We all know that 2020 has been a sucky year, so it’s not exactly surprising that immediately following Halloween, the world seemed to throw itself into the holiday spirit.
Between the commercials on TV, Black Friday sales, sparkly decorations, baking galore, and Hallmark movies, the Christmas season kicked off early and with major vivacity. Normally, I’m the kind of person who prefers to enjoy one holiday at a time, and I was somewhat repulsed to see all the Christmas merchandise in stores before Halloween was over.
So even though Thanksgiving hasn’t even come and gone yet, I’ve abandoned any remaining willpower I’ve had to hold off on decorating for Christmas. Like the rest of society, I simply couldn’t hold back my desire for some cheer!
One afternoon last week, I decided to haul up my Christmas tree and its accompaniments from the basement and start the process of decking the halls…
…but my diabetes had other ideas.
I’d just finished assembling my modest tree when I heard my Dexcom alarm sounding off, alerting me to a low blood sugar.
And I hate to admit it, but it didn’t surprise me – I’d felt the oncoming low for about 10 minutes prior.
I just wanted to decorate so badly that I was willing to ignore my blood sugar in order to embrace the Christmas spirit!
Alas, not too long after I heard that alarm, I knew I had to change my priorities as I started to get sweaty and a little woozy…so I left my tree naked and sought out a low treatment, slumping at my table in defeat while I ate it.
My diabetes told me it was too early to decorate for Christmas at that moment in time…
But you know that I told my diabetes otherwise later that night when I spent hours trimming the tree!
‘Tis the season and ain’t no way that my diabetes will prevent me from basking in it.
Anyone who has ever experienced low blood sugar knows that it’s an icky feeling.
The shakiness. The sweating. The desperate desire to eat the entire contents of your kitchen.
It’s an unpleasant experience, but the one thought that has always made low blood sugars slightly more bearable for me is that I have to consume fast-acting, sugary, yummy carbs that are medically necessary. I’ve had some fun with that medically necessary bit in situations over the years: “Hey, stay away from that cupcake, I need it for my blood sugar!”
In any case, I’ve come up with my 10 favorite low blood sugars treatments that I’ve discovered work best for me…and tend to also be pretty tasty (well, maybe not #3, but everything else is a winner for most people in the flavor department).
1. Marshmallows. Even though I feel like I’m playing chubby bunny (you know, that pointless game when you see how many marshmallows you can fit inside your mouth at once and your cheeks puff out like an adorably plump rabbit munching on carrots) any time I consume a marshmallow, I can’t deny that they work incredibly well for low blood sugars. While I don’t mind the flavor of marshmallows, I definitely don’t love it, so I can always resist the temptation to over-correct a low blood sugar when I use marshmallows to treat it.
2. Mini boxes of yogurt-covered raisins. This has been my go-to for almost 10 years now because they’re just so convenient. The mini boxes are highly portable and contain about 11 grams of carbohydrates, which is perfect for not-so-bad lows that just need a little boost.
3. Glucose tablets (or gummies). They’re the old standby for a good reason: They were specifically made for treatment of low blood sugars, and they’re also extremely quick and easy to consume whenever, wherever (cue Shakira and her hips that don’t lie).
4. Frosting. So bad for you, but so good to eat by the spoonful when dealing with low lows. I don’t often have frosting on hand, but if I have some leftover from baking, I’ll throw it in the fridge and try to forget that it exists until I need it for a low blood sugar.
5. Orange juice (or a juice box). I feel like juice was a signature treatment for lows in my childhood: Since small children often drink juice boxes, it made a lot of sense. But back when I was working in an office full-time (sigh), I had a couple of juice boxes stashed away in my desk drawer because I got a kick out of feeling like a little kid with her juice boxes while sitting her grown-ass adult woman’s work cubicle (yes, I know I’m kind of weird. Embrace it.)
6. Starbursts. In college, I met a fellow type 1 in my social psychology lecture hall who swore by carrying starbursts for low blood sugars. She explained that four of them had the exact same amount of carbs as four glucose tablets, but they were far superior in taste because, well, starbursts are candy. I’ve kept this in mind over the years and its come in handy: More than once, I’ve been in a situation where I’ve had to get carbs fast but didn’t have glucose tablets on me, so I bought a sleeve of starburst to treat oncoming lows. They work well and they’re especially delicious when using the pink or the orange starbursts (not the yellow or red…fight me on it).
7. Skittles. What I love about using Skittles for low blood sugars is the 1:1 rule. One Skittle has one carbohydrate, so it’s extremely easy to figure out how many will bring up blood sugar, depending on how low the low is. 10 works well for when I’m in the 70s, whereas I might have 15 when I’m in the 60s. All bets are off when I fall below 60, though, and I’ll settle for a large, uncounted handful – maybe the whole dang bag – instead.
8. A piece of fruit. Ooooh, a genuinely healthy option on this list! The horror! But it’s a fact that fruit works just as well as any piece of candy or sugary treat for bringing up a low. I’m not talking about a single blueberry or strawberry, though: I’m talking either an apple or a banana – something that has some genuine carb content to it in a single serving.
9. A couple handfuls of cereal. This is a riskier choice because the lack of restraint I have around cereal when I’m low, but who else can relate to waking up at 2 A.M. to treat a low and being too tired to measure something out, so out comes the cereal box and handful after handful of Lucky Charms or Cookie Crisp are consumed in a very short span of time?! There’s no questioning cereal’s efficacy in a hypoglycemic situation, but when it comes to controlling the amount eaten…well, that’s a hard thing for me to do.
10. Fruit snacks/gushers. Embarrassing story from my childhood: Remember those commercials in which kids who ate gushers had their heads turn into giant pieces of fruit? Well…I was convinced that eating gushers would lead me to the same fate, so I avoided them until one day I finally realized it was just a stupid commercial (albeit with very freaky graphics) and it was totally safe to consume gushers. And thank goodness, because they’re delicious and great for lows! So are fruit snacks of just about any variety, though I’ve had the most luck with Mott’s and Welch’s fruit snacks.
Do you have any low blood sugar treatments that I didn’t mention here but should consider trying? Drop a comment to let me know what it is and why it’s your favorite!
Peanut butter and jelly. Batman and Robin. Mickey and Minnie. Name an iconic pair, and…
…I can guarantee that it won’t be conference calls and low blood sugars.
Indeed, I can attest to how much the two DON’T belong together because I faced a rather annoying one the other day.
It happened during one of the many weekly meetings that I now attend virtually along with the rest of my department at work. Not only do I have to dial into these meetings, but there is a video component, as well. Fortunately for me, all that I’m doing is listening during these meetings instead of talking, so I can stay on mute for the duration of most of them, and occasionally make various facial expressions that show I’m listening.
So I was, indeed, on mute when the shrill BEEEEEEEEEEEEP BEEPBEEPBEEPBEEP of my CGM receiver started. And thank goodness I was, because that sound is enough to derail anyone’s line of thought.
But rather than address the low right away, I was a little stupid about it.
I decided to wait as long as possible before I corrected it.
I know, I know – that’s a dangerous game to play. But hear me out! My meeting was running from 12:30 to 1:30. I planned on having lunch right after the meeting, and it was already 1 o’clock when my CGM started shrieking. I thought I could wait to treat it with my lunch food…but that’s not what ended up happening.
I started feeling low, low. Like, shaky, sweaty, unable to focus on anything that my group was discussing, and ravenously hungry.
So I did what any person with diabetes would do when their blood sugar is that low – the only thing to be done, of course, was to whip off my head phones, turn off my camera, sprint into the kitchen, wolf down a handful of raisins, and jump back onto the call.
Oh, and turn off the camera again for another 30 seconds or so (in the 15 minute window of time it took for my blood sugar to stabilize) to capture a picture of myself on the struggle bus that is the recovery process from a low.
The whole ordeal stood out to me because it’s very different from the last low that I remember experiencing during a work meeting. That one happened when we were all still in the office, and I had to get up and dismiss myself from the conference room so I could grab a package of fruit snacks from the office kitchen.
That one was much more disruptive, but I handled it much more promptly than this one.
This one wasn’t even noticed by a single person on the conference call (and if someone did see me pop off camera for a moment, I’m sure they just assumed I was having connectivity issues).
This one I didn’t react to immediately, and I ended up being punished for it because I missed out on some meeting information due to my inability to concentrate and the need to finally treat it.
This one and that one do have one thing in common, though: Low blood sugars absolutely do not complement meetings, conference calls, or any sort of work-related task, ever.
I feel a desire to share with the world that I’ve found it.
Erm…what is “it” though?
Why, glucose tablets, of course. Not just any old glucose tabs. I’m talking about glucose tabs that are actually delicious. The kind that are obviously effective and can quickly raise low blood sugar, but that are also so tasty that I sort of want to eat them by the handful out of the jar.
I’ve got your curiosity piqued now, don’t I?
Well, then, I’ll let you in on the secret “holy grail” glucose tabs that I’ve been enjoying…
Spoiler alert: They’re not technically tabs; in fact, they’re gummies.
I’ve written about glucose gummies in the past and it’s safe to say I was fairly underwhelmed by them. They had flavor and texture issues, and ultimately, they were pretty disappointing. I’d counted on them to change the glucose game, but this rendition of Walgreens-brand glucose gummies totally failed to do that.
So a few months ago, when I noticed that Walgreens had given their glucose gummies a makeover, I figured I’d give them one last chance to impress me.
And SWEET SUCCESS, THEY DID IT!
There are some similarities between the old and new gummies; namely, three gummies has 10 carbs…just under the amount of carbs that are usually in three standard glucose tabs. The old and new gummies are both also covered in sugar crystals (I’m not sure if that’s intended to make them look appetizing?). Otherwise, they couldn’t be more different from one another in terms of color, shape (old gummies were ring-shaped, new gummies are kind of gumdrop-shaped), and obviously, palatability.
What’s different about the gummies this time is that they improved on every major complaint I had about the previous version. The best, biggest improvement had to do with texture. Previously, the gummies were stale and difficult to chew quickly. These new gummies are very soft and don’t leave you with that sticky teeth feeling that’s typical of most gummy candies.
The flavors are also much better. Before, the gummy flavors were super artificial tasting. The grape, orange, and apple flavors were almost medicinal and hardly tasted like their genuine counterparts. Now, the gummies still come in three different flavors, but they’re all of the same variety: blueberry, raspberry, and strawberry. The mixed berry combination just works here. There’s no odd after taste and, when eaten together, a three or four gummies at once just tastes like a small handful of conventional gummy candy. Not my personal favorite kind of confection, but it definitely is much more appealing than regular old glucose tablets.
Maybe I’m overselling Walgreens’ glucose gummies version 2.0, but really, after 22 years of diabetes, there are just some things that are worth getting excited about…even if they seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things.
This post was originally published on Hugging the Cactus on October 8, 2018. I decided to re-up it today because I think we could all use a little reminder that diabetes is different for everyone. Remember…your diabetes may (almost always will) vary.
Previously, I’ve written about what it feels like to have low blood sugar. While many people with T1D feel the same symptoms as me when they experience a low, there are even more who experience a wider variety of emotions and sensations.
Renza, a T1D Twitter friend of mine, did a little investigating into how others would describe what it’s like to have a low blood sugar. She sent a tweet that read:
#Diabetes friends. I’m crowdsourcing (again). If you had to use ONE WORD to describe how hypos/lows feel to you, what would it be. Go!! #Hypoglycaemia
She received nearly 100 responses, which I’ve compiled into the below graphic.
Looking at this word collage is a bit startling because it represents the vast array of feelings associated with low blood sugar. Most of them are negative. A handful of them start with the prefix “dis”, which describes something with an opposing force. A couple of them relate to feelings associated with eating. And just about all of them can be summed up as sensations that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
To me, this graphic serves as a stark reminder that diabetes is more than just a chronic illness that affects the body: It affects the mind, too.
It seems like a new fitness trend is “going viral” every week: between aerial silks, SoulCycle, and at-home fitness mirrors (in which a real trainer appears in your mirror and you get to watch yourself while they talk you through the workout – whoa FUTURISTIC right?), there is a plethora of ways to get physical that don’t involve standard, boring weights or treadmills.
I recently had the opportunity to try one of the most random, and possibly cutest, fitness craze…goat yoga. Yep. Yoga, but with goats.
It’s exactly what it sounds like. You move through a series of yoga poses, but there just happens to be adorable baby goats roaming around the class. They aren’t shy about making their presence known, either. When they aren’t bleating or searching for goat treats under your yoga mat, they’re actually JUMPING ON TOP OF YOU. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a tabletop pose (see my photo, above), downward dog, child’s pose…they’ll find a way to climb on you and turn you into their personal jungle gym.
It was a little disconcerting at first, and it was damn difficult to focus on flowing through yoga poses because you didn’t know if or when a goat would hop on your back or accidentally brush up against you with its horns.
And it was virtually IMPOSSIBLE when my blood sugar went low halfway through the class.
I knew that I was starting to feel off after I completed a short series of bird-dog crunches. I felt oddly exhausted after doing five on each side, so I went to go check my CGM data on my phone when I realized I didn’t have access to any, because I’d just inserted a new sensor that morning and the warm-up period wouldn’t be complete until the end of the goat yoga class.
Great timing on that one, Molly.
I decided to give it a few minutes before I took any corrective measures. So I just sat there, watching people struggle to get bendy with goats running amok. It was really pretty funny, but my sense of humor was shot, thanks to my low blood sugar.
I’m a little embarrassed to admit that the goat factor also prevented me from correcting my low right away, but…well, those things were germy. They’re farm animals, of course they will be messy and smelly. But they were literally peeing and pooping on our yoga mats, and precariously closely to our clothes/bodies. Forget feeling like I needed to sanitize my mat when the class was over – I felt like I needed to power wash MYSELF, at max intensity, just so I could feel totally clean again. So the prospect of checking my blood sugar in the middle of everything seemed absolutely unsanitary and virtually impossible.
But…like, I had to suck it up. After all, I didn’t want to do that thing that goats do, which is faint. Except they do it in a semi-cute way, and because they’re born with a condition that causes muscles to seize up when they’re startled. And there was no way I was about to faint due to a stinkin’ low blood sugar in front of a bunch of strangers and goats.
So I forced myself to navigate to the clean, protected patch of land that my backpack was perched on, dodging poop balls on the way over, and immediately grabbed my hand sanitizer so I could cleanse myself before reaching into my backpack and consuming a small box of yogurt-covered raisins. I still felt gross about it, but I did the right thing and took care of myself.
And I’m happy to report that by the end of the class, my blood sugar was on an upswing and not one goat had peed or pooed directly on me. Sweet success!
I want to change how I react to high and low blood sugars.
Well, I think that it’s about time for me to address my intense fear of low blood sugars, but I also feel that I need to reconsider how I define high blood sugar. I’ve been sick and tired of dealing with constant highs, sprinkled with a few lows, so all of that together has motivated me to come up with a plan.
My plan is two-fold:
Step 1) Change the low and high thresholds on my CGM from 80-180 to 75-160.
Step 2) Pay closer attention to my body’s cues when my blood sugar is low.
The first step was extremely easy to follow. I modified the settings on the Dexcom app on my phone so I’m only alerted when my blood sugar goes above 160 and below 75. I’m hearing my Dexcom alarms more often as a result, but I’m also responding to these alarms more frequently, meaning that I spend less time overall above/below my goal blood sugars. It requires a little more work and patience, especially since I experienced a lot of stress and a cold in the weeks since I’ve made the change (stress + sickness = shitty high blood sugars), but I know that it will be worth the effort.
The second step is slightly trickier. I’m the kind of person who starts treating a low blood sugar early – I’m talking as “low” as 90. And that’s not low. Unless I have several units of insulin onboard or I’m about to do a moderate intensity workout, there’s no need for me to eat anything when my blood sugar is 90. But it’s easier said than done, because I actually do start to feel low blood sugar symptoms at 90 (not all the time, but definitely a chunk of it).
So I’m hoping that this is where step one will come in handy. I’ll use my new low threshold on my CGM to reorient my body’s recognition of low blood sugars. I’m also going to work on not panicking when I start to feel low…because I think that’s the real root of my problems. In the last several years, I’ve developed – for no apparent reason – a serious low blood sugar phobia. I do everything I can to avoid them at all costs, and that’s probably contributing to my recurring high blood sugars. And that is definitely not good.
I’m over living my life on a blood sugar roller coaster…so I’m looking forward to smoother sailing with this plan of mine. Updates to come, for sure.
Okay, to be TOTALLY honest, low blood sugars aren’t – and won’t ever be – fun. Nine times out of ten, they can be inconvenient, upsetting, and even scary (depending on how low it is). But like most things associated with diabetes, I try to look at the bright side every now and then to remind myself that it could be worse. So even though I don’t welcome low blood sugars in just about any circumstance, I decided to look at them, and their less-than-pleasant side effects, from another perspective. Hence, this three-item list that explains what makes low blood sugars slightly more tolerable to me.
The sweat. I detest sweating. I don’t care if sweat is the result of a good workout or a day spent at the beach – it’s gross either way. And it’s definitely not an attractive low blood sugar symptom. But…on the other side…I tend to sweat a LOT when my blood sugar is low and it makes me feel like I’ve just had an excellent workout without any effort or exertion on my part. So I guess it’s kinda like gleaning the health benefits that you’d get from sitting in a sauna for a bit? IDK…it’s a bit convoluted but just agree with me on this one.
The excuses. I’ve made it a personal mission to try to avoid using my diabetes as a scapegoat. There are times, though, that it really does prevent me from doing something in a timely manner/when I’m asked. For example, if I’m experiencing a low blood sugar at work and a colleague comes by to talk to me and ask me for something, I do find it’s best to let them know that I can’t attend to it right away because of the blood sugar. Nine times out of ten, people understand, and they let me treat it accordingly. And it gives me time to just relax and deal with it, taking the stress away from a situation by simply being honest about it (so I guess it isn’t really an excuse, but sometimes I feel a little guilty about using a low as an out on something. Low guilt is real, people!).
The cake. (Or really any food when you’re low. Because it all tastes delicious. But nothing is quite as satisfying as cake.) I think the inspiration for this blog post came when I was enjoying a big, fat slice of cake in order to bring my blood sugar back up. My goodness, some foods just taste beyond amazing when I’m using them to treat a low. The sweeter it is, the more satisfying it is to both my taste buds and blood sugar levels. And anyone who has experienced a low blood sugar before (people with and without diabetes) can attest to the fact that food is simply a million times better when it’s being consumed at a time that your body is URGENTLY telling you to feed it.
Alright…now that I’m looking back at these three things, I’m kind of laughing at myself. Because I can TRY to make low blood sugars a more positive thing, but let’s be real, they still kind of suck. But I guess there’s no harm in trying to be upbeat about them.
Do you ever feel so engrossed in a task that something (like the time) sneaks up on you, and totally disarms you and puts you in panic mode?
That’s sort of what happens when you don’t feel the symptoms of a low blood sugar. Usually, I’m lucky enough to say that I feel my low blood sugar symptoms – shakiness, sweating, dizziness – but unexpectedly, I didn’t feel them during a recent low blood sugar episode. And it nearly knocked me off my feet.
I’d been traveling all day long. I’d taken an Uber from my apartment to the airport, where I waited a couple hours to catch my flight, which was so turbulent that I nearly yakked on the tarmac. When I finally arrived to the airport and lugged my bags up to the hotel room that I was staying at, I was struck by how queasy my stomach still felt and chalked it up to after effects of the turbulence.
I figured my body was just mad at me for skipping dinner. It was already 9 at night and I didn’t really want to go back down to the crowded terminal just to get a mediocre fast-food dinner. That’s when I decided to check my blood sugar: That would determine how necessary food was for me at that point in time.
Just as I was taking my kit out of my bag, my CGM alarmed. According to it, I was low – low enough that I’d be below 55 within the next 20 minutes. “Impossible”, I thought. I feel my low symptoms coming on when I’m 80 mg/dL sometimes, so I was convinced there was something wrong with my CGM. I proceeded with the fingerstick check. The result popped up on my screen: 65. What? How? I could’ve chalked it up to a long travel day, but at that moment in time, I didn’t care about the cause. I only cared about the fact that I didn’t feel it whatsoever.
It was scary and an unpleasant surprise. As I sat down on the hotel bed and crammed M&Ms in my mouth, I felt a little confused about how I got so low (especially since I’d been eyeing my slightly-elevated blood sugar all day). But mostly I felt gratitude for my CGM. Times like these make me feel incredibly privileged to have one. I find its alarms annoying and I don’t love wearing an extra thing on my body, but its functionality makes it totally worth it.
C’mon, Molly. Get it together. It’s not called cryabetes. I stared at myself in the bathroom mirror, giving myself an internal pep talk to keep the tears from flowing down my cheeks. I felt a little uneasy on my feet, so holding a steady gaze proved to be challenging after a few moments.
Why was I on the verge of an emotional breakdown? It was all my blood sugar’s fault, of course. For about an hour, I’d been hovering in the upper 60s to lower 70s. There are far worse blood sugar ranges to fall in, but I’d been feeling the classic symptoms of a low for that entire span of time – and it was really testing my fortitude.
My self-talk was fruitless; within seconds, the first few tears escaped from my eyes. It wasn’t long before a couple tears turned into full-fledged bawling. Alarmed by my outburst, my boyfriend tried to calm me down (he was aware of my low blood sugar situation) and attempted to use humor to get the crying to stop. Very quickly, he discovered I was a bit beyond that and that it was best to just let me be sad.
I was sad because I was tired and wanted to go to bed but it didn’t feel safe for me to sleep just yet. Safe to sleep. Can you imagine not feeling safe enough to fall asleep, even in your own bed surrounded by your own blankets in your own room, with your partner nearby?
So the tears came and went because, even though I tried my damnedest, I still felt so out of control in this situation. Not knowing how long it would take my blood sugar to come back up to a level that I felt safe to sleep at, not knowing what exactly caused this predicament in the first place, and not being capable of being mentally stronger than my diabetes all in that moment in time got to the best of me.
So sure, diabetes isn’t called cryabetes. But that doesn’t mean my emotional lapse – or any emotional lapses related to diabetes – wasn’t warranted. Crying can be healing, and in this moment in time, it was the only thing, oddly enough, that could make me feel a tiny bit better.