Saturday, October 27, 2012

Type 2 Diabetes

Well, this is embarrassing. Four months ago, I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. Turns out, reading everything you can about nutrition does not translate into actually preventing disease!

The bad news is, my A1C (the test for your average level of blood sugar) was 7.1 in July, putting me in the diabetic category. The good news is, I've lowered it to 6.1, by doing my best to cut down on refined carbohydrates. I would recommend cutting down on carbs for anyone who wants to lose weight and be healthier.

To those who may have been newly diagnosed with Type 2, here is a description of my experience:

Last year I had a couple of  "episodes" where I felt anxious and vaguely ill at work. It was difficult to describe what was wrong, but I knew something was.

At one point, I went to my primary doctor for a urinary tract infection, which I later learned can indicate diabetes, and I reported my symptoms, but he didn't mention this as a possibility to me. My fasting glucose results had always been about 110, which is pre-diabetic, but the doctor seemed unconcerned. 

 But the symptoms continued, I ended up going to a First Care clinic one Saturday, as I was frightened enough by the weirdness, to seek immediate help. 

An electrocardiogram showed my heart was fine, and my blood sugar was 110, which is normal, however, I had drunk a bottle of orange juice on the way to the clinic, so this indicated my B.S. had been lower when the symptoms hit. The doctor recommended I see my primary doctor for a A1C test, which measures your average blood sugar for the past three months (by examining the remnants of sugar on your cells. ) My blood pressure was also very high, much higher than my normal blood pressure.
My own doctor diagnosed me with Type 2 Diabetes based on my A1C of 7.1, and suggested I try lowering it with diet and exercise, before we tried drugs. He prescribed a med to lower my blood pressure, as diabetics are at a high risk for kidney damage from high blood pressure. He had me make an appointment with a diabetes educator and dietitian, but it was two weeks before I saw them. In the meantime, on my own, I decided to try the Atkins approach.

The effect of cutting out bread, pasta and cereal sent me into several episodes of hypoglycemic-reactions. No one warned me this might happen- that the brain thinks its starving for sugar while going through withdrawal from having been bathed in it. Hypoglycemic feelings to me, meant I felt like I couldn't talk, was anxious and weak. Very scary. 

I also started to get a pins and needles feeling in my feet, at the end of the day, which I am told is the result of nerve damage from high sugar levels over time. It was odd, I didn't get those symptoms till after I was diagnosed and cut back on carbs. Cutting out carbs also caused awful cramps, like charlie horses, but worse, in my thighs. I've since learned this is the result of dehydration.

When I saw the diabetes educator, and told her what I'd been eating, she said I needed 100 grams of carbs a day, because the brain uses it as fuel. She went over what I'd been eating, and suggested I eat whole wheat muffins, Greek yogurt and oatmeal.She also gave me my blood sugar meter and showed me how to test my blood.

The first week, my blood sugar readings were actually normal, and I started to wonder if I really had diabetes. But, then, as I added carbs back into my diet, as the educator had suggested, I saw my blood sugar readings go up. My fasting blood sugar readings are also too high, but the doctor says not to worry about it, since, overall, I have lowered my average blood sugar levels. I have lost seven pounds cutting down on carbs, and I think I am over the withdrawal phase. Still a work in progress, however.