I have been “doing” yoga for the past 6 years. It is one of the most effective tools I have in achieving good blood sugar control. It helps for three reasons. First, it is a form of excercise and therefore burns glucose resulting in a reduction of insulin required. Second, it reduces stress especially because of the breathing excercises. And Third, it is an excellent metaphor for the task of balancing blood sugars. Yoga is all about balance and equanimity. So, as one participates in yoga one learns lessons that can be applied to balancing blood sugars.
When I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 14 everything changed. At the time, I had no idea what diabetes was or what I needed to do in order to move forward and live with the disease. It is an auto immune deficiency disease. In other words, for whatever reason, my immune system decided to attack the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. In fact, all of the cells that produce insulin were killed. As a result, my body was unable to produce insulin and the first thing I needed to do was to inject insulin. The body is always seeking balance. With respect to the function of insulin….it is a hormone that is secreted, as needed, to facilitate the metabolism of carboyhdrates and fat in the food we eat.
So, now instead of not even being conscious of that function in my body I had to become acutely aware of it. A person with Type 1 diabetes has to be aware of this process at all times. It is a balancing act. It is a difficult balancing act. We must balance what we eat with how much insulin we take with how much physical activity we engage in. It is like balancing on a high wire. A fall to one side and blood sugars are high. A fall to the other side and blood sugars drop low. High blood sugars are a concern because it takes a toll on the body. It can cause artery problems, problems with the eyes, problems with the kidneys, problems with the heart. Also one does not feel well when blood sugars are high. Low blood sugars are a more immediate concern. The body needs glucose in order to function. Going too low results in impaired thinking, sweating, unconsciousness, coma and sometimes death.
The four primary concerns for the person with diabetes are 1.) insulin dosages 2.) Carbohydrate and Fat gram intake 3.) Physical Activity and 4.) General Overall Health.
1.) Insulin: There are three important numbers one must establish whaen taking insulin. One must know basal rate, insulin sensitivity and insulin to carb ratio.
2.) Carb and Fat gram intake: We have talked about carb grams. Fat grams are a little more involved. Fat grams are coverted into glucose over a longer period of time than carb grams. To avoid having to deal with fat as an issue you should minimize fat in your diet. However, you must take fat into consideration if you are ingesting more than your carb to insulin ratio. Typically I try to keep all meals under 30 grams of carbs and fat combined. Anything above this number creates more uncertainty.
3.) Physical Activity: This is the secret weapon in the balancing act. I recommend that anyone with Type 1 diabetes make excercise a priority. It burns glucose and increases your overall metabolism rate. Walking, jogging or yoga have been my methods of excercise. I excercise everyday and I push myself.
4.) General Overall Health: If you are overweight lose weight. You need to make your priority to be in the best shape you can possibly be. This will make your body resistant to disease and will result in better and healthier decisions.
I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when I was 14. I am now 45. When I was diagnosed there were no blood sugar monitors. Instead we tested our urine to see how much sugar was being “spilled.” The syringes were a little thicker and the insulin not as good as it is now. Of course insulin pumps came out about 15-20 years ago but they were not very reliable at first and who wanted to wear a pump? I hated testing my blood sugar because I got such high readings that I mostly became discouraged. So, I took my insulin every morning and when the short acting stuff came out I tried using it but I was never able to get a real handle on it so I used it sometimes and sometimes not. My A1C’s were always between 7.8 and 9. An A1C is a blood test that measures your average blood sugar over a 3-4 month period of time. Normal is 6 or below. Good control is 6-7. Fair control is 7-8. Above 8 is too high. So I was not going super high but I surely was not under control. So that is what life was like with respect to the game of balancing blood sugars. A few years ago I had about enough. I had been gaining better control after I turned 35 and made some more responsible choices in my life. I began working out. I lifted weights, I walked, I jogged, I played golf and about six years ago I began going to yoga classes. And then about three years ago I made a significant shift in one of the most important aspects of balancing blood sugars. I decided to go on the pump. Since then life has gotten progressively better. Continue reading Conquering Type 1 (Juvenille) Diabetes