Travel ain’t for sissies

It’s been a while so I’ll cut to the chase. I’ve been in South Africa for two weeks and besides the stunning landscape, incredibly pure air and peace and quiet, my body has been on strike. Within three days of arriving I had a head cold, outrageous levels and my internal plumbing backed up. I’m using a euphemism to save face but seriously, international travel ain’t for sissies.

Just to set your mind at ease my levels have returned to normal and my cold is gone. But my digestion has been slow to move. I’m chalking it up to the drier environment (we are in a Mediterranean climate here), the change in food and the fact that travel can rough things up quite a bit.

Now that I’ve totally exposed myself and the machinations of my digestion, I thought I’d share with you a sequence which has helped me to get things moving again. It’s fast paced and you will need some knowledge of yoga postures to move through it, but it definitely works. It’s also a great abdominal work out!

Check it out and let me know what you think

with great respect…Rachel

Yoga, meditation and ketones 

I don’t know about you but I spend quite a lot of time playing around on social media looking for ways to spruce up my meals. It’s not easy keeping things simple and nutritious. I found Hannah on Instagram and discovered she’s a passionate yogi just like me  who also follows a ketogenic diet. We connected off Instagram and I asked her to share her story and why she loves yoga and also to share one of her favourite recipes. I hope you enjoy her story as much as I do. With great respect…Rachel

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I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes almost 10 years ago and wow how my life has changed. At diagnosis I was 13, in junior high, and I had just moved to the United States from Europe. Awkward and shy doesn’t even begin to explain it. I went to a family practitioner because my mom suspected I had a urinary tract infection due to frequent urination. They tested my blood sugar and the doctor told me I needed to see an endocrinologist. While waiting for our appointment, a nurse began to explain how I’d have to take shots and prick my finger every day. Confused we asked the nurse what was wrong. “Oh didn’t they tell you? You have diabetes”. That was the first of many times that I‘ve cried about diabetes. “She then asked why I was crying,” which looking back on it now is pretty humorous because of the ridiculousness of the question. The appointment ended soon after that, we were sent home with a box of supplies and an instruction video on how to use it all (which we found out later was in Spanish).  I won’t forget that day and how I felt, but I’ll use it to make me a better and more compassionate physician. I don’t want anyone else to have to feel as lost about diabetes as I did then. 

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So here I am now living to the fullest; happy, healthy, totally loving life and believing that everything happens for a reason. Over the years I learned to be an advocate for my own health. I currently find balance in health by eating a ketogenic diet, lifting weights, doing yoga, and meditating. I have found yoga to be a great way to relieve stress. Slowing down my world for a few minutes to breath and focus on appreciating my body does wonders. As most people with diabetes know, stress makes managing blood glucose very difficult. Why? Because it’s so stinking unpredictable.

When we feel stressed out, our bodies release a class of hormones called glucocorticoids, these are hormones like cortisol and adrenalin (or epinephrine). They cause our bodies to release sugar from our liver into our blood stream to help us run away from tigers, lions, and bears.  When we’re going into a big exam, about to hop on a roller coaster, or are in a fender bender, we have no idea how stressed we’ll become and are even more clueless about exactly how much of which hormones our bodies will release. Predicting how our bodies will use these hormones and how much glycogen will be released from our liver is even more of a stretch. We can’t realistically take a preemptive shot of insulin to cover the cortisol for the car accident we’ll get in 20 mins. So what can we do?

Simply put; incorporate daily stress reducing things to cover daily stress causing things.

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That’s how I’ve found balance. My experience has taught me that yoga absolutely balances my blood sugar levels over all and with my continuous glucose monitor I now have numerical data to prove it. I believe it’s good to be informed and try things until you find what works for you. What I’m suggesting here is that maybe yoga is worth a try. 

Yoga was introduced to my life while I was getting my undergraduate in Nutrition at Texas A&M. I had previously been a dancer and was looking for a new way to get in exercise, so I bought a pass to the classes at the Student Rec Center. I read about the benefits of yoga on stress management and overall health and decided to give it a try. At first, I honestly did not like it at all. I thought it was boring, kind of like dancing in slow motion. However, I promised myself that I would go at least once a week and workout the rest of the time. It took me a long time to make it through a class without giggling because of some funny name or awkward pose (I actually still do that pretty often). 

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During my first college finals, I became very stressed, and found myself craving the relief I feel from a yoga class. It wasn’t until then that I really appreciated yoga and since that stressful week I’ve been a huge fan. Early last year I took the time to become a certified yoga instructor.  I now have a very busy schedule and practice yoga and meditation almost daily in short bursts on study breaks.  Yoga may not be for everybody but I honestly believe that everyone can benefit from it. I love it because it’s so versatile and can be done anywhere. All you need really is a space on the floor and a quick youtube search for a lesson. Simple and stress relieving.

Happy blood sugar balancing!

And here’s one of my favourite meal ideas

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When I plan my meals, I really try to focus on food quality. I aim to eat whole food with minimal processing. Most of my meals are simply just different combinations of real food. This is a sardine spinach salad with olives, extra virgin olive oil, and salt and pepper. It takes less than two minutes to rinse a handful of spinach and open the sardine can. So simple and really satisfying.

Feel free to connect with me if you have questions, stories, or just want to say hi!

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Hey There! My name is Hannah. I’ve been living with Type 1 diabetes for almost a decade. I am currently a medical student with dreams of becoming an impactful and inspirational endocrinologist. I have found health by implementing a ketogenic diet, doing yoga, and lifting weights. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutritional Sciences from Texas A&M and I am certified to teach yoga. Last year I started a blog to share my successes and failures as I try to find balance in blood sugars and in the rest of life.  If you’re interested in learning more, the link to my blog is https://theketolifeblog.wordpress.com/

What are your non-negotiables ?

Hello 2016! I wish I could say the year started off all calm and cosy, but it’s taken me nearly two weeks to get my levels down after our christmas day celebrations. Don’t even asked me why…  sometimes I just have to give myself a break and be okay about swimming upstream. Amidst the pure frustration of looking at numbers I do not like I’ve realized there are some things that I can rely on.  These are my non-negotiables and I’m absolutely sure they keep me anchored amidst my personal version of diabetes distress.

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I’m a stickler for routine. According to ayurveda, the sister science of yoga, one of the best ways to stay balanced and grounded is to create a routine and stick to it. Go to bed around the same time each night and wake up around the same time each morning. I say around because we can’t always predict when we’ll wake up or get tired. What I have noticed though, is that once you tell the body to sleep and wake up at specific times it actually does it. If you show the body whose boss it will acquiesce.

Be prepared with food. Life is so busy that skipping a meal or not having something healthy on hand can either make or break you. Planning out your meals and being prepared means you can go anywhere, be anywhere and relax. I can’t think of anything more stressful then being out somewhere and there’s absolutely nothing I can eat. I’m talking road stop, in the middle of nowhere and carbs carbs carbs. My non-negotiable is to always have snacks on hand that I like and make me feel good. A few months ago I wrote up a recipe for Bliss balls during diabetes blog week. These babies go with me everywhere and are packed with protein and good fats.

Get into an exercise regime that works for you and do it every day. The whole exercise insulin thing is quite a mystery. It takes time to find out how exercise affects your levels. And there are so many factors at play. For some people exercise reduces levels drastically, for others it levels everything out and for some it pushes levels up. It’s not a one size fits all.  Checking your levels before and after exercise and testing how exercise affects you at different times of the day can really help to give you more assurance that you’re not going to go low or high. I do a breathing practice in the morning, take a walk late afternoon and then do a short twenty minute yoga practice before dinner. How do I find the time? I just do. It’s my non negotiable. Yoga brings my mind and body together into a continuous stream of presence. Being present to what is happening in my body draws me out of fearful and distressing thoughts. If I didn’t give myself that luxury every day I don’t think I’d cope as well as I do.

My last non- negotiable is making as much time available as possible for fun. Fun could be anything. Right now it’s my addiction to watching the TV series, Nashville. I never thought I’d be a country music fan, but I’m having so much fun. I’m also loving summers here in Australia and a little afternoon walk through a rainforest to the beach. A simple swim and laugh with my beloved is priceless.

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With all the hype around the start of the year, new years intentions and all that jazz, we know that there’s nothing new about managing diabetes. But what you can do is make a fresh start and decide to add something new, creative and supportive to your daily management plan. That’s where Yoga comes in.  Yoga is so much more than a practice, its meaning and purpose is to bring you home. Home to your body, your breath and the simplicity of being. Being yourself.

So did I mention that yoga is my biggest non negotiable? That’s why I’ve spent the last year writing a book about how yoga can be the perfect compliment to your daily diabetes management plan. I’m in the final stages of production and I’d love you to be involved. I’m launching a crowdfunding campaign in late January so that you can pre-order copies of the book . I’d be thrilled if you would help me help people with all types of diabetes to get on top of their game.

If you’re interested in getting in on all the prelaunch excitement, I’ll be sending out emails to let you know when and how you can be involved.  Sign up here to find out more.

In the mean time. I’d love to know… what are your non-negotiables?

with great respect… Rachel

4 ways to chill out over the Holidays

As Christmas day looms I’m wondering if your inbox is like mine,  crammed with thank you’s, seasons greetings and messages to get in that last minute shop for loved ones. It’s intense! All I want to do is curl up with a good book and “for getta about it”….easier said then done!

Luckily my trusty mat is in range, inviting me to hop on at a moments notice, in case it all gets too much. I love that yoga is free, available any time and guaranteed to take the edge off. So what’s the best kind of practice for this time of year? Hands down it has to be Restorative yoga.

Restorative yoga is a fancy name for lying around in passive positions with various props including blocks, bolsters, ropes, chairs and a wall. I first came across restorative yoga in my late twenties, back then it was part of the Iyengar yoga system designed to help you get into postures you couldn’t necessarily do on your own. I can vividly remember being strapped to a chair in some backbend or other and thinking either I’m really desperate to get this yoga thing, crazy or both…

Sometimes its easy to forget how beneficial it is to be passive in the postures. We spend so much time thinking of Yoga as a workout. Perhaps using the practice to increase our insulin sensitivity or lower our blood glucose level.

But what about our stress?

Restorative Yoga is all about dumbing down stress. When you stop and hold a pose without effort and focus on your breath, you’re heart rate and blood pressure lower, cortisol levels decrease and vitality returns to the whole body/mind system.

Incorporating a restorative yoga practice into your weekly routine can make a huge difference to your overall wellbeing. Taking a break from relentlessly high expectations is more important than having a perfect A1c.

So What are my 4 favourite poses to chill down when it all gets too much? Check out this simple routine below…

Wishing you a very beautiful holiday season… Rachel

restorative yoga for Diabetes

Child pose variation

Come to sit upright on your heels with your knees together
Keep the big toes touching as you take your knees wide apart
Gentle walk your hands forward
Extend your spine while drawing the shoulder blades onto your back, hands are shoulder width apart
Rest your forehead on the floor, if it’s uncomfortable turn your cheek to one side
Stay here for a few minutes

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Reclining wind expeller

Lie on your back with the legs extended and parallel to each other
Feel length from the crown of your head to your tailbone
Bend the right knee and  interlace the fingers over the shin
Gently draw the thigh towards your chest
Keep your heel in line with your knee
Flex evenly through both feet, activating the legs
Draw the tailbone down to the floor, feeling the lower back lengthening along the floor
As you breathe in and out feel the right side of your belly receiving a deep massage
Hold here for 5-10 breaths
Release the leg and repeat on the other side

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Inverted leg posture

Lie on your back have your knees bent and feet flat
Exhale draw your knees to your chest
Inhale and extend your feet to the sky
Rest your arms alongside your body
Hold here for 10-15 breaths
Your abdominals will be gently engaged
To finish exhale and bend the knees back to the chest
Lower the feet to the floor
Rest here for a moment knees touching and feet wide apart

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Lie on your back bend the knees and bring the soles of the feet together
The feet can be close to the groin or further away depending on what’s comfortable
Close your eyes place your hands on your belly
Breathe deeply and relax hold for 20 breaths

What keeps me on the straight and narrow

its 5.30 am and I’m high. High on life, love and the pursuit of happiness?

I wish!

I’m looking down the barrel of a big fat 11, thats 11mmol/L. Bummer drag was a phrase we coined in high school.

Yep that feels apt.

The thing is I’ve done nothing wrong. There is absolutely no reason for this insane number. And I know in comparison to some it’s not even that bad. Nothing an extra shot or two couldn’t resolve. But that’s the thing. I only get one shot a day…

Don’t get me started about the medical system here in Australia, the lack of access to technologies, the way they progress you through medications. Whats’ free and what’s not. But still it’s better than having no access to medication. So really I’m not complaining.

I know this sounds like a rant but really I’m trying to segway.

Because this is how I cope.

Y O G A

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I’m going to verticalise it.

Y
O
G
A

YES
Opportunity
Gratitude
Awareness

These four simple words keep me on the straight and narrow.

YES to rest, walks in nature, whatever makes me feel good. Yes to a daily yoga practice, breathing, stillness, meditation. Yes to LOVE, friendship, support. Yes to Insulin, blood sugar checks, Doctors and CDE’s. Yes to whatever helps me to do my best every day to manage the unmanagable.

Seeing everything as an OPPORTUNITY… to grow, accept, relax, be patient, create boundaries. Communicate, advocate, reciprocate.

Being Grateful. ( no explanation needed)

Wherever AWARENESS goes energy flows. That means if I’m thinking about that stupid number, I’m going to keep thinking about that stupid number until I’m more stressed out than I was before I looked at that number.

 So what’s the solution?

I have a choice… I can look at that number and remind myself that a number does not define me. I have a high reading. Thats all. Theres 24 hrs in a day and anything can happen.

I’d rather be aware of the beautiful sunny day, the plans I’ve made to meet a friend. The love I feel for my partner and the excitement of a new project on the boil.

And You? What keeps you on the straight and narrow? I’d love to know…

with great respect…Rachel

 

 

Seeking Balance

When I first started Insulin I wondered if there were any other yogis out there like me who’d been diagnosed with Adult Type 1 Diabetes . It didn’t take me long to find Melitta Rorty. Melitta is a true advocate for LADA (Latent Autoimmune Disease in Adults or Type 1.5)  I find Melitta’s blogs and articles refreshing and grounded because she breaks open the difficult topic of misdiagnosis. Recently we had a chat because I wanted to find out what yoga postures she used on a daily basis to stay calm in the face of the daily diabetes grind.  There was so much juice in the conversation that I asked her to share some tips for practicing yoga with diabetes. Enjoy…Rachel 

“I started practicing yoga in 1994, six months before I noticed my first symptoms of diabetes. When I was newly diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, at the age of 35, I was in extreme despair—I thought my life was ruined. But yoga saved my life then by allowing me some space and freedom from constant thoughts about my disease, and yoga continues to save my life today by helping me stay calm and focused despite the daily grind of self-care that those of us with Type 1 diabetes must do. I recommend yoga to anyone who has to live with the stress of chronic illness.

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Yoga is a practice that uses poses, breathing techniques, relaxation, and meditation to balance mind, body, and spirit. In the West, hatha yoga, which involves stretching the body and forming different poses while keeping breathing slow and controlled, is most commonly practiced.  Yoga has much to offer people with diabetes, and probably its greatest benefit is stress reduction.  Diabetes is exacerbated by stress, and yoga is a useful tool to reduce stress.  It can both set the stage for better overall health and also reduce the stress associated with the myriad of details necessary for our daily diabetes care.  High levels of the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol raise blood glucose levels, and thus reducing stress is integral to good blood glucose control.  Yoga cannot cure diabetes, but the many benefits of yoga (stress reduction, increased sense of well-being, discipline, and focus) can help make the disease more manageable and have beneficial impacts on blood glucose control and on our lives.

For me, exercise, yoga, and meditation are my “magic pills.”  If only it were so easy as to pop a pill! 

To give you an idea of my routine, I attend a weekly class with a wonderful, experienced teacher.  I also have a morning home yoga and meditation practice.  My simple back care yoga routine plus meditation gets my day off to a good start.  Yoga has an immediate physical and practical impact on my health but it also affords me an emotional benefit over time.  Below are some of my tips for practicing yoga with diabetes:

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Asanas:  As with any physical activity, one must listen to and respect what your body tells you in the moment.  It can be risky to practice some poses, for example crow pose (bakasana), when you have low blood sugar or even close to low blood sugar.  Also, if you have diabetic complications such as retinopathy, many inverted poses are contraindicated.  This is where a good yoga instructor (or doctor or your own research) is worth his/her weight in gold.  Come to class early and don’t be afraid to talk with the teacher and ask questions.

Insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors (CGMs):  I almost always turn my insulin pump down for yoga class.  I am a “blood sugar burner,” meaning physical activity drops my blood sugar significantly, and I need to be careful to avoid hypoglycemia.  I always have rapid-acting glucose handy.  For a particularly vigorous yoga class, I turn my pump down by 80% at least one hour prior to class and for the duration.  For my regular yoga class, I turn my pump down by 50% one hour prior to class and for the duration.  I place my CGM on a block or some other raised space so that no one steps on it.

Meditation:  Many people say that they can’t meditate because they can’t keep their minds still.  Thoughts end up swinging through their mind like monkeys swinging from branch to branch in the jungle.  But virtually everyone will have “monkey mind!”  The point is to meditate, to be mindful, and to be in the present moment.  I practice a very simple style of meditation, breath meditation or Insight Meditation; meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg is my guide and resource.  There are countless tools to help you with your meditation practice.  Just find a quiet space, and give it a try.  Even a moment of quieting your mind can bring you a sense of peace.

Magic Pixie Dust:  Sadly, within the yoga and meditation communities there can exist “magical thinking” that is harmful to those of us with Type 1 diabetes, or any other serious disease.  Yoga cannot cure us; yoga cannot get us off of exogenous insulin.  A yoga teacher once yelled at me in the middle of class and said “Why do you have to wear that [my insulin pump], why can’t you take it off for class, how can you do inverted poses with your insulin pump on?”  This kind of ignorance and lack of compassion can push people away from yoga when it could be a beneficial part of their healthy lifestyle.  Because of that incident, I now do more to inform yoga teachers about my Type 1 diabetes and the medical devices I use to manage it (insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor).  Before a recent yoga and meditation retreat, I let the teachers know I have Type 1 diabetes, and let them know that my devices are on vibrate mode, but still make some noise.  I received the most compassionate response.  Yoga should foster compassion within us and for others; teachers who truly care for their students demonstrate compassion and not judgment.

If you are new to yoga, the best way to start a yoga practice is to find a competent teacher with whom you feel comfortable, and whose style speaks to you.  Many yoga studios now offer Yoga Basics classes or an introductory yoga series of classes.  These “yoga training wheels” classes can be especially beneficial for those who have no experience with yoga, because even beginning classes can be too advanced for those just starting out.”

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Melitta Rorty is many things:  traveler, geologist, nature enthusiast, yogini, and advocate.  She is also a person living with Type 1 diabetes.  In 1994, Melitta discovered yoga and a lifelong passion was born.  This passion would become her salvation in 1995 when she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.  Originally misdiagnosed as having Type 2 diabetes, she almost lost her life because of the wrong diagnosis.  Her mission in life was born of that experience and she now works to educate, advocate, and inform about the importance of proper diagnosis and early treatment with insulin for patients with Type 1 diabetes.  Melitta is eternally grateful to all of her yoga teachers (Barbara Voinar and Tias Little being her current teachers).