Earlier this month my family and I attended the Children With Diabetes Friends for Life conference in Orlando. The conference itself was fantastic, but we had several frustrating incidents while in Orlando. The worst of these incidents happened when my husband Mike and one of our sons went into the Lego store while I waited outside the store with our other two sons. The short version of this story is that we somehow lost each other in the crowds. It took a half hour of circling Downtown Disney before we found each other, and during that half hour my blood sugar began to drop. I knew I needed to stop for food or drink, but I was afraid that if I looked away or went into store, even for even a minute, I would miss Mike. So I kept walking. By the time we found each other I was sweating, shaking, and having a hard time focusing. I remembered that I had an emergency stash of nasty, artificially flavored raspberry glucose tablets in my bag. Since I hate the way they taste, I didn’t want to use them. But it was a situation where I felt too bad to even test my blood sugar, so I grabbed the tablets, chewed four as fast as I could, and felt a fair amount of nausea joining the symptoms of hypoglycemia. The next day at the Friends for Life Expo, still somewhat traumatized from the raspberry glucose tablet incident, I met Christopher Angell, founder of GlucoLift, a company which produces the first and only all natural glucose tablets – no artificial flavors, colors, or genetically modified ingredients. If that’s not good enough for you, GlucoLift glucose tablets also taste great. I had the opportunity to talk to Christopher, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes five-and-a-half years ago, about the creation of GlucoLift.
What made you decide to create your own brand of glucose tablets?
When I was first diagnosed, I struggled with a lot of lows. (I still have my share, but not like I did then.) It wasn’t unusual for me to wake up in the middle of the night with blood glucose levels in the 40s and 50s, five or six nights a week. So I ate a lot of glucose tablets, and I hated them. I started treating lows with things like cookies, candy, food, etc, instead. And when I did that, two things happened. The first was that it took me longer to recover from my lows, so that I ended up eating a lot more food (usually junk food) than I needed to in order to raise my blood sugar, and I usually raised it way more than I wanted to). The second was that, I was no longer making a conscious, deliberate choice to eat sweets like cookies or candy, and then bolusing for them. I was eating my meals, but instead of blousing what I thought was the right amount of insulin, I was adding an extra unit, knowing in the back of my mind I would be going low in an hour or so, at which point I would have to eat something sweet. It was my own little self-deception, where I got to eat whatever sweets that I wanted, without really admitting to myself that I was choosing to eat them- I was hiding that decision in the disguise of treating a low. When I really confronted that fact, I knew I needed to do something to keep my treats and my treatment seperate, and that’s when I started taking another, closer look at glucose tablets and trying to figure out how to make them better.
What’s different about GlucoLift glucose tablets?
Well, there are two ways to look at our differences. One is to list things, like the fact that we don’t use any artificial flavors, or petroleum-derived food dyes, that we use a glucose that dissolves cleanly, without a chalky aftertaste, that we use delicious, natural flavors, or that we use flip-tops instead of plugs or screw caps- those are some of the attributes that makes GlucoLift different, but really it all comes down to the fact that our tablets are designed from the point of view of the end user, not by a big company.
How often do you personally use Glucolift?
Frequently. In addition to a few lows in an average week, I usually carry a tube when running or exercising and use them as fast-acting carbs on longer workouts. I’ll also sometimes pop just one or two when I see myself slowly dipping into the 70s, to proactively raise my blood glucose between meals (unless I decide to have a snack, in which case I try to bolus for that on its own).
How did you do “taste tests” when creating GlucoLift without making your blood glucose skyrocket?
Well, as with so many things diabetes-related, through trial and error. The very first taste-testng session we did, I also had some of my family try a bunch of flavors because I wanted something that wasn’t just better than what was out there, but good enough for someone who didn’t need to use tablets to be able to eat without gagging. Everyone had to stop midway through because they had such a crazy sugar buzz.
For someone with diabetes, the convenient thing about the tasting sessions is part of what makes glucose tablets such a good way to treat lows: it’s a controlled, measured dose, so as long as you know your insulin/carb ratio, dosing for the taste tests isn’t too hard.
Where do you produce the tablets?
The tablets are all made at state-of-the-art contract manufacturing facilities in the U.S.A.
What is 1% for the Planet?
1% for the Planet is a coalition of companies that pledge 1% of their gross sales (not profits, so you donate even before you are profitable) to environmental charties, to offset the impact on the enviroment that running a modern business has. I think it’s a responsbile thing to do, but I also think that so many of our health problems have connections to pollution and environmental toxicity, so a cleaner environment is also better for our health.
Are you involved with any diabetes groups, organizations, etc?
I am. Whenever I’m in town, I attend an adult support group run by the San Diego JDRF. I’m also signed up as a Diabuddy, but still waiting to be connected to my first mentee. In addition, GlucoLift supports patient education programs at TCOYD, and is a program sponsor for Insulindependence. I also do personal fundraising events for Insulindependence. And I’m always looking for new groups to get involved with- I think that meeting all the amazing people working to help our community is one of the many silver linings to the diabetes cloud.
Jessica Apple is co-founder and editor-in-chief of ASweetLife. She writes the blog The Natural Diabetic.
Follow Jessica on Twitter (@jessapple)