3 Things That Make Low Blood Sugars More Tolerable

This post was originally published here on Hugging the Cactus on August 21, 2019. I’m sharing it again today because it’s the perfect little companion to Monday’s more hateful post geared towards high blood sugars.

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.

#1: 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.

#2: 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!).

#3: 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.

5 Things That Make My Blood Sugar Crash Quickly

Have you ever noticed that certain activities have a swift and obvious impact on your blood sugar levels?

Well, if you aren’t a person with diabetes, then the answer to that is probably “no”…but I digress! Recently, I realized that there are five things that absolutely, definitely, without-a-doubt make my blood sugar plummet before long. Here’s my list – what’s on yours?

1 – Vacuuming. I live in a fairly small condo – less than 900 square feet total – but when it comes time to vacuuming the floor, it takes me a good chunk of time to do a thorough job. Maybe about 30 minutes total. So it shouldn’t be surprising that by the time I’m done, I’m normally a little sweaty and often in need of a snack because all that moving around has made my blood sugar drop.

Who else “celebrates” vacuuming their entire home by cracking open a fresh…juice box??

2 – Baking. This might be surprising because I’m the type of baker who must lick the spoon and sample the finished product as soon as it’s done, so you might assume that this activity makes my blood sugar go up. Not so. And this is because I am also what I call a “frantic baker”. I shuffle around the kitchen, rifle through cabinets, curse when I can’t find an ingredient and need to rush out to the store to get it…now you must get the idea. I’m always in motion when I’m baking, which pays off in the end. I need to try my baked goods in order to boost blood sugar that went low in the process of creating them. This is one of the many reasons why I love baking!

3 – Playing with my puppy. Little Miss Violet is four months old now and more rambunctious than ever. She loves fetching, running, chasing…and nine times out of ten, I’m fetching, running, and chasing right along with her. Before too long, Violet’s winded and on her way to dreamland while I’m on my way to the kitchen to grab something that will treat my low blood sugar.

4 – Cleaning the bathroom. A self-professed neat freak, I have a very specific process when I’m cleaning the 1.5 bathrooms in my condo. This process probably isn’t the most efficient because it involves a lot of walking up and down the stairs to gather various cleaning supplies, but it does do one thing well: lower my blood sugar, of course.

5 – Walking. This is pretty dang obvious because any sort of physical activity/exercise is bound to make my blood sugar drop, but not in the same way that walking does. I swear that 10-15 minutes of walking at a normal pace is enough to drop my blood sugar by about 100 points – that’s how effective it is for me. Walking is my sneaky little trick when my blood sugar is a tad too high: Instead of taking insulin to correct it, I just have to get a quick walk in and I’m falling fast in no time.

An Incident I Won’t Forget

Low blood sugars are funny. Not ha-ha funny, but peculiar in how they affect me physically and mentally.

A few weeks ago, I had an experience with a particularly scary low. It frightened me so much that I’m only just getting around to writing about it now, because I needed some time to gather my thoughts on what happened.

I’ll set the scene: I was home alone. I had eaten a carb-heavy dinner and decided to do a 30-minute, high-intensity workout. This was definitely far from my best idea ever, because due to the high-carb intake, I had a lot of insulin on board. That, coupled with the exercise, meant that my blood sugar was bound to crash soon after completing the workout.

And it sure did.

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Falling rapidly.

I had just stepped out of the shower and wrapped myself in a towel when I began to feel it. That sudden wave of weakness, shakiness, and dizziness. I walked to my bedroom, grabbed all of my diabetes supplies and my cell phone from my purse, and sank down to the floor with everything in front of me. I knew it would be wise to just sit there for as long as I needed, because I was afraid to go down the stairs (and possibly fall down/hurt myself in the process) in that state.

I checked my CGM, which confirmed that I was dropping quickly. I stared at the screen, panic flooding throughout my body. It occurred to me that I should probably do a finger stick check to make sure I was really that low, so I did, and saw that I was 60 mg/dL.

 

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The scene of the incident.

Now, I’ve absolutely been lower than 60 before. It’s never a pleasant experience. But rather than using that as a comforting thought, I couldn’t help but dwell on how terrible I felt and how frightened I was to be home alone with at least four more units of insulin still working in my system.

All I could do was chew four glucose tablets, suspend my insulin delivery, and wait.

In that period of time, I was totally immobilized.

I’ll never forget how alone I felt, how out of control I felt.

I felt powerless against my diabetes. My own body.

I’ll never forget the fear that consumed me, that nearly prevented me from helping myself in this situation.

I’ll never forget texting my mother and my boyfriend, telling them what was happening, and expressing how scared I felt.

I’ll never forget bursting into tears when they didn’t reply quickly enough.

I’ll never forget turning to my T1D Twitter buddies for help by sending a tweet about what was happening, or how swiftly and comfortingly they responded to me.

And I’ll never forget how I let my mind drift as I wondered whether I’d be okay.

It sounds totally dramatic, especially for a low that, in the grand scheme of things, could’ve been much worse. I can admit that.

But I can also admit that this is one of the few times in my life that I felt truly terrified of my diabetes, and swept up in the fact that things can change so quickly with this condition that it can quite literally knock you off your feet.

Obviously, I recovered just fine that night. The glucose tablets did their trick and my low symptoms subsided. It took longer for me to calm myself down, to breathe normally, non-panicky breaths. At least my puppy was around to soothe me.

I was fine, I will be fine. But I won’t forget this incident, ever.

The Emotions of Low Blood Sugar

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:

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.

Capture

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.

Favorite Things Friday: Mini Boxes of Yogurt-Covered Raisins

One Friday per month, I’ll write about my favorite diabetes products. These items make the cut because they’re functional, fashionable, or fun – but usually, all three at once!

Mini boxes of yogurt-covered raisins is an oddly specific kind of food, but they’ve literally saved my life (and my mom’s) hundreds of times.

I’m almost certain that I introduced these raisins into our low supply kit because I was looking for something that 1) was portable 2) had 10-15 grams of carbs 3) could be quick and easy to consume and 4) wasn’t glucose tablets (I get sick of them). I must’ve been browsing through the aisles of the grocery store when I found a bag containing 10 mini boxes of raisins. Clocking in at exactly 10 grams of carbs per box, they seemed to fit the bill nicely. I brought them on a trip to Disney World soon after buying my first bag, and that sealed the deal for me. They proved to be super convenient throughout the trip and helped prevent me from over-correcting my lows, which was huge for me.

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A box of raisins adjacent to my OmniPod PDM. I can easily fit several boxes of raisins into my purse, along with my other diabetes supplies.

Since that trip, the raisins have become a go-to low treatment for me and my mom, who agrees that they work just as well as glucose tablets. They’re much tastier than glucose tablets, and qualify as a healthier way to treat a low. As tempting as it might be to treat with Skittles or Starbursts, I struggle to control my intake of the candy when dealing with a particularly icky low. The raisins are already perfectly portioned, so that eliminates the can’t-stop-won’t-stop (eat ALL the foods!) feeling that can make dealing with low blood sugars difficult.

The raisins are excellent on the go, too. I can pop a box of them in the car, at my office desk, in the gym, or at church. I’ve even whipped them out at bars, and my friends get a bit of a chuckle when I down them like a shot of alcohol. But honestly, they’re so discreet and go down so easily that most of the time, people don’t even notice that I’m eating them. And if people aren’t noticing yet another part of my otherwise very prominent diabetes care kit, then that suits me just fine!

The T1D Taste Test: My Unofficial Ranking of Drugstore Glucose Supplements

You may have heard of glucose tablets, but what about glucose gummies? Or liquid glucose, or glucose gel? Have you tried any of these forms of glucose?

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The four forms of glucose (that I’ve tried).

I’ve used them all, and I’ve formed some pretty strong opinions about each of them. I thought it’d be fun to rank them in order of most appetizing to least appetizing, because while they can effectively and efficiently correct low blood sugar, they certainly aren’t created equally:

  1. Best Tasting: Glucose Tablets. I can hardly believe that the most boring variety is the winner here, but it blows the competition out of the water for several reasons. For starters, glucose tablets come in an array of flavors. Orange, raspberry, fruit punch, grape, tropical, and sour apple are among the flavors I’ve tried over the years, and most of them are palatable. Plus, glucose tablets are most akin to actually candy: I’ve described them as giant Smarties to inquiring friends in the past. While actually Smarties are more fun to eat, glucose tablets are their closest counterpart in the diabetes world, making them a number-one choice in low blood sugar situations.
  2. Runner-Up: Glucose Gummies. I’m awarding second place to glucose gummies, mainly because of their novelty. It’s not particularly a standout in other categories like taste and texture. The gummies only come in three flavors: grape, orange, and apple, leaving something to be desired in terms of variety. And all three of those flavors taste a little…off, like there’s a little too much artificial additives going on. Maybe this was done deliberately to distract from the texture of the gummies, which tends to be hard/stale in my experience. It’s nice that the gummies have a layer of sugar on them to convey the likeness of real gummies, but that stuck-to-your-teeth feeling makes it harder to appreciate the gummies for what they are.
  3. Third Place: Glucose Gel. I’ve only ever found glucose gels in the fruit punch flavor at Walgreens – do they actually come in other flavors? Besides being one-note, the gel is a unique texture situation…not quite a liquid, not quite a solid. Gels aren’t a mainstay in my low blood sugar kit because I’m not fond of having to slurp them out of the pouch like a tube of Go-Gurt; in fact, I’d much rather have yogurt from a plastic tube than a gel because the yogurt is much tastier. The gel is just too artificial, with a medicinal aftertaste. And it doesn’t help that the consistency of it reminds me of hand sanitizer.
  4. The Loser: Glucose LiquidIt’s surprising that the glucose liquid wound up in last place, because on the surface, it had a lot going for it. I liked that it came in a small bottle and it seemed like it would be super easy to consume. All I’d need to do is pop the cap off and swig it down. But MAN, the taste was HORRIBLE! I thought I’d like the mixed berry flavor, but it tasted so supremely saccharine and fake that I could scarcely force myself to swallow it. I know, I know, it’s liquid glucose, it’s supposed to be very sweet. But this stuff was just over the top. I definitely will not be buying glucose liquid again any time soon. I’ll stick with my tried-and-true tablets.

Do you agree with my rankings? Did I miss any form of glucose that can be bought in most drugstores, and you think I should give it a try? Let me know in the comments!

Money Talks, Low Blood Sugar Slurs

Somewhere between Class A, B, and C share mutual funds, I got lost. That familiar fog clouded my brain and I had trouble focusing my gaze on anything, let alone absorbing any of the information being shared with me. I felt like I must’ve nodded my head so many times over the course of the conversations that I probably resembled a bobble-head. Words tumbled slowly, awkwardly, out of my mouth: I babbled “yup” and “right” over and over again to show that I was still engaged, even though I absolutely wasn’t.

What was wrong with me? I was having a low blood sugar in the middle of my (first-ever) meeting with a financial advisor. Stellar!!!

Obviously, I made it through the meeting fine. I got back to my car, tested my blood sugar, discovered that I was 66, and corrected it with three glucose tablets. I wiped my hands together, watching glucose dust puff up into the air like a cloud, and chided myself for not taking action sooner than that moment. I suppose I didn’t want to alarm the advisor by sticking a needle into my finger in the the middle of our meeting, but that hasn’t stopped me from doing what I must do, medically speaking, in other situations. Ordinarily, I would have calmly explained, “I have type one diabetes. I think I’m experiencing a low blood sugar right now. Do you mind if I check my blood sugar here, or could you please direct me to a place where I can do that?” I would also let the person know that I’d be fine either way, I just wanted to be sure so I could focus my energy back onto them and not my diabetes.
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I’m not really sure what was different about this particular low blood sugar event, but I didn’t do the “right” thing because I didn’t want to be rude and interrupt the advisor’s train of thought. But waiting nearly thirty minutes into experiencing these symptoms could have caused things to turn out much differently. My blood sugar could have gone even lower, and it could have become an embarrassing or scary situation for both of us.

I guess this’ll serve as a reminder to myself to speak up. It’s okay to interrupt, because my health and safety (and potentially the health and safety of another person) is at risk. It’s not rude, it’s good common sense.