8.4% and my doctor wanted to put me on insulin.
I refused vehemently. Something had to change. Just monitoring the disease wasn’t enough. That was at the beginning of this year, and a book recommendation of my mentor Holly Lisle changed my life. With the preliminaries out of the way, I’ll tell you more about that next week.
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my experiences with diabetes (1)
Two years ago, my doctor diagnosed me with diabetes. Like all early patients, I got metformin pills to subdue the high peaks of blood sugar, and a measuring system that forced me to prick my fingers regularly. I hated it. The metformin gave me stomach cramps and diarrhea, and the pricking made it hard to type my novels because my fingertips were too sensitive.
So I began my search for alternatives. The first step was to change the metformin pill supplier. There’s an alternate one in Germany that sells the same active ingredient but with different filler components. That helped somewhat although I still had diarrhea sometimes.
Next, I began educating myself on diabetes and what one can do about it. The general consensus at that time seemed to be: ‘Once caught you’ll never get rid of it’ and ‘you cannot avoid getting fatter as soon as you start insulin therapy so try not to get to that point.’ However, advise of how to stay away from insulin treatment was scarce. It basically amounted to ‘do not eat sugar’ and ‘lose weight.’
Well, as anyone can tell you who’s ever tried to lose weight or to avoid sugar, both is nearly impossible. Still, in the year after the diagnosis, I managed to lose 10kg (22lbs) through regular exercise and reduced food intake. I was able to keep the weight through constantly monitoring what I ate, how much I ate, and keeping up the exercise.
Let me assure you, it was a nightmare. I kept thinking about nothing but food the whole time. I had no fun doing sports and fought grumpiness most of the time. Also, my blood sugar levels did not show any sign of improving. The long term sugar was still too high and morning base sugar levels too.
Over the next weeks I’ll tell you some more about the actions I took to get to where I am now (with reasonably good blood sugar levels and another weight loss). After that I’ll share my achievements and setbacks until I am free of diabetes. I’d love to know you at my side.
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