Daily Archives: August 12, 2017

A Lifestyle Choice. Low Carbs Forever!

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The Backstory

I have to admit it was a shock when my diabetic specialist informed me… in the nicest way… that my life was going to have to change or I was looking at insulin and potential complications.

She DID ask me what I was looking for?  I asked her what she meant.  She said “do you want to keep eating like you are eating and me treat you accordingly or do you want to keep your pancreas working as long as possible and me treat you?”  She added, “this means weight loss and a lifestyle change.  I’d like to keep you around as long as possible for you and your husband!”

I’d been dancing around the DIABETES label for a while now.  I knew first hand in caring for my mother with diabetes what a diminished pancreas could do to a person. I had quit counting after around 40 mini-strokes that accompanied her 4 moderate strokes.  I suspect the number was in the 70’s. Each taking a piece of her away from herself… and from me.

I knew what other complications were possible.  I was already seeing my sisters start to have issues from diabetes like nerve pain in their feet. I really didn’t want any of that… if I could DO SOMETHING to help ward it off for a few more years… or forever if I get lucky and the metabolic stars align.

I decided to grow up on the spot and own it.  Dang it.  I’M A DIABETIC!

“Yes.  I want to lose weight and keep away from insulin as long as possible,” I finally found the will to say.

She informed me that I could only have 30 NET Carbs forever.  I didn’t really know what that meant but I’d look it up later.

She further informed me that I could really only have 20 NET Carbs to get my weight down at least 25 pounds if not more.  Then I could go back up to 30 NET Carbs.

I asked about sweet potatoes that I knew were allowable on low carb diets.  She nodded her head “no”.  What?  I could feel my lip quiver a bit. “What about brown rice,” I said.  Again she nodded “no”.  I knew pasta would be out, but rice???  This day officially turned horrible.  That was a lot to process. I LOVE rice!!!  I could do the Bubba Gump lineup for shrimp… but for rice instead.  Any way you can cook, bake, fry, boil, fricassee rice. All the cheese, vegetable and meat combinations with rice.  I loved it!  I could eat it every day.

She said I need to basically be on the Atkins 20 diet.  I knew kinda what that was when the fad first came out years ago.  I could Google it later!

She changed the oral medication I’d been taking.  Especially after there were now TV lawsuits about the medication I was on.  She also offered me a new injectable drug that could be beneficial in helping me achieve those goals and help my pancreas be more efficient in insulin production.  I wouldn’t want food with it and would probably lose weight. I said I’d consider it.

I went home a little depressed.  The sweet potato and rice issue hit me hard.  A lifestyle change.  What did this mean anyway???  I was having a hard time processing the news.

The Realization

It was a few days later, as I was trying to wrap my head around my appointment that I was granted access to the patient portal for my diabetic specialist.  They had drawn blood to get baselines and confirm diagnoses.  I WAS ANGRY AT WHAT I SAW!!!!

I was diagnosed with not only diabetes, but also something called Metabolic Syndrome.  I had high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high triglycerides and a fatty liver.  (I had known those from my doctor before, but was told as usual… “they’re a little high” so I never worried.  They were never given an actual NAME!)

I went and looked up Metabolic Syndrome online.  I was horrified and realized I was on the fast track to insulin resistance.   Both my sisters have the same diagnoses I have without the Metabolic Syndrome term diagnosis and have much worse numbers than I do.  One sister IS insulin resistant. The other is fast becoming insulin resistant.  Their glucose readings were truly alarming.

I WAS VERY ANGRY!  I WAS MOSTLY ANGRY AT MYSELF!  But only for those things in my control, like my sugar and carbohydrate consumption, my weight and my lack of exercise.  Not much I can do about my genetic predisposition for diabetes and high blood pressure. I knew those were possibly coming since I was teenager.  But the other things… I could have done something about! Like not let myself get into the shape I am in.

It was that moment right there that I knew I had to get serious.  This is bad. This is forever UNLESS I get actively involved in my own health management.

I called my diabetic specialist and told her to please hold off on the weekly injectable medication and that if I was truly going to change the way I eat that I was going to have to embrace it wholly.

I needed to take two weeks to get my head around what all this meant.  Then to please give me twelve weeks to be totally on 20 net carbs and if I failed THEN I’d try the injectable medication. So, in three months I was either going to be lighter and leaner with better glucose readings or I was going to be failed and in need of some additional medication.

The Challenge

During those first two weeks I started saying goodbye to my favorite foods.  It’s not a bad idea to say goodbye to foods you can never eat again.  I can attest that your blood glucose will suffer for it however.  But it did help me get my head in the game, so to speak.

I also started researching on what to do.  What was clear to me was that I needed to:

  • find out more about diabetes
  • find out what I could actually eat
  • find out what 20 to 30 net carbs actually meant
  • find low carb recipes that I could actually make
  • find low carb options when I eat out
  • find low carb alternatives for my favorite foods
  • find low carb alternatives for my favorite recipes
  • clear my refrigerator and pantry of high carbohydrate items
  • fill my refrigerator and pantry with low carbohydrate items
  • Start exercising

The Solution

To this end, I began this journey. These are my discoveries about low carb eating at home, in my surrounding communities and on travels.

I started this blog because it is always more fun to talk to and travel with friends and make new friends with those on your same road.

More Information

For further information please read:
Atkins – 20 Carb Diet
Mayo Clinic – Metabolic Syndrome

Another good guide can be found at Positive Health Wellness

Diabetes Treatments & Complications

So what can YOU do?

First of all, talk to a nutritionist!  My friends who were counseled did far better than I did at understanding what needed to be done!

You can immediately start to eat better. High fiber. Low Fat. LOW SUGAR.  LOW CARBOHYDRATES.  Generally, this should lead to lower calories too.  Also, this leads to losing weight if done properly which can only help your body as it battles this disease!

Exercise!  Move.  Walk. Swim.  Bike.  Try for 30 minutes at least five days a week. Even if you have to start for 10 minutes a day.  Try to build on that with 30 minutes as a goal.

Monitor your blood sugar.  Using a meter that measures a drop of blood from your finger, you can get a fairly clear picture of how your body processes sugar.  Of course WHAT you eat and drink can make this vary wildly, as can the time that you measure after a meal.  Exercise, illness and stress can also affect your glucose readings.  It may be necessary to take several readings a day or only once a morning.

Watch out for signs of trouble.  If you have increased thirst or urination, dry mouth, blurred vision fatigue or nausea you might need to lower your sugar intake.  Also signs like sweating, shaking, slurred speech, drowsiness and confusion  might mean there is low sugar and you need to get some glucose quickly. There are still more signs like  hallucinations, loss of appetite, weakness, fever, nausea, vomiting or sweet fruity breath that require immediate attention by your doctor or emergency care. If your blood glucose is above 400 call your doctor.  If your blood glucose is above 600 get to an emergency room!  KNOW WHAT THE SIGNS MEAN.  Talk to your doctor about these signs and read the American Diabetes Association and the Mayo Clinic’s information on the signs carefully.  It could mean a matter of life or death.

This is serious stuff!  I’m not a doctor here and so make sure that you KNOW what the signs for low and high glucose are and don’t just take my word for it.

What can YOUR DOCTOR do?

He/she may put you on oral medication.  Sometimes you have to try a couple of types to get the right combination.

Sometimes a pill isn’t enough and you need a weekly shot of medication to stimulate insulin production and stifle the livers’ glucose production.

Sometimes pill and shot medications aren’t enough and insulin is needed.  It can either be injected (usually in the stomach) by you or for more difficult cases a pump can inject it.  Soon there will be a monitor for your glucose levels that will also inject insulin.  These injections may be rapid-acting, long-acting or a mix. Sometime several injections might be needed throughout the day.

In extreme cases, a pancreas transplant might be needed, but they do have risks of rejection and complications.

Too, there are all sorts of complications of diabetes.  

Stroke.  High blood pressure. Blindness. Amputation.  There are more.  Those are enough for me to get in line and get my life back on track to try to prevent!

Please ask your doctor not only about treatment options but also about diabetic worst and best outcomes.  Also, read up on the subject.  I provided some links below.

Follow these links for more information:
American Diabetes Association – Medications
American Diabetes Association – Complications
Mayo Clinic – Diabetes Complications & Treatments

Insulin and Glucose

diabetes-528678_960_720To understand diabetes, you must understand what insulin is and how glucose is normally processed in the body.

At least, this is how I understand it.

Insulin is a hormone.

Hormones are molecules in your body that are produced by glands that help regulate processes in the body.  They regulate things like your heartbeat, growth, metabolism, mood, sleep, energy, reproduction and so much more.

The pancreas is a gland located a bit behind and then below your stomach that secretes insulin and dumps it into the bloodstream.  In the bloodstream, insulin helps the sugar get to your cells. Insulin should therefore lower the sugar in your bloodstream.  As your sugar is utilized, the insulin in your pancreas levels off or drops.

You eat and drink again and it starts all over.  Also, exercise affects this process and sugar levels too.

Glucose is a sugar that your cells (which make up everything in your body) uses for energy.  You get glucose from what you eat and drink and from your liver.   You eat and sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream.  Insulin helps cells receive the sugar which lowers sugar in the bloodstream.  Your liver will also store and then make glucose if needed. When you haven’t eaten, your liver comes to the rescue to keep your sugar levels… well… level.  When this chain reaction is broken and too much sugar is dumped into the bloodstream, this balance is upset. It’s when those insulin levels are out of whack and can’t compensate for the amount of sugar in the bloodstream that creates problems like diabetes.

Follow this link for more information:
Mayo Clinic – Insulin & Glucose

Causes of Diabetes

diabetes-2058045_960_720So how do you end up with a diagnosis of diabetes?

There are lots of reasons this can happen, but most of them are unknown.  Here are a few known reasons:

  1. Your genetics have a lot to do with it. In other words, it could have passed down to you from your mom and dad and their moms and dads, and so on.  I know that was my case.
  2. Your immune system could have something to do with it.  Sometimes the things that fight off the bacteria and viruses turns on the body and attacks things it shouldn’t, like cells that produce insulin.
  3. Environmental factors could have something to do with it. Where you live, work, play… the air, the soil and even buildings and other structures could be a factor.
  4. What you eat and drink definitely has something to do with it.  Eating and drinking a lot of sugary or high carbohydrate things could eventually wear down your system.  Some folks’ systems wear down a little and others, like me, it wears down a lot.  I definitely know that was my case.  I mean I LOVE food!  I love cookies, cakes, bread… every known carbohydrate!
  5. Sometimes hormones have something to do with it.  Some women get what is called “gestational diabetes”.  The hormones can cause the cells to reject the insulin, the pancreas can’t compensate resulting in sugar being dumped into the bloodstream. It usually goes away after the baby is born, but then it may return with other babies or later in life.  So if this happens to you, it is perhaps an early warning sign to watch your sugars and carbs.
Of course, my or your particular diabetes could be one or a combination of any of those reasons or something unknown.
You can be overweight or underweight for any of this to happen, but when you start gaining weight around your abdomen (between your belly button and lower rib cage especially) as opposed to other areas, it is strongly linked to diabetes. Again, that is often the case, but not always.  I can verify that as soon as I started putting on fat in that area, that my sugar numbers started to climb.

Follow these links for more information:
American Diabetes Association – Genetics of Diabetes
American Diabetes Association – Tools to Know Your Risk
Mayo Clinic – Causes of Diabetes

What is an A1C Test?

blood-collection-1949258_1280So for many years I tried to hide the fact that I knew my blood sugar was elevated after fasting overnight. (In other words, after I wake up.)  I’d eat no sugar the day before I had a physical at the doctor’s office where I knew they would draw blood and ask for a urine sample.  I’d take cinnamon to hopefully make my numbers look better, although that is highly debated as to its affect on sugar.  For years I felt I outsmarted being told I was diabetic.  Ridiculous thinking, really.  I’m not proud of it!

THEN a couple of years ago, the doctor ordered an A1C test.  It basically gives a several month average of your sugar levels.  It does this by measuring how the hemoglobin protein in your blood is coated with sugar.  I couldn’t hide my high blood sugar any longer!

A1C levels are reflected as a percent usually from 5 to 14%. 5% being in the normal range. 6% in the pre-diabetic range.  Anything above 5% … you need to work on!  The higher your A1C percent, the higher the chance for diabetes complications.

It is a good gauge on how well the diabetes is being managed.  And you can’t hide your numbers, so don’t try!