Consistency is the key to success in the management and treatment of Diabetes, either Type I or Type II.
I’m not a medical expert. I only provide the experience I have being a 30+ year Type I(insulin dependent) diabetic. Never take my posts as medical bibles full of truth. Always consult a professional before ever treating or altering management of diabetes or any other medical condition.
A diabetic’s body either doesn’t produce any or doesn’t produce enough insulin, a key component in converting sugar and fat into energy. Providing a predictable regiment of insulin/”insulin boosters” with diet and exercise is the ONLY way to properly manage your health.
Once someone gets a diabetes diagnoses, one of the biggest challenges to their lives is establishing their management regiment/routine. Understanding that everything you do affects your blood sugar levels. And being consistent is the easiest way to live a healthy and happy life.
Like brushing your teeth, showering, dressing, sleeping, shaving, etc… adding scheduled insulin injections and “snacks”/meals is a part of being successful with diabetes management. When there’s a break in routine, it allows you to more easily find a solution. If you haven’t established a routine, you may not even know or guess the root cause of any problem–therefore no solution is evident.
Everything a diabetic does involves some kind of interaction between food and insulin. If you don’t eat you must reduce the insulin. If you overeat you must increase the insulin. If you exercise you must check your blood glucose and adjust insulin accordingly. If you get sick, experience stress, more of the same, etc…
When your body takes in food, it will eventually NEED insulin to address that food for its fat and glucose regulation. If you don’t produce/provide enough insulin for the food eaten you will get hyperglycemia (high-blood sugar). This not only makes you feel crappy–it leads to long-term often life threatening (and irreversible) complications.
If you don’t get enough food/sugar to offset your insulin production/injection dosage you will get hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). This is the more immediate threat as the symptoms of hypoglycemia include confusion, lost motor control, and unconsciousness. These are not symptoms that can be ignored. If one is operating a vehicle or doing some other physical task these symptoms can be life threatening. Eventual unconsciousness (without adequate treatment) from hypoglycemia can lead to coma/hospitalization and even death. Not good.
When diagnosed over 30 years ago, the first thing I tried to establish was the unique interaction between insulin and the food I eat. I tried different combinations of food types and insulin dosages while looking at blood sugar fluctuations. Depending on time of day and activity levels, I eventually figured out a relationship between how many units of a particular type of insulin was needed to handle a certain amount of ingested carbohydrates. A simple equation that, still today, guides my dosage levels.
Every person is different and as our we evolve, age, and gain/lose weight this relationship between insulin and food changes. I am given a diet from a dietitian–a guide for what I must eat to sustain health, happiness, and preferred body weight. And with that guide/diet I then adjust my insulin dosages based on current blood sugar levels, activity levels, and times of day.
Most people will need a doctor’s guidance to make these small adjustments. An endocrinologist/diabetic specialist will help you find that balance between diet/exercise and insulin dosage needed to keep both hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia to a minimum. It takes time, due diligence, and effort. But it is very well worth the effort.
Developing a routine is an absolute necessity. Eating similar amounts/types of food at specific times of day while using previously determined amounts of insulin/meds and then checking blood sugars at key moments during day to monitor your successes/failures.
Day in, day out through monitored trial and error you will/can find a “perfect” and repeatable balance between food/activity and medication. And we do this to feel good, have the necessary “fuel”, and remain stable and productive in our lives. Without this established consistency we live in total madness and chaos.
I no longer give insulin/food intake a second thought. When something is amiss, I can look at any change(s) in my routine, either short-term or over the long-term, to figure out the cause. And I usually succeed in figuring it out and then making the necessary adjustments. With occasional doctor assistance I can return to that perfect balance as my lifestyle changes. The effort is worth it.
And with a predictable routine, it becomes easier (not harder) to makes temporary adjustments in your daily activities–like when going on vacations, etc. If you know how your body reacts to normal daily events, it becomes easier to make changes to dosages and food intake when your activity levels and sleeping schedules change. Know Your Body!
Many colleagues and friends/relatives who also have diabetes choose to live the chaos. They don’t do anything the same from day-to-day. Skipping insulin injections or medication, eating whatever/whenever, and sleeping/exercising at will (or hardly at all). Their blood sugars may run from 400 to 40 (often throughout a single day) and they’ve never established a working relationship between dosage amounts of a particular insulin type and amount of food/activity. So they can’t easily fix, much less guess, the problem(s).
In fact, without a working knowledge of how diabetes affects them specifically their “treatments” of low and high blood sugars usually make the problems WORSE not better. Over-treating a high blood sugar, using the wrong dosage and/or the wrong insulin type can cause low blood sugars later on–sometimes dangerously low. And over-eating food during low blood sugars often leads to high blood sugars.
Check your blood, and often. Don’t just check it the same time every day. Mix it up. Check before meals, after meals–sometimes 1 hour later, sometimes 2 or 3 or 4 hours later. If you exercise–check it before/after and then much later. You can’t properly feed yourself and manage medication/insulin dosages if you don’t know what your starting levels are. What if you unknowingly have really low blood sugar and then give a normal insulin dose and eat a normal meal/snack? You’ll maintain or even LOWER your already low blood sugar:(
Blood glucose levels change, often rapidly, throughout the day and night based on more factors than anyone can predict. So using glucose monitoring as well as having a predictable/repeatable routine will give you and your doctors everything needed to keep your diabetes managed and under control.
For info regarding the terminology used in this post please refer to my glossary page here, and click on the Health Terms tab.
Chad Schulz, Nov. 2013
P.S. I understand that glucose monitoring can be expensive (even with health insurance). Cost is only a factor if you think a reduced of immune system, loss of circulation, kidney dialysis, heart disease, and blindness are CHEAPER than insulin/blood sticks and regular doctor appointments. “An ounce of prevention is cheaper than a pound of cure.”