Midsummer or “Juhannus” as we call it here in Finland, is my favourite holiday. For many, the summer really starts from Juhannus. The reason for this is that while it can be cold and rainy, it is the most popular time to start one’s summer holiday.
Traditionally Juhannus is spent on summer cabins by the lake. The fest often means having a lot of food and spending time with friends and family. Sauna (and beating each other with birch twigs while in sauna) and swimming are common pastimes of Juhannus.
Midsummer festivities and maintaining a steady BG trend
For diabetics, there are a few things to take into consideration while enjoying midsummer’s eve.
First, you are eating a lot or there is food to be had. Grilled meat, sausages and vegetables plus early harvest potatoes are among the classics of summer foods. It means that a diabetic has to factor in increased amounts of fat, protein and carbohydrates. It is hard to keep BG levels steady!
Second, if you are consuming alcohol (like it is tradition on Juhannus), you must be careful with insulin. Alcohol has a tendency to first raise your BG levels and then in a few hours, bring them crashing down. You do not want to go low in the middle of the night.
And third, swimming and sauna can have an effect to your insulin absorbtion.
Lot of greasy food with carbs, alcohol and sauna can make for a great evening, but for a diabetic it will be a challenge to maintain good BG levels. I find it easier to easen up a bit on my BG goals and just go easier for this one magical night.
I like sharing pictures and bg values from my evening on Dottli’s messenger. It’s fun to see that my over-the-top BG levels are not that uncommon among diabetics on midsummer’s eve!
The writer has had t1d for 15 years and feels like his health is better because of diabetes and the more strict lifestyle it demands.
Bonfire is an important part of Finnish midsummer festivities.
What are the core pillars of diabetes management? Type 1 diabetes is a complex condition, which tends to keep us wondering what are the causes for strange bumps in our BG trends. Sometimes it feels like we have no control over our beloved partner in life. And sometimes the cause for continuous high BG levels can be because we have forgotten to adhere to the very basic rules of thumb of diabetes self care. Here is a list of seven things that should be present in our daily lives.
The diabetic, who takes care of himself…
…measures BG-levels regularly
I think we all know that we cannot have optimal BG levels unless we measure BG levels regularly. That’s the one and the only way to know, how our treatment is succeeding.
Exercise is good for all of us, but especially for us diabetics. Exercising keeps our metabolism active and often that makes it easier to predict the effect insulin will have on our BG levels. You might need to find the proper insulin dosage for post-exercise days, but it’s totally worth the extra effort!
Regular exercise can help in keeping bg levels near optimal.
…eat healthy, counts carbs
Avoiding extra fat, salt and sugar helps you manage your BG levels. Salt will also increase your blood pressure, which is not a good thing for diabetics. High blood pressure increases the strain to your veins, heart, eyes and kidneys. It’s good to weigh food every now and then just to check if your carbs estimations are right. Carb estimation is rarely as accurate as carb counting.
…checks and adjusts carb to insulin ratio regularly
By making meal pair measurements you can analyse if your insulin dosage is at a proper level for each meal. Meal pair measurement means measuring BG before meal and two hours after the meal. In the morning you might need more (or less!) insulin per 10 grams of carbs than in the evening. The only way to get your treatment right is to do meal pair measurements! Also, you should consider actually counting your carbs when doing the meal pairs.
…enjoys peer support
Self-caring diabetic knows the power of peer support. It’s gives so much energy to meet people who understand your diabetic problems from just a few words.
…analyses treatment results and thinks how to make changes
You have a doctor and a nurse supporting you in your diabetes management, but it’s ultimately you who makes the treatment decisions. You have to get to know your diabetes and body in order to be really successful. What kind of response does your body give to cardio exercise? What about weight training? How does your need for insulin alter during different stages of the day? Where are your cannula sweet spots? Life teaches you these things about diabetes and by analysing your treatment, you really get to know your body and diabetes.
…has mercy on himself in the end
The meaning of mercy can not be overemphasized. You do your best and that’s enough. We all fail and the bad days come for all of us. Diabetes management not a sprint, it is a lifelong marathon.
“Aw yea! A full night of sleep with optimal BG levels!”
Diabetes or no diabetes, the days of our lives are filled with small moments that can brighten our mood if we are perceptive enough to notice them. I call those rays of sunshine as something that brings me ”Good Mood Diabetes”. Living life as a type 1 diabetic, the positive rays can be scarce at times, but when you do finally find them, they can be rewarding. Here is what I often find to be my ”Good Mood Diabetes” signs.
Perfect after meal value
This one I get almost every day at at least one meal. My BG value isn’t necessarily top notch, but my estimation was correct and BG value was at least somewhat good!
Carb estimation success! Yeah!
The cannula works like a dream
These occurrences tend to be a lot more rare than I would like. But boy, it is always a good 3 days when the cannula hits “the sweet spot”. Rotating the injection sites at at least 4 different locations seems to help a lot. Finding the sweet spot is actually a bit more than just a little ray of sunshine, it lifts my mood a lot.
Look at that straight line, that’s 12 hours!
A1C has improved since last time
Oh this is a really Good Mood Diabetes factor. When it happens, I usually tell all my closest diabetic friends and family. Maybe I even do a little victory dance!
Dottli has helped me and a lot of others improve our A1C.
Exercise without a hypoglycemia
My BG usually rises through the roof after exercise, but during it, the hypo risk is always there. Good preparation and having some carbs really helps avoiding hypos during exercise. When you nail it, it feels good. And if you manage to counter those post-exercise highs, even better!
Ah, the smell of a fresh new year! Another cycle full of moments waiting to be seized! Traditionally many of us make a resolution on how to better our lives. I, too, have made my share of resolutions over the years. I had solemnly sworn to never eat candy again, lose half of my excess weight and run a half-marathon. Needless to say, none of them happened. The thing about new year resolutions is that if you start reaching for the moon, you are bound to fall down. Trying to uphold a large life change is really hard. That’s why all the gyms are filled with people in the beginning of the year, but a month later things are back to normal.
But I can share you in on a secret to a successful resolution! Like all great things, it is a simple one: make it concrete, a tangible resolution. So instead of saying “I will start exercising”, say “I will move one additional hour each week”. Change “I will eat healthy” to “I will eat salad at lunch and dinner” or something similar. Start with a small decision and once you have made it work, take up another challenge.
But what about diabetes? Could our resolutions be linked to taking better care of our dear companion? Something small, tangible and easily doable? For sure! Here are a few suggestions for a new year’s diabetes resolution:
1. I will measure my BG always before and after a warm meal
You can log them on Dottli and analyse them later on with the trend reports!
2. I will check my injection sites and feet every two weeks
Mark the times to your calendar and thus increase your chances of succeeding!
3. I will switch my cannula after two days
Sticking with the thing even for 4 days is my bad habit. Your sites stay in better condition and recover more fast if you change the set more often.
4. I will attend a peer support meeting at least once
If you haven’t yet, you should give it a chance. You might be surprised of the effects it can have on your well-being. Just look up your local diabetes association and ask them for information on meetings.
That’s it! Whatever you end up deciding, just remember to be merciful. Your diabetes resolution doesn’t have to end when you fail for the first time. Just pick it right up again. All the best to your 2017, let’s make this year great!
We all have the power to influence our diabetes management in a major way. And it is a double-edged sword. If we want to, we can really focus on taking care of our condition and thrive through the right motivation! And if our strength has waned and diabetes has fallen low in our list of priorities, the back edge of the sword cuts deep too. A poorly managed diabetes is truly not a benevolent force.
We often talk about the role of our endo and the diabetes nurses in getting to a good A1C. But the reality is that about 99,9 % of our diabetes-related decisions come not from our endo, but from us. We make the decisions, we count the carbs and administer the insulin. For sure, the outside eye of our doctors and other care staff can have life-changing effects for our diabetes balance, but the rest is up to us.
Building blocks of motivation
And what do we need to make the best of our condition? We need information, skill and most importantly, motivation to manage diabetes properly. When your know how of diabetes self care increases, you usually gain motivation to treat yourself better. It is just good to keep in mind that it’s normal that there will be fluctuations in your self care motivation. We have so many things going on in life, that it is very hard to keep on going at 100% with diabetes management. Sometimes our life throws an unexpected punch or two and suddenly you might find yourself not caring for your diabetes. It’s good to try and stay aware of the mental resources you have at your disposal. When it’s hard, give yourself a bit of mercy and try better tomorrow, or maybe next week.
An important part of long-term self care motivation is the feeling that your efforts pay off. If you are struggling to keep your diabetes in check and nothing you do seems to have any effect whatsoever, it will be hard to stay motivated. When your actions lead to better BG levels, it is easier to stay motivated.
If you feel that your motivation needs some boosting, you can try these things:
1. Hone your diabetes self care skills
Contact your nurse or doctor and talk to them about the things on your mind. If your treatment is off, discuss it with them and try something new to regain control. It’s also good to refresh on carb amounts of different foods.
2. Get support
Just talking can help you stay motivated. Talk with your friends and other people close to you. Or if you feel you don’t have anyone who you can talk to, maybe look up a nearby diabetes peer support group or go online. Sharing your feelings and troubles can lift your spirits! With Dottli, you can chat up with other diabetics and share your values instantly with them.
3. Set suitable goals
You can feel that you have enough knowledge, skills and knowledge, but taking diabetes management a part of everyday life is still hard. Maybe you are focusing too much in self care? Try setting goals that do not require too much work. What is the maximum amount of effort you can put in without tiring yourself? Set your goals at a lower, realistical level at first and build up from there. If your goals are too high, you might get diabetes burn-out and then your self care really takes a hit.
4. Focus on things that build your well-being
It can be useful to build awareness about what makes you feel better and what causes stress. Focusing on the things that build your well-being and leaving the stress factors behind you, can help a lot. Of course there are situations when you just can’t leave the stressful things behind. In those moments, maybe it’s just best to endure the stressful situation and maybe look around for those little rays of sunshine.
5. Make room for diabetes self care
Work can be hectic and sometimes it can be hard to find a suitable moment to measure your BG or take insulin. Sometimes it’s impossible to avoid those moments, but trying to make room for bg measuring, insulin injections and carb counting really makes a difference in managing diabetes. Health always first.
Are you thinking about gift ideas for a type 1 diabetic friend? Coming up with gift ideas for our loved ones is always hard! But for us type 1 diabetics, there is hope! We made a list of five + one gift ideas that can delight or be of use to a fellow type 1 diabetic.
1. All things Withings & Fitbit
The first item is actually a bunch of items that all work with our free Dottli app. Just about every Withings and Fitbit product will sync with Dottli and help us to automate our daily value logging. Their selection includes a blood pressure meter, a weight scale, activity trackers/smart watches, thermometers and so on. A blood pressure meter in particular is an important item for every diabetic to have, because long term high BP is damaging for our veins, kidneys and eyes. Steady monitoring can alert us in time if the pressure levels have climbed too high. These benefits make them very good gift ideas for a type 1 diabetic friend.
Next up are some affordable accessories and other goods that make for great gift ideas.
2. The cookbook for diabetics
Of course there is no longer a need for “diabetic diet”. But having a cookbook full of delicious and healthy recipes with calculated at-a-glance nutritional information is very helpful. It means that you don’t have to estimate the carbs in your meals. You know it exactly and just like that your diabetes management gets easier! Get it from Diabetes UK!
3. The Spibelt
This elastic belt goes with me on every jog. It feels good against my skin, doesn’t cause chafing and I can fit my insulin pump and carb gels in it. When you don’t have suitable pockets, spibelt works great.
4. Keeping your insulins cool
When you need to keep your insulins chilled, Frio helps. The manufacturer promises Frio will keep your insulin cool for a minimum of 45 hours. So for those hot days, this product will help. A lot of users are also reporting that when exposed to warm water instead of cold, the Frio can prevent your insulins from freezing. It works both ways!
5. Myabetic diabetes cases and purses
Nothing beats a good case for diabetic supplies! A lot of diabetics like to craft their own diabetic supply purses, but Myabetic makes great cases for diabetic supplies too! Their main target audience seems to be female, but their assortment has some options for manlier taste too!
+1. Diabetes Wall Calendar for 2017
And the plus one! A Finnish non profit diabetes community called “Diabetesseura Plasma” made a wall calendar for next year. The calendar is in Finnish and the weeks start from Monday, but other than that, it is very usable for all languages. The calendar was made for raising awareness of what it’s like to live with t1d, what are the differences of type 1 and type 2 diabetes and proper first aid for unconscious diabetics. Oh and all the calendar models are nude and type 1 diabetics, much like the t1dexposed project which inspired the calendar. All proceeds go to the non profit association behind the calendar. Find it here.
That’s it! If you’d like, leave a comment with your own recommendations of gift ideas for a type 1 diabetic friend!
When does a person decide it’s time for a lifestyle change? What is the trigger that finally causes action? For me, it was when my endo told me I’m developing a type 2 diabetes. “That’s crazy, I thought! A type 1 can’t be a type 2!”. Read more →
Living with type 1 diabetes is hard for sure, but it’s not all struggle and one can unlock the secrets to live a long life with diabetes. There are periods lasting up to several hours when I don’t think about my diabetes. So it’s not constantly on my mind, and even when it is, it’s not too bad. When you think of it as a lifestyle, it can be easier to bear.
Though I have to say, it can be a bit hard for a non-diabetic to understand what life with diabetes entails. Type 1 diabetes needs so much constant management and thought, that it often becomes our second nature. I know my wife understands it deeply, but for a someone who doesn’t live with a diabetic, it can be difficult to grasp the impact diabetes has on our lives.
For me, it has become a part of my personality. My world grows or shrinks with the success of my treatment. When I’m struggling with it, it is all I can think about and the fears bring me down. I become like a beggar looking for a coin, whose world becomes the size of that coin. My world becomes the size of diabetes. I’m “scanning” my body for symptoms of highs and lows, thinking about my next and previous meals, physical activity, evaluating current cannula spot “sweetness”, amount of insulin on board, feeling bad about failed self-care, fearing that abnormal lack of sensation in my big toe and what it might mean. The list goes on. And while I am thinking about these things, I’m not thinking about anything else. Nothing else fits in my world at that moment. In those moments, diabetes is far from a lifestyle choice.
But there are times when I feel like I love my diabetes. And it’s not like I’m an unstable personality, I just adapt. When I’ve been at an optimal self-care level for a longer period of time, I somehow forget all the bad things. I remember all the proverbial coins I have received from diabetes. That, in fact, I am very rich. You can juggle my purse of gold coins here.
Drawing inspiration from the stories of other diabetics
The main thing that empowers me in addition to treatment going well, is other diabetics. I get energised and filled with hope when I’m in the company of t1ds or even when I just hear an inspiring story from someone about their life with diabetes.
Like when a couple of weeks back, I interviewed a type 1 diabetic who had been diagnosed 60 years ago. He had had a lack of feeling in his feet in the early 80s, when he was not able to treat himself well enough. His eyes had already been under the laser back then. The complications had raised their ugly hydra heads. But then, he found balance in life and diabetes after receiving one of the first consumer bg meters. And you know what, the lack of feeling symptoms went away and his body recovered. That was 35 years ago and he is still kicking around, even doing heavy labor. That story got me filled with hope and joy. Of course, the man won the gene lottery as his body adapts to his diabetes extremely well. But still, he started his treatment back in the time when one measured blood glucose from a day’s worth of urine. Today, we have great tools and treatments and if we truly want, we can always take better care of ourselves and our diabetes.
So what was the man’s secret for a long life with diabetes? First, he told me he has always considered life with diabetes more as a lifestyle than living with a disease. Secondly he brought up regular intervals between meals and constant exercise in the form of physical labor. He is a farmer and all the days are filled with tasks where you have to strain yourself. Got to try out that lumberjack life!
Before we said our farewells, I watched him cut down a tree and trim it. He wore his lumberjack gear and all I could think was that I couldn’t discern whether the brisk man working in front of me was 70 or 30 years old.
Peer support plays an important role in my life. It reminds me of the positive effects diabetes can have. Meeting people who understand my condition relieves my stress about diabetes and makes it easier to cope with. The feeling of not being alone is a warm one indeed. But where can a freshly diagnosed diabetic find peer support? I made a list of five items to help you search for peers both in the real world and on the net.
Each country has its own diabetes association. Most often the purpose of those associations is to guard the rights of diabetics and organise peer support. You should search for your own country’s diabetes association. The associations often arrange local meetings around the nation and some even offer diabetes support persons for your aid.
Sometimes it can be a bit of a threshold to just go to a peer meeting. It can be easier to go for a run or hike with fellow diabetics. Some countries have online communities dedicated for diabetics with a certain hobby. See Connected in Motion, which is a community for diabetics who like outdoor activities (they have great videos!). Similar communities may be found in your country. Or maybe start one together with your local diabetes association?
Online groups. There are several traditional diabetes forums to be found around the net, like this one. Facebook also has a lot of discussion groups and probably in every language, so be sure to search for them. I like forums because it is easier to search for discussion threads concerning a certain subject. FB groups easily become a never-ending stream of duplicate threads.
Search for blogs and Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest feeds on diabetes. It can also be empowering just to read about others’ views on diabetes. If you just like reading and watching, search with hashtags. We use #t1d, #type1diabetes and #diabeticlife, but there are many others and also country specific hashtags, like #diabetesuk or #diabetesfi.
If you have a diabetes related question in mind and want to ask in anonymously, you can use JDRF’s Get Support function. You just type in some background information and your question and their volunteers will answer you! Of course, they won’t provide any medical assistance, but will answer questions about what it is to live with diabetes.
And one extra tip for peer support!
+1. Grassroots peer support! When you do find some diabetic friends, you can suggest sharing your logged diabetes values in messenger styled chat. Dottli’s app does the sharing automatically and it can really help to motivate you to take better care of yourself. I wrote a blog post about grassroots peer support earlier, you can view it here.
In the beginning of this year, I was fed up with my blood glucose levels which seemed to know only two alternatives: sky high or rock bottom. Food and insulin are the major players which influence the amount of glucose in my veins. Sweets have been my biggest vice and boy, they really drive my BG through the roof.
I think most of us know what kind of food is good for us, but how many of us can really stick to a healthy diet? I had tried, but it was so easy to make the not-so-good choices. After last Christmas I decided it was really a time for change. Knowing myself, I knew I had to do something drastic, so I started a super healthy diet. I mean “5 kgs of veggies and 3 kgs of berries a week” kind of healthy diet. The diet included a very hefty amount of proteins as well. The excess proteins do create an extra strain on a diabetic’s kidneys, but the huge amount of carbs I was eating before the diet wasn’t good for me either, so I decided to stick with the proteins.
One good side effect to the diet was the fact that I had to measure the weight of nearly everything I ate, so I really knew the amount of carbs I was having. With the aid of my personal Harry Potter (my pump’s bolus wizard), it was really easy to just log the carbs and accept the amount of magical bolus it suggested to me.
My diet required me to prepare all the healthy food in advance and it was kind of hard work. It was also a bit difficult to come up with new recipes that were allowed in my strict diet. I could have done with a magical Chef Potter as well. While I’m not much of a cook myself, it felt quite satisfying to know I was eating healthy and to see the steady trends of my BG levels.
My diet was amazing, my blood glucose levels were SO good! Luckily I was able to use CGM (continuous glucose monitoring) and witness the great levels in real time time. For the first time ever during my type 1 diabetes (16 yrs), my BG trend was almost straight! I couldn’t stop staring at the curve. For the first time, I felt I could actually manage my diabetes! I was winning! I felt good about my diabetes and had no anxiety whatsoever! And I lost 5 kgs in 6 weeks!
At first I thought all the good things that was happening to me was due to eating clean food without extra or hidden salt, fat or sugar. After a while I realised that maybe the largest and most significant thing was the fact that I was weighing everything I ate. I knew the exact amount of carbs I was intaking. I was also eating less carbs than before, so that must’ve helped as well. When you change a major part of your daily carbs to veggies, it’s easier to stay control of your blood glucose levels. Also, eating at regular intervals really helps to control hunger and weight.
My diet lasted for six weeks and after it ended I was not able to continue it anymore. But I learned a lot from those weeks and still benefit from my diet. I want to highlight a few things based on my experiences during those six weeks. Here are the words of wisdom I gathered:
Eat clean, unprocessed food. Try to avoid foods with hidden sugar, salt or fat. They mess up your carb estimations!
Eat more veggies and berries. They can only do good for you!
Every now and then, make use of the kitchen scale. It can be a bit laborious but the better BG levels are so worth the effort!
Dottli is a digital health company based in Finland and improving life with diabetes is our first focus. As a hub for connected health apps and devices and with cloud-based intelligence, Dottli can also provide real-time support on your personal health goals.