If you’ve had type 2 diabetes for a while, you probably think you know all the things you need to do – and not do – to keep your blood sugars in check. As someone who has abandoned most simple carbohydrates in her diet, exercises an hour a day and writes about diabetes for a living, I certainly did.
But, as I found out the hard way, I was wrong. While certain I was traveling the straight and narrow, this has been the summer of tripping up and sending my sugars higher than I want them. Not once, I’m embarrassed to admit, but a few times. And though I’m not proud of my mistakes, maybe my experiences can alert you to some pitfalls to watch out for:
1. Dehydration: Out in the hot summer sun doing weeding, I put off getting a drink of water. I figured a few more minutes digging wouldn’t hurt, but the few minutes stretched into an hour and a half. When I finally went inside, I took my sugar and was surprised to see it reached the upper hundreds.
When you become dehydrated, sugar in your blood becomes more concentrated, running up your blood glucose readings. And when your blood glucose is higher, you tend to urinate more, making you more dehydrated – a vicious cycle. Drink!
2. Medications: After running two miles on a treadmill earlier this spring, I developed a nagging hip ache that I ignored until I could ignore it no more. (Sense a trend here?) My doctor diagnosed bursitis – an inflammation of the bursa – and recommended a cortisone shot.
It did the trick – no more hip pain – but for a week after, my sugars tended to be on the high side.
Steroids and other drugs can play havoc with your readings; next time I’ll be sure to check with my doctor to understand what effect a drug might have.
3. New-to you Foods: This should have been an easy one. My husband and I started drinking an occasional gin and diet tonic before dinner, accompanied by what I figured were healthy low-salt peanuts. Nuts are good, right? But while studies have shown that peanuts aren’t a problem for most people with diabetes, they were for me.
After a little investigation I learned that technically, peanuts are legumes, not nuts, and packed with carbohydrates. Since I figured this out, I’ve switched to a few almonds with my summer cocktail.
4. Caffeine: Summer and iced coffee make a natural pair. It’s fine to drink one or two, but on days home by my computer, I was averaging three or four. And though I was careful not to add artificial sweetener (I learned last year that that can also boost glucose readings), the caffeine did seem to raise my sugars. So, back down to two a day.
5. Sunburn: This was last year’s mishap. On vacation in California, I got a whopper of burn – a big mistake for both skin cancer and diabetic reasons. The burn blistered, and I felt lousy. My diabetes treated my burn like an illness, and my sugars – which normally jump when I have colds or the flu – rose as well.
So what’s the takeaway from all this? Life happens – there will be days when you forget to drink enough H2O, innocently down an extra iced coffee, or eat something that turns out to be problematic. But by keeping track of your sugars, you can get a better picture of how to manage things in the long run. Which makes for healthier glucose numbers, and a healthier you.