Tag: hypoglycaemia

What does Ramadan mean to a Type 1 diabetic?

Monday 6th of June, marked the beginning of the blessed month of Ramadan, which is observed during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. During this month, Muslim’s fast from sunrise until sunset, when they are without food and without water.

Fasting-TIME-LINE-  So what does Ramadan mean for Muslim diabetics? What does that mean to me?

As a Muslim and a diabetic, I am exempt from fasting. Islam makes exceptions for those who are ill or on medication, for pregnant or breast feeding women etc.

Something you may not know about me, when I was first diagnosed it was also the very first time I tried to fast. I was excited to attempt the fasting and had set my mind to really giving it my all.

Day one was a struggle. I felt awful of course because I did not know that my diabetes had begun to manifest. I felt exhausted. I had an urge to drink constantly and why did I need to urinate so frequently? I hadn’t taken one drop of liquid all day. I slept and slept, but still could not find the motivation to do the things I needed to do. I thought to myself, maybe this is how the fasting was supposed to feel. It was was a struggle but I made it to the end.

Day two came and I felt like it was even more of a struggle than day one. I continued to tell myself that, this was how the fast was supposed to feel. The symptoms from the day before seemed to be amplified. I walked around with my eyes half closed from sheer exhaustion and a thirst like no other.  It completely drained me but I made it to the end of another day. I remember breaking my fast and consuming ridiculous amounts of water, juice anything to quench my thirst.

I had started to lose weight, my clothes were hanging off me. If you knew me then, you’d know how skinny and tall I was. Therefore any amount of weight loss was extremely evident. My Mother noticed the severe amount of weight I had lost and some of the symptoms I presented. She insisted that I stop the fasting. Even though I felt awful, I also felt sad to stop fasting. It pained me to think that I was not going to be continuing, but deep down I knew that I could not continue as I was. And as they say the rest is history, you can read my diabetes story in more detail here.

After my diagnosis and every year Ramadan came around, I found it hard to truly find my place.  Everyone in my family was fasting and I could not partake in the fasting so what else could I do?

I had to find other ways to be a part of this special month.  As I investigated and connected more with my religion, I began to understand that there were other aspects to Ramadan and that Ramadan wasn’t solely just about the fast itself. It was only one portion of the whole month.

 

So what did I learn?

  • Connecting with the Creator – One of the first and most important aspects that I learnt was, that for the entire month I had to try my best to live in an environment where I was more conscious of my creator, every second of the day. It was also a time for spiritual reflection and deep devotion of oneself to worship and pray to God     and to try my best to solidify my relationship with him. Reading as much of the Quran (the holy book for Muslims) and really taking my time to understand it properly.

 

  • Check yourself before you wreck yourself – It was also a month where I could evaluate my own behaviour and attitude towards myself and others. It taught me how to control my anger, ego, arrogance and to show humility and politeness, kindness and forgiveness to others (something I try to do every day, regardless of month).

 

  • Offerings – It was also a time to be generous and give charity (Zakat) to those in need. Because I wasn’t able to fast, with this aspect I give money to support someone (with food) in need for the entire month. It also became a time for me to strive to do as many good deeds as possible.

 

  • Leave off that bad language/ attitude/ everything – For those who know me, I don’t use bad language. I leave off the F and P’s and Qs and try to avoid it all together daily. However, during this time it is important that we aim to do these things and to be more aware of the language we chose to use. Staying away from desires and sins becomes very important for observing this entire month.

 

  • Brain training – One of the benefits of fasting is that it helps to repair and build new connections in the brain by generating new synapses and ultimately keeping the mind young. I have had to find other ways to challenge my brain to allow it to grow and strengthen itself and in turn keep it young. I do this by constantly learning new things, new languages (currently tackling Korean), reading on subjects I knew nothing about or reading around subjects in more detail.  

 

 So what are the benefits of fasting?

By fasting, it demonstrates our ability not only to conquer hunger but also our capacity to control psychological aspects of our behaviour, such as our reaction to things that we dislike. There are also many scientific benefits such as;

 

  • Speeds up metabolism – Fasting Intermittently, gives your digestive system a break whilst promoting your metabolism to burn through calories more efficiently. Intermittent fasts can regulate your digestion and encourage healthy bowel function, and therefore improving your metabolic function.

 

  • Fasting can improve your immune system – It does this by reducing free radical damage, reduces inflammatory conditions and also eliminates the production of cancer cells.

 

  • Improves Brain function – This fantastic lecture by Mark Mattson who is the Chief of the Laboratory of Neuroscience at the National Institute on Aging. He is also a professor of Neuroscience at The Johns Hopkins University, and one of the foremost researchers in the area of cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying multiple neurodegenerative disorders, like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, outlines some of the benefits fasting can have on the brain.

 

  • Fasting for Clarity of mind and soul – Fasting is not just a practice for Muslims, many other religions also chose to fast,  just ike many members of my own family, who fast during Lent. It is a way to help many people feel connected to life by practicing things such as reading(holy text), meditating , performing yoga and martial arts. Because the body is deprived of food for a period of time this allows the body to make more energy. It gives the body a respite and a chance to heal and to reorder its systems. It allows us to feel better both physically and mentally (the mind is able to repair, develop new connections and reset itself).  With a lighter body and clearer mind we become more aware of our surroundings, our beliefs and of course our actions.

 

Amina xx

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Listen to your body

Something I realised after my diagnosis was, I had to really start to listen to my body and try my best to understand what was happening to me.

body1The body is a complex system which does everything from help you move your arms, fight infections and even process the food we eat on a daily basis. It is able to constantly give you signs and signals which lets you know for instance that you’re coming down with something or if in fact the problem is more deep rooted. Without a second thought, your body breathes for you, pumps blood through your veins, just to keep you alive. It’s pretty miraculous!

In the case of diabetes the body also gives us signs. Signs which allow us to begin to recognise symptoms of lows, highs, falling or raising BGs. Even before my diagnosis, my body was giving me warning signs, showing me that something wasn’t right. Whilst experiencing the symptoms of thirst, constant urination, tiredness and the weight loss, these were all indications that something was happening.  This is why diabetes awareness is so important.  For me, with the knowledge my mother had of diabetes, I was able to survive and begin my diabetes journey.  Many people, who have no diabetes awareness and aren’t able to recognise any of the symptoms may not be as lucky as I was.

When we’re affected by things like stress, exercise or hormonal changes, we are able to begin to understand so many things.

In the case of low BG’s, I’ve had to make firm decisions in my mind that I am actually having a hypo and  then act on it in that moment. I’ve had to train my mind to distinguish and realise that a high BG is a high BG and a low BG is a low BG. It’s not easy but with time we begin to get a grasp on some of the warning sign we experience.

 Learning and listening to these signs are crucial to recognising future symptoms which will occur.

The human body is even more amazing in that we have been given five senses which guide us, as we traverse through the world around us. Our senses are able to send messages through the brain, with the help of the nervous system to deliver messages to us. These senses include: Taste, Touch, Smell, Sight, and hearing.

I strongly believe that we also have a sixth sense. (No I don’t mean seeing dead people lol).  This sixth sense i’m reffering to is our intellect. It is the sense which helps us understand so many thing including our physiology. For we diabetics, being able to differentiate between a low or high BG level sensation/s becomes quite critical, because let’s not forget these are medical emergency after all. In some cases we experiences low or high BG on a daily basis, whilst trying to obtain that number in the ideal range. It is an endless cycle of sustaining and monitoring. We check our BG, we bolus and we eat.

Strengthening your consciousness and being aware of your physiology is an advantage in that it will allow you to have a better comprehension, when changes arise due to BG levels.

You can begin to listen to your body by training your mind to make you more mindful of the signs you personally feel, before, during and after BG level changes. Identifying these symptoms will help make you even more responsive in the following hypo/hyper events to come.  I know that symptoms can vary and even change with time but what is important is being aware of what is happening to you in these moments.

Action, repetition and  finally recognition

When we experience any symptoms related to BG levels changing, our brain is able to create a memory of these symptoms we’ve experienced. This process is known as Recognition Memory.

Recognition memory is the ability to recognise previously encountered events, objects, or people.

brain

When we re-experience a certain BG related symptom, the brain is able to match a previous occurrence of the event happening beforehand. This then becomes an indication for us to know that we’ve experience this feeling before.  It’s becomes familiar and we know that we’ve gone through it in the past. We’re then able to recall this memory by accessing details related to that memory.

 Since we all know symptoms can vary from person to person, sometimes we miss a symptom because in fact maybe it’s a new memory which the body has never experienced before. Therefore, when this happens, it will be the first time the brain makes a memory of the event happening. If the event occurs again, it will then go through the recognition memory process to let you know that you are in fact familiar with this event taking place.

In the past I’ve experienced low BG’s were I don’t have any symptoms and remain in the low for a long time. However, this was mostly during my pregnancies, when there were so many changes occurring in my body. Nevertheless, even when I wasn’t aware of the symptoms and found myself in the middle of very severe lows, I still made a mental note of how I felt in those moments. This helped me to learn how to treat them and achieve a more normal BG level.

Hypoglycaemia unawareness can occur after living with this condition for many years. Constant lows can interfere with the release of stress hormones, which occurs when BG levels drop too low.  Stress hormones encourage the release of glucose. The liver secretes a hormone called Glycogen, which is decreased in people with type 1 diabetes after several years of living with the condition.  If glycogen isn’t being released then BG levels will remain low because the stress response isn’t producing any glucose to elevate the BG level. Therefore you remain in a low state for longer.

Tips to avoid hypoglycaemia unawareness

  • Test frequently to be more aware of dropping BG’s.
  • With the help of your diabetes team make adjustments to your Basal rates to try and avoid low BG’s occurring.
  • Develop an understanding of how to get those low BG’s back up and in range.

The next time you have a low or high BG try your best to be aware of what is happening to you in that instant.  Think about what you feel beforehand, during and after the hypo. Make a mental note and acknowledge the feeling you go through. Even if you have no initial symptoms and find yourself in the middle of a low, during the hypo you still experience certain feelings so try your best to be aware.

What methods do you use to recognise that your BG is low or high?

HyPoS

Many-types-of-hypos

Hypo’s can be very unpredictable and can affect everyone in different ways. Here are a few of the hypos i’ve experienced.

  • Stuck: My train of thought just remains paused on the last thing I was doing, the last thing I was thinking about or the last thing I was talking about. I find multiple ways to talk about the exact same thing over and over again.

 

  • Mrs Jekyll Mrs Hyde: I have a complete change in mood. I become completely enraged. I definitely become more vocal and extremely irritated. The strange thing is, I can hear myself but can’t stop myself. I have no control over what I’m saying.

 

  • Zombified: This is the type of hypo, where I can’t do anything at all for myself. Thank god this type of hypo has only hit me a few times. I usually have an outer body experience, whereby I can hear everything that is being said to me but I can’t respond in sentences. My brain, my mouth and my body just won’t coordinate, so instead I produce a sounds which resembles that of the living dead lol.

 

  • Is it me Or is it hot in here?: With this hypo, I feel as if the temperature in the room is above 30 degrees Celsius and raising. What follows next is me asking other people in the room, “Why it’s so hot?” Again I can become quite vocal.

 

  • Pins and needles: My BS level has come back up very slowly and what I’m left with is my tongue feeling as if it’s tingling and numb.

 

  • Where did that hypo come from? I decide to check my BS level and it’s extremely low but I feel absolutely fine.

 

  • Clean teeth no more:  I’m ready for bed, I spend my time brushing my teeth and then check my BS level only to find out its low.  This then means I have to eat or drink something to bring it back up pfff!

 

  • Puke fest: With this hypo, I want to eat everything in sight. Resulting in everything been served up together. In that moment anything goes. Jam + a sprinkle of cheese + some gummy bears, a sip of juice, a bite of that pear, oh crackers with Nutella. JUST ANYTHING TO BRING THAT SUGAR BACK UP!!This is something I’ve been working hard to try not to do, because it just means serious rebound BG’s later on.

 

  • Ride, Ride, Ride, Ride, Ride it out! This the new me, where I sensibly correct my BG with 15g of fast acting carbs. These days I usually go with raisins or fruit strip. Honestly, I just try not to over correct the low too much. Although the feeling of waiting for that low BG to come up is awful. I’ve really been trying to hang in there and let it come up without over eating and sending my BG through the roof.

 

  • I’m convinced that I’ve mastered Korean: With this type of hypo, I’m usually watching a Korean drama (Kdrama) and can completely understand it word for word. FYI, I’m still only a beginner when it comes to learning Korean. I watch a lot of K dramas but I guess my brain has stored a lot more than I think it has. Hmmmmm! This has also happened with other languages I’ve learnt or heard.

 

  • Beating drums: I start with a mild headache and then it develops into a severe migraine. My heart is also beating. Is it the usual beat? I have no idea but I can definitely hear it and it’s louder than ever.  

 

  • Le vache qui rie (The laughing cow): Let’s just say, I find everything funny. Whatever might be happening, it just becomes funny. SHSL you’re a total loon!

 

  • Pass me that towel please: This is the type of hypo, where I’m sweating profusely, as if I’d been dunked in a swimming pool a few times and come out dripping wet.

 

These are just a few of the hypos I’ve experienced over the years. What type of hypo’s have you experienced?   

Amina xx

The invisible Diabetes

When I first meet someone, I don’t introduce myself as, the type 1 diabetic, who has an insulin pump and pricks her fingers between six to eight times a day.

To look at me, you’d just see Amina. The girl, who stands at 5ft 6 and 1/2 inches tall. The girl, from the northwest, with a strong manccunian twang. Always trying to smile, but sometimes frowning. Sometimes boring others to tears with her talk of science.photo (1) Never missing an opportunity to mention the latest K drama she’s engrossed in that week.

The girl, that works out from time to time, the mother, the wife, the part time gardener. Most of all, the girl who tries her best to stay patient and positive at all times, because the one thing you don’t see about me, is “My diabetes”.

Type 1 diabetes is a chronic illness. However, it isn’t something that is visible to the human eye. I don’t have any external apparent scars, or disfigurements which would indicate that I have a life long illness, or that for every day for the past 19 years I’ve been fighting, this never ending battle of diabetes. Some days I feel fine. Sometimes I find, I have the perfect blood sugars in the morning, and then it all changes just as quickly, limiting my day to day activities.

invisible

To my surprise, I recently discovered that quite a few people who I know, had no idea I even had diabetes. Some of these people, I went to school with and others I’d worked with. Although it may be invisible to others, for me, the one living and fighting each day to stay strong and healthy, it is more visible than ever. It is a part of my life, but not the only thing in my life. It has grown with me, matured with me, been there with me during the good and bad. It has moulded that part of me that makes me, me.

Even when experiencing low or high blood sugars, it still isn’t visible. My appearance to others might be that I’m absolutely fine. The people close to me, who have experienced me, during these times, may be more receptive to my symptoms, than others. They may understand that my ramblings, my shift in mood, might be a low or high blood sugar. Even still, it sometimes still isn’t that obvious. I may actually just be rambling like I do, or I may be angry about something. It doesn’t always mean I’m having a hypo. OK most of the time it does, but there’s that small window of a time, in which I’m just expressing my feelings.

LOVED ONE:  AMINA! DID YOU CHECK YOU’RE SUGAR?

ME: NO, WHY? (ANGRY TONE)

LOVED ONE: ARE YOU HAVING A HYPO? I THINK YOUR SUGAR MIGHT BE DROPPING!!

ME: (GETTING ANGRIER, BECAUSE IN THAT MOMENT MY THOUGHTS ARE JUMBLED. I FIND MYSELF RESPONDING WITH), MY SUGARS ARE JUST FINE. IT’S NOT MY SUGAR, IT’S YOU! JUST LEAVE ME ALONE. THIS WILL THEN MAKE ME CHECK MY SUGAR.

During a hypo I feel antagonised, and always seem to pick a fight or defend myself. Something as small as asking me about my blood sugar during that moment can become a fixation and can be blown out of proportion. I become increasingly frustrated, words become confused,  and I feel a strong need to express my  emotions.

The truth is, without suffering from this condition, it’s hard to really understand the internal effects that those lows and highs have on me. The weakening and almost debilitating feeling, which accompanies the shift in blood sugars, just can’t be put into simple words.

I’ve even found myself in situations where I have had to prove my condition and the way I’m feeling to others, because they aren’t able to physically see my diabetes.

This first happened to me when I became diabetic. I started high school and one of the lessons we all had to take part in was P.E (Physical Education). I’d gone for several weeks without having any hypos at all.  All teachers we’re made aware that I was diabetic, well so I thought. Then, it just so happened that the day I had a hypo we had to do cross country running. This involved running around our huge school grounds about 8 to 10 times. For someone who loved to run it was a killer. The race started, and off I went. As hard as it was, I always seemed to be one of the ones at the front of the race.  Lap 6, “I got this!” I continued on and all of a sudden, I started to feel myself slowing down. I realised that my sugar was dropping and that I had to pull myself out of the race. As I ground to a halt, I heard in a loud tone, “AMINA, why aren’t you running?” It said. I turned, it was the teacher. I started to walk towards her at this point she was shouting at me. Asking me why I’d stopped?

“Miss”, I said. “I can’t go on anymore”. Her expression said it all. Almost disgusted by my words, she told me to go back to the race. Which is when I decided to say, “I’m diabetic.” “no go back to the race!”, she said.  “stop telling lies to get out of this race”. At this point I collapsed to the ground, begging her to let me go inside to get my emergency hypo supply.

One of my close friends, who knew I was diabetic, came towards us. “Are you ok Amina?” She asked. ” Is it your blood sugar?” she asked. “yes”, I said. She ran past the teacher and went to grab my emergency hypo supply. The teacher was shocked!

She did finally believe me and apologised for not listening. She wasn’t aware that I was diabetic and really did think I was making up an illness to get out of the race. From then on, she had supplies for me and always made me bring my emergency hypo bag out with me.

This story is a true example of how invisible diabetes is. The moral of the story is, that you should never take a person at face value. If someone tells you they aren’t feeling well, diabetic or not , never doubt them because their outwards appearance may not reflect what is going on internally.

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My first hypo!

PrintLet’s face it you can never really be ready for that first “hypo”. “What was to come?” Although I’d read about the symptoms, I could never have imagined the way it would affect me. I wasn’t really prepared for the feelings I was going to experience. The most frightening thing about it all was that I didn’t even realise, that I was already beginning to go through some of these symptoms. In all honesty, I wasn’t sure! I had nothing that I could measure against and confirm that it was a hypo.

This was my first hypo experience!

Initially I felt hungry. But I just thought, “maybe I was just hungry.” Lunch was nearly ready so I waited patiently. I didn’t feel that I needed to alert my mother. “was it a hypo, should I say something?”.  Believe it, or not, my first reaction wasn’t to go and check my BGL. Although you’d think “well why didn’t she just do that?”. But remember I was a child of 11 and this was the first big responsibility I had ever had. A responsibility which I was still familiarising myself  with. I can only put it down to my inexperience and being new to my diabetes.

Unknowingly as my symptoms progressed, I felt and realised, that these were some of the symptoms I’d read about, “Perhaps I was having a hypo”. I remember stumbling over to my mother, feeling very upset, sweating profusely and telling her, “I think I’m having a hypo.” Her reaction was instant. She sat me down, gave me a sweet drink, which I gulped down straight away. She seemed to be moving at the speed of lighting. She tested my BGL, and we both looked down in shock as my blood glucose meter read 2.1.  In my mind I thought, “is that right?”  At the time,  I just knew that this was way below the normal level.

I felt absolutely awful, I was unable to do much for myself. My clothes were soaked from sweating and for the first time in my life I felt so unlike myself. I was confused by what was happening to me and was unable to move as fast as I would like to.  I quickly ate the lunch my mother had prepared. It took a few minutes for the sweet drink and then the food to take effect and for me to feel a little like myself again. Coming out of the hypo my tongue tingled, my hands shook and I was really exhausted. In my mind I thought,

“So this is what a hypo is? I must have been hypo’in for a while!”

It was a scary thing to go through for first time.  I can only imagine what it was like for my mother watching me go through this first hypo.  Even now,  hypo’s can still be very worrying and scary. My first reaction to feeling hungry or dizzy,  is to test my BGL as soon as possible. This allows me to decide whether it’s my BGL or if I’m just hungry. It’s really important to recognise at least one of your symptoms. If you don’t have symptoms, keeping a close eye on your BGL ‘s  is the only way to do it. Teach the people around you,  and make them aware of your symptoms and how they can help you. I can’t stress how vital this is.

How to treat mild and severe hypo’s?

  • The first thing I usually reach for is  a bottle of Lucozade. But any energy drink  or sweet sugary drink is fine. I consume 50mls, which increases my BGL instantly. The great thing about Lucozade, is that it taste great, its easy to consume and they recently started doing more flavours.

lucozade

  • Although my BGL raises instantly, in order to keep it stable I frequently follow up with some form of carbohydrate i.e. a banana, a slice of bread, raisins or dates etc.
  • I’ll  check my BGL at least an hour after my hypo.

I always carry some form of sweet drink with me (usually Lucozade, as they come in a smaller bottle and are perfect for carrying in a bag). I will also keep some gluco tabs or gluco juice handy. GlucoTabs are fast acting chewable dextrose tablets, which contain 4g of glucose and can be used to treat mild hypo’s. They also come in two great flavours (orange and berry). Gluco juice is a caffeine free shot-sized sugar boost that can also help to treat mild or moderate hypo’s. Each bottle contains 60 mls of juice, containing 15g of fast acting carbohydrates.

When hypo symptoms persist and a person is either unable to treat themselves, or they are  unconscious. Glucagon injections are used to treat the severe hypoglycaemia. This is a hormone which helps to increase BGL. When glucagon is injected, it is absorbed into the blood stream. The glucagon moves to the liver and encourages the liver to release glucose into the blood. The effect of glucagon isn’t immediate, it usually takes between 10 -15 minutes to raise BGL’s back to a safe level. I’ve never had to use the glucagon injection, as my hypo’s have never been as severe as this. However I always keep a glucagon injection in the house, for when I might need it.

glycogon

Your views

What was your first hypo experience like? How do you treat yours? If you’re not diabetic, have you ever observed a diabetic during a hypo, or been involved in anyway to help them etc? Because I have no experience using the glucagon, what are your experience’s of using one?

x Amina