Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Speaking of the pill...

I had a really scary hypoglycemic event the other night. And I mean, really scary — as in, the second lowest I've ever crashed.

I woke up and realized through a nightmarish fog that I was crashing. I think I'd been having nightmares, which often happens when I crash, and I was having a hard time waking up from them. I had the sensation as I was waking up of them still clinging to me like cobwebs.

When I checked my blood sugar, I found it to be 27 — the second lowest reading I've ever gotten. My lowest ever was 26, and that was six years ago! I am pretty sensitive to the symptoms of crashing, so I typically catch it by the time I get into the 50s or, at the lowest, the 40s. You can imagine, then, how I felt at 27.

I drank some juice, and then ate some Gushers and some sweet pickles. I was really hungry and it took restraint to stop at that, when I wanted to stuff my face with anything I could find. Even so, I woke up the next morning at 177, surprisingly low considering everything I ate before going back to bed.

I used to feel very tired the next day after a nighttime low, but I normally don't anymore. I think it's because, now that I work from home, I get more (and better quality) sleep than I used to. I can sleep in the next morning after crashing if I need to, and that makes a big difference. This time, however, even getting up at nearly 9am the next morning I felt very drained and tired. I lasted until the afternoon (almost crashed again around mid-day) before finally taking a nap.

For the longest time I couldn't figure out why I had crashed so dramatically. I had been just over 200 at bedtime, and took a single unit of fast-acting insulin to correct, which shouldn't have had such a drastic effect. Finally I realized that I had forgotten my birth control pill the previous night. Without my pill, I had four units too much long-acting insulin in my system, which sent my blood sugar plummeting. I've done that before, but never with such a terrible low as a result, so I am pretty sure I will be more careful about remembering my pill from now on!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

50th anniversary of the pill

Today makes exactly 50 years since the pill was approved by the FDA. The anniversary made a few headlines, together with a discussion on how the pill has changed women's lives.

As a diabetic I have a slightly different perspective. Every month during my period, when I take the little blank pills, my insulin needs drop: I have to take 4 units less of my 24-hour insulin during that week. It's always about the same, too, even if my insulin needs fluctuate the rest of the month — if my basal shot goes down to, say, 17 units from 18, I'll need to take 13 units instead of 14 during the last week of the pill.

I have always been on some kind of contraception since I was diagnosed. At the time of my diagnosis, I was on the Depo-Provera, but I switched to the pill soon afterward. I did find that my 24-hour insulin needs were more constant on the Depo-Provera, most likely because the pill causes changes in the body's hormone levels, and hormones tend to block the effectiveness of insulin. (I also think that's why I take less insulin during the week when I'm taking blank pills.)

I'm interested in hearing from other diabetics. Do you take the pill or do you use another form of birth control? If it is the kind that tinkers with your body's hormones, how do you find it affects your diabetes?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Attention diabetics: Cinnamon doesn't work!

I can't be too critical of taking supplements, since I do try to drink 8 ounces of grapefruit juice every day to lower my cholesterol, but I am deeply skeptical of anything that comes in a supplement form. It's just basically companies capitalizing on this finding or that finding by packaging and selling "good health" like snake oil. Many foods have health benefits, but eating whole foods and taking a pill are two different things. Since we don't always know what it is in a certain food that is good for us — or if it's actually a combination of more than one thing, acting together — the idea that we can cram good health into a little plastic capsule is ludicrous.

Take cinnamon, for example. It has long been claimed that cinnamon helps to lower blood sugar, and while that sounds like a fine excuse for enjoying a little cinnamon and sugar on your toast, many supplement nuts pop cinnamon capsules like Valium.

Well, the claims weren't actually backed up by solid research — apparently there were a lot of conflicting findings, and the studies on cinnamon tended to be too small to make any good conclusions. Finally someone did a large study, however, and found that cinnamon has no effect on diabetics' sugars.

I'm sure there will be people who stubbornly insist that cinnamon works, and if you want to continue taking it, more power to you — as long as you eat right and exercise as well. There is simply no substitute for a low fat, whole foods diet and an active lifestyle!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Drugs don't lower heart attack risk in diabetics

I wasn't aware of the findings of this study when it came out, but apparently drugs to lower blood pressure and cholesterol don't actually reduce the risk of heart attack in diabetics. Heart disease is a major risk for diabetics — more than twice the risk than for a non-diabetic. (I personally think this statistic is skewed by the prevalence of type 2 diabetes — I am willing to bet the risk is lower for type 1 diabetics, and probably related more to the lifestyle problems that tend to occur with type 2 diabetes, such as poor diet and lack of exercise.)

Some of you may remember when I stopped taking Lipitor a couple of years ago. My cholesterol has been fine without it — a little higher than the target numbers for diabetics, but not high enough to warrant subjecting my body to a drug with potentially harmful side effects, in my opinion.

You'll notice though that the article has a quick disclaimer that diabetics shouldn't stop taking their medication without consulting their doctor first. While I do agree that you should never make major changes to your diet or treatment regiment based on one article, I also think that well-informed and educated people do have the right to make a decision without their doctor, if said doctor is stuck in the Dark Ages.