My Diabetes Miracle #8: When the Going Gets Tough

I have been faithful at sticking to my plan. Depending on what is going on during the week, I may or may not fast on weekdays, but I am still averaging a total of 4-6 meals a week. Weight loss has slowed way down. I’m not sure how to get it going again.

Meanwhile, maybe because I’m discouraged about how slow it is, I have been struggling more than usual with temptation to have “just a taste” of some of the foods I can’t have anymore. I know I can’t have them, in moderation or at all. They are banned for life—but I still miss them and want them, sometimes intensely. It’s especially disheartening to make sweets for other people but never get any myself. At times lately, the temptation has been very powerful.

So, instead of feeling sorry for myself, I made a list. I am a list-maker. I’m not as extreme as some, but I do love my lists. I made a list to read to myself every day until things get easier again, and I’m sharing it with you.

Reasons I Can’t Ever Eat Sugar Again

  1. It will kill me. (Because I’m diabetic.)
  2. It will cause me to gain back the weight I’ve so painfully lost.
  3. It will cause runaway inflammation throughout my body.
  4. It will exponentially increase my likelihood of getting Alzheimers or dementia.
  5. It will exponentially increase my likelihood of getting cancer.
  6. It will make me prone to Candida and other fungal infections.
  7. It will increase my risk of high blood pressure and stroke.
  8. It will rot my teeth out even more than they already are.
  9. It will make me hungry, which will lead to overeating.
  10. It will raise my cholesterol to unhealthy levels.
  11. It will make me more depressed and add to my fatigue.
  12. It will reduce my focus and attention span.
  13. It will speed up the aging process and make me look older than I am.
  14. It will lower the quality of my already-impaired sleep.
  15. It will force me to go back on insulin and other meds.

By the way, even if I wasn’t diabetic I would no longer be able to eat sugar without offending my instinct for self-preservation. The evidence is too strong about the link between sugar consumption and Alzheimers and cancer—the two health issues I am most afraid of.

So far reviewing the list each day has been helpful. I wonder if I’ll ever rise above these temptations?

 

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My Diabetes Miracle #7: Misinformation

My monthly weigh-in on the first of the month was kind of underwhelming. Despite my faithful fasting, I had lost only four pounds. However, I was not as disappointed as I could have been, because I honestly feared I had not lost at all. I am beginning to wonder what it’s going to take if I want to keep losing weight. Not sure I want to know, but I hope I’ll figure it out.

But anyway, I was doing some research the other night, as I often do, about ways to reduce my blood sugar without medication, and I came across a website that made me furious. It was very official looking. I can’t tell you what it was exactly because I got so fed up I closed out of it before making a note of what it was. I can guarantee it is maintained by some entity in the medical establishment. This website is aimed at diabetics like me who are concerned and eager to reduce their blood sugar naturally if possible.

These are some of the claims they made:

—A low-carb diet will not reduce your blood sugar. You should eat lots of grains and fruits.

—Skipping meals and fasting will not reduce your blood sugar. You should eat every few hours.

—Staying hydrated will not reduce your blood sugar. Don’t bother to drink much water.

—Supplements will not reduce your blood sugar. Sure, there have been some promising studies, but you can’t trust them.

In other words, if you follow the advice on this website, you will be forced to depend on insulin and other drugs for the rest of your life, because the lifestyle they recommend guarantees you will never get your blood sugar under control!

As I said, I got so angry I just clicked away from the site before I became tempted to attack my poor computer!

I don’t believe for a minute that every strategy will work for every body. I have proven over and over that my body will not react the way that others’ bodies do to many different substances and eating programs. So I’m saying that you have to do the hard work and figure out what works for you, but I’m going to be VERY surprised if you are diabetic and you are able to control your numbers while still eating lots of fruits and grains.

I have just started a new thing and am interested to see what the results will be. I have started drinking some aloe vera juice every day. I saw it was recommended for various skin conditions, so I thought it was worth a try to see if it makes any kind of difference to my very severe rosacea. Imagine my surprise when I did some research and one of the warnings on aloe vera juice is that it might lower your blood sugar more than you want it to! (Hard to imagine in my case . . . ) So, I am drinking four ounces two or three times a day and I will let you know if it ends up freeing me completely from glyburide. It is relatively inexpensive—less than $7 per gallon—so if it is effective that is very doable in the long term.

What I don’t understand is why aloe vera marketers aren’t making a big deal about it if it is effective at reducing blood sugar. You’d think they’d be shouting it from the rooftops!

 

My Diabetes Miracle #6: A Trip to the Doctor

So, I had a doctor’s appointment on Thursday last week. I hadn’t been to the doctor since I started on my plan to save my pancreas back in February. I thought she’d be thrilled that I had lost so much weight, gotten off insulin, and reduced my other meds.

Not so much. I think she was preoccupied with something else. She was glad I had made progress, but didn’t seem to think it was a big deal. It is a big deal to me!

I haven’t got the results of the blood work yet, but meanwhile my blood pressure meds were officially cut in half. I’ve been cutting the old pills in half (after having dizzy spells in the spring) and my blood pressure was great!

My Metformin prescription was also cut in half, which means that I might be able to cut those pills in half to continue my step-down program of eliminating meds.

I was not given a new prescription for Glyburide, which means when I run out I won’t get more. Instead of one pill a day, I now take half a pill once or twice a week.

I finally feel like I might have an indication that exercise lowers my fasting blood sugar numbers. My numbers had been creeping up over a period of several days when I was too busy to get to the gym—despite my fasting for most of those days. But then I started exercising again and my numbers fell just enough to get back where I want them. So, I guess I’ll keep doing that!

So, that’s how it’s going. Plugging away, still fasting a lot and eating only 4-6 meals a week. I don’t think I’ve lost any weight this month but of course I won’t know for a couple more weeks. The day-to-day grind of saving my life isn’t new and exciting anymore, but it’s just as vital.

My Diabetes Miracle #5—In Celebration of Small Victories

I have not posted much about my progress lately, because my progress has slowed considerably since the first whirlwind successes in my fight against my Type 2 diabetes. I have had to be content with much smaller and less frequent victories, and I have had to make adjustments that would have been very daunting to me in the beginning.

When my progress slowed in May, despite my faithful efforts, I knew I’d have to make some difficult choices. Now I have settled into a pattern of fasting from Monday through Friday, and eating two meals on Saturday and two meals on Sunday. If an event comes up during the week where it would be awkward for me not to eat, I will eat a small meal (no carbs) and not feel guilty. In practical terms, this is working out to mean four to six meals a week for me. I have begun to realize that I will never, ever be able to go back to eating three meals a day, and that even two meals a day is probably more than I can hope for.

I still take my half-dose of Metformin, but my Glyburide usage is way down. It actually sends my blood sugar too low if I am fasting, so I only take it after a “largish” meal, and then only half a pill. So instead of one pill per day, I am using less than one per week.

Mondays and Tuesdays are always hard, but by Wednesday not eating seems normal again. I don’t experience any less energy than usual–but then I always have low energy. I certainly have never experienced the euphoria that some people report when fasting. I go the gym most days and put in 30 minutes on an exercise cycle, that being just about the only exercise that my arthritis permits me to do at the moment. It doesn’t seem to have any effect on my blood sugar.

Saturday being the first of the month, I weighed myself with great trepidation, and experienced my first “big” victory since getting off insulin. I have now lost a total of 50 pounds. It has been agonizingly difficult and slow, averaging exactly 10 pounds lost per month. As far as I know, only two people have noticed that I have lost any weight. I expected this, yet it is still discouraging. I imagine it will take quite a few more pounds lost before I get any positive comments about it.

However, remember I am not doing this primarily for weight loss, although I do realize that the more weight I lose, the better it will be for my blood sugar issues. So I will continue on and who knows? Maybe by the time winter rolls around, my winter clothes won’t fit me anymore . . .

Bumps in the Road

I haven’t done a health update for a while, so I thought I’d let you know how I am doing. I was very discouraged and dismayed to find at the end of May that I had only lost four more pounds. As you know, I am not doing this for weight loss, but weight loss is an expected and desirable side effect of my efforts to fight my diabetes. In May I fasted more, ate less, and started doing some exercise. I expected that all these things would contribute to accelerated weight loss instead of hindering it. So that was very hard to accept.

I tried going off one of my medications but then ended up going back on, which was also discouraging. I traveled for almost two weeks and spent much of the time fasting. It still feels wonderful to be able to go somewhere and not have to take a cooler with my insulin.

Later this month I will be having my birthday, so I have decided to give myself a birthday gift consisting of more deprivation. I know, it doesn’t sound very appealing, but at this point I’m convinced that prolonged fasting may be the only way to reduce my medication further while giving my pancreas a long enough vacation to be really useful.

So, I haven’t had a meal since breakfast yesterday and am planning to continue my fast until my birthday—almost two weeks. I know there are probably going to be a couple of “breaks,” events where it might be awkward if I abstain from eating. I now know that I don’t need Glyburide when I am fasting, so my hope is that I might be able to stay off it when I start eating again.

Despite what others report, I don’t find fasting invigorating and I don’t find the hunger disappears after the first day. I miss food a lot, even though I can no longer eat many things that I truly enjoy. I hate being antisocial and having to leave the room when others are eating, but that is often still my best strategy. And of course, I continue to give myself little pep talks all the time. Here are some things I tell myself:

  • I am saving my life.
  • I am extending my life.
  • I am being kind to my body.
  • I am undoing some of the harm I’ve done to my body over the years.
  • I am saving so much money! (On medications and food.)
  • I am greatly reducing the likelihood that I will suffer from diabetes complications.

And of course, as my clothes get looser and looser, maybe I’ll be able to get some new things and not hate the way I look in them! While on my trip, I saw a dress I liked that was on sale, but it was a size smaller than I normally wear. I bought it anyway, thinking it might inspire me to keep fighting the fight. Today, I couldn’t resist trying it on. I not only got into it, but it was not alarmingly tight and actually fit quite well. So I think I will stop with that one piece of encouraging news!

A Momentary Setback

Everything has been going so well I suppose it was inevitable that I would get ahead of myself. I tried eliminating another medication and it didn’t go as planned. The medication in question is Glyburide, which I just started taking in February, right before I embarked on this adventure with my health.

When I started taking it, I saw no difference in my blood sugar and therefore I believed it was pointless. I honestly thought I could just let my prescription run out and I wouldn’t notice any change.

I was wrong. I went without Glyburide for 8 days, and during that time my fasting blood sugar readings went up by 20-30 points, to a level that was unacceptable to me. Who knew that tiny little pill was actually doing something? So I refilled the prescription and immediately my numbers went down again.

I continue to fast a minimum of 3 days a week. Generally speaking, my fast days are Monday, Thursday, and Saturday, plus half of Tuesday. However, sometimes I have to work around other events, so my new technique is to just allow myself 9 meals per week, and I can have them when it works out best with my schedule.

Of course, having said that, this week is different as I am doing a 4-day continuous fast to give my pancreas a longer vacation. I try to do a longer fast like this once a month, but I am thinking of trying even longer stretches in June and July, because I want to give myself the best possible chance to get off the rest of my medication. I might actually try decreasing my Metformin again before tackling Glyburide again.

I have been exercising every weekday with Jasper and am currently doing 25 minutes on an exercise bike. As I expected, it has had no impact at all on my blood sugar numbers.

I am not discouraged-—just determined.

 

My Diabetes Miracle Report #3

So, another month has passed. I continue to refine my pancreas rescue plan, and I think I may finally have a piece of the puzzle that has eluded me for decades. I often spend time researching Type 2 diabetes and looking for tips that might help me continue to treat it naturally. Somewhere in my cyber travels I came across a recommendation for the book The Complete Guide to Fasting: Heal Your Body Through Intermittent, Alternate-Day, and Extended Fasting. I know. Long title. But it was highly recommended, so I got it for my Kindle and have been reading through it.

I have been aware for years of the fad of “intermittent fasting” and have actually tried various permutations of it, but never with the goal of controlling my blood sugar. I was hoping it would lead to weight loss, which it didn’t. Since starting this journey I have found myself fasting more and more, because I am so focused on resting my pancreas, and because I do have excellent blood sugar readings when I am fasting. This book gave me a piece of information I had missed, which is that the primary predictor of both obesity and Type 2 diabetes is high insulin levels in the body. It further goes on to say that if you are injecting insulin, it is virtually impossible to lose weight because the insulin will keep your body from burning fat for energy. I certainly found that to be true.

So, it seems I am on the right track. The discouraging part is that I will probably have to continue to fast a lot for the rest of my life, in order to keep my blood sugar under control without medication. For the time being I am upping my pancreas vacation days (fasting) from two to three per week, with a longer fast at the end of each month. It is not hard to do if you go on a very low-carb diet first. It’s not so much that I’m hungry but that I miss eating food. The benefits do seem to be worth it though. I have cut my Metformin dose in half as of today and am hoping my results will continue to be good.

Today being the first day of the month, I also got on the scale, and again it was a good thing I didn’t have very high expectations. In my youth I could go on a diet and lose sixty pounds in three months, with a much less draconian regime than the one I am currently following. Right now I would say I am eating less than one third of what I did before I started, yet in three months I have only lost thirty-five pounds. I have decided to be happy with that. After all, in my case the weight loss is simply a side effect of working on my blood sugar, and at this point I’m just thrilled that I haven’t started regaining yet—and I’m beginning to hope that might not happen now that I’m off insulin and fasting regularly.

I’m still working on fitting more exercise into my daily routine. My past injuries make it a little tricky but I am determined to figure out what will work for me. I don’t expect it to have any impact on blood sugar or weight loss, but there are plenty of other benefits that make it worthwhile.

I am also still experimenting with supplements. I won’t post another list this time, but once I feel I’ve pared it down to the supplements that are actually beneficial to me, I will let you know.

Bottom Line: When I started this adventure, I was hoping to follow a low-calorie, low-volume diet for 8 weeks to see if I could cut my insulin dosage in half. I am now three months in and have been off insulin for the last two of those months. I hope by the time I report next month I will be off all my oral diabetes meds also. This is working so much better than I could have dreamed and I have no plans to stop.

Days in the Danger Zone: Where the Rubber Meets the Road

I knew that Easter weekend was going to be a challenge, right? It’s hard to keep saving your life on family holidays. For one thing, there’s the candy: jelly beans, peeps, Cadbury eggs, Reese’s eggs, etc. My family loves those seasonal goodies so it’s not as if I could just not buy them, even though I love them too and can’t have them anymore.

But for me, even a Cadbury egg pales in allure compared to my homemade hot cross buns. Our long-cherished family tradition is to have hot cross buns on Good Friday, Easter, and Christmas morning. We all are pretty passionate about them. In recent years, I’ve had to make a gluten free version, but now even that poor substitute is off limits for me.

Times like this are very dangerous for me. The temptation is overwhelming to think, hey, it’s a holiday that only comes once a year. What would be so terrible about sampling a bite or two of this or that? I think we all know the answer to that. For me, a bite or two leads to many more bites–not right away, but eventually. It’s times like these that my zero-tolerance rule about moderation is very hard to stick to, and as a result I tend to be grouchy and out of sorts because I am feeling sorry for myself. To help myself out, I got rid of the last of my insulin so I don’t have that to fall back on. I can’t “cheat” and eat something that will spike my blood sugar, because now I can’t flood my body with artificial insulin to get it back down.

I didn’t want to just sit there and stare at an empty plate though, so I did plan ahead and make my first loaf of paleo bread. Paleo bread has no grain in it. It is made from seeds and nuts and eggs. My kids would say it tastes like pencil shavings and they are not far off the mark. I don’t really think of it as bread. It’s more of a convenient way to convey cheese to my mouth.  Since everyone else was having hot cross buns, I had cheese crossed bread:

4-14-17 cheese crosses

 If you pile enough cream cheese on it, it tastes mostly like cheese. It hardly takes the place of hot cross buns, but it also did not spike my blood sugar, and that is the point. So I focused on being there with my family and enjoying our traditional Good Friday teatime.

Easter was easier in some ways. I had to forego hot cross buns again at breakfast, but at least I made an egg-and-sausage casserole that I could eat. I had to do without ham for dinner (which I love) because it wasn’t done when I had to eat, but of course I will have some leftovers tomorrow. Today is a pancreas vacation day, otherwise known as a fast. In the afternoon, I opened all those bags of Easter candy and divided them into “goodie” bags for my kids and our “adopted” college kids. I didn’t even eat a single black jellybean.

I wish I could say that all this self-denial is getting easier—but it isn’t. Not yet. I am also struggling with a weird form of guilt. When I have to be in the kitchen a lot, preparing food for other people, I find myself feeling very guilty, as if I’ve totally blown my whole pancreas rescue plan and have eaten far more than I should—even when I haven’t actually eaten anything, let alone something that’s off-limits for me. At some point I suppose I will be less afraid of screwing up, because I’ll have more of a track record of success, but for now, I find myself often fearing failure.

My Diabetes Miracle Report #2

Last month I told you how I had managed to go from needing 170 units of insulin a day to no insulin at all in less than a month. (I am still taking my oral meds but hope to eliminate those eventually too.)  My plan is to report on my progress once a month, as I continue to tweak my strategy. My blood sugar numbers are still great. Fasting numbers range from the low 90s to a high of about 105 usually. At no time has my blood sugar tested higher than 112, even after a meal. This is a minor miracle considering that before it often soared to 200 after a big meal and 300 after Chinese food!

I have a made a few adjustments to my daily routine. Instead of having my greens/veggie drink with supper, I now add it to my lunchtime protein drink, thus getting all the nastiness out of the way at one time. In fact, my lunch now consists of the following:

-About 12 ounces of ice water

-1 scoop of unsweetened protein powder

-1 scoop of greens/veggie powder

-1 Tablespoon of liquid organic coconut oil

-1 Tablespoon of ground flaxseed

-1 handful of frozen berries (probably about half a cup)

I whiz them all together in the blender and then drink that for lunch. I know the coconut oil and flaxseed add to the calories, but they are important for other reasons. One interesting thing I’ve found is that this drink is so filling I don’t get hungry in the afternoon at all and therefore am not tempted to eat more than I should when I have my early supper.

I have also been experimenting with some supplements. I don’t have definitive results at this point, but here are some things I’ve been trying:

-Apple cider vinegar in capsule form (although the liquid form does seem to be more effective)

-Sage

-Cinnamon

-a pancreas support supplement

-a powerful probiotic

-Alpha-Lipoic acid

-Moringa extract

-Bilberry

Still on my list: Coriander essential oil. Essential oils are expensive, but I’m hoping to get that soon. (Note: I do take some other supplements to deal with my other health issues, but this list is just for my diabetes.) If you have taken a supplement that is not on this list and that really helped control your blood sugar, please tell me what it was!

One thing I am working on is figuring out how to fit regular exercise into my daily routine. Thanks to arthritis and injuries, my two favorite exercises are not a good choice for me right now (swimming and walking) so I will probably have to go to the university gym and use an exercise bike. I have been walking short distances, but longer distances are difficult due to my foot problems.

I will say here that I don’t expect exercise to help lower my blood sugar or help me lose weight. I know it is effective for other people, but it has never worked for me, not even when I was swimming a mile a day or walking three miles a day. There are plenty of other benefits of exercise that make it well worth my while, though, so I am trying to make it a priority.

Speaking of weight loss, I did lose more weight last month. Not a lot—not as much as one would expect given the drastic reduction in food intake—but at least I didn’t gain, which is likely to happen before long no matter how low my calorie intake is. I have to keep reminding myself that this journey is all about controlling my blood sugar.

One thing I’m doing is trying to keep having one or two “fast” days per week. Sometimes I fast for the whole day, and sometimes I might eat just breakfast or just supper and skip the other two meals. I do this for two reasons. First, it does give me good numbers on my blood sugar the following day. Secondly, it obviously reduces my overall calories for the week, which in turn helps keep my blood sugar in control also, and of course it also gives my pancreas a little vacation.

Fasting is pretty easy for me now. My overall food intake is so low that going completely without does not trigger extreme hunger until the third day, and I don’t normally fast that long. Since I no longer eat anything I really enjoy, I never have to worry that I’ll be missing one of my favorite meals. Food’s prominence in my life has all but disappeared. I don’t look forward to meals as a general rule. I try to focus on other things. Sticking to my “zero tolerance” rule concerning all my favorite carbs has been very hard at times, but I know it is the right policy for me because I know only too well what cheating always leads to in my case. Also, to me it would be a huge failure if I were to eat something that would send my blood sugar high enough to make me feel I had to resort to insulin. Right now my syringes are gathering dust and the vial of insulin that I had at the beginning of February is still sitting in the fridge unused and I will probably just toss it.

So, this month I will continue to work on exercise and supplements and I will also experiment with variations on my routine to see if anything helps to counter the “dawn phenomenon.” For those of you who may not be familiar with it, the dawn phenomenon is when your blood sugar rises overnight, despite the fact that you haven’t eaten anything. Your liver spews out glucose in the wee hours of the morning, apparently to ensure that your blood sugar doesn’t get too low. It’s very frustrating for me. My bedtime readings are almost always in the 80s or even the upper 70s, but by morning the numbers have risen by as much as 20 points. I’d love to figure out how to eliminate that problem.

 

Hard Choices

I am going to try to confine my health-related posts to Mondays, so they will be easy to find for those who are interested.

Embarked as I have upon this road toward more health and less diabetes, I freely admit that it often is not easy or fun. I have made choices for myself that cannot be unmade unless I want to be a slave to insulin once again.

Our trip to Indiana was a case in point. On the one hand, traveling without insulin feels tremendously freeing, but on the other hand that means there really is no margin for error. I knew meal stops would be hard. I had made and brought some chicken salad, which we ate for lunch the first two days (the kids had theirs on bread and I had mine on celery). For supper, though, I drank my unpalatable protein drink in the car at the appointed time, and then we eventually stopped at a fast food place so the kids could eat.

The problem was that by then I was hungry again, so my plan to sit and keep the kids company was fraught with danger. It is incredibly hard to sit and watch someone eat a juicy burger and crispy French fries, while the fumes taunt your nostrils and your stomach growls in anguish. No matter how many times I silently told myself “I’m saving my life,” I still wanted more than anything to steal one French fry.

Remember, though, that moderation does not work for me. You might be able to eat a single French fry every now and then, but I cannot. There can be no cheating for me. When you think about it, who would I be cheating? Myself, that’s who. I’d be cheating myself out of my own future.

It reached the point where I had no choice but to flee the temptation. I went back out to the car and took a few deep breaths. By the time the kids were done eating, I had more or less recovered.

One thing I did to reduce stress on that trip was to not test my blood glucose. I was very, very careful with what I ate. I did not eat a single bite of anything I shouldn’t have. However, I was not always able to eat at the exact times I’m used to. I figured if I tested my blood glucose and it was a little high, I would just fret and feel guilty and there’d be nothing I could do about it. I knew it was not going to be dangerously high, because I didn’t eat a single thing that would have caused that, so I decided I was better off not knowing. As soon as I got home I started testing again and everything was fine.

At home it is often easier for me to make my hard choices, but sometimes it means staying away from the dinner table when everyone else is enjoying a meal that I can’t eat. And this weekend it meant not even licking a single drop of batter or icing when I made yummy-smelling chai flavored cake! I just keep giving myself that same pep talk: I’m saving my life. I’m saving my life. It really does help!