How I Crushed Type 2 Diabetes in Only Weeks and Completely Changed My Outlook on Life

Editor’s note: We found Rey’s remarkable story in the diabetes online community, and asked him if he would share it with us. Rey experienced extraordinary rapid success by following a precise diet and medication regimen immediately after diagnosis with type 2 diabetes. His improvement was incredible, but others making the same changes may not experience the same success. Please speak to your doctor or caregiver before enacting any major health changes of your own.

I’m Rey, and I’m a 44-year old male with a history of high blood pressure and being overweight, but until recently I had no major health issues. Only this past summer I learned that I had dangerously uncontrolled diabetes. Within the span of just a couple of months, I completely changed my diet, started and then stopped glucose-lowering medications, and got my blood sugar back into the normal, healthy range. Here’s my story.

My First Health Scare

My story is ultimately a diabetes story, but there were some bumps along the way that I think are worth including before I jump into the diabetes.

My adventure really began in the summer of 2020. After some stressful life events, I developed a rather constant state of anxiety, which seemed to be preventing me from getting good sleep. Even while using a sedative, I was up at least 4-5 times during the night, every night. I didn’t have a previous history of mental health problems, so this was all new to me. The especially challenging part was that as time passed, lying in bed became a trigger for the anxiety, which made the sleep even harder to come by. I felt like I was just going through the motions to get through life.

Fortunately, after months of stubbornness and sucking it up the best I could, I finally got to the bottom of things. I discovered it was sleep apnea, and started CPAP treatment. The result was truly life-changing, sleep returned to normal, and my anxiety went away 100%.

Life was great and I’d survived and handled my major mid-life health crisis…. or so I thought! Little did I know, but that relief would prove to be short-lived as in the coming months I started to experience a new set of symptoms.

I was at my highest weight yet and my BMI was creeping towards 30. Some reading this will scoff and think “30 is nothing, I’m well above that,” but everyone’s body is a little different and apparently 30 was my personal breaking point.

My fasting blood sugar was over 100 mg/dL, and my doctor said something about pre-diabetes, but she didn’t sound too concerned about it.

The Symptoms

I was again experiencing sleeplessness. Now I was finding that instead of sleep apnea waking me up during the night, my bladder was sure filling up and I was getting up to pee several times a night. Also, I was quite thirsty when this would happen. I did notice it was nights that I’d eat pizza or pasta for dinner that were the worst. Some combination of stubbornness and perhaps denial kept me from taking this too seriously, so I just kept on with things. Besides, this was March 2021 and you didn’t dare go into a medical clinic unless you were on your covid deathbed. Surely, this was no big deal, and getting checked out could wait.

Still, I sensed something was wrong and I reduced the amount of pizza and pasta I was eating for dinner (maybe twice a week instead of five nights a week), eating beans with rice and veggies for dinner instead. In hindsight, not great, but a minor improvement.

The next major symptom arrived in April: blurry vision. At first, I wasn’t worried. I’d gotten LASIK eye surgery done 12 years earlier, and this change seemed like a mild return of my nearsightedness. I was also in my mid-40s, which I’m told is a time where focusing becomes harder and your vision changes.

Then it got really bad: I was on a trip to Florida when I couldn’t read a menu board that was 8 feet in front of me. I had to resort to taking a picture of it with my phone and then looking at that picture to read the menu. Something was majorly wrong!

When I got back from Florida (after some real nerve-wracking and likely dangerous driving), I went in to get my vision checked and received a -2.0 diopters prescription. The optometrist was shocked that I had let my vision get that bad before getting glasses and made a comment about diabetes, but was also of the impression that my vision would change throughout the day as my blood sugar changed. That clearly wasn’t happening to me (turns out it’s more complicated than that).

The last major symptom was that I had been losing weight at a pretty decent clip (5-10 pounds a month). Obviously, this must have been due to cutting back on pizza and pasta, right? Curiously, past attempts at eating better had never been quite this effective, but why question such great progress when you’re on a roll! At this point, it was late April and the earliest I could get in for a check-up was mid-June, so why not ride out another month of weight loss and see how great my labs come back then?

My Diagnosis

A little over a week before the appointment I started researching diabetes online, since I was starting to wonder about what my doctor and optometrist had said. But surely that takes years to develop, right?

Obviously, my “diet” was working since I had now lost 25 pounds this year and weighed less than I did in my 30s. Who knew eating healthy was so easy!

After a little light reading, I quickly realized how wrong I was, that everything that had happened in the last few months was explained perfectly by diabetes, and that the weight loss might have been diabetes rather than my new diet. This was hard to process.

I picked up a blood sugar meter, and on a Friday night fumbled with the thing enough to figure out how to get a reading. I was shocked when the meter read 567 mg/dL. That can’t possibly be right! My girlfriend tried the meter and her result came in at 77 mg/dL. I tested mine again and this time it registered 596 mg/dL!

At this point, it was 11 PM on a Friday night, and my safest course of action would have been to go to the ER, but I figured if high blood sugar hadn’t killed me in the last 3-4 months, it probably wasn’t going to kill me that weekend. I decided to read more about diabetes, give myself a couple of days to get my wits about me, and go into urgent care on Monday. I also continued to test my blood sugar and it seemed to stay in the 300 to 450 mg/dL range that weekend, regardless of what I ate or whether I was eating.

At urgent care my A1c came in at 13.7%, and my fasting blood sugar was 449 mg/dL. Based on my history, I was more likely to have type 2 diabetes (and additional testing would later confirm that). I was prescribed metformin, and advised to take insulin, advice that I wasn’t ready to take.

Rey kept track of his blood sugar measurements from the moment he began testing, before he was diagnosed with diabetes. You can see his girlfriend’s healthy reading, 77 mg/dL, on the first day.

A New Diet

I now understood that the reason I had lost so much weight so quickly was my uncontrolled diabetes, at least 3 months of it!

I immediately cut most high-carb foods out of my diet and subsisted largely on a diet of full-fat cottage cheese, full-fat plain Greek yogurt, hard cheese, nuts, avocadoes, and canned beans with olive oil. I also kept some fruit and berries in my diet initially. Throughout the day I ate random combinations of these foods. I didn’t really prepare them or fancy them up at all with cooking (other than heating the beans in the microwave so they’d be warm).

I knew I had screwed things up, and if there was going to be any hope of reversing the damage I feared I had done to my body I needed to focus. Maybe I would be able to go back to eating pizza, pasta, and all those delicious carb-filled foods that I loved someday, but it was clear now wasn’t the time for that.

I’d certainly thrown in the towel on diets plenty of times before and gone back to eating like crap, but this time it felt like there was a gun held to my head, and quitting wasn’t an option. Perhaps I’m being overly dramatic about this, and perhaps it wasn’t the healthiest outlook, but it’s how I saw things and it got me through the first weeks where I was at my highest level of motivation.

I wasn’t using a particular diet system I had found on the internet or in a book, it was just me trying to think of all the foods (as a vegetarian) that I normally ate that were lower on the glycemic index, and sticking to those. Frustratingly, there seemed to be a lot of disagreement online in regards to what the “best” diet was for a diabetic, but I’ll come back to that later.

The Right Medications

With this diet and metformin, my blood sugar still ranged from about 250 to 400 mg/dL that first week. My blood sugar really needed to come down since the longer it remained elevated, the greater my risk for diabetes-related complications. Clearly, a week of my new diet and metformin wasn’t enough, and I was more open to exploring what else could be done.

When I saw my primary doctor after that week, she wanted to put me on insulin too, in order to stabilize my blood sugar. Although I knew that insulin would have rapidly brought my blood sugar down to normal levels, using it would have made it difficult for me to gauge if my dietary changes were getting the job done.

Through my research, I had become convinced that SGLT2 inhibitors were the only class of drugs that made any sense for a person with new uncontrolled type 2 diabetes to take (in addition to metformin). Normally in uncontrolled diabetes, your kidneys excrete sugar to your urine as a means of keeping your blood sugar from getting dangerously high, but that effect doesn’t really kick in until your blood sugar levels are way up there. With an SGLT2 inhibitor, your kidneys are just doing that all the time, keeping your blood sugar down in the process. The real beauty of this is instead of insulin, which causes your body to store that excess sugar (only delaying the problem), once you pee out the excess sugar, it’s gone forever.

I asked my doctor for a referral to an endocrinologist and a prescription for an SGLT2 inhibitor instead. She didn’t have much experience with SGLT2s and started talking about other drugs, but she could see I had a pile of notes with me on different drug classes, the research I had done on them. I think she also realized that although she was the one to write the prescription, that I was ready to argue my case.

As soon as I started taking the SGLT2 inhibitor my blood sugar came down almost immediately.

On Farxiga, within days my blood sugar dropped to the 100 to 150 mg/dL range. I had to pee a little more at first too, which suggested the drug was doing exactly what it was supposed to. After a few days, I found I wasn’t peeing any more than normal, which was probably due to my fairly low-carb diet.

[Editor’s note: Rey had an incredibly positive experience with SGLT2 inhibitors, but they are not for everyone, and do carry side effects and risks, especially when combined with low-carbohydrate diets. Please speak to your doctor about changing your medication.]

This was a great improvement over where I was before, but like every newly-minted diabetic I had dreams of reversing my diabetes and getting my blood sugar back to “normal.” I obviously wasn’t there yet and just because you want something doesn’t mean it’s possible or realistic, but I was holding onto that dream.

Remission is a very controversial topic. Most ADA and official-looking literature I found said that diabetes was a progressive disease. As time passes, more drugs are required to maintain the same degree of control, and some pretty awful complications occur as it gets worse and worse. That was a rather depressing outlook. If it all falls apart in the end, why not just go back to enjoying all those carb-rich foods that I love and enjoy whatever time I’ve got left? Fortunately, I didn’t fall into that trap, but I have to imagine many do.

Intermittent Fasting

I was aware of internet doctors out there on the fringes saying type 2 diabetes can be reversed and people can manage through diet alone, without drugs. Are they selling false hope, similar to new-age healers selling energy crystals to cure cancer? Most of them are talking about low-carb and “keto,” which I’d previously assumed to be just another random fad diet. “They’re obviously quacks,” I thought. I figured that American Diabetes Association was most certainly correct about diabetes being progressive, just giving me the cold hard truth. But just for the sake of argument, I decided to hear the quacks out first.

Of the doctors on Youtube, the first to really suck me in was Dr. Jason Fung, a Canadian nephrologist. He had a very intuitive model for explaining type 2 diabetes, and used research on treating the condition with gastric bypass surgery (which has been highly successful) as a starting point. He suggested a low-carb diet combined with fasting in various forms. Hey, I’m already doing the low-carb thing and it seems to be helping. Maybe fasting would be the next nudge I needed.

I started with 3 set meals a day (eating between 7:30 AM and 7:30 PM, and then fasting from 7:30 PM until 7:30 AM the next morning). Around the time I started Farxiga, I moved into the next phase of fasting, which was to skip breakfast and then eat only lunch and dinner (eat at 12 PM and then 8 PM). To my surprise, I no longer felt hunger when I wasn’t eating. I now know that’s a common benefit to the keto diet, but if someone had tried to tell me about that a year earlier, I would have thought they were crazy. Also, I didn’t really know I was doing keto. I was just doing a tighter version of the diet I’d explained earlier, with less fruit and no beans.

I completed my first full-day fast the weekend after starting Farxiga. I didn’t eat anything at all starting Friday after dinner until around 1 PM on Sunday, for a 40+ hour fast. Again, Farxiga had gotten my blood sugar down to under 150 mg/dL on a regular basis, but this was the kick that finally got me back under 100 mg/dL. Throughout Friday it was testing 130 to 150 mg/dL, Saturday morning I was at 144 mg/dL, but as Saturday dragged on and my fast continued I started getting multiple readings under 100 mg/dL. My Sunday morning fasting result was 96 mg/dL and, it got as low as 79 mg/dL on Sunday afternoon before I finally broke my fast. To my surprise, breaking my fast only bumped me to 119 mg/dL and 5 hours later my blood sugar was back down to 82 mg/dL. Seeing this progress felt truly amazing and it was only 16 days after finding out I had diabetes!

Maintenance

Rey’s blood sugars improved rapidly and remarkably with the right combination of diet and medication.

Of course, you don’t eat your way to diabetes in two weeks and you don’t undo your diabetes in two weeks either. I was taking 2,000 mg of metformin a day as well as the SGLT2 inhibitor. The week after my big fast, my fasting blood sugar readings would go back over 100 mg/dL, but I kept plugging away, only eating two larger meals a day during a narrow set of eating hours. I also tested the high-carb waters with a 6-inch Subway sandwich – it spiked my blood sugar to 190 mg/dL, which is much higher than a non-diabetic would likely hit from that meal. That helped knock me back down a peg and remind me that I still had diabetes, after all.

The next weekend I noticed that my blood sugar numbers were starting to come down to under 100 mg/dL without extended fasting. I also noticed that foods that previously spiked my blood sugar a great deal were now spiking it much less. On June 28th (day 24 of knowing I had diabetes and 13 days after starting my SGLT2) I decided to stop taking Farxiga and see what effect it would have. This was not a responsible decision, as you should always consult with your doctor before discontinuing medication, but with my improved blood sugar levels, I questioned if Farxiga was still doing anything for me. It turned out my guess was correct. There was no significant change in fasting or post-meal blood sugar readings in the days that followed, and my type 2 diabetes was now well-controlled via just diet and metformin!

About a week later I started wearing a Freestyle Libre 2 to get a broader picture of my blood sugar trends, and for convenience. My readings were still in the 80-90 mg/dL range throughout the day, with small bumps up over 100 mg/dL after a meal. When I finally was due for my appointment with an endocrinologist to discuss my diabetes treatment, the feel of the visit could best be summed up as “why are you here?” My data showed that my average blood sugar in the previous 10 days had been 95 mg/dL, which would extrapolate to a 4.9% A1C (compared to the 13.7% result when first tested). This is, of course, only an estimate. And my blood sugar had only been well controlled for 2-3 weeks at this point.

Blood sugar wasn’t the only improvement either over last year’s numbers: total cholesterol dropped from 238 mg/dL to 172 mg/dL, with HDL (“good cholesterol”) fairly steady from 64 to 62 mg/dL. LDL (calculated) dropped from 141 to 90 mg/dL. Triglycerides dropped from 165 to 102 mg/dL. The endocrinologist agreed that I no longer needed Farxiga and indicated there really wasn’t a reason for me to see her again, but that I was free to set up another appointment if things changed.

My Best Path Forward

Since then, I’ve done more reading on the keto diet and feel that’s my best path forward to continue to maintain my health, both in terms of diabetes and beyond. I’ve improved enough that I no longer wear a CGM or perform finger sticks to check blood sugar on a regular basis, only checking maybe once a week “just to be sure.” Although I’ve tested out eating some of my old high-carb favorites and been impressed by how much less they spike my blood sugar now, I’m no longer interested in eating them on a regular basis, which is surprising to me. I’ve also found I can sleep through the night just fine without my CPAP machine due to the 35 pounds of weight I have lost from my peak of 215 lbs. The sleep apnea isn’t completely gone, so I still wear the mask most nights, but it appears to be dialed back from severe to mild.

It’s a very weird feeling: when I first found out I had diabetes I wanted nothing more than to continue eating the foods I loved and found comfort in. I felt like something had been stolen from me and feared that my body was permanently broken. Why should other people be able to eat what they want to, and I can’t? It felt very unfair and I really wanted there to be a drug or a treatment that would let me eat how I wanted to. Now that I’ve immersed myself in a better understanding of just how bad those foods were for me, I view things very differently.

I share my story not to lord my results over you if you’ve been less successful with your diabetes. I got really lucky, finding good dietary advice quickly after my diagnosis. Sadly, much of the official guidance out there seems sure to fail. I was also lucky with my uncontrolled diabetes “helping” with the first 25-30 pounds of weight loss.

I no longer have aches and pains when I get up out of bed or have to roll a certain way to avoid them, my memory has improved quite a bit and I’m no longer struggling to recall things I was just told, as I did with high blood sugar levels. I have so much more energy and stamina rather than feeling lethargic or struggling to complete physical activities. It’s like I’m in my 20s all over again (except for a little gray hair)! The downside is I now know if I go back to a lifestyle of enjoying carbohydrate-rich foods, things will go poorly for me, but as long as I don’t, I get to enjoy life so much more than I had before. And there are plenty of delicious foods that aren’t packed with carbs that I’m free to enjoy.

I think diabetes has been a net positive for me, as strange as that sounds. The me of today is very different than the me of a year ago.

Source: diabetesdaily.com

Remission, Not Reversal: Experts Agree to Define Ultimate Type 2 Diabetes Success

Type 2 diabetes can be considered “in remission” if patients can maintain non-diabetic blood glucose levels (<6.5% A1c) for 3 months without medication, according to an international panel of experts.

On August 30, the American Diabetes Association joined the Endocrine Society, the European Association for the Study of Diabetes, and Diabetes UK in co-authoring a consensus statement on “the definition and interpretation of remission in type 2 diabetes.” Here’s a press release, and here’s the full statement.

Remission is Becoming More Common

Type 2 diabetes remission has always been rare – a 2014 survey concluded that fewer than 2% of adults with diabetes experienced any level of remission without bariatric surgery – but in recent years, it has become more common.

The increasing prevalence of diabetes reversal owes partially to the rise in bariatric surgery, but is also likely due to the proliferation of new weight loss and diabetes management techniques. Although diabetes rates continue to rise unabated throughout the world, experience and understanding of the disease have led to superior treatment strategies, allowing a minority of patients to return their blood glucose levels to non-diabetic levels.

Now there are even companies, such as Virta Health, that have based their entire business strategy on the belief that diabetes “reversal” is within the reach of millions of adults with the condition.

With so much attention paid to diabetes remission, the world’s major diabetes authorities decided that the phenomenon of diabetes remission or reversal needed to be properly addressed, named, and described. The consensus statement should help guide study of the phenomenon, and give doctors and patients a framework for understanding just what remission really means.

What’s in a Name?

The experts seem to have given very careful consideration to what word doctors should use to refer to the achievement of regaining non-diabetic blood sugar levels. Many in the diabetes world use words like “reverse” or “correct” or even “cure” to refer to this phenomenon, each of which has its own implications. To speak of a “cure,” for example, is to imply that the disease has left and will never return; in the case of a patient that needs to keep up with dramatic lifestyle adjustments to keep their blood sugar at non-diabetic levels, this is a plainly inaccurate label. “Reversal” and “resolved” likewise suggest similar shades of meaning.

The panel decided,

that diabetes remission is the most appropriate term. It strikes an appropriate balance, noting that diabetes may not always be active and progressive yet implying that a notable improvement may not be permanent.

The term also accounts for the fact that while patients with diabetes may have achieved normal glycemic levels, they may still suffer from insulin resistance and/or deficiency, factors that may mean that they need to continue keeping a careful watch on their blood sugar management.

An earlier statement from the American Diabetes Association on type 2 remission categorized patients into different types of remission – partial, complete, and prolonged. These categories have been discarded as unhelpful.

Diagnosing Remission

Type 2 diabetes remission is now defined “as a return of HbA1c  to < 6.5% (<48 mmol/mol) that occurs spontaneously or following an intervention and that persists for at least 3 months” without the use of insulin or glucose-lowering medications. (The statement also allows for some other manners of diagnosing remission, such as using fasting blood glucose, in cases where HbA1c may be unreliable.)

The 3- month time parameter helps weed out both fluke A1c results and the lingering effect of medication, which can last for months after it’s been discontinued. Lifestyle interventions (changes to diet and exercise) and surgery (especially gastric bypass) can precipitate diabetes remission.

At the moment, the experts advise that patients in remission should have their A1c, as well as any potential diabetic complications, checked annually.

By definition, patients with type 1 diabetes cannot achieve remission (except under perhaps under unique and extraordinary circumstances), given their lifelong reliance on exogenous insulin

How to Achieve Remission

The most reliable way of creating type 2 diabetes remission is through bariatric surgery: nearly half of the patients in a Swedish cohort experienced lasting remission.

Bariatric surgery, however, is a very intense and expensive operation, and it comes with its own risks and complications; most patients with type 2 diabetes will not be considered good candidates. For the rest, weight loss, however it may be achieved, appears to be the best path to remission. Experts additionally debate the efficacy of specialized eating patterns, such as low-carbohydrate diets and therapeutic fasting.

Remission may not be a realistic goal for everyone, and researchers don’t yet have a solid understanding of why some patients are better able to reset their metabolic health than others.

We have an entire article on diabetes remission – originally published using terminology that is now officially out of step with mainstream practice: What You Need to Know About Reversing Type 2 Diabetes.

Going Forward

There’s an awful lot we still don’t know about remission. To date, diabetes remission has not attracted much attention from researchers, possibly because it was considered such a rarity. But with that changing, the diabetes authorities behind the consensus statement recognized a need to guide the questions of researchers.

The statement includes a laundry list of areas where future study is required, including:

  • How often patients in remission need to be re-evaluated
  • Whether or not patients in remission could still benefit from metformin and other drugs
  • Whether other metabolic parameters (such as cholesterol levels) need to be monitored
  • How long remission can be expected to last
  • What impact remission has on longterm health outcomes

Having finally named and described the phenomenon, the panel hopes to spur research into the reality of the condition so that it may be better understood.

 

Source: diabetesdaily.com

Reasons to Try Low-Carb… and Reasons Not To

If you are looking to lose weight and/or lower your blood sugars, you may have considered eating low-carb. There are many health benefits to reducing your carbohydrate intake. For those of us with diabetes, our bodies cannot properly break down sugar, so lowering carbs should naturally lower our blood sugar. Also, if you use insulin, cutting back on the carbs can also help you to reduce your insulin requirements.

With that said, people can be successful at weight and blood sugar management on both low-carb and high-carb diets. When I was eating very low-carb, I found the diet too restrictive and it messed with my mental health. In a previous article, I talked about how I increased my carb intake and still achieved the same A1c of 5.8.

The main goal is to find a way of eating that works for you, one that you can sustain and be successful at. I thought it would be nice to hear our community’s thoughts and experiences on eating low-carb…or not. While the definition of low-carb changes from person to person, the voices below define it as 100 grams of carbs a day or less.

People Living With Type 1 Who Prefer to Stay Lower Carb

“I feel better on low-carb for most things. Nothing strict, but I like to choose high protein and high fat over carbs. I think it’s definitely a personal preference. And I do splurge sometimes, though I’ll sometimes regret it because I can *feel* the unpleasant spike.” – Jessica R.

“I love low-carb. It helps me manage with way better accuracy and I do a lot of sports. The biggest issue is when I reintroduce a night out and I make a calculation error and it takes a couple of days of fumbling back to get on track.” – Nick G.

“I am not keto but do eat lower-carb. I have for many years and find it to be very helpful. I eat a higher protein diet. I am also an endurance athlete.” – Cathy J.

“Super easy and it regulates my blood sugar. I use a modified Paleo-type diet as a guideline. I typically have between 30-45 grams of carbs a day.” – Annie A.

“I try my best to be low-carb. It definitely helps me to lower my blood sugar. I try not to buy high-carb things when I shop, like bread and crackers, and when I eat out I do the best I can. If I am at a sandwich shop, I’ll eat what is on the menu and adjust my bolus for it.” – Mason R.

“I accidentally started low-carb one day and it has been great. Every 2-4 hours I eat 4 oz of protein and 2 oz of any vegetable. I never have to give myself insulin for it and my blood sugars stay stable all day with no unexpected highs or lows.” – Kelley B.

“I have been keto for about 10 years and have had type 1 for 32 years. I cycle and run and have found it much easier to manage under a keto diet. With so much less insulin on board, any highs or lows come on much more slowly. I have ridden century rides and run marathons with only needing water and with solid flat readings on my CGM the entire time. I miss a good carby beer, but overall well worth it.” – Owen F.

“I stick to low-carb most of the time but I don’t deprive myself if I want something carby. I use my insulin and most of the time my blood sugar remains stable.” – Allison C.

People Living With Type 1 Who Prefer Moderate to High Carb

“I don’t really worry about low-carb, I just try to eat good carbs. I know white rice, white flour and other types of carbs shoot my blood sugar through the roof so I try to limit those. I eat a lot of fruit though and whole wheat bread (love Dave’s Killer Bread). I can’t imagine doing keto or very low-carb though.” – Amanda S.

“I was low-carb, high-fat for about a year. Most days I was eating under 20 grams and always under 40 grams of carbs. Low-carb, high-fat worked great for snowshoeing at 9,000+ feet. It worked poorly for life in general (brain function, dependant on glycogen, glucogenesis from fat is slow). Cardio like running or cycle was a real struggle. Heart lungs and legs need glycogen when your heart rate elevates.” – Rob C.

“I work out 5 days a week and do strength training. For me personally, I like to use carbs before my workout for energy and I don’t limit them in general. Mastering the right dose of insulin at the right time is what it is all about” – Matt F.

“People with type 1 can still eat whatever they want. I enjoy my pizza and cake and still maintain optimal blood sugars.” – Kelly V.

Photo credit: iStock

People Living With Type 2 Who Choose Low-Carb

“I eat low-carb because it simplifies my life and reduces stress. I am a very carb-intolerant type 2. I ‘eat to my meter’ i.e. limit carbs enough to keep my meter readings in an acceptable range. For me, that’s about 30 grams of carbs a day. My choices are to eat what my body can handle or eat more carbs and take medication. I prefer to take the least amount of medicine, so low-carb it is. I don’t find it a big sacrifice, and after 11 years of low-carb, I feel better and less bloated, less hungry with no carb cravings.” – Lynn W.

“I needed to find a way of eating that helped all of the health issues I was facing (basically metabolic syndrome). A low-carb, healthy fat, moderate protein “diet” fit that bill quite nicely.” – Forum member

“[Low-carb] brought my blood sugar down, off all drugs. Sometimes I go off a bit (birthday parties?) but I see the impact on my daily blood test and it keeps me on course. Now I just avoid sugar and common carbs (rice, potatoes, bread, pasta) and that is enough. Oh, I have a house full of sugar substitute non-wheat flour baked bread, muffins, cookies & cake so I don’t miss anything. Just have to watch when out eating socially although there is usually enough to choose from.” – Forum member

“I joined a diabetes forum the day I was diagnosed with type 2 in 2011 and read many stories of doing well on an LCHF diet by members. The foods they reported eating to bring their diabetes under control are many of my favourites, so I decided to give it a go. The result was that I discovered I was very grain intolerant and my digestion improved dramatically when I stopped eating them. My weight started to drop fast as well, even though I was eating very high calories. Six months later I decided to take the extra step to go to a ketogenic diet, and everything improved even more as [I lowered] my carb intake to 12-20g a day and tested my ketones daily to make sure I was constantly in nutritional ketosis. I still test my ketones daily with my fasting glucose, and report both numbers here to keep myself honest. Nearly 10 years after starting low-carb, the weight loss has been maintained and I have never taken even a single metformin tablet. My quarterly HbA1c has been constantly between 5.0 and 5.2 (except for two 5.4 results) since six months after starting my low-carb diet. And I love the food I eat, so see no reason ever to go back to eating carbs for energy.” – Forum member

“I have type 2 and had my A1c in the 12 range. I was carb intolerant. My goal is to be medicine-free, have normal numbers, and to limit disease progression – and to keep the weight off.

“’Keto’ along with exercise helps my numbers remain ‘normal,’ weight is coming down slowly, BP numbers are in check, cholesterol is in normal limits, no longer have sleep issues/apnea. No T2 meds required, hope to be off my BP meds soon. A1C now in the low 5’s with normal fasting numbers.” – Forum member

People Living With Type 2 Who Prefer Moderate to High-Carb

“I’m type 2 and I don’t go low-carb since it’s a very restrictive diet. I have done low-carb in the past, and lost weight doing it. I just found it too hard to stick with when the people I dine with aren’t doing low-carb.” – Forum member

“I’m doing CICO (calories in and calories out) since you are allowed to eat anything as long you don’t go over calorie budget.” – Forum member

“I have been a type 1 since 2019. Before discovering low-carb I ate the advised 45-60g per meal which I got from Google/USDA guidelines. Truth is I’ve never been low-carb, more like moderate carb 100-200g per day. That was enough to promote rapid weight loss & return insulin sensitivity which improved over a year. My CGM trial had my A1c estimated at 4.6% & I only spent 1% of time above 140mg/dl.”- Forum member

“I do a lot of weight training and rely heavily on carbs for energy.” – Peter M.

“I’ve done research ad nauseum on what diet works best for diabetes, and long term, it appears that low-carb can actually increase insulin resistance. At first, it will definitely help your numbers, but other diets like the Mediterranean diet (which I am currently following) and Paleo have fared better in the long-term. It’s ultimately very individualized and depends on what works for you.” – Forum member

As you can see from our community members’ experiences, you can achieve both optimal blood sugars and weight on any diet. The trick is to find something you enjoy so that you can stick with it long-term.

Have you tried eating lower-carb? What was your experience like?

Source: diabetesdaily.com

Stigma and the Stories We Share

This content originally appeared on diaTribe. Republished with permission.

By Matthew Garza

Matthew Garza joined the diaTribe Foundation in 2020 after graduating from Johns Hopkins University with a degree in Biomedical Engineering. Garza is the Managing Editor of diaTribe Learn.

One of the most powerful ways to change a person’s mind is to have a one-on-one conversation. By focusing on the power of storytelling, diaTribe encourages people to share their experiences as an effective tool to fight against stigma, stereotypes, and the harmful trap of the single story of diabetes.

Diabetes stigma is extremely pervasive and harmful. It exists everywhere, including within the family, school, workplace, and healthcare setting, and it prevents people from seeking care and managing their physical and mental health. In short, this type of stigma – the shame and self-blame that a person might feel for having diabetes – can be a major stumbling block for people trying to manage this condition.

The characteristics and degree of stigma don’t look the same for every person with diabetes. For instance, a person who takes insulin might feel isolated or judged for injecting insulin, taking a blood sugar reading, or wearing an insulin pump or continuous glucose monitor (CGM). For others, stigma may be associated with certain body types or weights. For parents, a sense of stigma might come in the form of assuming blame or perceiving the judgment of others for somehow “causing” their child’s diabetes. And women with gestational diabetes may experience stigma tied to their diagnosis: that they did something wrong or won’t be able to have a healthy pregnancy.

diaTribe believes that addressing these various forms of stigma is an essential missing element of effective and compassionate diabetes care. As a part of this work, we have created the Lightning Talks series, in which experts and community members come together to learn about diabetes stigma and the ways we can address it, and to share stories and personal experiences.

At last year’s Lightning Talks event, we learned about stigma – what causes it, what other movements have done to address it (such as those working on LGBTQ rights, mental health, or HIV/AIDS), and how it manifests itself in the diabetes community and in diabetes care – from five experts and advocates. This year we moved beyond simply learning, to attempting to do something to change it.

Over the past year, we identified a specific method of change, the transformative power of storytelling, as a starting place. Research shows that one-on-one conversations and education are among the most effective strategies to help shift people’s thinking and keep them from making assumptions that lead to stigma. Simply sharing personal stories from people with diabetes about what it’s really like to live with this condition can change the narrative on diabetes in America.

We didn’t come up with this idea on our own. We were inspired to use this strategy after listening to a famous Ted Talk by the author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, which we used as the foundation of this year’s program. By listening to Adichie describe the danger of a single story, we were inspired to create a tapestry of many stories by people with diabetes.

“The single story creates stereotypes,” Adichie said in her talk, “and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”

If you look at the portrayal of diabetes in our culture, it’s easy to see this concept manifested. Diabetes is often painted to be an individual’s problem that is caused by a lack of willpower, unhealthy eating, and inactivity. This single story of diabetes is one of blaming people for being lazy and unhealthy, without any regard for the huge number of uncontrollable factors that can cause diabetes. We encourage you to watch Adichie’s Ted Talk to understand the importance of eliminating the single story.

“Stories matter. Many stories matter,” she said. “Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize.”

Two of our Lightning Talk speakers, Eileen Opatut and Phyllisa Deroze, shared their stories of living with diabetes in this spirit. Opatut, a former senior vice president of programming for The Food Network, has been living with type 2 diabetes for several decades. Deroze, a blogger, researcher, and advocate in the diabetes community, is the founder of DiagnosedNotDefeated.com and Black Diabetic Info. She was first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes but has since discovered she actually has latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (or LADA).

These women shared their experiences, including their diagnoses, their journey with diabetes, and how they have navigated a world that tells them they are the cause of their condition. They also shared moments that allowed them to break free of the stigma that often felt oppressive.

Lightning

Image source: wittmannstudios

Opatut, describing how her diabetes has progressed, said, “My body doesn’t produce insulin anymore. I have been on insulin for eight years. Is it because I didn’t take it with enough seriousness [when I was diagnosed]? Maybe, maybe not.”

But then she shared something that changed the way she thinks about her own diabetes. “During a casual lunch with my brother, my thin, athletic older brother, he took out some metformin,” she said. “He was diabetic too. And he had been too embarrassed to tell me. It was a big day because on that day, I could finally say to myself, ‘This isn’t my fault’… I could finally get to the business of educating myself and taking ownership of my diabetes.”

Lightning

Image source: wittmannstudios

Deroze talked about the intense sadness, isolation, and shame that she felt upon being diagnosed. She said the “weight of diabetes stigma impacted [me] almost every single day.”

When she was diagnosed in 2011, she began blogging at diagnosednotdefeated.com from her hospital bed. For the next six years she blogged under an alias, embarrassed to identify herself. “The most devastating part about the weight of diabetes stigma is assuming that somehow I did this to myself,” Deroze said. “And that caused me to be silent.”

It took years for her to feel comfortable enough to change her story and write about herself under her own name. “I didn’t get over diabetes stigma. I pushed through it,” she said. “And because I pushed through it, and started sharing my stories, the most amazing things started happening.”

Opatut and Deroze’s stories resonated with many of the audience members, many of whom saw themselves in the experiences the speakers shared.

Lightning

Image source: wittmannstudios

“I completely felt every word that they were saying,” said Julie Heverly, diaTribe’s director of institutional giving, who joined diaTribe’s Community Manager Cherise Shockley in the Community Sessions after the event. “I also went almost six years without really talking about my diabetes… So much of what was shared tonight, even though it wasn’t my exact story, hit very close to home. The stigma that we put on one person with diabetes affects every single person who is living with disease, whether they are a patient, a family member, or even a future person with diabetes.”

Heverly wasn’t alone. Renza Scibilia, a writer and the manager of Type 1 Diabetes and Communities at Diabetes Australia, and T’ara Smith, an advocate and the project manager of Beyond Type 2, also joined Shockley on the Community Sessions panel to share their thoughts.

“I don’t think we can ever hear enough stories about people living with diabetes,” said Scibilia. “Other people’s stories help make my diabetes make sense…When we hear other people’s stories, those feelings of isolation can disappear. Knowing that we are not alone is so powerful.”

Smith agreed. “[Phyllisa’s] story always blows me away, especially when she talks about having to blog under an alias for so long,” she said. “And I think that really goes into the shame and stigma that people with diabetes face. Her story in particular is one that I can relate to myself.”

Sharing your own personal story can have a huge impact. It means that other people with diabetes will see a person that understands their experience, who can help them realize they aren’t alone. And it means that people without diabetes will have a human face for this condition – one that talks back against the single story of diabetes they have been told repeatedly.

Sharing a personal story isn’t the only way to accomplish this, sharing real stories about others can be a similarly powerful tool, and one that friends, family members, and healthcare professionals can partake in.

Image source: wittmannstudios

“What we choose to reflect back to others, the stories we choose to share, can change the model of the world that people around us are constantly forming,” said David Lee Strasberg, CEO and creative director of the Lee Strasberg institute, who was the final Lightning Talk speaker of the event.

He shared tips on how to take stories that we hear and read, and share their core messages with others. He advised that before anyone shares someone else’s story, you need to truly listen to them and understand what they are saying. Getting permission to share someone’s story is also key, as is acknowledging the source of the story (when appropriate). Finally, “When we retell a story,” he said, “use love and understanding, not fear or anger. Having a whole community of strong, empathic, impassioned storytellers is maybe our greatest asset.”

We know from history that retelling stories can be just as powerful as sharing our own. At the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in 1987, the AIDS Memorial Quilt was displayed for the first time on the National Mall. Each panel of the quilt represented the story of a person lost to AIDS – a person unable to share their own story. And yet, their friends and family members were able to remember the lives of their loved ones, raise awareness about their fight against the deadly disease, and encourage the world to care about a group of people that so many had written off.

And so, diaTribe wants to encourage you to share your stories, and to share the stories of those with diabetes whom you love and care about. Only then can we dismantle the incomplete single story and create a tapestry of experiences that paint a more accurate picture of what living with diabetes is and can be.

And we want to hear those stories. Send us your story or the story of a loved one to stigma@diaTribe.org and make your voice heard.

Source: diabetesdaily.com

Insulin at 100, Part 3: Insulin’s Uncertain Future

This content originally appeared on diaTribe. Republished with permission.

This is Part 3 of James S. Hirsch’s exploration of the riveting history of insulin, on the occasion of its 100th birthday.

Part 1: The Discovery

Part 2: Failed Promises, Bold Breakthroughs

Insulin’s Uncertain Future

Insulin

Image source: Emily Ye, Diabetes Daily

As further refinements in insulin occurred, the insulin narrative should have become even more powerful – that insulin not only saves people, but in reaching new pharmacological heights, it is allowing patients to live healthier, better, and more productive lives. These should be insulin’s glory days – as well as days of unprecedented commercial opportunity. According to the International Diabetes Federation, in 2019, the global population of people with diabetes had increased a staggering 63 percent in just nine years – to 463 million patients.

Insulin sales should be booming, with a new generation of Elizabeth Evans Hughes and Eva Saxls to tell the story. In fact, insulin sales are declining, and insulin has no spokespeople. Reasons vary for these developments, but one fact is undeniable: insulin has lost its halo.

Insulin is still essential for any person with type 1 diabetes, though even with type 1 patients, insulin is sometimes under-prescribed as doctors fear getting sued over a severe hypoglycemic incident. The belief is that patients are responsible for high blood sugars, doctors for low blood sugars.

Where insulin has lost its appeal is with type 2 patients, which has driven the diabetes epidemic in the U.S and abroad. According to the CDC, from 2000 to 2018, America’s diabetes population surged 185 percent, from 12 million to 34.2 million, and an estimated 90 percent to 95 percent of that cohort has type 2. (The global percentage is similar.) These patients have long had options other than insulin – metformin, introduced in 1995, remains the ADA’s recommended first-line agent. But as a progressive disease, type 2 diabetes, in most cases, will eventually require a more intensive glucose-lowering therapy. Nothing achieves that objective better than insulin, but insulin is delayed or spurned entirely by many type 2 patients.

Some concerns are longstanding; namely, that insulin can lead to weight gain because patients now retain their nutrients. Some type 2 patients wrongly associate insulin with personal failure surrounding diet or exercise, so they want to avoid the perceived stigma of insulin. Some people just don’t like injections. Meanwhile, other patients associate insulin with the medication that an ailing patient takes shortly before they die: insulin as a precursor to death. Some clinicians who care for Hispanic patients refer to insulin pens as las plumas to avoid using a word that carries so much baggage.

What’s striking is how dramatically the cultural narrative has changed, from insulin the miracle drug to insulin the medical curse. And where are the commercials, the movies, the documentaries, and the splashy publicity campaigns about the wonders of insulin? They don’t exist.

The greatest impact on insulin use in type 2 diabetes has been the emergence of a dozen new classes of diabetic drugs. These include incretin-based therapies known as GLP-1 agonists and DPP-4 inhibitors (introduced in the 2000s) as well as SGLT-2 inhibitors (introduced in 2014). diaTribe has covered these therapies extensively, and their brands are all over TV: Trulicity, Jardiance, Invokana, and more. They all seem to have funky names, and like insulin, they can all lower blood sugars but – depending on which one is used – some have other potential advantages, such as weight loss. (Some have possible disadvantages as well, including nausea.)

The expectations for these drugs were always high, but what no one predicted was that GLP-1 agonists and SGLT-2 inhibitors have been shown to reduce the risk of both heart and kidney disease – findings that are a boon to type 2 patients, who are at higher risk of these diseases. These findings, however, were completely accidental to the original mission of these therapies.

Insulin, the miracle drug, has been eclipsed by drugs that are even more miraculous!

Consider Eli Lilly, whose Humalog is the market-leading insulin in the United States. In 2020, Humalog sales fell 7 percent, to $2.6 billion, while Trulicity, its GLP-1 agonist, saw its sales increase by 23 percent, to $5 billion.

That’s consistent with the global insulin market. Worldwide insulin sales in 2020 declined by 4 percent, to $19.4 billion, marking the first time since 2012 that global insulin sales fell below $20 billion.

It’s quite stunning. Amid a global diabetes epidemic, and with the purity, stability, and quality of insulin better than ever, insulin sales are falling. (Pricing pressures from insurers and government payers have also taken a revenue toll.) In 2019, Sanofi announced that it was going to discontinue its research into diabetes, even though its Lantus insulin had been a blockbuster for years. More lucrative opportunities now lay elsewhere.

Falling sales may not be the insulin companies’ biggest problem. Public scorn is. Though the insulins kept getting better, the prices kept rising, forcing many patients to ration their supplies, seek cheaper alternatives in Canada or Mexico, or settle for inferior insulins. Some patients have died for lack of insulin. According to a 2019 study from the nonprofit Health Care Cost Institute, the cost of insulin nearly doubled for type 1 patients in the United States between 2012 and 2016 – they paid, on average, $5,705 a year for insulin in 2016, compared to $2,864 in 2012.

Many patients are outraged and have used social media to rally support – one trending hashtag was #makeinsulinaffordable. Patient advocates have traveled to Eli Lilly’s headquarters to protest. In March of this year, nine Congressional Democrats demanded that the Federal Trade Commission investigate insulin price collusion among Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk, and Sanofi, asserting they “are using their stranglehold on the market to drive up costs.” The letter notes that as many as one in four Americans who need insulin cannot afford it, and at least 13 Americans have died in recent years because of insulin rationing.

The criticism has been unsparing. In April 2019, in a hearing for the U.S. House of Representatives on insulin affordability, Democrats and Republicans alike pilloried the insulin executives. At one point, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois) said to them, “I don’t know how you people sleep at night.”

Insulin is hardly the only drug whose price has soared, but as the Washington Post noted last year, insulin is “a natural poster child of pharmaceutical greed.”

In response, the insulin companies have adopted payment assistance programs to help financially strapped consumers. They also blame the middlemen in the system – the PBMs, or the Pharmaceutical Benefit Managers – for high insulin prices, who in turn blame the insulin companies, and everyone blames the insurers, who point the finger at the companies and the PBMs.

Drug pricing in America is so convoluted it’s impossible for any patient to accurately apportion blame, but the history of insulin explains in part why the companies have come under such attack. When Banting made his discovery, he sold the patent to the University of Toronto for $1. He said that insulin was a gift to humankind and should be made available to anyone who needs it. Insulin was always profitable for Eli Lilly and the few other companies who made it, and critics have complained that the companies found ways to protect their patents by making incremental improvements in the drug.

But for years, those complaints were easily dismissed. The companies were revered for their ability to mass produce – and improve – a lifesaving drug that symbolized the pinnacle of scientific discovery while doing so at prices that were affordable.

When prices became unaffordable – and regardless of blame – the companies were seen as betraying the very spirit in which insulin was discovered and produced, and their fall from grace has few equivalents in corporate history.

Is the criticism fair?

Hard to say, but even the companies would acknowledge that they’ve squandered much good will. Personally, I’m the last person to bash the insulin companies – they’ve kept me and members of family alive for quite some time. Collectively, my brother, my son, and I have been taking insulin for 117 years, so I feel more regret than anger: regret that at least one insulin executive didn’t stand up and say loudly and clearly:

“Insulin is a public good. No one who needs it will be without it. And we will make it easy for you.”

Insulin

Image source: Emily Ye, Diabetes Daily

Whatever that would cost in dollars would be made up for in good will – and such a public commitment would honor the many anonymous men, women, and children, before 1921 and after, who gave their lives to this disease.

The next chapter for insulin? It will almost certainly include continued improvements. Both Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk are trying to develop a once-a-week basal insulin to replace the current once-a-day options – that would be a major advance is reducing the hassle factor in care. Research also continues on a glucose-sensitive insulin, in which the insulin would only take effect when your blood sugar rises. That would be a breakthrough, but investigators have spent decades trying to make it work.

Since its discovery, the ultimate goal of insulin has been to make it disappear, as that would mean diabetes has been cured. It turns out that insulin therapy may indeed disappear someday, even if no cure is found. Since its discovery, the ultimate goal of insulin has been to make it disappear, as that would mean diabetes has been cured. It turns out that insulin therapy may indeed disappear someday, even if no cure is found.

Stem-cell therapy has long held promise in diabetes – specifically, making insulin-producing beta cells from stem cells, which the body would either tolerate on its own (perhaps by encapsulating the cells) or through immunosuppressant drugs. Progress has been halting but is now evident. Douglas Melton began his research in this area in 1991, and in 2014, he reported that his lab was able to turn human stem cells into functional pancreatic beta cells. The company that Melton created for the effort was acquired by Vertex Pharmaceuticals, and earlier this year, Vertex announced that it had received approval to begin a clinical trial on a “stem-cell derived, fully differentiated pancreatic islet cell therapy” to treat type 1 diabetes. Another company, ViaCyte, also announced this year that it will begin phase 2 of a clinical trial using encapsulated cells in hopes that they will mature into insulin-secreting beta cells.

It may take 10 to 15 years, but leaders in the field are cautiously optimistic that a cell-based therapy will someday provide a better option than insulin.

Diabetes would survive, but the therapy once touted as its cure would be dead.

Because I have a soft spot for happy endings – and because so much of own life has been intertwined with insulin – I have my own vision for insulin’s last hurrah.

A group of researchers in Europe are conducting a clinical trial to prevent type 1 diabetes. Called the Global Platform for the Prevention of Autoimmune Diabetes, the initiative began in 2015, and researchers are testing newborns who are at risk of developing type 1 to see if prevention is possible.

And what treatment are they using?

Oral insulin.

Like the discovery of insulin itself, this effort is a longshot, but if it works, insulin will have eradicated diabetes – a fitting coda for a medical miracle.

I want to acknowledge the following people who helped me with this article: Dr. Mark Atkinson, Dr. David Harlan, Dr. Irl Hirsch, Dr. David Nathan, Dr. Jay Skyler, and Dr. Bernard Zinman. Some material in this article came from my book, “Cheating Destiny: Living with Diabetes.”

About James

James S. Hirsch, a former reporter for The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, is a best-selling author who has written 10 nonfiction books. They include biographies of Willie Mays and Rubin “Hurricane” Carter; an investigation into the Tulsa race riot of 1921; and an examination of our diabetes epidemic. Hirsch has an undergraduate degree from the University of Missouri School of Journalism and a graduate degree from the LBJ School of Public Policy at the University of Texas. He lives in the Boston area with his wife, Sheryl, and they have two children, Amanda and Garrett. Jim has worked as a senior editor and columnist for diaTribe since 2006.

Source: diabetesdaily.com

Drink to That: How to Safely Consume Alcohol with Diabetes

This content originally appeared on diaTribe. Republished with permission.

By Cheryl Alkon

We’re already thinking about carbs and calories all the time, and adding alcohol into the mix makes things more complex. ­Experts share their best advice on how to safely drink when living with diabetes.

People who choose to drink alcohol typically do so for a few main reasons: to cope with challenges, to be sociable, or just because they enjoy having a drink. But while alcohol may make some people feel more comfortable, drinking can be especially complicated for people with diabetes. If you’re choosing to drink with friends or loved ones, let’s talk about how you can do so safely with diabetes.

First, alcohol is a drug, and it can be highly addictive. If you don’t drink now, there’s no reason to start. In fact, avoiding alcohol is the healthiest choice for people with or without diabetes. Drinking more than is healthy for the body has been linked to issues in the brain, heart, liver, pancreas, and immune system and is associated with several kinds of cancer, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Drinking is also connected to other health problems, such as unintentional injuries (car accidents, falls, drownings), domestic violence, alcohol use disorders, and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

So, with all that said, how can you best manage your diabetes if you choose to drink?

What happens in the body when you drink?

Your liver works to create glucose when your blood sugar levels are low, but it also processes any alcohol present in your body, says Sandra Arevalo, a certified diabetes care and education specialist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. More specifically, “Alcohol gets broken down by your liver. The liver is also in charge of making sugar when your blood sugar levels are low, by converting stored glycogen into glucose, and releasing that glucose into your bloodstream. When you drink, your liver is busy processing the alcohol and has a hard time producing glucose,” she said.

This process “puts people with diabetes at high risk of low blood sugar when they drink,” Arevalo said. “If you are on basal insulin, you may not make enough glucose for the amount of basal insulin you have taken, and you may suffer a hypoglycemic episode.” This applies primarily to people with type 1 diabetes, but people with type 2 diabetes are still at risk for low blood glucose levels when they drink.

What’s in a drink?

That’s a tricky question. What you are drinking and how much of it you choose to drink can make a big difference. Like most things with diabetes, there aren’t simple answers.

According to the CDC, moderate drinking is defined as two drinks or less per day for men, or one drink or less per day for women. The US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee recommends one drink or fewer per day for people of any gender. It is illegal for people under 21 to drink alcohol in the United States.

Drinking

Image source: diaTribe

What does the CDC classify as “a drink?” One drink contains 14 grams, or 0.6 ounces, of pure alcohol, which normally equates to 12 ounces of beer, 8 ounces of malt liquor, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor or spirits such as gin, rum, vodka or whiskey.

What influences your intoxication?

Several factors – including diabetes medications, food, and exercise – can all make things even more complicated, said Carrie S. Swift, a dietician and spokesperson with the Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists. “Overall, alcohol intake leads to less predictable blood glucose whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes,” she said. But “the impact of alcohol on blood glucose isn’t always the same.”

This can be caused by:

  • Carbohydrate content of drinks: Beer and sweet wines contain a lot of carbohydrates, and can increase your blood sugar level despite the alcohol content. On the other hand, quickly cutting down your intake of these drinks, or quickly making the switch to dry wine or spirits, can carry a high risk of hypoglycemia.
  • Diabetes drugs: Insulin and sulfonylurea medications such as glipizide, glyburide, and glimepiride – all of which help to lower blood glucose levels – “are more likely to cause low blood glucose when alcohol is consumed,” said Swift. Insulin and alcohol work similarly whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes. If you take metformin, pay attention to these specific symptoms when you are drinking: weakness, fatigue, slow heart rate, muscle pain, shortness of breath, or dark urine. “Excessive alcohol intake while taking metformin may increase the risk of a rare, but dangerous condition, called lactic acidosis. If you have these symptoms – get medical help right away,” she said. There are no specific or predictable ways that blood glucose levels react when taking other oral diabetes medications or GLP-1 medications, Swift added.
  • Food: “If you drink on an empty stomach, you are more likely to experience hypoglycemia,” said Swift. Yet, eating while drinking “may also increase your blood glucose, especially if you eat more than usual or make less healthy food choices when you drink.”
  • Exercise: If you are physically active either before or after drinking alcohol, it can cause your blood sugars to drop and lead to hypoglycemia.

What and how are you drinking?

If you have diabetes and choose to drink, what should you keep in mind?

  • Alcoholic drinks can have as much added sugar as some desserts, so think about what kinds of drinks you are having. “It’s best not to choose alcohol mixed with punches or soft drink mixers, such as Pepsi, Sprite, or Coke, daiquiris, margaritas, or sweetened liquors like Kahlua or Bailey’s Irish Cream,” said Swift. Regular beer and sweet wines are also higher in carbohydrates. “These drinks not only add carbohydrate, but excess calories from the added sugars,” she said.
  • If you have a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), use it. While you are drinking, you can see where your glucose is at all times and if it drops quickly. If you don’t have a CGM, “test your blood sugar more often,” said Arevalo. “Mainly if you are not feeling well, you want to know if your sugar is dropping, or if you are getting drunk. Even though both feel equally bad, you will want to know if your sugars are low so you can correct them quickly.”
  • Never drink on an empty stomach. Instead, “Have a good meal before or during drinking,” said Arevalo. But know the carb count of what you are eating and work with your healthcare professional to determine how to take medication for that meal along with the alcohol you are consuming.
  • Exercise and alcohol can make your numbers plummet. “Avoid drinking while dancing or exercising,” said Arevalo. “Physical activity helps to reduce blood sugar levels, and if the liver is not able to keep up with the production of glucose, the risk of hypoglycemia is even higher.”
  • Have your supplies handy, such as a hypoglycemia preparedness kit. Always bring your blood glucose testing kit and enough supplies for you to test frequently. It’s a good idea to have extra test strips, alcohol swabs, lancets, as well as fast-acting forms of glucose, including emergency glucagon in case your blood sugar level doesn’t come up with food or glucose.
  •  If you take basal insulin in the evening, it’s not an easy answer on what to do if you plan to consume alcohol that evening, said Swift. “Depending on what type of diabetes the person has, and other factors, the results of drinking and taking a long-acting insulin before going out, may contribute to a different result,” she said. If you have type 1 and you take your usual amount of long-acting insulin and then you drink alcohol, “It may contribute to delayed hypoglycemia when drinking too much alcohol,” she said. If you have type 2 diabetes and are overweight or have significant insulin resistance, “Taking your usual amount of long-acting insulin may be a good strategy to avoid high blood glucose numbers,” she said. “No matter what your type of diabetes, frequent blood glucose checking will help you take the right action to avoid high or low blood glucose when choosing to drink alcohol.”
  • If you use an insulin pump or a CGM, make sure you check that they are working properly before you leave the house, without any low-power indicators. If you need to fill your pump with insulin or change out either your infusion set or CGM sensor, do it before you begin drinking or get drunk. As Dr. Jeremy Pettus and Dr. Steve Edelman say in this video, “Protect yourself from drunk you as much as you possibly can.”

It’s important for everyone to avoid getting drunk to the point of not being able to protect yourself. For people with diabetes, this includes protecting yourself from hypoglycemia.

Navigating social situations

If you find yourself in situations where people around you are drinking, or your friends like to party, there are ways to fit in without feeling left out:

  • “It’s okay to choose sparkling water with lemon or a diet soda instead of an alcoholic drink in a social setting,” said Swift. “If you do choose to drink alcohol, have a glass of water, or another no-calorie beverage between alcohol-containing drinks.” It’s also okay to hold a drink and not consume it, if that makes you more comfortable.
  • Tell a trusted friend ahead of time where you keep your supplies, such as your blood glucose monitor or CGM reader, how to get glucose tabs or juice if you need it, and, if necessary, how to give emergency glucagon, either by injection or by nasal inhalation, said Arevalo. It’s also good to have a designated non-drinker in your group, who can watch out for everyone’s safety. And be sure the group you are with knows that the signs of a low blood sugar and the signs of being drunk are the same, said Swift: slurred speech, blurry vision, dizziness, confusion, lack of coordination, irritability, and potentially, loss of consciousness.
  • Make sure you’re hanging out with people you want to be with, and consider where drinking fits in to your health goals and your life. “Friends are only friends if they accept you the way you are and help to take care of you,” said Arevalo. “If you feel peer-pressured to drink, let them know that you have to take care of yourself because of your diabetes. Good friends will respond in a positive way, and will understand and help you. If you want to have a good time and don’t want to keep an eye on how much you are drinking, alert your friends about your diabetes. Let them know where you have your supplies, how to use them, and who to call and what to do in case of an emergency.” Remember, never drive if you (or your driver) have been drinking.

Finally, if you’re going to drink, be smart about it. Always start with a blood glucose level that’s at a healthy, in-range level, sip—don’t chug—your alcohol, and avoid drinking to excess. Your body, your brain, and your diabetes will all be easier to manage once you’re done drinking, either for the evening, the event, or for good.

About Cheryl

Cheryl Alkon is a seasoned writer and the author of the book Balancing Pregnancy With Pre-Existing Diabetes: Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby. The book has been called “Hands down, the best book on type 1 diabetes and pregnancy, covering all the major issues that women with type 1 face. It provides excellent tips and secrets for achieving the best management” by Gary Scheiner, the author of Think Like A Pancreas. Since 2010, the book has helped countless women around the world conceive, grow and deliver healthy babies while also dealing with diabetes.

Cheryl covers diabetes and other health and medical topics for various print and online clients. She lives in Massachusetts with her family and holds an undergraduate degree from Brandeis University and a graduate degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

She has lived with type 1 diabetes for more than four decades, since being diagnosed in 1977 at age seven.

Source: diabetesdaily.com

Getting Started with Insulin if You Have Type 2 Diabetes

This content originally appeared on diaTribe. Republished with permission.

By Frida Velcani

New to insulin? Learn about insulin dosing and timing and how often to test your blood sugar levels if you have type 2 diabetes.

If you have type 2 diabetes, it is likely that your treatment regimen will change over time as your needs change, and at some point, your healthcare professional may suggest that you start taking insulin. While this might feel scary, there are millions of others living with type 2 diabetes and taking insulin, so it’s definitely manageable.

Click to jump down:

Why do some people with type 2 diabetes need to take insulin?

Type 2 diabetes can progress with time, which means that it gets more difficult for a person’s body to regulate glucose levels. The body’s many cells become less responsive to insulin (called increased insulin resistance), and the specific cells in the pancreas that produce insulin make less of it (called beta cell insufficiency). This is not necessarily related to a person’s diabetes management, and it is likely not possible to prevent.

For many people, adjusting lifestyle factors such as a reduced calorie diet and increased physical activity are key to keeping blood glucose levels stable and in a target range. Healthcare professionals may also recommend that people with type 2 diabetes take additional medications like metforminDPP-4 inhibitorsSGLT-2 inhibitors, or GLP-1 agonists to their treatment plan to improve glucose management, reduce A1C, lose weight, or support heart and kidney health.

When do people with type 2 diabetes start insulin?

After 10 to 20 years, many people with type 2 diabetes will begin insulin therapy, although every person’s journey with type 2 diabetes is different. This happens when lifestyle changes and medications aren’t keeping your glucose levels in your target range. It is important that you start treatment as early as possible to avoid persistent hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), which can lead to long-term health complications affecting your heart, kidneys, eyes, and other organs.

What are the different types of insulin?

The key to transitioning to insulin is knowing your options. Some people taking insulin need to use both a basal (long-acting) and a prandial (rapid-acting or “mealtime”) insulin each day, while others may only need to use basal insulin. Learn about your options here.

  • Basal (long-acting) insulins are designed to be injected once or twice daily to provide a constant background level of insulin throughout the day. Basal insulins help keep blood sugars at a consistent level when you are not eating and through the night but cannot cover carbohydrates (carbs) eaten for meals or snacks or glucose spikes after meals.
    • Some people use other medications, like GLP-1 agonists, to help cover mealtimes. GLP-1/basal combination treatments for people with type 2 diabetes combine basal insulin with GLP-1 agonist medication in one daily injection. This combination can effectively lower glucose levels while reducing weight gain and risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Learn more here.
  • Prandial (rapid-acting or “mealtime”) insulins are taken before mealtime and act quickly to cover carbohydrates eaten and bring down high sugar levels following meals. Ultra-rapid-acting prandial insulins can act even more rapidly in the body to bring down glucose levels. Rapid and ultra-rapid insulins are also taken to correct high glucose levels when they occur or are still persistent a few hours after a meal.
  • Basal and prandial insulins are both analog insulins, meaning they are slightly different in structure from the insulin naturally produced in the body. Analog insulins have certain characteristics that can be helpful for people with diabetes. Human insulins, on the other hand, were developed first and are identical to those produced by the human body. Human insulins are classified as regular (short-acting insulin) or NPH (intermediate-acting). These are generally cheaper than analog insulins and can be bought without a prescription at some pharmacies.

Although many people use both basal and prandial insulin – which is called multiple daily injections of insulin (MDI) and consists of one or two injections of basal insulin each day as well as prandial insulin at meals – people with type 2 diabetes who are beginning insulin therapy may only need basal insulin to manage their glucose levels. Basal insulin requires fewer injections and generally causes less hypoglycemia. For these reasons, many healthcare professionals recommend basal insulin when you first start insulin therapy.

How do I take and adjust my insulin doses?

It is important to learn the different methods of taking insulin and what kinds of insulin can be delivered through each method. There are several ways to take insulin – syringe, pen, pump, or inhalation – though injection with a syringe is currently the most common for people with type 2 diabetes. There are many apps that can help you calculate your insulin doses.

  • Insulin pens are considered easier and more convenient to use than a vial and syringe. There are different brands and models of insulin pens available. Smart pens are becoming increasingly common and can help people manage insulin dosing and tracking. They connect to your smartphone and help you remember when you took your last dose, how much insulin you took, and when to take your next one.
  • Insulin pumps are attached to your body and can be programmed to administer rapid-acting insulin throughout the day, to cover both basal and prandial insulin needs. When you need to take insulin for meals or to correct high glucose, calculators inside the pump can help determine the correct dosage after you’ve programmed them with your personal insulin pump settings.
  • Inhaled insulin is ultra-rapid acting insulin and can replace insulin used for mealtime and corrections of high glucose. It is taken through an inhaler and works similarly to injected prandial insulin. People with diabetes who do not want to inject prandial insulin might use this, but it’s not for people who only use basal insulin. The only approved inhaled insulin on the market is the ultra-rapid-acting mealtime insulin Afrezza.

Your insulin regimen should be tailored to fit your needs and lifestyle. Adjusting your basal insulin dosage and timing will require conversations and frequent follow-up with your healthcare team. When initiating insulin therapy, you may be advised to start with a low dose and increase the dose in small amounts once or twice a week, based on your fasting glucose levels. People with diabetes should aim to spend as much time as possible with glucose levels between 70-180 mg/dl. Insulin may be used alone or in combination with oral glucose-lowering medications, such as metformin, SGLT-2 inhibitors, or GLP-1 agonists.

One of the most important things to consider is the characteristics of different insulin types. To learn more, read “Introducing the Many Types of Insulin – Is There a Better Option for You?” and discuss with your healthcare team.

In order to dose insulin to cover meals or snacks, you have to take a few factors into consideration. Your healthcare team should help you determine what to consider when calculating an insulin dose. Prandial insulin doses will usually be adjusted based on:

  • Current blood sugar levels. You’ll aim for a “target” blood sugar, and you should know your “sensitivity” per unit of insulin to correct high blood sugar levels.
    • Insulin sensitivity factor (ISF) or correction factor:  how much one unit of insulin is expected to lower blood sugar. For example, if 1 unit of insulin will drop your blood sugar by 25 mg/dl, then your insulin sensitivity factor is 1:25. Your ISF may change throughout the day – for example, many people are more insulin resistant in the morning, which requires a stronger correction factor.
  • Carbohydrate intake. Insulin to carb ratios represent how many grams of carbohydrates are covered by one unit of insulin. You should calculate your carbohydrate consumptions for each meal.
    • Insulin to carbohydrate ratio:  the number of grams of carbs “covered” by one unit of insulin. For example, a 1:10 insulin to carbohydrate ratio means one unit of insulin will cover every 10 grams of carbohydrates that you eat. For a meal with 30 grams of carbohydrates, a bolus calculator will recommend three units of insulin.
  • Physical activity. Adjust insulin doses before, and possibly after, exercise – learn more about managing glucose levels during exercise here.

Learning to adjust your own insulin doses may be overwhelming at first, especially given the many factors that affect your glucose levels. Identifying patterns in your glucose levels throughout the day may help you optimize the timing and dosing of your insulin. Your healthcare professional, a certified diabetes care and education specialist, or insulin pump trainer (if you use a pump), can help guide you through this process. Do not adjust your insulin doses without first talking to your healthcare team.

How often should I test my blood sugar?

The frequency of testing will depend on your health status and activities during the day. Initially, you may be advised to check your blood glucose three to four times a day. As a starting point, check in with your healthcare team about how often to check your blood sugar. Many people test before meals, exercise, bedtime, and one to two hours after meals to ensure that they bolused their insulin correctly. Over time, your fasting, pre-meal, and post-meal blood glucose levels will help you figure out how to adjust your insulin doses.

Continuous glucose monitors (CGM) are particularly useful for tracking changes in glucose levels throughout the day. Some CGM devices also connect with an insulin pump to automatically adjust insulin delivery. After you start a treatment plan, the goal for most people is to spend as much time as possible in their target range. Talk with your healthcare professional about starting CGM and developing glucose targets.

What else do I need to know about taking insulin?

It’s common to experience minimal discomfort from needle injections or skin changes at the insulin injection site. You may also experience side effects of insulin therapy, which can include some weight gain and hypoglycemia. In some people, insulin increases appetite and stops the loss of glucose (and calories) in the urine, which can lead to weight gain. Hypoglycemia can occur if you are not taking the right amount of insulin to cover your carb intake, over-correcting high glucose levels, exercising, or consuming alcohol. Treating hypoglycemia also adds more calories to your daily intake and can further contribute to weight gain. Contact your healthcare professional to adjust your insulin dose if you are experiencing hypoglycemia, or call 911 if you experience more serious side effects, such as severe low blood sugar levels, serious allergic reactions, swelling, or shortness of breath.

Staying in contact with your healthcare team is the best way to make the transition to insulin therapy. Though the first few days or weeks will be challenging, with the right support, you’ll find a diabetes care plan that works for you.

If you were recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, check out more resources here.

Source: diabetesdaily.com

Will Insulin in a Pill Soon Become a Reality?

Since insulin was first discovered and isolated for therapeutic use nearly 100 years ago, most everyone with insulin-dependent diabetes has had to rely on exogenous insulin, given in the form of injections, whether via an insulin pump or multiple daily shots every single day of their lives (inhalable insulin was approved by the FDA in 2014, but its use is not widespread).

While research and development have come a long way in that time, the reality for millions (and over 7 million people in the United States alone) has been thousands upon thousands of invasive injections, oftentimes causing scarring, bruising, and pain. However, that may be about to change.

Researchers from the New York University in Abu Dhabi have successfully developed a pill using nanomaterial layers that disseminate insulin in rats safely without being destroyed by their stomach acids. This could be life-changing for the millions of people around the world who rely on insulin to live.

“Imagine being able to take insulin in a pill instead of injecting it a couple of times a day,” said first author Farah Benyettou, a research scientist in the Trabolsi Research Group at the New York University in Abu Dhabi. “The insulin was loaded in a system that protects it from the acidic environment of the stomach. Once in the body, the system can sense the blood sugar level and can release the loaded insulin on demand.”

A pill form of insulin has the potential to radically change the daily management of diabetes for the better: It would make treatment easier for children and people with a fear of needles, safer for both patients and clinicians in hospital and clinic settings, more effective, and patient-friendly.

Nearly 30% of people with diabetes rely on insulin injections, and while it might not be for everyone, this revolutionary advancement would be the first of its kind in the world.

Other attempts at orally administering insulin have been made in the past but faced roadblocks in the gastrointestinal tract, where stomach acids and bile quickly destroy insulin and any effectiveness it has.

This is different from common type 2 diabetes drugs like Metformin that aren’t insulin but simply improve the efficacy of insulin that their body already makes.

The research team in Abu Dhabi thinks it has solved the problem of the insulin-destroying stomach bile issue by encapsulating insulin within nCOF nanoparticles in a capsule that is resistant to such acids but responsive to sugar, reacting quickly when it senses blood glucose in the body is rising but survives the dangerous journey down the G.I. tract to reach the bloodstream.

This new advancement also has the potential to reduce or eliminate low blood sugars, as the release of insulin shuts off as soon as it senses blood sugars have fallen. This creates a helpful feedback loop and prevents an overdose of insulin, which for many, is an almost a daily occurrence on injections, where people are constantly walking a balance beam to prevent both high and low blood sugars in a world of stress, meals, exercise, and normal everyday living.

While this is all excellent news, it’s important to remember that the study’s success was only observed in rats, and human bodies are very different. The team will next test different nanomaterials to see what may be appropriate for human trials, and potentially, widespread market availability.

“Our revolutionary technology developed at NYUAD will dramatically improve the well-being of diabetic patients worldwide in a very simple and straightforward way,” says senior author Ali Trabolsi, an associate professor of chemistry at the New York University in Abu Dhabi.

While taking a daily insulin pill may is far from a functional cure, managing diabetes could become easier than ever, especially if the threat of low blood sugars is greatly reduced or eliminated.

The team hopes that diabetes management can soon be a lot less stressful, painful, and dangerous for the millions of people around the world who currently rely on insulin.

Source: diabetesdaily.com

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Metformin, But Were Afraid to Ask

This content originally appeared on diaTribe. Republished with permission.

By Marcia Kadanoff and Timothy Hay

Starting on metformin? My journey as a type 2 of learning how to deal with side effects, “faux lows,” and learning more about this therapy. 

Editor’s note: this article is in Marcia’s perspective of living with type 2 diabetes, as written by Timothy Hay in January 2019. It was updated in March 2021.

When I was first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at the age of 58, my doctor immediately put me on metformin, a medication I didn’t know much about.

I soon learned why metformin is considered the first line of defense for people with the condition, as it is safe, effective, and affordable. It’s not linked to weight gain and it puts very little stress on the internal organs. I also read that metformin has side effects for some people.

I expected it to work like insulin in pill form and drop my blood sugar (around 180 mg/dl at the time) right away. But metformin doesn’t work like that. Not at all.

I learned – as millions of people with type 2 diabetes have – that metformin doesn’t immediately lower your blood sugar. It can take four or five days to experience the full benefit, depending on your dosage.

It might not solve all your problems in the blink of an eye. But it is an effective medicine, and its interaction with the body is complex and interesting.

Want more information like this?

What We Know About Metformin

Metformin, which is also sold under the trade names Glucophage, Fortamet, Glumetza, and Riomet, is of the class of drugs called biguanides, which inhibit the production of glucose in the liver.

How does metformin work?

The medicine does not increase insulin levels in the body, but instead lessens the amount of sugar the body produces and absorbs. As it lowers glucose production in the liver, metformin also lowers blood sugar by increasing the body’s sensitivity to insulin. It also decreases the amount of glucose that our bodies absorb from the foods we eat.

What is metformin used for?

Metformin is commonly used to help people with type 2 diabetes manage their blood sugar levels. For most, metformin works to bring down blood sugar gradually when combined with a healthy diet and exercise (I found Adam Brown’s book, Bright Spots & Landmines: The Diabetes Guide I Wish Someone Had Handed Me to be helpful, particularly in deciding what to eat and not to eat). It’s not so much a quick fix with overnight results as it is an important component of a larger health regimen that keeps the condition manageable.

Is metformin safe?

Metformin is considered a safe, cheap, and effective medication worldwide, and is widely accessible in most countries.

What are the most common side effects of metformin?

Metformin does cause side effects in some people, but many of these are mild, and are associated with taking the medicine for the first time. Nausea and gastric distress such as stomach pain, gas, bloating, and diarrhea are somewhat common among people starting up on metformin.

For some people, taking large doses of metformin right away causes gastric distress, so it’s common for doctors to start small and build the dosage up over time. Many people start with a small metformin dose – 500 milligrams once a day – and build up over a few weeks until the dosage reaches least 1,500 milligrams daily. This means there’s less chance of getting an upset stomach from the medicine, but also means it may take a bit longer to experience the full benefit when getting started on metformin.

I experienced some mild side effects when I started taking metformin, and I found that the symptoms correlated with how many carbs I had in my diet. Once I dropped my carbs to 30-50 grams per day – something that took me weeks to do – any symptoms of gastric upset went away.

Asking your doctor for the extended-release version of metformin can keep these symptoms at bay, and so can tracking your diet.

What is the best time to take metformin?

Standard metformin is taken two or three times per day. Be sure to take it with meals to reduce the stomach and bowel side effects that can occur – most people take metformin with breakfast and dinner.

Extended-release metformin is taken once a day and should be taken at night, with dinner. This can help to treat high glucose levels overnight.

What are less common side effects of metformin?

The medication can cause more serious side effects, though these are rare. The most serious of these is lactic acidosis, a condition caused by buildup of lactic acid in the blood.  This can occur if too much metformin accumulates in the blood due to chronic or acute (e.g. dehydration) kidney problems. Severe acute heart failure, or severe liver problems can also result in a lactate imbalance.

Metformin can also increase the risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), particularly for those who take insulin and drugs which increase insulin secretion (such as sulfonylureas), but also when combined with excessive alcohol intake. Even though I’m not on insulin, I started on continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) to be able to keep a closer eye on my blood sugar levels. Of course, regular checking with a blood glucose meter is also helpful in preventing low blood sugar episodes.

Because long-term use of metformin can block absorption of vitamin B12, causing anemia, sometimes people need to supplement vitamin B12 through their diet as well.

For most people who take metformin, side effects are mild and relatively short in duration.

Metformin

Image source: diaTribe

The “Faux Low”

There is another common side effect often experienced by people taking metformin for the first time. It’s something called a “faux low.”

A faux low happens when you drop your blood sugars to a “normal” range after running consistently high (i.e. above 180 mg/dl), whether by starting on a therapy like metformin or going on a low-carb diet, or both! Your body responds to this change as if it’s in real hypoglycemia (below 70 mg/dl).

Although every person with diabetes has a different blood-sugar threshold and different symptoms, people often feel irritable, tired, shaky, and dizzy when their blood sugar is 70 mg/dl or lower. When I experienced faux lows, I felt similarly dizzy, lightheaded, nauseous, and extremely hungry.

Tool

Image source: diaTribe

If you experience symptoms like these and have confirmed with a glucose meter the low you are feeling is indeed false (i.e. your meter says you’re at 96 mg/dl), keep taking your metformin as directed. Don’t start carb-loading (eating carb-rich foods like orange juice to bring sugars back up).

If I’m indeed having a faux low and not a real one, I found that drinking water and taking a high-sodium, non-carbohydrate snack (nuts are great for this, especially macadamia nuts which are high in fat) nips the symptoms in the bud, allowing me to move on with my life.

Note that especially for type 2 folks out there on metformin and insulin or sulfonylureas, hypoglycemia is a real risk. If you’re feeling low, check your blood sugar – there will be times when you do need to treat hypoglycemia with glucose tablets or orange juice or the like.

Metformin interactions: what should I avoid while taking metformin?

When taken at the same time, some drugs may interfere with metformin. Make sure your healthcare team is aware of any medications that you take before you start on metformin, especially certain types of diuretics and antibiotics. Remember, insulin and insulin releasing medications can increase your risk of hypoglycemia, so it is particularly important to carefully monitor your glucose levels.

You should also avoid drinking excessive amounts of alcohol while taking metformin – aim for no more than one glass per day for women, and two per day for men. Alcohol can contribute to lactic acidosis.

Does metformin cause cancer?

In 2019 the FDA investigated whether some forms of metformin contain high levels of a carcinogenic (cancer-causing) chemical called N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA). In 2020, the FDA recommended the recall of several versions of extended-release metformin, and more than a dozen companies have since voluntarily recalled certain lots of the medication. While low levels of NDMA are commonly found in foods and drinking water, high levels of the substance are toxic and can cause cancer.

You can check to see if your metformin has been recalled here. For people taking extended-release metformin, the FDA recommends that you continue to take your medication until you talk to your healthcare professional.

Other Possible Metformin Benefits

Most people with type 2 diabetes tolerate metformin well and are glad it’s available in generic form, which keeps the price low. The medication is so effective as a first-line therapy the American Diabetes Association includes it in its diabetes Standards of Care.

But metformin could have additional uses and benefits outside of treating type 2 diabetes.

Researchers are currently studying whether the medicine can help in the fight against cancer, neurodegenerative conditions, vision problems like macular degeneration, and even aging. It will be a while, however, before uses other than blood-glucose lowering are proven to be effective.

At the same time, metformin is also used in the treatment of gestational diabetes and polycystic ovary syndrome.

The American Diabetes Association has said more doctors should be prescribing metformin to treat prediabetes (a state of higher-than-normal blood glucose levels that doesn’t meet the diagnostic criteria for diabetes), especially for people under the age of 60, although the FDA has yet to bless metformin’s use for the condition.

Can metformin cause weight loss?

The FDA has also not officially approved metformin as an aid in losing weight. Many people with type 2 diabetes have lost weight after taking the drug, as researchers are still torn over exactly how metformin affects the weight. Some believe it decreases appetite, while others say it affects the way the body stores and uses fat.

Scientists are also examining metformin’s potential to protect against heart disease in people with type 2 diabetes – some older data supports this. While robust heart outcome trials with metformin are yet to be conducted, more attention is being paid to this research area.

Metformin and type 1 diabetes

It will be an exciting development if metformin is helpful in the treatment of cancer or neurodegenerative conditions like Huntington’s. But what if it is found to help people managing type 1 diabetes?

Metformin is not currently approved by US or European regulatory agencies for use in type 1s, but people have been known to take the medication anyway, and many doctors prescribe it if someone with type 1 diabetes is overweight. There are actually several reasons metformin is an attractive option for many type 1s. One, metformin has been found to help reduce glucose production in the liver, which is a problem in type 1 diabetes. Two, people often form resistance to the insulin they take, and metformin can help improve insulin sensitivity.

And, metformin may support weight loss and protection against heart disease. A study published in the Lancet following type 1 participants for three years found that compared to placebo, participants taking metformin lost weight. Particularly because insulin often causes weight gain, healthcare providers prescribe metformin “off-label” (not for intended use approved by regulatory agencies) to their type 1 patients. While the study didn’t find that metformin definitively protects against heart disease, based on observed trends in the data, the authors concluded that it may have a role in heart disease risk management.

The Bottom Line?

Metformin

Image source: diaTribe

If you are a person with type 2 diabetes, there are plenty of benefits to taking metformin for its original, intended purpose.

Its side effects are minimal for most people. It’s affordable and covered by Medicare and most insurance plans. Speaking for myself: metformin doesn’t have to cure aging or cancer to be immensely valuable. It helps me process insulin and go on with my life. For me, that’s enough.

About Marcia Kadanoff

Marcia Kadanoff is an advisor to The diaTribe Foundation. She was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in June 2017 at the age of 50-something, and both her parents and grandparents died of diabetes-related complications. With the help of diaTribe and Adam Brown’s book, Bright Spot & Landmines, Marcia discovered that type 2 diabetes can be put into remission with lifestyle changes. Over the next 7 months, Marcia worked to reverse her diabetes through a LCHF (low-carb, healthy fat) way of eating and regular exercise. Along the way, she lost 45 lbs (!) and found that she no longer suffered from sleep apnea and fibromyalgia. Marcia has maintained her weight loss for a year and had a 4.9% A1C at her last checkup. She wants other people with type 2 to know that they too can put their diabetes into remission.

Source: diabetesdaily.com

Most Important Vitamins People with Diabetes Need

People with diabetes have special dietary requirements, but unfortunately, lots of important vitamins and minerals are lacking in the standard American diet. That’s where vitamins can play a crucial role in supplementing one’s health. This article will outline the most important vitamins that people with diabetes need to live their healthiest life.

Vitamin B12

People with diabetes with nerve damage in their hands and feet may see their symptoms worsen if they have a vitamin B12 deficiency. Vitamin B12 helps improve the health of red blood cells and boosts brain function.

Studies show that long-term use of the diabetes drug Metformin can lead to a vitamin B12 deficiency, and strong sources of the vitamin can be found in fish, dairy milk, meat products, and eggs. There are also vegan and vegetarian forms of Vitamin B12 that can be taken orally in pill form.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiencies are common in people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, and a recent study out of Denmark has shown that people with diabetes who have a Vitamin D deficiency are at an increased risk of diabetes complications and premature death. Solving for this vitamin is cheap and easy: sitting in the sun for 15-20 minutes per day without sunscreen will restore most deficiencies, or Vitamin D can be found in fish, dairy products, or egg yolks.

Vitamin C

Increasing one’s intake of Vitamin C helps control the levels of sorbitol in the blood, which can be harmful at high levels and may contribute to retinopathy and kidney damage, which are common complications of diabetes. Vitamin C can also increase insulin sensitivity, reduce insulin resistance, and help people improve their HbA1c levels.

Vitamin C is found in many fruits (and juices) such as lemons, oranges, tomatoes, guava, watermelon, and strawberries, and is also readily available in supplement form. It is also abundant in vegetables like cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and peppers.

Chromium

Studies show that chromium, found in brewer’s yeast, improves insulin sensitivity and tolerance in people with type 2 diabetes. Chromium helps maintain healthy skin, hair, and eyes. It is effective at supporting the nervous system and enhancing immune system function. Chromium can be found only in trace amounts in foods like meat, spices, and grains, so people with diabetes should take chromium supplements.

Curcumin

A 2013 meta-analysis shows that curcumin (the active ingredient in turmeric) lowers blood glucose levels, increases insulin sensitivity, and stabilizes blood sugar levels, helping to decrease the likelihood of complications in people with diabetes. Researchers also found that curcumin may play a role in diabetes prevention.

Turmeric and curcumin also help improve mood, which is important for people with diabetes as depression and anxiety are found at much higher rates in this population, aid in digestion, and even improve immune system health.

This extract can be found in over-the-counter supplements and can be added to foods in its natural form (Turmeric), found in the spice aisle of any grocery store. Make sure to consume turmeric with black pepper, as the spice enhances curcumin absorption in the body by up to 2,000%, maximizing its benefits.

Always work with your doctor and/or registered dietitian to determine which vitamins you should incorporate into your daily routine. Your doctor will most likely order a blood test or urine sample to determine what’s needed, but supplementing your diet with more vitamins and minerals can be helpful to achieve better blood sugars and lower HbA1c levels in the short term, and may even prevent long-term diabetes complications and premature death.

Source: diabetesdaily.com

1 2 3

Search

+