Tuesday, 29 July 2014

You never forget your first

There are a lot of things we learn to live with as a result of having diabetes.  Hypos are just one of many things that we people with diabetes have to face.


I remember when I was diagnosed that the specialist nurse I saw at the time tried to explain to me what it would feel like when I had a hypo.  (There’s no “if” in these cases – you’re bound to have a hypo eventually).  I don’t remember how she described it at the time, although in fairness I was too busy trying to work out how to carry all the stuff I’d been given and desperately trying to remember what doses of insulin I needed to take.


What I do vividly remember is having my first hypo.


I was working in a pub kitchen when that feeling we’re all familiar with started to wash over me.  I could feel my heart pounding and my hands were starting to shake.  I remember feeling quite disoriented – it was as if thinking had become something to concentrate on rather than being a reflex action.  I think the best analogy you can give someone who isn’t diabetic is that it’s like being in an induced state of panic.  I’m not sure it’s possible to convey to someone who doesn’t get hypos how it actually feels.  Of course your close friends and family will learn the signs and can see what it looks like (reports of me being grumpy in such situations are wide of the mark), but you can’t articulate the way it feels.


I’d been given a number to call the first time I went low so that a nurse could make sure I was OK.  I remember stepping outside and making that call, trying to explain what was happening as if I was the first person that this had ever happened to.  Of course that’s not true, but when it’s happening to you for the first time, you’re convinced that you’re the only person in the world that feels that way.


Of course the nurse talked me through what I needed to do.  I’m fairly sure I actually carried proper Dextrose tablets back then so having had a couple of those and a sit down I felt ready to go back to work.  The added bonus of working in a kitchen meant a free sandwich was fairly easy to come by.


There are so many hurdles we have to jump with this condition and whilst they get easier with time, the first time you go over one, it feels like a mountain.


Remember that you’re not on your own with your diabetes – there are a lot of people out there who understand what you’re going through and will help if you need it.  You can always contact us as peer supporters and we’ll help in whatever way possible.


Until next time, take care




Thursday, 10 July 2014

The hassle of eating out

If you're anything like me, the suggestion that my friends and I go to a restaurant, to catch up, is often an event that I dread. I have two groups of friends; in one group there are fellow people with diabetes. In the other group, I am the only one with diabetes and no one else in the group has any experience of the condition. 

With the two groups, eating out is a very different experience. When I'm with my friends who have diabetes, we spend much of the evening discussing what we're going to eat, how many carbs are in our meals, what it'll do to our sugar levels, and how much insulin we're going to inject. A recent experience makes me laugh when I think back to it. The 3 of us always go to Nando's when we're together and we all generally order the same thing.

The last time we met, was no different. Having ordered our food, grabbed our drinks and picked up our cutlery, we all checked our blood sugar levels, so we could decide how much insulin we were each going to inject. My meter told me I was 6.8. Not bad, considering we were having a late lunch. My two friends simultaneously checked their levels. We must have looked a little odd, staring at our three meters. However, my two friends were also 6.8. What were the chances?! 

Even though our levels were the same, and we were eating very similar meals, we all injected different does of insulin. I need very little insulin, whereas one of my friends is particularly resistant to insulin, and so has to inject higher doses.

In comparison, eating out with my other friends, who don't have diabetes, is very different, and sometimes relatively more stressful. When I'm with my diabetes-friends, we tend to go to the same restaurant. If we do go to a new restaurant, we all have mobile apps, and are able to discuss the possible carb content of the meals. This way, we can all try to work out how much insulin we need to inject.

With my other friends, it is stressful and difficult for me, at times. No one likes to go to the same place every time, it's fun to discover new places. Before I was diagnosed with diabetes, and before I had IBS, I loved trying new foods. Unlike my sister who would probably stick to chicken nuggets and chips, if she could...

I have to admit, I do get anxious if I know I'm going out to eat with my friends, especially if I've never been there before. What am I going to eat that won't upset my stomach? What food can I eat that won't have masses of hidden sugars? Should I inject before my meal or after? What if we don't eat until late? So many things that my friends don't have to think about. It is sometimes frustrating that I'm the only one in my group who has to worry about these things.

To try to give myself a break, and try to enjoy my meal at a restaurant, I like to know where I'm going, beforehand. That way, I can look online at the restaurant's menu and try to weight out my options. I've also given the restaurant a call on occasion to see if they cater for gluten free. Luckily, most places do put their menus online, and this saves me a lot of time and worrying. Other things that I can do, include using my phone. Some restaurants have their own mobile apps, which contains their menu, and even some nutritional information. 

My favourite apps are for the Harvester, Nando's and Giraffe. I've even heard a rumour that Pizza Express and Dominoes also have useful apps. I'll certainly have to look into that...Another option is 'MyFitnessPal'. Although it is generally for tracking fitness and diet, it has a very comprehensive database of foods, both home made and restaurant brands. For each listing, full nutritional information is available. This has helped me out particularly when I've been to Indian restaurants. 

I'm not trying to make you all hungry from boasting about all these restaurants. Eating out when you have diabetes is always a challenge. It makes me nervous, it makes many other people nervous, too. However, that doesn't mean that we have to miss out. If you are worried about what you're going to be eat, you could look at the healthy options. These will generally be lower in fat, sugar and salt. You could also ask the restaurant staff for more information about specific meals. 

The greatest tip we can offer to people with diabetes, is to be prepared. Knowing what you're going to eat, takes away a major worry that many people have when eating out. Also making sure you know what your sugar levels are, will help you. If you are eating late, or the restaurant is busy, you may find your sugar levels drop. Having some quick-acting carbs (dextrose tablets, orange juice for example) will save you from a hypo in the restaurant.

If you do need any tips on the best foods to eat, what to avoid, or want to know if you're on the right line, when it comes to restaurant foods, please do feel free to comment, or drop a line at louisepeersupport@live.com

Friday, 4 July 2014

Taking diabetes on holiday

I'm sure I'm not the only one to be sorely frustrated by the fact that we can't take a break from our diabetes. It's with us when we're at work, when we're visiting friends, when we're exercising. It even has the cheek to follow us on our summer holidays!

Holiday breaks are certainly a time to unwind and forget about the stresses of everyday life. Even though those of us with diabetes, can't just 'forget' about it, there is no reason why we can't enjoy ourselves, too. We just have to remember that diabetes will be staying with us, for a while. Whether you are taking a holiday in the UK, sunbathing in Lanzarote, or skiing in the French Alps, there is so much to remember. Not only do we have to remember the usual clothing, sun cream, passports, we also have to remember our MEDICATION.

Arguably not so much of an 'end of the world' feeling if you're on holiday in the UK, but it really is important to remember the everyday essentials, so that you can continue to maintain your sugar levels, when you are on holiday. There are lots of things that will affect your sugar levels - level of activity, mood, diet, temperature. It is difficult to know quite how your diabetes will be affected, with the temporary change of lifestyle. Some people will find the hot temperatures make their sugar levels drop rapidly. Others will be more lenient with the food they eat, thus leading to a rise in sugar levels. However, everyone is DIFFERENT. 
It might also be worth going the extra step, and learn the country's language - if faced with an emergency, you would need to be able to make your way to a hospital. 

Remember, it is ok to let your hair down when you're on holiday, but listen to your body. Look out for the signs of a hypo. Don't neglect your blood glucose meters, and do remember to take the right dose of insulin/tablets, for what you are eating. 

For more guidance on what to remember when going on holiday with diabetes, check out the Diabetes UK website or visit www.diabetes.co.uk/travel