Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Making the low go...

Dear Conscious Diabetic readers,

I have joined fellow d-bloggers and am participating in Diabetes Blog Week. I will be posting new topics every day this week on living with diabetes. Click here to read my Conscious Diabetic Monday post entitled: Diabetes and loving kindness practice.

Have a great day,

I woke up to the clanking sound of metal hitting a glass as I slowly opened my eyes. My mom was hunched over my bed holding a glass of orange juice, and she was yelling to my father to bring more sugar. She bent down to give me more to drink. She forced the glass to my mouth, but only a few drips made it to my throat. The rest – all over my face. My skin felt sticky, and I was in pain and feeling a bit nauseous. I’d had enough already.

And then I noticed that puddles of orange juice had dried on my face and on the bed. I realized in that moment that my parents had been at this for a while. My mom and dad had brought me back to life, and I was 12 years old.

We have been asked to write about our favorite low sugar treats for today’s Diabetes Blog Week entry.

I used to think of lows as fun since I would be able to eat all sorts of foods that I normally wasn’t allowed to eat as a diabetic. A chance to taste the forbidden! Cookies, cake, and pastries. Candies, chocolate, and sugary drinks. All of the stuff that everyone else was eating, but not me and my diabetes.

But the fun was a temporary fix. A badly treated low could turn into a roller coaster ride of lows and highs, never giving my body the opportunity to heal and feel right. Lows are meant to be treated, not accosted. For just as in life, every low must go up. And eating the right kinds of foods can bring the sugars back to a place of balance. Eating the forbidden fruit though can cause long-term anguish.

Somewhere in my mid-20s, I became a tad more enlightened, and I would eat dates, figs, and dried apricots during low sugar episodes. Or I would go for 4 oz of orange juice. The idea was to be somewhat healthy about the low, still eat something yummy, but not wreak havoc on my entire system.

Around five years ago, the same time that I went on the insulin pump, I met with a nutritionist who taught me the ideal way to treat a low, so that the lows go away, rather than transform into a painful and physically challenging roller coaster ride. She told me to chew on four glucose tablets, wait 15 minutes, and then check my sugar again. If it’s still low, eat 4 more tablets, and repeat. If the sugar is above 70, and if I’m not planning on eating a meal within the hour, then I was told to eat 12 grams of carbohydrates and 8 grams of protein. The idea: Just enough quick sugars to raise blood sugar levels quickly and then stabilize with a balanced meal.

Glucose tablets are not great tasting. They’re not fun or intriguing. I do have a favorite flavor though – tropical fruit from Stop and Shop – but it’s nothing to write home about. They are portable, don’t require refrigeration, and most importantly, it works.

I’m taking care of myself in a healthier way by seeking balance rather than the highs and lows. Balance. One of the lessons of diabetes.


  1. "But the fun was a temporary fix. A badly treated low could turn into a roller coaster ride of lows and highs, never giving my body the opportunity to heal and feel right. Lows are meant to be treated, not accosted"

    Oh so true!!! I know the tropical fruit flavor you're referring to, and agree, they aren't bad. The bit that I still struggle with is taking that limited amount of fast acting sugar while waiting that 10-15 mins to see what my body's response is. All the while fighting my body's urge to consume everything in sight. A profoundly insightful post :)

  2. Saffy,

    I totally agree! Resisting the urge to eat everything in sight is VERY difficult when you're body is in survival mode! I don't always succeed! Thanks for commenting :-)


  3. I could have written those exact first paragraphs. Same age and everything. The feeling of wet pajamas and sticky dried orange juice on my face. Not fun. The part about feeling a little shaky and getting to eat chocolate - more fun...temporarily.

    Thanks for this. I too have found that glucose tabs are perfect in that they don't taste horrible (I like the raspberry flavor), but are never a temptation.