Staying in range

I’m feeling motivated to get my levels back to where I want them. Not that their not in a good range, its just I know I can do better. At the beginning of the year I worked with the Diabetic Health Journal. It’s a great way to stay accountable, set goals and track patterns. When I was using it my Hba1c went from over 6% to 5.5%. For anyone living with diabetes that’s a perfect number, but really hard to maintain. As much as I know that time in range (keeping my levels between 4-8 mmol) is ideal, there have been a few too many peaks and troughs for my liking. So when I opened the journal and set my goal for the week, I thought I’d try some intermittent fasting.

Intermittent fasting is different to a regular fast. I’m still eating, just spacing out when I eat. The last two days I had my last meal at 7.30 pm and broke the fast with lunch at 1.00 pm. That’s 18 hours between meals. The idea with IF is that it increases insulin sensitivity. It means I assimilate the insulin I am injecting better and blood sugar levels are lower. When I’m really sensitive to insulin I can even reduce the amount of insulin I’m taking which means less low blood sugars events. It’s a win win.

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The only issue for me is I am a huge fan of my avocado and egg breakfast. Day 1 was easy because I distracted myself by going to yoga. Day 2 (today) was harder. I was pretty hungry from about 10.00 am onwards.  I also haven’t seen any concrete results yet. I.e lower levels and increased sensitivity. Patience Rachel Patience…

After I started taking insulin in 2014, I came across a book by Ginger Vieira called Your Diabetes Science Experiment. I read it from cover to cover and learned a lot about the variables that affect diabetes. I learned that even though there are  guidelines and formulas for managing diabetes, it’s not one size fits all. Flexibility and a willingness to experiment are key assets. I’ve been using my yoga practice for years as my personal laboratory to see what my body is capable of. Having diabetes has made things tricky. Sometimes I’m not sure what’s affecting what. Is the sequence or practice supporting what I am doing or is a day of higher or lower levels affecting my practice?

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I feel like I am drawing a giant question mark on a blackboard.

Not having all the answers is something I’ve grown accustomed to.  I was the child that had to be ‘right’ or else. I thrived on competition. That’s why having diabetes has been a bonus in my life. It’s taught me to stop comparing, be kinder to myself and take a gentle approach.  So even though I’ve set a goal for myself to get back to the numbers I feel healthiest at I’m also open to the possibility that where I’m at now is absolutely fine.

See you tomorrow #NDAM #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

with great respect…

rachel

What can you eat?

Nine days in to 30 days of writing for Diabetes Awareness Month and today’s topic is diet.  I can’t keep count of the number of times I’ve been asked, ” What can you eat?” It’s actually a loaded question because the answer from a person with diabetes would be, “what can’t I eat?” As long as we know how many carbs we are ingesting (everything from veggies to fat to protein breaks down into a carbohydrate in the system) we can eat whatever we like based on our insulin to carb ratio. I.e how much insulin is needed per carbohydrate. Do the math and presto every food is available.

But that doesn’t mean I choose to eat whatever I want.

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Since I was little I’ve been a fussy eater. I didn’t like green vegetables, any kind of meat,  or corn on the cob. I can remember being at the dinner table and slowly scooting portions of pork chop into a napkin when no one was looking and then excusing myself to hastily flush it down the toilet.

In my late teens I was put on a strict candida diet which meant no dairy, sugar, fruit or fermented foods. Not being a huge fan of animal foods I became a vegan.  My strict diet was hard to maintain during pregnancy so I reluctantly ate fish, chicken and eggs, but as soon as I could I went back to my vegetarian ways.

When I was diagnosed with diabetes in 2008 I had already started eating foods that resonated with my constitution. Being a fire type, pitta in ayurveda, I avoided nightshades and spicy food and instead focussed on cooling foods with sweet, bitter and sour tones, pulses, avocados, whole grains, roasted veggie salads and gut healing protein smoothies. As my initial diagnosis wasn’t clear (they weren’t sure if it was type 2, type 1 or even diabetes) the only change I made to my diet was to eat low glycemic foods and to add fish, chicken and eggs back in.

At that stage I was eating linseed/soy bread, enjoying oats, quinoa, low carb fruits like blueberries and strawberries and lots of different kinds of veggies, soft cheeses like paneer and ricotta. I still dabbled in eating pasta and pizza as long as there was a good quantity of protein in the mix. I never ate packaged or processed food even if it was a ‘healthy’ packaged food. I’ve never been able to deal with fillers and preservatives.

Once my levels became unmanageable my doctor suggested I look at the ketogenic diet. That was in 2013. Keto was just getting popular and having tried everything else bar insulin, I enjoyed the strict discipline of dropping all carbs. At that stage my diet was mainly eggs, some fish and green veggies like chard, zucchini, broccoli, asparagus, fennel, cauliflower, avocado, ghee and the same soft cheeses. My doctor expressed concern that it was too narrow a corridor of foods. So did I, it seemed that blood sugar wasn’t my only issue with what I ate, I also had a lot of trouble digesting foods. Later I found out that the pancreas also helps with digestion and that sometimes it doesn’t work as well as it should in people living with diabetes. Eating the same foods over and over was actually making me sensitive to the only foods I could tolerate. A never ending cycle.

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Thank goodness I went on Insulin after a proper diagnosis in 2014. It has opened up my diet to include more foods again, even though I’ve stuck to a low carb vegetarian diet. It’s so much easier to cook the same meals at the same time each day, to take the same amount of insulin and know exactly how my body will respond. My friends wonder why I don’t get bored, or ask me if I feel like I’m missing out and my answer is always the same. Eating in a way that keeps me calm and balanced is more important and desirable than the headache of eating something that will later cause blood sugar issues or hinder my digestion.

Whether you live with diabetes or not diet is a very personal thing. The body needs nutritious food. It knows what works, how to process it and what to eliminate. All the intricacies of digestion and assimilation of food are out of our hands. It’s up to us to feed the body with nutrient dense foods.

Something I’ve learned to say to anyone who questions why I eat the way I do is this; “I eat to feel well so I can best serve others to feel well too.” 

And that’s that…

See you tomorrow

with great respect…

rachel

It’s not up to me

Setting myself the task to write something every day for 30 days about diabetes to spread diabetes awareness is definitely daunting. I live with diabetes for 365 days a year and deal with it 24/7 so it should be easy to articulate that right? In reality the way I deal with diabetes is deeply private.

After spending 6 years ignoring it and then spending 4 years shouting about it via writing a book and being a fierce advocate through social media, it’s been interesting to spend this past year taking a break from the need to externalise my experience.

In 2019 I set a goal to lower my Hba1c, heal some of my underlying digestion issues and be brave when it comes to taking Insulin. I started 2019 using the Diabetic Health Journal, created by yogi and  diabetes health coach Lauren Bongiorno, with incredible results. Writing down daily goals, things I was grateful for and staying accountable made a big difference. My Hba1c went from 6% to 5.6 % in 6 months. If you’re not sure what that means it’s like dropping your cholesterol levels or blood pressure. Moving it from a pass to a win.

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I also went into hyper drive with my digestion, adding different supplements, bone broth and more variety into my daily meals. I worked on stored trauma with network spinal analysis and neuroimmunology sessions. Finally I made sure to keep up a daily walk and my twice daily yoga practice.

Making a concerted effort to shift some deep seated patterns has been an interesting process. I didn’t necessarily make great strides or have major revelations, instead I settled more into accepting what is.

“What is” might not be what I want but if I can accept it that’s a pretty good place to be. It’s how I dealt with diagnosis after fighting it for so long and pretty much how I manage my finicky digestion and volatile blood sugars and everything else that comes my way.

My latest go to phrase for everything is, ” It’s not up to me” That’s not about not doing everything I can to stay balanced. It’s about understanding that I don’t know the recipe of creation.  Letting go of needing to know, enjoying the gifts I’ve been given and trusting that whatever comes is perfect, goes a long way in helping me manage my condition.

I never expected to be diagnosed with diabetes but now that I have been I can honestly share it’s a blessing in disguise.

More on that tomorrow  #NDAM #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

With great respect…

rachel

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Rebalance your digestion with Ayurveda

Something I’ve struggled with since my diagnosis is digestion. In fact, before my diagnosis I was already sensitive to a variety of foods. No matter how many different kinds of treatments and doctors I saw nobody could actually tell me what was wrong. Once I knew that I had diabetes it all made sense. Higher blood sugars had contributed to yeast overgrowth and leaky gut. Luckily my knowledge of Ayurveda was a great starting point to rebalance and reboot my digestion. That’s why I am super excited to share with you a guest blog today by Nicole Young the founder of Three Harmony on how to recognise when your digestive system is dangerously compromised and how to rebalance it. Take it away Nicole

belly-3186730_640Proper digestion is key to a healthy life and maintaining a strong Agni (digestive fire) is essential. It is not only the way we digest food, but our emotions and thoughts as well, how we process stress, our lifestyle and environment. Ayurveda believes that the root cause of every imbalance and disease starts with improper digestion.

When the body is under stress, the soft tissues and channels are affected or constricted creating narrower passageways for the body to function normally and allow nutrients to become available to every part of the body. This creates blockages and Ama can build up in weaker areas. Over time this Ama could be a contributory factor to causing many serious illnesses.

The difference between Ama and toxins is that Ama is the undigested food residue and waste that forms a sticky sludge which is toxic and difficult to remove from the body, whereas toxins can be anything from the chemicals found in our food and environment to the stress responses in our body which can also create harmful chemical reactions.

Here are some signs and symptoms that you may notice when your digestion is not working properly:

  • feeling of tightness or discomfort in the abdomen
  • indigestion/pain in the stomach after eating
  • suffering from gas and bloating
  • abnormal bowel motion (diarrhoea and constipation etc.)
  • blood/mucus or undigested food in stool
  • haemorrhoids and anal bleeding
  • inflammation in the body
  • restless sleep, fatigue, general heaviness
  • headaches or migraines
  • skin conditions
  • thick coating on tongue

So what can done before this gets any worse and it becomes the possible cause of a more serious illness like an autoimmune disorder such as ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis or diabetes.

A one to three-day digestive reset is a good place to start – this is where you will eat a mono-diet of a food like Kitchari (dish made with rice, mung dal and spices) or a bone/vegetable broth to cleanse the bowel and allow the body to start to heal itself. After the specified number of days, you can slowly introduce foods that are easy to digest making sure to reduce pitta aggravating foods for a while, especially nightshades, spicy/hot/sweet/sugary foods etc. and increasing those that are cooling and calming in nature.

natalia-figueredo-350529-unsplashI personally have suffered from UC (ulcerative colitis) an IBD (inflammatory bowel disorder), but have been able to self-manage this IBD and self-heal naturally without having to take harmful pharmaceuticals for the rest of my life. A disease my gastroenterologist told me was incurable.

So after many years of suffering and not wanting to take any more drugs/products or try different health practitioners and diets/tests/treatments, I did my own extensive research.  You should be sure to check that what you are reading is in fact true as there is so much conflicting information on the internet from people who are not really qualified to give it. Question everything, even your doctor’s advice because they may not be of the belief that healing is possible, even when it is, and they may only be able to offer specific advice and related drugs/products that are in their area of expertise or beneficial to their practice. You may find that this is just not enough to heal the body, especially if you want to do it naturally, and that things will work for some people but not for others – genetics and location certainly play a part too.

This is what has generally worked for me:

  • dietary changes
  • specific herbs and foods such as:
    • stress and anti-inflammatory support – magnesium, ashwagandha, curcumin, chyavanprash, herbal teas etc.
    • gut healing remedies – bone/vegetable broth, aloe vera juice, coconut oil/water, kefir, probiotics, fermented vegetables, digestive enzymes, clay, psyllium husk, liquorice root etc.
  • keeping to a routine
  • extra sleep when my body is digestively challenged
  • practising regular yoga for digestion
  • practising meditation to keep my state of mind balanced

I have also found this book very useful in relation to better understanding the digestive system, various digestive disorders and more specific suggestions on how to recover from them – Restoring your Digestive Health by Drs Jordan Rubin and Joseph Brasco. It has become a great reference guide for me when I’m digestively challenged.

And once you’re starting to feel better, it’s really important to keep on strengthening your Agni – here are some Ayurvedic tips for good digestion:

  • eat at the correct times of the day
  • eat warm/cooked foods
  • avoid cold/raw food
  • avoid chilled drinks while eating
  • avoid incompatible food combinations
  • use fresh, seasonal, organic ingredients
  • eat slowly and chew your food properly
  • have a calm and balanced mind
  • bathe before eating

Ayurveda plays a huge part in self-healing and I would also say that local food and indigenous plants in your area are really important as well because the microbiome in your gut will be assisted during the healing process if you include these in your diet. After all, your body is a reflection of your natural local environment.

Hippocrates said “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food

Nicole Young - Three Harmony

Nicole Young is the founder of Three Harmony, a Melbourne-based Ayurvedic consultant, Yoga teacher, writer and online educator.  She is deeply passionate about traditional medicine and self-healing with Ayurveda and Yoga.

www.threeharmony.com.au