Diabetic in Hot Yoga Class

As a hot yoga teacher, getting back into my own yoga practice has been a challenge. Just as food and insulin react with my body differently from day to day, exercise can also have extremely different impacts on my body and sugar levels. The heat in hot yoga class adds another element, making planning for and recovering from a yoga class quite challenging.

The most frustrating class I recently took was a hot power flow class. Before class I made sure to eat a snack of apples and almond butter to provide my body with protein and sugar it would need for this class. Before class, my sugars sat a bit high at 130, which I expected would allow for my sugars to lower safely due to exercise. I enjoyed the class, although it was challenging since I cannot maintain a “regular” practice just yet. I felt okay after class, and went to check my sugars in the locker room, assuming they would have dropped. Instead they had skyrocketed to 192!

It seems that they heat in the yoga room causes a stress response in the body which causes more adrenaline to pump through the body, increasing sugar levels in an attempt to prepare the body for danger. While exercise usually takes sugars down, this stress response over-rode that drop….

at least at first…

I didn’t dose myself after class because I waited 2 hours to see how my sugars would readjust. Good thing, because soon I was back to a safe 123. I thought this meant all was clear and the rest of the day would be smooth sailing. Again, WRONG.

The rest of the day my sugars fluctuated up and down, but I was able to stabilize for most of the day.

At bedtime my sugars were 100, so I had a small snack, took my night time dose of Lantus (long-acting insulin) and called it a night. I slept soundly until 3 am.

Hello, low blood sugar! I woke up to a scary number of about 35. Luckily I had glucose tablets next to my bed, so I took one. The symptoms of a cold sweat, shakiness, light headedness, and difficulty thinking was overwhelming. Once I felt well enough to move, I got up to have some juice and snacks. Feeling low while in the kitchen makes you want to raid the fridge and eat everything in site– resisting this was tough! After keeping myself up for a few hours to monitor my sugars, I was finally back up to 170 (way too high, but safer to sleep while high rather than risk another low).

Exercise impacts the body and blood sugar levels up to about 24 hours after the actual physical activity. My body was so sensitive to both the heat of the 100 degree room and the exercise, and I had to deal with the results diligently throughout the day and the night.

Does anyone else have advice or experiences regarding dealing with sugars in hot yoga or hot exercise of any kind? It is all a learning experience and a fine balancing act. I hope to get back to a somewhat “normal” practice in the near future while staying safe and feeling good!

Can you have your drink, and diabetes too?

When learning about my new diet requirements, guiltily, one of my first thoughts was,

“Will I be able to drink anymore?”

As a Twenty-Something gal, I undoubtedly like to relax and enjoy a refreshing alcoholic beverage from time to time (responsibly of course). When I posed this question to my endocrinologist, he curtly replied, “Yes you can still have a drink, just have any alcohol with meals”. Sounded like a plan to me! I can do that.

I waited to have my first drink for quite a few weeks after being diagnosed. This allowed me to adjust to my new eating schedule and insulin dosing. When I was ready to try drinking again, I carefully and methodically estimated my carb intake, dosed myself for the meal with the appropriate amount of insulin, and had a glass of delicious red wine. I thought I had done everything right. Except afterwards, my blood sugar went down low. Luckily not too low. But I was surprised by how the wine had impacted my sugars, and not in the way I had expected. Alcohol sounded like sugar to me, so I had assumed my sugars would go up if anything. Yet again, T1D surprised me.

 

 

I experimented on my own. I soon found that beer was a no-no since the high carb count caused my sugars to soar. This was quite a let down since I loved home brewing beers and trying new craft beers. However, wine had the opposite effect and seemed to drastically cause my sugars to drop. At first this seemed like an amazing gift. I could eat more carbs, take less insulin, drink wine and stabilize my sugars! While this did happen occasionally, I also learned it could be disastrous if the wine caused my sugars to drop too low.

 

When I confronted my endocrinologist about this perplexing situation, he did provide some insight.

The alcohol found in drinks causes the pancreas to reduce sugar production in the body. This in turn may leave more insulin in the body from earlier dosing, lowering sugars more rapidly.

In sweet drinks and beers, the sugars may rise due to high sugar and carb counts found in these drinks. Red wine that is not sweet, however, seems to keep my sugars pretty low.

 

The balancing act of drinking with diabetes is a tricky one and one that must be tailored and monitored for each person. When drinking, always be sure to eat food, limit your alcoholic intake, wear a medical ID bracelet to notify others that you are diabetic, drink slowly, and avoid mixing drinks. Drinking for diabetics and non-diabetics alike must be done responsibly and mindfully at all times.

 

*I am not a medical professional. All information is based on my own experiences and observances. Please consult a doctor before making any health or lifestyle changes.

Gluten Free with Diabetes

If you had talked to me a year ago about my health, I would have boasted, with a mixture of arrogance and embarrassment, that I hadn’t seen a doctor in years. Being the daughter of a nurse and a pharmacist allowed me access to a plethora of medical knowledge, advice and counseling (much of which I ignored). I ate right, exercised regularly, and took care of myself. I did everything I was “supposed” to in order to live a healthy life. Then 2014 hit.

 

For weeks I suddenly became excessively thirsty! As a hot yoga teacher and practitioner, I just assumed I was a bit dehydrated. I guzzled, and guzzled until I felt like a water balloon. An unsatisfied water ballon. No matter how much I drank, my thirst was never ever quenched. I drank water, seltzer, juice ANYTHING to cure my need for liquids. This urge to hydrate was so intense, I recall driving a mile down the road to run some errands and having to stop half way through my drive because I just could not wait any longer for some water. I pit stopped at the nearest gas station ASAP. Upon returning to my car I swore I would carry a water bottle with me from then on. I also promised myself I’d see a doctor that week.

 

Good thing I did. My seemingly insignificant symptoms, turned out to be a really big deal. I got checked out at a local urgent care and within minutes they scooted me out the door and pointed me in the direction of the nearest emergency room. My blood sugar levels were insanely high– almost 400! That’s a number that would make me very popular with mosquitos and vampires– talk about sweet blood! Now, most people don’t know much about blood sugar levels, but the average person’s levels are between about 85-120. Something was not right. That something was my poor pancreas. I checked into the ER completely conscious, pain-free, and seemingly “normal” which was bizarre. In my mind Emergency Room trips should involve blood, pain, tears and drama. I felt pretty fine, was relatively calm, and saw no blood except the samples they collected from my veins. After taking my blood, they too saw my sugary sweet blood sugar levels, and I was matter-of-factly diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. Their nonchalance made this seem like a nonevent. The only thing that shocked many nurses was the fact that I was “so young” and “healthy-looking”. I didn’t really know much about diabetes or what this would mean for my life. When my parents called I urged them not to come– I was fine no big deal…. Later I realized it was in fact a HUGE deal. Good thing they did come the next day.

 

I spent my New Years Eve at the hospital, watching the ball drop on the tiny television screen. During my stay at the hospital, my right arm became adorned with tubes, needles and monitors. I received insulin as well as IV fluids through the day and night. The severity of my diabetic problem in combination with the stress began to set in. Finally I was told what exactly was going on with my body. Well, maybe not exactly. The causes of Type 1 Diabetes, unless genetic, are not completely understood just yet. I was told my body had a predisposition to diabetes, although no one in my family lineage has ever been diagnosed with Type 1. I must have gotten in contact with a virus that triggered something in my DNA to shut down my auto immune functioning in the pancreas. Basically, the beta cells that help with insulin production had stopped multiplying, so my body was now making very little to no insulin. I found out that I would need to inject myself with insulin daily. Thank goodness I’m not afraid of needles! When we eat, much of our food is converted by the body into glucose. In order to ensure that glucose is absorbed into the cells, insulin is needed. If there is no insulin or not enough insulin, our cells do not get the energy they need to function properly. In addition, the sugar then stays in our blood stream, hence the intense thirst I experienced. My body was trying to use fluids to flush out the extra sugar in my blood. Too much glucose in the blood can cause serious problems over time such as reduced organ function and poor eye sight among many other complications.

 

Once I learned that I would need to stick myself with needless and prick my fingers 2-4 times per day, I wasn’t happy of course, but I was relieved to know I could actively do something to manage my health. However, I quickly realized that insulin wasn’t the superhero that had arrived to save the day. While using insulin could lower my crazy blood sugar levels, it could also be the villain itself. Improperly dosing insulin would become a whole other aspect to keep in mind. Too much insulin can cause blood sugar levels to quickly drop too low (usually below 70). This results in hypoglycemia, dizziness, irritability, inability to think properly, cold sweats and more. My life had now become a really tricky, really risky and unpredictable balancing act.

 

The following weeks were challenging. I was afraid to eat anything new, so I stuck to a strict diet of veggies, eggs, nuts, and meats. High protein, low carb and low sugars. I began to gain back the weight I had rapidly dropped before being diagnosed. I ate very healthy foods, but eating the same thing day in and day out gets BORING! I had also finally begun to adjust to administering insulin. I figured out that certain foods had a certain impact and really thought it was under control. Then, a few weeks later everything changed. A couple weeks after that everything changed AGAIN…and again…and again… I soon realized there was no specific way of predicting how foods and insulin would impact my body. Each day was different, and even if I ate the same foods and took the same insulin amounts, other factors would vary that were out of my control like stress, exercise, hormones, hydration… at times it felt like even the weather could throw me out of whack! So I adjusted and adapted, taking on each day as a new challenge. This forced me to be extremely in tune with my body, my mood and what I put into my body. At first I was of course mad and frustrated that this had happened to me. But then I began to take a more positive approach. To this day my mantra is, “I feed my body with food for nourishment, just as I now feed my body with insulin to absorb that nourishment.” Our bodies are not self-sustaining without food, and just as our bodies don’t make nutrients, my body now does not make insulin to carry the nutrition into the body. Insulin is just an extra step and another way I have to provide nourishment to my body– although, yummy food in my belly is definitely more tasty and pain free than a syringe to the belly!

 

My last A1C test (the test diabetics receive to check blood sugar levels over 3 month intervals) was completely normal. I have found a groove and have been able to stabilize my sugar levels with low amounts of insulin and a healthy diet and lifestyle. While this is the case, I hadn’t been feeling 100% still. I was experiencing what I call “brain fogs” in addition to a lack of focus and energy. I went into my Endocrinologists’ office. Everything seemed fine, so the diabetes was likely not causing my symptoms. We were finally able to determine that I not only have diabetes, but I also have a gluten intolerance. These two combinations of Type 1 Diabetes and Celiac Disease often go hand in hand. So I now had even MORE diet restrictions, but I was happy to have found a solution. Cutting out grains and other processed foods containing gluten made a tremendous difference. So, I am now a gluten free diabetic at a time when cutting out sugars and carbs is a fad and my food choices make me seem like I’m constantly dieting. I get judgmental glances when I pass on dessert, or ask for a burger without the bun. “You’re so THIN, indulge a little!” These little stabs hurt, although the intentions are not bad. If I could splurge on the ice cream sundae with extra chocolate chips and fudge, trust me I would– but the health risks are just not worth it now.

 

Luckily, this healthy diet lifestyle is good for my body. My medical condition forces me to be aware of what I consume and how much. While it is frustrating at times, I am also held more accountable to nurturing my body than most people, and I don’t take my body for granted– it is an amazing thing!

 

I hope that my journey resonates with you, whether you are newly diagnosed, a veteran diabetic, a caregiver, or a friend. I also hope that my story can spread awareness and understanding about Type 1 Diabetes. I did not bring this on myself through poor diet or lack of exercise. I am just like most 24 year old women, living a normal, healthy life, but I conversely was dealt the wrong hand. Each day is a new experience, and I am so fortunate to have an amazing support system full of loving friends and family.