Walking a Tightrope – Dealing with the Highs and Lows

This content originally appeared on diaTribe. Republished with permission.

By Julie Heverly

Julie Heverly joined The diaTribe Foundation in 2021 as the Director of Institutional Giving. Heverly was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes after her junior year at Washington & Jefferson College and she is a guest writer for diaTribe Learn.

Julie Heverly describes one harrowing day when her glucose levels teetered between way too high and way too low and how she navigated this challenge.

For me, life with diabetes is like walking on a tightrope. Sometimes my course is set, and I can navigate to the ledge on the other side gracefully. Yes, it’s difficult, and yes, it requires skills, knowledge, the right equipment, and bravery (and even some luck), but it’s doable. But other days, a big wind blows through, and that delicate tightrope act is put in jeopardy.

I recently experienced one of those really bad windstorms, and it knocked me right off the tightrope.

To help me stay in range, I wear a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) and a closed-loop insulin pump that can give me small doses of insulin (micro doses) when my glucose levels are high and that can halt insulin delivery when my glucose levels are dropping or anticipated to become below my desired range. It’s a helpful system that assists my daily management quite well overall. It is not, however, a fool-proof system or a cure.

On this particular day, I woke up determined to stay in range (as is my daily mindset). At 5:30 am my alarm clock went off. I exercised for an hour on the elliptical, showered, and got myself and my family ready for the day. I chose the same breakfast I’ve been eating for the past six months – low fat cottage cheese and fresh berries. Shortly after breakfast though, my glucose started creeping into the 300s, where it stayed, despite my best efforts, until 9:30 p.m.

That entire day, my stomach was nauseous, my head was foggy, and my mood resembled Oscar the Grouch. I tried my best to bring my glucose down just as I have been taught:

  • I calculated correction boluses through my pump.
  • I selected low carb meals for lunch and dinner, and I pre-bolused 15 minutes in advance for both meals.
  • I changed my pump site in case the canula had kinked.
  • I used a new vial of insulin in case the old one had turned bad.
  • I took a walk after dinner.
  • I hydrated myself throughout the day (I personally aim to drink half my body weight in ounces each day).
  • And finally, I even resorted to a manual injection correction.

It didn’t help, at least not at first. But as we all know, what goes up, must come down.

Snacks

Image source: diaTribe

By 10:30 pm, my stomach started to growl, and my CGM showed that my glucose levels were finally coming down, but rapidly. I dropped from that 300 mg/dL range to below 80 in less than 60 minutes, and my CGM warned that I would continue to drop without urgent treatment. I treated myself with my standard juice and peanut butter crackers and went to bed relieved that the unbudgeable high was gone. But 45 minutes into my sleep, I was awoken by another CGM alert. I was below target again. My CGM and pump began beeping once every 15 minutes for the next two and a half hours. Once again, I attempted everything I have been taught, but this time it was to raise my glucose levels:

  • I consumed 8 oz of juice and waited 15 minutes.
  • Then I ate some peanut butter crackers and waited 15 minutes.
  • Then I consumed 8 oz of milk and waited 15 minutes.
  • And finally, I ate approximately 50 grams of carbs in small doses (approximately 15 grams of carbs at a time over the course of two hours). I felt like I was eating everything in sight.

Throughout all of this, I checked my glucose with my CGM and blood glucose meter regularly, but no matter what I seemed to try, my glucose sat between 60-70 mg/dL with downward facing arrows on my CGM. Thankfully, because I never fell to level 3 hypoglycemia (below 54 mg/dL, when mental or physical functioning is impaired), I did not need additional assistance or glucagon.

This is the point in the textbook story where a person should have their family on standby with a glucagon kit and their phone ready to call 911. But I don’t live in a textbook. I live in the real world where people are employed and need sleep to function properly. I had left my bedroom after the first six alarms so my husband could try and salvage some sleep. I had my phone at the ready, but I’ll admit to trying to fall back asleep after each course of treatment, making each alarm more upsetting and frustrating than the last.

Throughout the course of the night, I dealt with soaking sweats and shakes. My legs were able to carry me to find more carbs, but they felt like they would give out at any time. I knew I needed more glucose in my system, but I lacked the resolve to search for the best options and ended up eating whatever was closest to me.

My lack of control and inability to quickly resolve this situation left me with significant anxiety, feelings of helplessness, and guilt for potentially disrupting my family in the middle of the night. But perhaps the worst side effect of this hypoglycemic episode was the fear it provoked.

I’ve been living with type 1 diabetes for 23 years; I know the risks of hypoglycemia. In 2016, I was serving as the executive director for the American Diabetes Association in Western Pennsylvania, and while setting up for our annual diabetes camp, one of our best volunteers never arrived with our inflatable arch. This was incredibly unlike him, and we left message after message trying to reach him. A few days later, I learned that Gregg, who also had type 1 diabetes and who dealt with hypoglycemia unawareness, had died from hypoglycemia. Two years later, a 9-year-old girl named Sophia who had participated in the same diabetes camp the summer before, died at a sleepover, also from hypoglycemia.

Most of the time, diabetes is manageable thanks to new and evolving tools, therapy options, and tons of education. But every so often, there are days that are completely outside of the normal day-to-day. These days are difficult to manage and can only be explained by ambiguous culprits like stress or hormones. Those days are frustrating and sometimes scary. They remind me of Gregg and Sophia. I see their faces and I recall the heartbreak I shared with their families and loved ones when diabetes took them too soon. They also remind me to push through and to keep fighting.

At some point, during this particularly difficult glucose rollercoaster day, I remember falling asleep and thinking, “I’m exhausted, and I really hope that it’s my alarm clock that wakes me next and not my diabetes devices or a paramedic.”

Three hours later my alarm clock went off.

Thank you, Lord!

I felt like I had been hit by a truck, but it was a new day and I was given another chance to get it right.

I am so grateful to be dealing with diabetes in the age of CGMs, closed-loop insulin pumps, and helpful metrics like Time in Range that give me more information about my diabetes management. My life is better, easier, and healthier because of them. But there are still days when the best laid plans don’t always work.

After this incident, I contacted my endocrinologist. We decided to complete some basal rate testing to ensure my pump settings were currently correct. I also got a prescription for one of the new next-generation glucagon options. I’ve talked to my husband and daughter about learning how to use the new glucagon if I hit level 3 hypoglycemia. Finally, I resolved to work on balancing patience and vigilance with my diabetes management. That will be the toughest challenge.

Sometimes I wonder if Nick Jonas makes having diabetes look too cool. Or that maybe we have all done such a great job of thriving with this condition that the public, our families, and even those of us living with diabetes sometimes forget how dangerous diabetes can be when something in our world changes the wind near the tightrope that we walk 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

If you want to learn more about managing hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia, check out some of diaTribe’s helpful resources:

Source: diabetesdaily.com

Control-IQ: The Good, the Challenges, and Tips

This content originally appeared on diaTribe. Republished with permission.

After a month of her daughter using Control-IQ, Katie Bacon reviews the pros and cons of the algorithm and shares her family’s tips and takeaways

When the email came through in early April that our daughter, Bisi, could now download the software to run Control-IQ on her t:slim insulin pump, the timing seemed perfect. After all, our family was staying at home due to COVID-19, so we had plenty of time together to do the training and figure out the new system and how it worked for Bisi and her blood glucose levels. Plus, from everything I’d read about COVID, keeping blood sugars as stable as possible was more important than ever, and it seemed like Control-IQ could help us with that. (The Control-IQ algorithm uses data from Dexcom’s CGM to lower insulin delivery when a low is predicted and to increase insulin when a high is predicted – learn more about Control-IQ here.)

Bisi has now been on the new system for about a month, and while it hasn’t been a magic bullet and we’re still learning, Control-IQ has improved Bisi’s time in range by about 5% (and we’re hopeful that her time in range will continue to improve). Also, even more importantly, it’s improved her quality of life – and ours, as the parents who watch out for her. When I sat down with Bisi recently to ask her about the change, I got her perspective on the burden she feels diabetes has placed on her ­– and the power of Control-IQ to lighten that load. She told me that before using Control-IQ, at any given time 30-40% of her focus was on diabetes. I was taken aback by this percentage, since Mark (my husband) and I have always tried to take some of the weight for her. As she told me, “It feels demanding, like a lot of pressure, as if someone’s poking my head.” But with Control-IQ, she says, she doesn’t need to worry about much except bolusing insulin at mealtime. She has fewer highs, fewer lows, and she says she feels better physically than she did before. “For as long as I can remember, diabetes has been a main focus of my life, but it really shouldn’t be that way. So it’s been nice not to focus on it as much,” she said.

In terms of what Bisi has experienced over the past few weeks since switching to Control-IQ, I’ve divided my thoughts into the pros and cons of the system as we’ve experienced it; I’ve also included tips drawn from what we’ve learned from Bisi’s endocrinologist and DCES.

Pros of Control-IQ:

  • Graph

    Image source: diaTribe

    We’ve found that Control-IQ works particularly well at night, when Bisi isn’t eating anything or bolusing. While our nights had already improved with Basal-IQ (which did a good job minimizing Bisi’s lows), Control-IQ brings down any highs as well (see the graph on the right). I’d say that when Bisi’s pump only dealt with the lows, we still had to wake up maybe six to eight nights a month, on average – and sometimes multiple times in one night. But in the month since Bisi started on Control-IQ, we’ve only had to wake up three times. This is a big change in our quality of sleep (and quality of life).

  • Control-IQ helps keep blood sugars down during the day. As before, Bisi’s blood sugars are less stable during the day, when her activity is variable and when she’s eating meals and snacks. But now, Control-IQ raises her basal rate when she’s headed high and gives modified boluses (60% of what’s called for) if the highs are sustained. We’ve found that her blood sugar does not rise as steeply, according to her CGM, and also that it often tops out at a lower number than it used to.

Cons of Control-IQ:

  • There were a few instances where Bisi had sustained lows that were more difficult than usual to counteract with carbohydrates. These instances have all been when she’s started exercising with a lot of active insulin on board, due to Control-IQ turning up her basal rate in response to a high. Before using Control-IQ, if Bisi’s blood sugar was high, she (maybe with a reminder from me) would have to make a decision to either turn up her basal or give a correction. If she knew that she was going to get exercise in the near future, she wouldn’t do either of those things. But now they happen automatically, so she’s sometimes stuck with too much active insulin on board. It requires a different kind of thinking and a different kind of planning than before.
  • Both Bisi and I wish there were a little more flexibility in Control-IQ so she could set her own target. Bisi used to set her target at 100 day and night, and would often run at 80 or 90 while she was sleeping. With Control-IQ’s built in Sleep Mode target of 110, Bisi runs a little higher than she is used to, especially at night.

Thoughts and Tips for using Control-IQ:

  • We have found that being consistent about pre-meal bolusing is even more important with Control-IQ than it was before. If Bisi waits too long to bolus, her blood sugar goes too high, she gets more basal and an extra 60% bolus from Control-IQ, and then her blood sugar goes too low later on.
  • While it might seem like Control-IQ could enable people to be a little freer in what they eat, so far it has emphasized the benefits of eating low carb as the best way to avoid food-related spikes and insulin-related dips. No matter how good an algorithm is, it’s always going to be reactive rather than proactive, and we’ve found that the smaller the inputs in terms of number of carbs eaten, the more smoothly Control-IQ works. (I think this is partly why it tends to work better for Bisi at night, when she’s not eating anything, than during the day.)
  • Bisi’s endocrinologist validated our sense that exercise-related lows can be steeper with Control-IQ, since you tend to have more active insulin on board. Because you can’t do a temporary basal rate with Control-IQ, she suggested that we set up an alternate program with basal rates cut by 50%. If Bisi knows she’s going to exercise, she can turn on this alternate program 90 minutes to 2 hours before. Or, if she’s eating beforehand, she can put in fewer carbs/give less insulin. Either way, the trick is remembering.
  • During Bisi’s most recent appointment, her endocrinologist pointed us to a feature of Bisi’s Tandem reports that’s helpful to look at as a way to adjust settings. She told us to focus on the difference in the Logbook section between the Basal Total Delivered and the Basal Profile Setting, as a way to tell whether her basal rate at any given time should be raised or lowered; the closer the settings are to the amount of insulin that’s being delivered, the more smoothly the Control-IQ algorithm will work. She also suggested that we “Marie Kondo” (streamline and declutter) Bisi’s basal rates, which had proliferated over time, to help us see more easily where adjustments need to be made.
  • We realized that if Bisi has a random high blood sugar, particularly at night, we should assume that something has gone wrong with her pump site. Before Control-IQ, pump site failure was only one of several reasons – including the dawn phenomenon and the meal she’d eaten the night before – that her blood sugar might have gone high. This realization has helped us reduce that middle of the night detective work, when your brain is at its foggiest. If Bisi has a persistent high, the problem is most likely the pump site, not the algorithm.
  • One adjustment that Bisi has struggled with is remembering to turn off her insulin when she takes off her pump to shower or play sports. (The Control-IQ algorithm is thrown off when the system doesn’t have an accurate sense of how much insulin you have on board.) This is a work in progress for us.

Even though we still feel like we have more work to do in terms of getting the best out of the new algorithm, Control-IQ has improved Bisi’s life in important ways. As Bisi’s endocrinologist told us, “It’s not perfect, and you need to think more about active insulin than you did before. But the goal with this is to have diabetes interrupt your life less than it did before.” For Bisi, the important aim of staying in range now requires less mental effort. As she said recently when looking at her CGM graph after 24 hours of Control-IQ: “This is pure gold.”

This article is part of a series on time in range made possible by support from the Time in Range Coalition. The diaTribe Foundation retains strict editorial independence for all content.

About Katie

Katie Bacon is a writer and editor based in Boston. Her daughter, Bisi, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in August, 2012, when she was six. Katie’s writing about diabetes has appeared on TheAtlantic.com and ASweetLife. Katie has also written for The New York Times, The Boston Globe, and other publications. 

Source: diabetesdaily.com

Creative Bolus Strategies Result in Better Glycemic Control (ADA 2020)

At the American Diabetes Association (ADA) 80th scientific sessions on Friday afternoon, Margaret Pellizzarri, RN, MS, MBA, CDE along with the Integrated Diabetes Services team, including Gary Scheiner, MS, CDE delivered a unique presentation on clever insulin bolusing techniques for people living with diabetes who use a pump or multiple daily injections, when dosing for high-protein and high-fat meals.

Bolus Options

  • Normal bolusing–delivers insulin all at once and is used for most meals
  • Square bolusing–delivers insulin over a period of time. This is especially useful in situations where there is a buffet or you are eating over a longer period of time. Patients with gastroparesis also can benefit from square bolusing since their digestion is slowed down.
  • Combination or dual-wave bolus–delivers a portion of the insulin as a normal bolus and the rest as an extended or square bolus. This can be particularly helpful with meals that are high in fat, high in both fat and carbs, as well as for high-protein meals.

Insulin Dosing for Protein and Fat: Studies and Strategies

Studies conducted in both people living with type 1 and type 2 diabetes indicate that fat slows down gastric emptying and slows down glucose absorption. This can result in hypoglycemia for patients after a fat-laden meal. Several studies demonstrate that both high-fat and high-protein meals require more insulin to achieve target postprandial blood glucose levels. Furthermore, glycemic responses vary depending on the specific macronutrient profile of the meal, with higher-protein meals tending to cause prolonged hyperglycemia (if not accounted for). Altogether, this indicates that the insulin delivery strategy must be optimized in dose and timing to achieve the most optimal results when consuming such meals. 

Here are the highlights from the presentation:

  • One study showed that high-protein, high-fat meals required 30% more insulin over 6 hours and suggested using a glucose meter or continuous glucose monitor (CGM) to adjust as needed.
  • Another investigation demonstrated that consuming a mixed protein mixed meal (36 g protein, 30 g carbs, 5 g fat) when dosing only for the carb content, resulted in higher postprandial glucose values. By using a protein-fat insulin dosing algorithm, they suggested that adding 66% more insulin delivered in a combination bolus over three hours resulted in improved glucose levels. The impact of a meal that was higher in protein and fat, showed to be additive to postprandial glucose levels.
  • One study showed that mealtime doses for individuals with type 1 diabetes need to be individualized. For high-fat meals (more than 40 g), patients should consider additional mealtime insulin, around 30-35% of the initial dose. For individuals using pumps, it is recommended to try a combination bolus with half the dose before eating and half delivered over 2-2.5 hours after eating.
  • One investigation suggested that high-protein and high-fat meals require a >60% ICR (insulin-carb ratio) as a standard bolus before the meal with an additional ICR up to 70% in an extended bolus starting at 1.5-5 hours after the meal.

Conclusions

  • Experts suggest altering your insulin dosing and changing the timing of insulin delivery can help better navigate tricky meals that are high in fat and/or protein.
  • Using the bolus techniques presented above, those on an insulin pump can experiment to achieve what works best (Note: If low blood glucose occurs, it is recommended to extend the duration of the remainder of the extended dose.)
  • Those using multiple daily injections can also vary the timing and dose of their insulin according to the specific meal (although this may be more tedious). You could also consider different insulin based on their activity profiles (make sure to discuss any changes with your healthcare provider!).
  • Despite the manufacturer’s recommendations of dosing insulin within 15 minutes of meal consumption or immediately after, research shows that best postprandial glycemic results are achieved when taking the specific macronutrient distribution of the meal into account and adjusting both insulin amounts and timing to best match that food profile.
  • Recent research shows that injecting 15-20 minutes before meals is safe, and results in 30% lower glucose levels and less post-meal hyperglycemia when premeal glucose levels were in range.

Whether you use a pump and can take advantage of the special bolusing features or are on multiple daily injections, there are strategies to try when consuming high-protein, high-fat meals. With some trial and error, we can all benefit these creative tactics to strive for improved postprandial glucose levels when it comes to the always challenging high-protein, high-fat meals. Be sure to always consult your healthcare provider before making any changes to your insulin dosing regimen.

***

What are your thoughts on the subject? Do you use any of these strategies? How do you navigate complex meals?

Stay tuned for more from the ADA 80th scientific sessions!

Source: diabetesdaily.com

Bolus Breakdown: Waffle Edition

This content originally appeared on Arden’s Day and the Juicebox Podcast. Republished with permission. Insulin Is About Timing and Amount… Listeners of my podcast hear me say all of the time that type 1 diabetes is about understanding how insulin works in you. With that understanding, you can make good decisions about the timing of […]
Source: diabetesdaily.com

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