Guest Post by: Michael Revans
I’m Mike, a 30 year old guy who was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes at the age of 13. This is “disease” affects the pancreas and can be classified as a metabolic, endocrine or autoimmune illness. The pancreas is an organ located in the abdomen and plays an essential role in converting the food we eat into fuel for the body’s cells. The pancreas has two main functions: an exocrine function that helps in digestion and an endocrine function that regulates blood sugar. In Type 1 Diabetes, the endocrine function is primarily affected and it is here where my body isn’t able to break down carbohydrates into energy. So when I eat anything with carbohydrates, such as an apple or a chocolate bar, the sugar just sits in my system while my body starves for energy.
Type I Diabetes also means that I need medication every day to do the job of a working pancreas. I have been prescribed fast acting Insulin which I inject along with meals. The medication helps my body break down carbohydrates and converts them into energy for the body to use.
What helped me grasp the concept of what it meant to have Type 1 Diabetes, was that my health team suggested that I look at Diabetes as more of a lifestyle change rather than a disease. This perspective definitely helped encourage me to take control of my situation. The key is balancing food, insulin, exercise, and stress. This holistic approach made absolutely everything in my life much easier to manage. Even though it all seemed like a lot to consider, as soon as one aspect of my lifestyle improved it had a domino effect on everything else.
Some lifestyle approaches that I have put into practice include:
Before I go for a jog I typically eat an apple and some bread with peanut butter and jam on it. A couple of granola bars will also do the trick. Exercise acts like insulin by converting carbohydrates into energy that my body can use to do everything it has to do. So I don’t take insulin with my meal before a run. After exercise my blood sugars have usually balanced out, which I check with a little machine called a glucose meter. This involves pricking my finger with a sharp needle called a lancet. Then I dab a drop of blood onto a little strip that sends a reading out to a digital screen. The whole process is usually pretty painless.
It’s best for me to eat food that is as natural as possible. Certain preservatives can alter how a body breaks down food. In my experience it’s always been good to read the ingredients of what I’m eating to figure out exactly how natural what I’m about to consume is. Different kinds of sugars react differently with the body. White pasta will slowly release sugar into the body over a couple of hours while an apple goes straight to work. Of course, this is all general. I highly encourage you to speak to a nutritionist and doctor about what exactly is happening.
Discovering how to achieve a balanced diet is best done with the help of your health team. For me this consists of an Endocrinologist, a Naturopathic Doctor and Nutritionist. Everyone will find the standard way of doing things doesn’t completely apply to them. As my doctor said, with the help of your health team it’s worth trying out different methods to figure out what works for you. Since I started using an insulin pump back in my teens my life has improved a whole lot and I’ve been able to figure out how best to balance the rest of my life. I could never have done this without the help of healthcare professionals.
In fact, I even gave myself a cheesy saying to remember! “I can’t be myself unless I have control of my Diabetes.” It doesn’t really have a nice ring to it or any fancy words but it’s straightforward and works for me.
Everyone discovers that perfect control is impossible so never get too down on yourself when the going gets tough. I like a cookie from time to time and there’s nothing wrong with that. In order for me to indulge myself I need to make sure everything is moving along relatively smoothly. It’s important to throw some fun into the mix, wouldn’t you agree?
Adios and thanks for reading!
p.s. there are loads of excellent resources online; diabetes.ca is a good start…