Tag Archives: Diabetes Type II

The Top 5 Diabetic Myths

NO! That will NOT cure your Type 2 diabetes!

Sorry, just letting out my frustration with someone who sent me a message regarding “essential oils” that will “cure” diabetes. I. Wish.

In my timememe-32, I’ve heard a variety of different things from people who are dia-ignorant. That’s right; they’re ignorant about anything pertaining to diabetes. What’s more, what I found is that we people with Type 1 diabetes get discriminated against when we tell people we have diabetes.

“You’re so young!” “You’re not fat.” “You seem healthy.”

Yeah, well, I am young, I’m not fat and I AM healthy! And I have diabetes! Any more judgments you’d like to throw my way?

I don’t say that out loud. In fact, I just laugh at it. But trust me, I’ve wanted to say those things.

I’ve decided to choose a few myths from the top ones I’ve heard from different experiences and people. Let me know what others you know about. I like to be aware.

1. Why those essential oils, weird teas or any Mexican concoction will not “cure” diabetes.

Look. Any way you look at it, nothing will “cure” diabetes. Once you have it, you’ll always have it. You can make it better and even put it into remission, like cancer. However, once it’s developed in your system, it will always be there.

There are things that will make it better like, diet, exercise, particular medications prescribed by your doctor and making conscious decisions about what you’re putting into your body.

And for the love of Pete, don’t STOP taking your medications if you see something is working really well for you, unless you discuss it with your physician.

In the Latino world, we like to do things naturally– me included. I hate thinking that I’m going to have to take cholesterol pills or anything of the sort, so I try not to get to that point by deciding what I’m putting into my body. BUT I still have to take my insulin. I know a lot of people who think they can be cured by teas or other liquid concoctions.

“She drank that and she doesn’t take her medication anymore.” Why? Because she chose to stop? See, that’s not right and can cause more harm than good. Monitoring, eating good foods and talking to your doctor are the ways to put that bad boy down.

2. You eat a lot of sugar, you get diabetes. 

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. The actual CAUSE for diabetes is unknown. However, research has found that it diabetes-here-i-come_o_1552291is hereditary and runs in the blood line. Diabetes develops over time at the cellular level. You eating a ton of candy will not develop diabetes because if you’re healthy and “normal” your body will create the insulin necessary to break down the glucose that you consume.

If you’re eating unhealthy food over time for a long time, there is a possibility of developing diabetes but there is no set of rules stating “If you do this… then you will develop diabetes.” And for people with Type 1 diabetes, this is completely thrown out the window.

Nothing that a person with Type 1 did CAUSED diabetes. In our bodies, our immune system attacked beta-making insulin cells, so we can no longer produce the hormone. That’s it. Because of our insulin therapy, however, we should still watch what we eat, but not be limited because– well, we’re injecting the hormone that your body has.

3. Diabetes is a death sentence. Might as well put me on dialysis now. 

WRONG. If that were the case… oh woe is me! If you’re diagnosed at an older age with diabetes, it might feel like a death sentence because it comes with a lifestyle change if you want to live healthily. Knowing that you can save yourself from infections, kidney failure, heart disease, amputations, erectile dysfunction, would you want to do that instead of sit there and wait for complications?

Diabetes is managed by your lifestyle choices. It takes determination and will power and change. For many people who are stuck in their ways, that’s the hardest part. Throwing out the bad stuff, eating the good and going for walks or bike rides can be enjoyable and you’ll feel better.

This is why I call Type 2 diabetes a disorder. It’s because something just went awry in your body, but you can help to fix it. It takes education. Plus, if you are a father, mother, daughter, son, sister or brother, there are people who care for you and love you. If you don’t take your health seriously for yourself and your desire to make things better, then do it for your family. It’s hard– yes– but it’s doable.

4. Insulin is bad for you and makes your life worse. 

Ha. I’d be dead if this were the case. Insulin is NOT bad for you. It is necessary for you to live. Believe it or not, everyone CREATES insulin. The reason why people like me inject it or are on a pump is because we no longer create it or we don’t make enough of it. That’s it.

If you have Type 2 diabetes and are put on insulin, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s a good thing. It’s helping your body break down foods and function properly. Oral medications might not have been enough, which is a very probable reality.

5. You did this to yourself. You should be ashamed of your lifestyle. 

Say people all the time. Shame on them. Never will anyone know the pains of having diabetes unless they have it. Just because your body couldn’t “hang” doesn’t mean it’s your fault. Could you have been healthier? Sure. However now is the time to take the bull by the horns and change your life. Turn it upside down. You only have ONE life, so live it to the fullest.

Control diabetes so that it doesn’t control you. If you stop focusing on what you shouldn’t eat any long and focus on what you can and how good it makes you feel, this won’t be as hard as you think it is.

The journey is long but you can do it.

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It’s more than super-sized margaritas and tres leches cake

I was approached by a reader a few weeks ago who told me that she would like for her story to be told. After glancing over her story the first time, it seemed that her story was very interesting and well put. She was a very cautious person when it came to her health because her mother was Type 1 diabetic.

It seemed to me that this woman was bitter at the fact that gangrene had infected her mother’s toe and eventually caused her death. Although this woman blamed it on diabetes, it was also caused because it wasn’t found in time. Her mother didn’t go to the doctor for it; at least, she didn’t mention that in the story.

So since then, this woman has taken excellent care of herself. She had check ups all the time and eventually tested her A1c level, which was that blood test I mentioned before, which gives a broader scope of how well an individual was dealing with their diabetes. Because her doctor was not satisfied with the results (this woman did not mention what they were) she was pinned as being pre-diabetic. This just means that you’re prone to it. So, even after this woman had been taking care of herself her entire life, she was still on the path to possibly having diabetes.

So, after reading this, I thought, what an interesting story. Sure, I’ll post this. Then she revised it saying that the new one may “work better for me.” After reading it, I found that she decided to be a little more savvy about Latinos and diabetes by writing this:

“Hispanics are twice as likely to have diabetes as non-Hispanic whites, partially due to cultural associations with foods, beverages, and mealtimes. Despite stats that say Hispanic female heads of households are more conscientious about calories and nutrition than non-Hispanics, the majority are in total disregard, drinking super-sized margaritas, beers, turkey legs or fritanga and topping it off with tres leches. As a result, obesity is rampant in the Hispanic community, and Type 2 diabetes is hitting children like never before.”

Now, mind you, I agree with the parts about diabetes being a silent killer among the Latino community. I agree that obesity is a problem as well, but I don’t agree with her reasoning as to why. In fact, it was stereotypical and uncalled for, something that I told her in an email. I also mentioned that for being a diabetic advocate, her reasoning as to why Latinos were prone to diabetes was not good.

She claims that she lived and own a tapas bar in South America and she works with LULAC and other Latino organizations, but why did she feel this generalized section about Latinos was necessary? In a way, this just shows what kind of people are marketing to diabetics and the Latino community– people that don’t understand us. Just because you lived in South America and owned a tapas bar, doesn’t make you an expert at Latino culture, just as a visitor.

Diabetes is huge among all people of color and across the entire United States. Latinos have reasons besides super-sized margaritas to explain why diabetes is emerging in many members of the community.

Let’s take a step back and look at the reasoning why.

1. Latinos in their home countries are accustomed to eating healthier foods. This means fresh and not full of chemicals, like preservatives and hormones. They go to the market every day and in fact probably ate organically in their Latin American country.

2. When Latinos come to the United States, they eat the same way. They don’t think about nutritional facts, just wants going to connect them to home, to their roots. This is why 1 in 3 people in the Puerto Rican community are now Type 2 diabetic. In Puerto Rico, everything is fried. Here, there are differences in the food they’re frying and the kind of oil they are using. In Mexico, people eat a lot of beans but they’re not re-fried and they don’t come in a can. Here, we have to resort to cans because who has time to cook beans on a weekday? Seriously, if you have cooked beans you know it takes forever and a day. It’s a cultural difference.

3. Another cultural difference is work. Back “home,” wherever that may be, many people do laborious work. They are out in fields, they walk everywhere, they “work out” because it’s a way of life. Here, we sit in offices and stare at computer screens. This is a big reason why Type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance results in people of color. Our bodies are not used to working with so much insulin that our body creates due to what we eat, especially because our food and caloric intake was lower and burned off at a higher rate through all the movement and exercise that was being done. Even if you were born here, your body hasn’t evolved past that of your current ancestors (i.e. your grandparents or great-grandparents)

4. Change of lifestyle is hard. When people come to one country from another, that’s hard. Then you tell them to stay away from what they know because it could cause them harm. That’s harder. But it doesn’t excuse people who have been here longer. They have to learn about what’s going on in their bodies and how to stay healthy. Like ALL Americans, Latinos are getting lazy. A trait gained from the NEW, not old, culture.

5. People choose to disregard their diabetes because they think they’re supposed to die of something and it’s not old age and JUST old age. See, in the Latino community, I’m sorry to say it, but many people are morbid. They think about all of the bad things that have happened and what will happen. They also feel invincible at times. To hear that they have diabetes, they think it’s a disease that they’re supposed to die from. They’re not educated properly about how to take care of themselves, just because they don’t know where to go.

There are a lot of cultural reasons as to why Latinos have diabetes and these are only a few. This woman who made generalizations about the entire community, was obviously not educated on these reasons herself. She represents those people out there who don’t know the reason behind different cultures besides their own and decide to blame cultures and races for their own misfortunes.

Although I thought she was on the right track with educating us about herself and her story, I was obviously wrong and do not plan to promote any generalizations or stereotypes about my own culture.

Sincerely,

Your Loyal Latina.

Update: She emailed me back and clarified the fact that she was speaking strictly about San Antonio, noting that in Mexico and South America, they ate very healthily. I would like to hear back from readers as to what your thoughts are.

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Filed under Culture, Diabetes, Doctors, Food, Health, Latinos, Other Diabetics, Personal, Stories

The Support That Pulls Through

Ever try to go on a diet but no one in the house understands and continues to buy cookies and candy, not caring that you’re attempting to stick to your salads and lean meats? Living in a household with more people than just yourself can make dieting kind of hard. When you’re diagnosed with diabetes, of whatever type, multiply that need for support times 10.

A lot of times it’s hard to keep having to explain yourself to other people, especially when you’re learning how your own body needs to improve and function properly to stay healthy. Diabetes is a lifestyle change that many people don’t like to go through, especially Latinos. It bothers me sometimes that many Latinos just want to give up because they think they’re supposed to die from it. I’m Latina and I’m here to tell you it’s not TRUE!

I met someone last year who was diagnosed with Type II diabetes; a Latino. He emailed me to ask what he should do. Get to a doctor, I told him, but firstly, you have to stay away from anything with unnatural or processed sugar. No more pop, no more fast food. Stick to natural and healthy. I gave him a few more pointers since he admitted to me that he never exactly lived a healthy lifestyle and he didn’t know where to begin.

A few months later, he walked into the office where I worked. He had lost about 20 pounds and rejected a sugary drink. “I’m trying to stay away from the sugary stuff now,” he said. I was proud of him for actually taking the initiative to improve his health.

When you have a team of support behind you, you work harder to improve your life. Learning about the consequences if you don’t take care of yourself, like heart attacks, strokes, amputations, blindness, sores and death, may also scare you into your lifestyle change. Whichever works, do it. I say, find that support system.

When you buy food at the grocery store, you don’t have to completely stay away from sugar, just find a balance and choose  wisely. Nutritional Facts on the back of the packages is a good place to start! Finding cereal with whole grain, a lot of fiber and little sugar is better than Frosted Flakes. Now, they sell juice with 50 percent less sugar than regular cartons. When looking for bread, find high fiber, whole wheat bread because fiber actual helps maintain your blood sugar levels. Stay away from consistent red meat and make sure to eat chicken and turkey and fish. Get your family away from high sugar intake. It’s bad for your teeth and just doesn’t make your body feel good. Eat more fresh fruits with natural sugar (which is digested faster) and better for your body. Eat green vegetables. If you grill bell peppers, their sweetness comes out and are delicious. And remember, organic should be your way to go.

As a kid, I didn’t have a choice. I found out I was diabetic when my mom had me checking my blood sugar the required three times a day. “Am I going to have to do this for the rest of my life?” I asked as she pricked my finger. Yes, she told me. That’s when I knew.  A few weeks later they put me in the hospital for four days to monitor my insulin treatment, making sure my body wouldn’t reject the hormone and the dosages were correct.

My mother went through a depression I had never seen before. The fact that her first-born had an illness no one knew anything about was hard for her. How was she going to deal with it? Was it her fault?

I’m not going to lie, I was a fat kid. But at the same time, diabetes starts even before anyone can notice it and by the time any effects are seen, 90 percent of the insulin-making cells have been destroyed. So, it was in my body for long before I was diagnosed.

In order to treat it the best way they knew how (they being the doctors), I had to be on a very strict diet. I had two pieces of toast in the morning with a half cup of orange juice. For lunch I had a sandwich and milk. Everything was accounted for because I was on a consistent dose of insulin and I had to eat or else my sugar would drop. I lost a lot of weight and was attempting to control my diabetes. But I forgot to mention the naturalezas that my grandmother was convinced would cure me! I had concoctions that tasted like grass and plants. I swallowed garlic whole and ate some other things that people would give me. I drank holy water, rubbed holy oil all over my body and they prayed, but nada.

Anyway, at that point, it wasn’t just me that needed support, but my mother did, too. One thing I forgot to mention is that my cousin, who lived three blocks away, was also diagnosed six months before I was. So my aunt was in the same boat as my mother, although she didn’t take it so hard. Both my mom and aunt sought out support groups from the hospital my cousin and I went to. We too, were also in support groups for kids. Some kids would come in and still be healing from the repercussions of diabetes and had to carry along their IV bags and were in robes. Like my cousin, many kids and young adults find out they’re diabetic because they get flu-like symptoms due to hyperglycemia (when your blood sugar is way too high). My cousin was vomiting, peeing every five minutes, his breath smelled of candy (because of the sugar), he slept all the time until finally, they didn’t know what else to do besides check him in.  I was lucky enough that I didn’t go through that. They caught it early in me.

Here’s an interesting fact: Back in the day, like 6th Century BC, they tested you for diabetes by seeing if ants were attracted to your urine. Ants are attracted to sugar, therefore, if ants were attracted to the urine, there was sugar in it and hence you had a problem. This technique was used by the ancient Indians who called it the “sweet urine disease.”

So at the support groups we got coloring books and talked about school. “What would you tell someone if they said they didn’t like you because you’re diabetic?” asked the doctor. I answered that assuredly with, “It’s their problem. I can’t get rid of it and if you don’t like me for that reason, that’s not my fault.” Sounds like me, doesn’t it?

My mom and aunt went to parent support groups and learned a lot about what happens within the body. My mom has since become a medical nut. She’s not a nurse or anything but because of taking care of me and my grandmother, she’s seen more than her fair share of doctors.

Then there are people like the rest of my family who have gotten used to me drinking Diet Cokes, not having too much candy or sugar and are always asking if I’m taking care of myself. They support my healthy choices. Since I’m always around them,  they know that me checking myself and taking a shot is normal. That’s normal.

And of course, my boyfriend. He’s learning more and more by being with me. He yells at me when my sugar drops and I don’t have any candy, he makes sure I check myself when I have to and I eat when I have to and he goes with me to see nutritional specialists and my endocrinologist because he wants to learn. He wants to know how he can support me to make this easier.

When faced with diabetes diagnosis, don’t go through it alone. Doctor Enrique Caballero, MD, from the Joslin Diabetes Center at Harvard, told me that most people with diabetes are healthier than “normal” people. Everyone wants to be a little bit healthier now a days. So grab a partner. If it’s your aunt, cousin, sister, best friend or parent, there will always be someone to get in on the fight with you. One thing they do out at Joslin is acknowledge people who have been living with diabetes for 25, 50 and 75 years. So if you could have a gold star for making it that long, which one would be your goal?

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Filed under Diabetes, Doctors, Food, Health, Other Diabetics, Personal, Stories

I Get The Shakes

When I was working on a story for Cafe magazine about Type II diabetes. Just so everyone knows, Type II and Type I are different. In Type I, the pancreas no longer secretes insulin. In Type II, the cells inside the body are resistant to insulin that is secreted by the pancreas. The consequences and effects are the same for both, though, although the causes are not.

Moving on. I interviewed this man who was going blind because he didn’t take care of himself. The build up of sugar in the system doesn’t have to just affect the feet and heart like you hear a lot about, it can affect anything. He stopped taking his medication after a while for multiple reasons. 1. He had a pact with God and if he was supposed to have this disease, and he was supposed to die from it, so be it. This is a very Latino way of thinking, by the way. 2. He didn’t trust the doctors because they continued to mix and switch up the pills he was taking. He thought they were going to kill him. 3. He felt like he had everything under control.

So, when you have high blood sugar, your body gets used to it and learns to function as is. As a Type I or Type II diabetic, the number one symptom is abnormally high blood sugar. Normally, someone’s blood sugar should be between 70-120. As a diabetic who isn’t taking care of  themselves, this can shoot up to 500 and some people have been recorded at 900. That’s dangerously high. Imagine someone functioning normally at 300. When that person takes their medication, it brings it down to a normal number. When this happens in the body, it’s a lot of stress and it makes the body shake, sweat and feel faint.

This man would take his medication, come down to a semi-normal level, “get the shakes” and eat a candy bar. See, the way one doctor put it, it’s scary and any non-diabetic would never understand how scary it is to have your blood sugar drop. It’s also easier to die from low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) than it is to die from high blood sugar (hyperglycemia). Here’s something else for you to chew on: When your blood sugar drops and you “get the shakes,” it takes your body 24 hours to normalize. When someone’s blood sugar drops, they “go low,” then if they do what he does, the blood sugar “shoots up.” Can you imagine how your body feels after something like that, being thrown around? Your blood sugars on a graph would look like a peaked mountain.

Because of the shakes, he stopped taking his meds. Let’s throw some numbers out there. If he was at 400, then came down to 150 with the medicine, he gets the shakes and eats a candy bar shooting him back up to possibly even 500 where his body “feels” normal.  What would he have to do to actually normalize the blood sugar? Deal with the shakes and shivers.

I sat there with him and asked him a few questions. Do you check your blood sugar? Sometimes. If anything, this is the main way of controlling diabetes. The answer should be all the time. Do you go to the doctor? Sometimes. He couldn’t find anyone who “knew what they were doing.” Do you take your medicine? Sometimes. He would forget, not take it and it would just keep going like that. As I left his house, I hoped that he had learned something from what I told him. He told me that I should keep on with what I’m doing because it seems like I know how to take care of myself. I assured him that I would.

I still get the shakes sometimes. This could be caused by taking too much insulin (one unit can be too much), doing too much exercise (but it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t) or not eating enough (which doesn’t normally happen anymore). My body recognizes my low blood sugars as much as it recognizes the high ones. With low blood sugars I sweat, shake and sometimes feel faint. With high blood sugars, I pee a lot, get bad headaches and feel tired. If I ever feel any of these symptoms, the first thing I do is check my blood sugar. At night, if my blood sugar drops, I can’t sleep. I wake up and as soon as I start moving, I get a cold sweat and start dripping. It’s crazy. But as soon as I feel that, I run to check myself and drink milk or juice.

Another thing diabetics don’t realize is that it doesn’t take much to get your blood sugar back up. You don’t need a candy bar. You need juice, milk or a piece of bread with peanut butter. As soon as something is placed in the mouth, you’re good. My grandmother felt terrible one day after a nap. When we checked her blood sugar, it was 49, which is drastic. My aunts didn’t freak out because I was there. I gave her juice and had her drink it before moving. As she walked from one chair to another, she said, I still feel it. My aunts wanted to give her more. She didn’t need anymore because it was going to take at least 10-15 minutes for the juice and sugar to hit the blood stream. After a few minutes, she felt fine. “Thank God you were here. You’re the expert,” said one of my aunts. Not because I want to be, I said, but because I have to be.

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Filed under Diabetes, Other Diabetics, Personal, Stories