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One of the continuous discussions in the diabetes community – to carb or not to carb – tends to peak each year around Halloween. It’s the low carbers vs. the cover it with insulin-ers. Logic vs. the need to be just as unhealthy as everyone else.
Plenty of people with diabetes make the choice to indulge on sweets during Halloween. Some doctors even endorse eating candy and covering it with a “rage” bolus. Well, it turns out, rage is an apt adjective, because when I reached out to the TypeOneGrit community to ask what high blood sugar feels like, many respondents said they get angry when high. Others said it feels like the flu, brain fog, body aches, sluggish, unable to focus, headache, exhausted, nauseated, slow death, like the life is being sucked out of them, and tearful. Mike Aviad, type 1 for 16 years, said he never eats sugar because, “I’ll enjoy myself for five minutes and then I’ll feel terrible for two days.”
But, what’s really at stake isn’t this single holiday (that wasn’t always about candy!). We need to talk about how high blood sugar affects quality of life and long-term health. Diabetes really means you can’t eat like everyone else. Covering “it” with insulin is an imprecise solution that leads to immediately dangerous highs and lows, and long-term complications. On a low carb diet, however, it’s very possible to live without riding the rollercoaster. And there’s a lot less fear of hypoglycemia when you’re bolusing five units at a meal instead of 20. There’s a lot less fear of complications when you’re eating food that has minimal effect on blood sugar, and you see your blood sugar staying between 70-120 all the time. There’s a lot less of feeling like a failure, when you’re on a diet that makes normal blood sugar levels achievable. But still organizations like the American Diabetes Association and JDRF have not acknowledged how powerful a tool a low carb diet is in diabetes care. A recent study published in Pediatrics showed that children with diabetes can thrive on low carb diets. And since the following statements from T1D kids describe what high blood sugar feels like to them, there’s very little justification for giving them food that makes them feel sick. RD Dikeman, founder of TypeOneGrit says, “Decisions without consequences both short and long term do no exist. Sustaining a false belief system that choices without boundaries of consequences is equated with happiness will only create future disappointment, entitlement, hopelessness and anger. It is not innate that children and adolescents are proficient in flexible problem solving. As parents we need to explicitly teach and model successful decision-making.”
Ian (12), “Tired and my head hurts.”
Kaity (11), “High blood sugar makes me feel tired, grouchy, and you want to cry a lot for no reason. So basically, you feel like poo.”
Tommy (13), “High blood sugars make me feel tired and dizzy with double vision, and I am super thirsty.”
Matthew (9), “When my blood sugar is high I feel hot and angry. It’s hard for me to keep my temper. I feel like I can’t move without getting tired and I start breathing hard.”
Mikayla (10), “Hungry, hot, agitated, and stomachache.”
Beau (7), “You get angry and it gives you a headache!”
Brody (7), “I feel hungry, thirsty, and my legs feel wompy.”
Lauren (7), “When I’m high I feel slow and heavy. My legs feel like they have weights on them and my tummy hurts.”
Lara (5), “When I’m high, I feel sick.”