Sunday, October 28, 2012

Diabetes. Damn.


Three weeks ago, I had some vacation stored up at work, so I took the week off, hoping to dive headfirst into a few of my writing projects. I even posted about my plans.

Interestingly, I did get some work done in the beginning of the week. And, of course, as with any time off from work, I found myself also chipping away at the chores—close the pool (a task that was woefully overdue), get the yard ready for the coming winter, some upkeep on the vehicles.

But then Thursday hit and my week sort of went to complete hell.

I got a phone call from my doctor.

Monday, (October 8th), I'd had some blood drawn and tests were done. Thursday afternoon, my doctor called to give me the results. Interestingly, it's my doctor's policy to NOT give you a call unless there's something “abnormal” in your test results. So, I should've known something was up.

“I have some bad news,” she started out. “You have Diabetes.”

I didn't quite know what to make of it. She started to rattle off some numbers at me that thoroughly confused me. Sugars were 259. Triglycerides were 1800. These meant nothing to me. Not a damned thing. Hell, 259 sounded pretty low to me. I mean, for what I drank and ate, it should been in the thousands. Right? Wrong. I knew nothing about the numbers she was telling me and I knew even less about what I was supposed to do about it. She said I should come in to the office after her last patient and she would go over my glucometer (which still sounds like a piece of brewing equipment to me, rather than an instrument of medicine) and how to test my blood.

We talked a bit about my numbers. I begged her for another round of testing to be sure because what I hadn't told her was that I spent the entirety of the previous Sunday (the day before they drew the blood) drinking pitchers of a bizarre concoction called “Shark Attack” and popping bleu-cheese-stuffed dates wrapped in bacon like they were going out of style. My numbers couldn't possibly be good after a day like that. She agreed and wrote me a script for another round of tests. We agreed that I'd go take the test in a week.

Now, there are a few people in my life that understand that I lead a double life. By day, I'm expert in Information Security (hacking, etc.) and I do this writer thing in my free time (which is minimal). So, I went home and (after letting my wife know that something was wrong) decided to approach my new disease with the same kind of logic that I approach a computer when looking to break into it.

The first thing any good hacker does is something called “information gathering”. We learn as much as possible about a system before we even touch it, so that we can know all the different ways it can be manipulated. We learn its strengths and its weaknesses to figure out all the ways it works and all the ways it breaks.

Thursday night, I learned anything I could about what Diabetes was. I learned that your blood sugars should be between 60-110 mg/dL. When you want to be in a fat burning zone, you ideally want your blood glucose to be between 60 and 90 mg/dL. So, 259 was just this side of frickin' ridiculous. Those numbers weren't right. They were astronomical.

That got me to thinking about how the body works and I started to research how the body processes sugar. I found an interesting video regarding the “fat burning” zone and how when your pancreas is busy getting rid of chemicals like High Fructose Corn Syrup, it can't properly balance things out that it was built to balance. Now, I'd heard the arguments either way “for” or “against” HFCS. I never really cared. But I thought about the fact that I drank at least 3 tall Arizona Green Iced Tea (with Ginseng & Honey) a day (some days more) and thought there must be absolutely no way that my pancreas could be doing it's regular job with me pouring all that sweetened tea down my throat.

So, I decided to remove that from my diet. I mean, it's not like I couldn't drink water or unsweetened tea. I love either. Which got me thinking: there must be other ways to regulate my sugar, as well.

I then learned about the Glycemic Index and the fact that many people have learned to regulate their blood glucose by adhering to a low glycemic diet. I even read there was a 70-something man who had adopted a low GI diet, added in a little fiber supplement and had reversed his doctor's diagnosis in just a few months.

Adopting a low glycemic diet didn't look like it was going to be too bad, either. I mean, I like to eat. But adopting an “eat something every few hours” diet wasn't so bad. I also started to devour recipes where low glycemic foods were introduced. They were great!

I started making my coffee without sugar and something miraculous happened: I realized that my sugar-loaded chain store coffee didn't taste very good with just milk. I sped on over to a small place near me that sells some gourmet beans and found a great tasting coffee that didn't need sugar. I also found that my ability to differentiate various types of coffee improved and I started to really dig on the beans I'd picked.

I drank a lot more water during the day. I changed my morning routine so I had a bowl of some interesting Kashi cereal first thing. Then later in the morning, I'd have a piece of fruit to follow it up. But not just any fruit: something low on the glycemic index. I'd have a yogurt or some cottage cheese for lunch with some nuts, maybe a fruit. Around 3pm, I'd get hungry and want something so I'd eat red peppers and carrots dipped in hummus. Sticking to the low glycemic index means that I've upped my fiber intake a bunch and due to that, I've been staying fuller longer and losing weight, too.

My first week, I found I'd lost six pounds and had gotten my blood glucose down to the 140's.

I've been sticking with this plan for three weeks now and had gotten my blood glucose down to 113 yesterday. I'm not out of the woods, heck I can't even see the light through the trees yet. But I wanted to write this up and share this story with everyone so that if they find themselves in a similar situation, they might find some guidance here. You don't have to just live with this. You can fix it yourself.

Now, as a matter of full disclosure, I've started a Metformin regimen two days ago and I'm doing that because the doctor has prescribed it and I figure it can only help. It has so far. This morning I reached a 107 with my blood glucose. And, on top of that, I've slimmed down from 193 lbs about 3 weeks ago to 183 this morning. Is that a lot? No. But it's a start. This isn't a sprint, it's a marathon.

Oh! And since I found some really startling foods are low glycemic index fodos, I really thought I was going to have a bad number when measuring my blood glucose this morning (you know, the 107?) but I didn't. Did you know Spaghetti was a GI of 27 for 2 cups of it? I ordered Shrimp Marinara last night at one of my favorite Italian places. I ate the shrimp (which have a GI of 0), the marinara sauce which is low, too, since it's tomatoes and other good stuff and only about ¼ to 1/3 of the spaghetti. And I still came in at a 107.

I'm not saying that I have a solution for you, if you are diagnosed with adult type 2 Diabetes. I'm not saying that my way will work for everyone, but if you find yourself in a similar place as me, you might also be able to hack your eating habits and begin to regulate your blood sugars naturally, too.

I wish you the best of luck.

-Jack

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