Monday, June 29, 2015

the hidden disease

type 1 diabetes is so often difficult to explain because there are no physical symptoms. honestly, this makes me really angry sometimes, because if people could SEE it, they would be able to understand. instead, i'm left trying to use words to explain what's going on, and i'm actually not that great a communicator when i am talking face to face with someone.

last week for example, my 7-day average sugar level on my mysgr app (amazing, you should get it, but more on that later) went up to 8.7. now considering that it's usually about 6.1, that's quite unusual for me, and the average indicates that almost every day last week my level went to over 15mmol, and a couple of times was a nightmare to get back down. 

i'm still not totally certain what the problem was. it could have been pre-menstrual insulin resistance (something i'm only just starting to learn is a thing), or it could have been stress, or it could have been some dodgy insulin. whatever the reason, i felt rough.

it all started the previous weekend, with a dodgy set of highs on a weekend visit to London with my husband. i had eaten some stomach-upsetting food, and the level just would not come down, and so i spent four hours in a pub with my husband's friends feeling like i wanted to go to sleep, and take out my contact lenses which we going dry. it would have been difficult to explain that i was finding it difficult to concentrate and focus on the conversation, partially because my brain wasn't going as quick as normal, and partially because i was trying to work out how to get the level down and what had gone wrong that day to make it rollercoaster so badly.

then all week my levels continued to rollercoaster. up and down, up and down. and the thing is, i was eating well and exercising more than normal. when i realised it was becoming a problem i became even more obsessed with how strict i was with myself. and by the thursday when it went up again i got mad. to be honest, i am surprised i went so long staying calm, i usually get mad at the first bad level.

i do only usually get mad when i know i've done something that would have caused it (usually something i've eaten), but this time i couldn't see a reason or logic, and all attempts to figure it out ended in confusion. 

by the friday i was feeling very worse for wear, 'tired' doesn't even begin to cover it. consistent high levels you can feel in your muscles the most. muscles ache, including the heart. the heart ache is scary. you feel lethargic and cloudy. groggy. vision isn't as clear as normal, and thoughts are slow. dehydration you can feel in every cell. negative thought patterns lead to a mild depressive state.

so on friday, when i could start to feel it in my heart, i took action. i spent the day doing slow walking, so that my levels would go back to being consistent but also wouldn't plummet. i walked for 3 and a half hours. and I haven't had a bad level since. 

walking has always been a bit of a fixer for me. it's the thing i feel least like doing, but i know that pushing my muscles even though it will hurt will eventually make them even out. 

i also drank a lot of water that day to help clean my body on the inside, and took a bath to help relax my muscles. 

that day i ate no carbs for lunch and had a very simple and small dinner. that helped too.

i also made sure that i had a friend with me that day, someone to help keep me bright and not wallow in how bad my levels had got, to keep my head from thinking of potential future complications.

to any non-diabetic out there, the best way to explain a high sugar level is to think of the worst hangover you've ever seen depicted on television - you know, the one where the person doesn't want to get out of bed in the morning and can't function - that's a glimpse of how it feels...

anyhow, that's my last week, and now it's the monday after and my average level is down to 6.9 (thanks to another 10miles of walking on saturday, and a 15mile bike ride on sunday) instead of 8.7, and i feel so much better!

i hope you are well and have a beautifully day,
alissa x

Thursday, December 15, 2011

goodbye pump, hello pen

so, today i took out pedro's battery. he is in hibernation.

shiny new futura vs. silent purple paradigm...

why? well, after 3 weeks of very frustrating trial and error with new sets and new sites, i got to a point of distrust and extreme frustation with my insulin pump, and decided (with the help of doctor and specialist nurse) that a pump holiday was the right thing to do.

i've been using a pump since i was 13, so you can imagine just how weird it is to be sat typing this post without anything attached to me. i'm going to have to relearn how to use MDI (multiple daily injections) correctly, so that i don't have too many dangerous highs and lows.

but, considering i've had both of those in the last week alone (ketones up to purple, and 3am sweats from a 2.7 - not cool), i'm actually not so fussed, because it can't be worse than i've been doing lately.

my distrust for pedro has got so bad, that i really didn't ever want to put in another set. i've been feeling that way for a week or more. i am permanently tired and lethargic with horrendous levels, and i hate to think of what this is doing to my internal systems.

i'm looking forward to not worrying about:
  • the tubing getting caught
  • infusing into muscle accidentally
  • whether the insulin is absorbing, and if not, why not - is it the set, is there a bubble, has the insulin denatured, is there a kink in the tubing, are my clothes too tight? etc, etc.
  • being concerned about whether i wear socks to bed, as this will raise my core temperature and likely make the insulin far less effective.
  • having to inject for meals and corrections anyway because the set isn't working.
  • thinking about all the possible variables!
moving onto Lantus for a while will, i'm sure, present it's very own problems. but if it helps me to see the importance of having my pump and using it well, and learning to trust it again, then i think it'll be worth the nuisance of switching back.

practically speaking, it couldn't be easier to switch back to injections really. i will be using the Lantus twice a day, 8units at 8am, 8 units at 8pm. simple, for now. i was on about 10units of basal on the pump, roughly in total, so it's been increased quite a lot. we'll see how it goes, and i will see the nurse next Monday just to confirm everything is going ok. she gave me a fancy new ClikSTAR and a HumaPen Luxura (v. posh - like it a lot!) to use on my new regime, which is exciting!

for a long time i thought it would be like admitting defeat if i couldn't get the pump to work properly, but now i'm sort of excited! i was having to carry around my HumaPen and spare sets with me anyway from the sets failing on me all the time, so there'll actually be LESS stuff to lug around all the time :)

who knows when i'll be back using Pedro, but in the meantime, i'm happy to avoid using my abdomen to give it a rest from all the scarring that's happened to it, and to hopefully put some weight on, so i have a few more places to start using sets again!

it's certainly going to be an interesting few weeks, that's for sure ♥

thankfully, it's not all doom and gloom - i had some amazing test results back from the surgery on Monday, to show that my hormones and kidneys are working awesomely well!

Monday, November 21, 2011

infusion set failures and sites

hi everyone! hope all is well :)

as i'm sat typing this i have another high sugar level. they've been mostly up for the last few weeks, and it was starting to irritate to the point where i just had had enough and rang my diabetes nurse.

you see, when i got back from Australia, i had perfect numbers. like seriously perfect. i wasn't afraid of my blood glucose testing kit and the numbers it would offer, because i just knew they'd be good.

well, the last few weeks, despite eating right, getting in good exercise, and generally just doing things exactly the same, i've been going up and down like a yoyo, with no other explanation than my infusion sets not working properly - seriously, i've thought through all other logical explanations.

my family were getting annoyed even. "wouldn't it be better if you were on injections?" was a phrase that passed over quite a few lips.

so, i rang my nurse, Mandy, who very wonderfully reassured me that i've been using my abdomen for far too long. i've worn it out basically, and need to find another option, so i can see if it will heal.

she suggested my thighs - and so today, for the first time, i inserted into my upper left thigh! i thought it would hurt loads, but the 6mm Sof-Set seemed to do a pretty good job - apparently i have more flesh there than it feels like i do :)

i made sure to get the tubing under my underwear and to have it facing the right way when i put it in - i avoided that rookie mistake, thanks to tudiabetes, and i hope i won't pull the thing out at any point. so it's sat pretty nicely under my leggings at the moment, whilst i'm sat typing. it seems like it ought to work pretty well, and i'm looking forward to trying it out!

after reading a few forums, it seems like the outer thigh is a good option too, as is the upper abdomen and arms. i've only ever used my upper buttocks and lower abdomen, and i'm pretty sure i've got some seriously bad scar tissue that may not ever heal in some places because i've used it for far too long at one go. there's a warning for you insulin pump newbies - rotate before it's too late!!

anyway, i'll be sure to let you know how it goes...

where do you put your sets? what's you favorite infusion site?

Monday, November 14, 2011

my new cookbook!

hey everyone - it's been a while since my last post, and i guess you might want to know why...

well, i'm now published! i've compiled my favorite diabetic breakfast recipes into one book full of low carb, low gi, balanced and delicious morning meals, called Healthy Breakfast Recipes. this came about through my food blog, not just apples, where i post recipes and my daily eats.

i was getting frustrated with having to go through all my haphazard notes and scribbled down ingredients lists, and so to compile all my favorite breakfasts in one place has made it wonderful for other family and friends to know what to cook for me when i'm round.

though it doesn't have 'diabetic' in the title, it might as well have, because i eat every single one. i wanted to make the book accessible to anyone who was interested in eating better, and starting the day with good food.

some of the recipes from the book are:
  • sweet pumpkin pie cups
  • buckwheat pancakes with maple syrup, bacon and blueberries
  • peach and raspberry pecan crumble
  • granola with almonds and coconut
  • wholewheat cinnamon french toast
  • baked eggs with sundried tomatoes
there are things that i eat every single day, and things that i would only make for a special occasion, like birthdays, sundays or christmas. i hope you like the variation of ingredients, and it should keep things exciting each morning, without being expensive.

when i was younger i ate the same thing for breakfast every single morning - cheerios with semi-skimmed milk. since i turned 16 and started experimenting in the kitchen, breakfast has not been boring at all! i almost know exactly how much to bolus for each of the 70+ recipes now, and love making quick pancakes, bircher muesli or toasted banana bread.

i have incorporated many gluten free options, and everything is low gi, without refined flour or sugar. i believe in natural, whole food, that tastes delicious! each recipe was tested on my brother - my harshest critic, who hates 'healthy' food, so i was guaranteed that everyone will enjoy these recipes :)

i hope to be adding some more breakfast recipe videos to my youtube channel - then you'll be able to see them in action! let me know once you have your copy if there's any in particular you'd like to see...

purchase your copy from:

and please let me know what you think! i hope these will make great christmas presents for friends and family of those with diabetes, as well as being comfortably affordable for you to have a copy on your cookbook shelf at home :)

Monday, October 17, 2011

dr neal barnard's program for reversing diabetes review

hello! hope you are all well ♥

today, i wanted to do a little review of the book, Dr Neal Barnard's Program for Reversing Diabetes. it's a book that was leant to us by a chef friend of ours - and i'm not sure i would otherwise have picked it up. but it's got some very interesting things to say about diet and also the cause of type 1 diabetes....


the book has a stupid title - let me put this little aggravation to rest - because you can't actually reverse type 1 diabetes (it's impossible), and to so generalize about 'diabetes' as if they were both the same is misleading and rather concerning.

anyway, once, or if, you can get past the frustration of the title, there is quite a lot to learn from this book. dr neal barnard puts forward a very intriguing argument about the link between diabetes and cows milk protein, as well as how a vegan diet can "revolutionise" your lifestyle.

apparently, studies show that:
  1. the body sees cows milk protein as a foreign object.
  2. cows milk protein and insulin producing cells are a biochemical match.
  3. because of the similarity, the body produces antibodies to fight the cows milk protein, and ends up taking a wack at the insulin producing cells too. aka - an auto-immune attack.
no, i don't know about you, but that actually DOES make a lot of sense to me. it was like a light bulb moment, when all the information about nutrition that i've ever read came together and clicked. there's so many studies that say about how the body cannot recognise dairy - we haven't evolved enough yet for most people to assimilate it properly (and 90% of the worlds population are lactose intolerant, or don't produce enough lactase do digest it - see here).

there's the china study and the nurse's health study - two of the biggest and best nutritional studies ever to be done - and they both conclude that animal protein is a major cause of western disease. interesting, huh?

dr barnard fully believes that you can use diet (more than exercise) to acheive great readings and good control. he advocates a low gi, low fat, vegan diet to the point where he would suggest you didn't eat avocadoes or nuts. personally, i think that's a little extreme, but he doesn't think so.

he mentions studies that are going on at the moment to see whether the link between cows milk and diabetes is true. and i do think that in 50 years we'll look back and question how we drank the juice from another animals udder, that was actually meant for a baby cow, and actually advertised it as a 'healthy' thing to do.

his main concern in the book is the heart and blood vessel complications that a type 1 diabetic is at risk of, and that, if anything, it's best to change your diet to aid the perfect functioning of these systems. and i couldn't really agree more.

so as a courtesy to the doctor, i am testing it out. i want to know if i will develop increased insulin senstivity by increasing my intake of pulses and removing animal products. i haven't made the full switch yet. i'm on more of a trial run, whilst i get to grips with cooking beans and lentils in different ways.

the most interesting part of the book is the recipe section at the back! he's got things like wheatberry pancakes, oat waffles, orange date cake, roasted moroccan sweet potato, red lentil soup, etc. they're quite unique, and very tasty! i just wish there were a few more...

Monday, October 10, 2011

diabetic inflight meals and airport experiences

hello everyone - thanks for tuning in, or logging on, or checking out the blog, or just showing up! it's so awesome to be able to be a part of the DOC and to share my diabetes journey with you all...

today i want to share photos of my diabetic inflight meals with you all - because i would have wished for this sort of post before i left in order to know if it was worth pre-selecting a 'diabetic' meal over a regular one, and because i want to give you my opinion on the food, it's delivery and the whole experience in general.

let's get straight into some photos...

airports are funny things - if you only have a few dollars to spend, you don't have a lot of healthy options. of course much depends on the airport itself - but sydney airport is not much of a foodie central. so i settled with a dodgy muesli cookie from a coffee shop just so i could nestle into a snuggly seat and enjoy reading my book.

security was fine - sydney are really great at security, so i always feel very safe on the plane! this time, (and it really does depend as to who's on guard as to what they do) they closed the metal detecting gate, and stopped the whole queue for ages to wait for a woman to do a manual pat down after i'd walked through the side gate. kinda embarrassing holding up the travellers behind me, but i sort of love the quizzical looks on all their faces - not everyone gets such special treatment! :)

i'm always at the airport super duper early - just in case - and so i spent this time walking - seriously about an hour and a half with awkward heavy backpack and roller case, going in and out of shops and through from terminal to terminal. it's so worth it though, because that meant that i'd had some good exercise before sitting for ridiculous lengths of time.

the actual flight from Sydney to London is a long one. 23 hours 40 mins ish, with British Airways, including a stopover in Singapore for just over an hour - so you're fed quite a few meals. which is all included in the price - which is brilliant. of course, i went standard class, and i found it quite roomy and quiet - and the staff are always very accommodating.

the first meal was AMAZING! really tasty and nutritious and filling - i was a happy bunny. curry with rice (basmati i think? but not brown...), "salad", roll and an apple. pretty yummy really.

the second 'mini meal' on the airplane was not really any different from anyone else, i got a white roll sandwich and a little chocolate - not sure how in any way this can be classed as diabetic, but i was hungry so i ate it of course...the only thing different was probably that there was fake sweetener instead of sugar (but i never have those sweeteners anyway!!)

at Singapore airport i walked around a lot again, i think i did 8 laps of our terminal, which was pretty small. i could've walked further, but there didn't seem much point. by this point i'd polished off the 100g dark chocolate bar i'd brought with me on the flight! yum.

the second proper meal was INCREDIBLE! so much so that i had to compliment the air steward for it's tastiness. salad, roll, and seafood bake - with sweet potato, mushroom, greens, prawns, calamari and fish - it was so tasty. and then fresh papaya to follow. i was muchos impressed!

breakfast before landing was decent - 2 slices of brown-ish bread, plain yogurt, fresh papaya, carrots, 1 tini tomato half (?) and an omelette with mushrooms. not too bad carbs wise, but i didn't eat all the bread, because i'd been doing so much sitting, so i didn't really need it.

i bet you're wondering what i had on the flight over to Oz? well, unfortunately i didn't take any photos, and so all i remember was having chicken and brown rice twice. which was fine, and alright, if a little peppery to make up for the lack of flavour. but it was pretty balanced at least.

throughout the flight there's snacks and water at the back, should you need anything- so handy! i usually keep a full bottle of water by my seat and continue to drink it so i don't get hydrated. it seems to work, and means that you have to get up to go to the bathroom fairly frequently, which keeps you mobile and allows you to stretch.

often the diabetic meal was also labelled as something else too, sometimes gluten free and other times vegetarian. i understand why, but it does mean that there are compromises made, especially with the bread. i could go on and on about the bread - but suffice to say that any bread on a plane is never really any good - it's too dry and too cheaply made to actually have any real substance.

the other concerning thing is how often a sweetener instead of real sugar is the only difference in the meal. i sort of get that, but it seems like flawed nutrition to me, so what's the point of having anything different?

however, i adore getting served first, and everyone getting envious over the delicious smell of my meal. i probably shouldn't say that, but it's so true - it makes you feel a little like a rock-star.

and, i give serious praise to any company that allows you the option of having a meal, and who does it with such class is British Airways did for me this time. thank you BA!

any questions you have, please feel free to ask...

Thursday, September 29, 2011

the ups and the downs of ozzie life

g'day folks! or i should say, good morning - because i am now back in the UK ♥

i thought i'd let you all know that i am back safe from my travels, and will be resuming some semblance of 'regular' posting forthwith... including updates on my new book and new videos also.

i'm so excited to be back and to get into a regular routine. my sugar levels did eventually settle down in australia, thank goodness, but it was so tough going. i ended up having to change my set every 2 days, and increasing my basal rates heaps in order to manage my levels ok. i also went on a 30min walk twice a day most days, which was super beneficial.

the biggest shock for me, was losing control over my eating, and dealing with people's limited understanding of what type 1 diabetes really means.

i guess the difficulty really lies with the fact that i do change my diet kinda frequently - my understanding of how best to manage my diabetes is still in progress. it's a constant learning curve, and that's hard for other people to understand. especially with the amount of books about health and diabetes i'm devouring at present.

since february i've been eating 'low carb', starting out with just 30g a day, and then gradually increasing it to my sweet spot of about 100g, which is where i'll probably stay for a long time. i'm also eating low gi, and i love trying out health foods like chia and flax and coconut flour - so you can see where confusion might come in to all other people.

it's hard for someone to comprehend how a melon is actually really high GI, but an apple isn't. or, how i'd rather eat natural local honey, than Splenda. or how i love to bake with buckwheat, rye and spelt instead of wheat.

the hardest points for me where when someone had gone out of their way to make me something special to eat, and then i had a horrendous evening feeling rough because it wasn't actually low GI or low carb or a small enough portion size.

i must put my hands up and admit that i have often sabotaged myself, by agreeing to a small portion of something bad out of politeness. thinking it's ok to have a small bite now, because it's early morning and i've just been on a walk, or i'm spending a day wandering around a city - and then the person thinks that it's ok all of the time... do you know what i mean?

sometimes on holiday it's ok to have a slice of banana bread or an ice cream or a glass of Milo - but only once, and only in exceptional circumstances, not every day. deprivation on holiday isn't cool with me.

the other thing is that there's so much confusion between diabetics, and between type 1 and type 2. i found this a LOT. most people have a vague idea of diabetes, but don't know that there's such a HUGE difference between the two, and the way they get managed. or that the guidelines aren't at all strict for what you should or shouldn't eat to manage your levels. one diabetic might eat a vegan diet, another low carb, another low gi - there's so many recommendations, and different things work for different people.

i met up with a lovely diabetic in Armidale, NSW, called Beck, and she was a vegan that ate quite a lot of wholegrains, but no dairy. whereas at the time, i was eating a lot of meat and dairy but very few wholegrains. this was very confusing for my aunt and cousin to understand - how can you both have type 1 diabetes, but eat completely different diets?

i was continually eyed with suspicion and often treated like a fool when my sugar level rose up - i've had diabetes for 13 years now (almost exactly), and people reckon i ought to know how to deal with it so i never have highs any more. but, we all know that an infusion set can fail, you can forget to bolus or there can be a bubble in your tubing that affects absorption...

but diabetes is invisible. when you are high and feel horrible, it's not obvious to anyone else. they can't know how concerned you are that this one high level might be the thing that causes your sight to fail in 10 years, or your nerves to go funny as you age.

another thing i found out in Australia was how a high protein, high fat, low carb diet is not right for me. it lead to bloating and overeating, which consequently made my sets stop working and my sugar levels to fly up high. i'm currently in the process of working out what other options there are out there, before embarking on any radical new diet change. though i know it won't include heaps of cheese, chicken, nuts or bacon.

so. lessons learnt...
  1. it is never ok to eat a little bit of very tempting and delicious high GI foods whilst anyone else is watching...
  2. educating other people about diabetes, and the differences between type 1 and type 2 is paramount.
  3. being clear about why and what you choose to eat differently, and the importance of it for your future health.
  4. science is continually changing, and you always need to be open to learn.
  5. you can't expect a country to magically straighten out your sugar levels - it's a continual effort each moment to decide to do the best thing for your body to ensure it's future health
  6. 100g carbs is perfection for me, but i have yet to understand how much protein and fat my body thrives on (and of what type too - is it animal or vegetable?)