Ever wonder why when we are severely dehydrated as diabetics or when we are dealing with an extreme high blood sugar our medical team tells us to make sure we replenish our electrolytes? I mean, what is an electrolyte anyway, what are the symptoms of low electrolytes and how can they help us as diabetics or if your just out mowing the lawn? Diabetic or not, they are extremely important when it comes to our overall health so lets take a closer look!
When dissolved in fluid, salts tend to break apart into their component ions, creating an electrically-conductive solution. For example, table salt (NaCl) dissolved in water dissociates into its component positive ion of sodium (Na+) and negative ion of chloride (Cl-). Any fluid that conducts electricity, such as this new saltwater solution, is known as an electrolyte solution: the salt ions of which it’s composed are then commonly referred to as electrolytes. So that leads us to the next question…
What Are Electrolytes?
There are several common electrolytes found in the body, each serving a specific and important role, but most are in some part responsible for maintaining the balance of fluids between the intracellular (inside the cell) and extracellular (outside the cell) environments. This balance is critically important for things like hydration, nerve impulses, muscle function, and pH levels.
With the correct body water balance, the electrolytes separate into positive and negative ions. When the body loses water or becomes dehydrated an electrolyte imbalance starts to occur. During heavy exercise, sodium and potassium electrolytes in particular are lost through sweating. To ensure constant electrolyte concentrations in the body, fluids must be regularly consumed.
To avoid an electrolyte imbalance which can cause lethargy and muscle twitching, athletes consume electrolyte solution drinks to make sure the electrolyte balance is maintained during and after exercise – this contributes to achieving optimum performance
You should drink frequently during strenuous physical activity. Thirst usually does not kick in until well after you have reached a state of dehydration, so consume plenty of fluid whether you feel like it or not. About 6 to 8 ounces every 15 minutes is sufficient. Help replace electrolytes by consuming a beverage that contains 0.7 milligrams of salt per quart of fluid. Consuming fruit slices, such as bananas, strawberries and oranges can help restore lost potassium, but obviously we still need to be careful here and a small bolus may be needed after exercise due to the sugar content in fruit.
7 Major Electrolytes & Their Function:
Let’s take a look:
- Sodium (Na+)
- Chloride (Cl-)
- Potassium (K+)
- Magnesium (Mg++)
- Calcium (Ca++)
- Phosphate (HPO4–)
- Bicarbonate (HCO3-)
So what do each of these to?
Sodium (NA+) is the major positive ion in fluid outside of cells (extracellular) and when combined with chloride the resulting substance is table salt. Some functions of sodium include the regulation of the total amount of water in the body and the transmission of sodium into and out of individual’s cells, which plays a role in critical body functions. Many processes in the body, especially in the brain, nervous system, and muscles require electrical signals for communication. The movement of sodium is critical in generation of these electrical signals. Too much or too little sodium can cause cells to malfunction and extremes in the blood sodium levels.
Potassium (K+) is the major positive ion found inside of cells. Some of the functions of K+ are the regulation of heartbeat and muscle function. The proper level of potassium is essential for normal cell function. Any seriously abnormal increase or decrease in K+ can profoundly affect the nervous system and increase change of irregular heartbeats.
Calcium (Ca++) is needed to build and maintain bones. It also plays a role in nerve impulse transmission and muscle contraction.
Magnesium (Mg++) is an essential mineral that is involved in more than 300 enzyme reactions in the body. Mg supports heart and nerve function. Mg is essential in the formation of bones and teeth and in converting blood sugar into energy.
Chloride (Cl-) is the major anion (negatively charged ion). CI- is found in the fluid outside of the cells and in the blood. The balance of chloride ion (CI-) is closely regulated by the body. Seawater has almost the same concentration of chloride ion as human body fluids. CI- plays a role in helping the body maintain a normal balance of fluids.
So check this out, your body has the amazing ability to take the foods you eat and literally turn them into you. Pretty cool don’t you think! Whether you eat an apple, a steak or a kale salad, your body is able to break that food down into its chemical parts and reassemble those parts into your cells and the energy you use all day. This is flat out awesome considering outside the plant and animal kingdom, nothing else can do that!
Here is the deal though, your body is only as amazing as the material it has to work with, like a fine tuned machine, the quality of the food you put into your amazing body has a huge impact on your overall health. An apple is not just an apple, nor is a steak just a steak. As stated above, your body is able to break those foods down into their chemical parts, like macronutrients and micronutrients. So what makes these nutrients so important, lets take a closer look!
What Are Macronutrients:
Macronutrients are nutrients that provide calories or energy. Derived from the prefix makro (Greek), which means big or large, used because macronutrients are required in large amounts. There are three broad classes of macro-nutrients which make up your primary food sources know as proteins,carbohydrates and fats.
The main function of macronutrients is to provide energy, counted as calories. While each of the macronutrients provides calories, the amount provided by each varies. Carbohydrates provides four calories per gram (I think we are all pretty well versed here),proteins;also four, while fats provides nine calories per gram.
Macronutrients also have specific roles in maintaining the body and contribute to the taste, texture and appearance of foods, which helps to make the diet more varied and enjoyable.
Macronutrients broken down:
- Carbohydrates – are required for energy. As diabetics we all have varying opinions on carbohydrates and the amounts that we like to ingest , but glucose, which is a monosaccharide, is the most essential source of energy in the body. The brain works entirely on glucose alone. When an immediate source of energy is required, glucose is converted into glycogen which is stored in the liver. When energy is needed it is converted into glucose again and used to release energy. Carbohydrates provide 4 calories of energy per gram.
- Fats – have the highest caloric content. This means they provide the largest amount of energy when burnt. When measured by a calorimeter, fats provide about 9 calories per gram, making them twice as energy-rich than protein and carbohydrates. Extra fat is stored in adipose tissue and is burnt when the body has run out of carbohydrates. Fat is also needed to take up fat-soluble vitamins.
- Proteins– are the third and last source of energy. They are the last to be used of all macronutrients. In cases of extreme starvation, the muscles in the body, that are made up of proteins, are used to provide energy. This is called muscle wasting. Proteins also provide 4 calories per gram.
So what does eating paleo mean, what is the definition of paleo? I have several friends that keep throwing out the words paleo diet and swearing by it, especially when it comes to helping stabilize their blood sugars. Honestly I’m not a huge fan of “diets” in general but after doing a little research on paleo, I can certainly understand why they are so giddy over living paleo!
The Paleo diet is certainly not a new idea. Coming to popular attention with the publication of a book on the subject by Walter Voegtlin in 1975, its central concept is to mimic the diet of humans that lived 25 to 50 thousand years ago, during the Paleolithic Age. Voegtlin claimed distinct benefits are associated with what he claims was the high protein and low carbohydrate die of the ancients. His plan is occasionally called the caveman diet, the Stone Age diet and the hunter-gatherer diet. Proponents of the Paleo diet continue to practice it, and it has been somewhat validated by the emergence of other similar low-carb diets.
Health Benefits Of The Paleo Diet:
For most people the fact the Paleo diet delivers the best results is enough. Improved blood lipids, weight loss and reduced pain from autoimmunity is proof enough. Many people however are not satisfied with blindly following any particular form of eating, aka “a diet”. Fortunately, the Paleo diet has stood not only the test of time, but also the rigors of scientific scrutiny.
With a very simple shift the paleo diet not only removes the foods that are at odds with our health (grains, legumes, and dairy) but we also increase our intake of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and brings us back to the way our ancestors ate…eating unprocessed foods like meat, vegetables, fruits, nuts as well as seeds.
Paleo Diet For Diabetics:
There are a number of studies investigating the effects of Paleo diets on type 1 and type 2 diabetics and results are impressive. A study published in July 2009 in “Cardiovascular Diabetology” compared the Paleo diet to the Mediterranean diet in subjects with type 2 diabetes over a period of three months. The researchers found that the Paleo diet reduced fasting blood sugar levels, hemoglobin A1C, plasma insulin levels and insulin resistance significantly compared to the Mediterranean diet, indicating potential benefits of the Paleo diet for people with type 2 diabetes. Here are 5 more studies and how they help stabilize blood sugars, feel free to check them out.
Pro’s Of The Diet:
Right off the start you can see how well this diet is going to control blood sugar levels. In a world where many of us experience roller coaster-like blood sugar fluctuations, this aspect alone proves to be an extremely beneficial aspect of the set-up.
As most of us know, the more stabilized our blood sugar levels are, the less likely you’re going to be to experience food cravings, to battle ongoing fatigue, and to be at the potential risk of developing diabetes down the road.
Since the paleo diet is also chalk full of healthy fats from all the seeds and nuts that are being consumed while also being low in saturated fat due to the restriction of dairy and high fat meat sources, this is also going to work to improve your cholesterol profile and help to reduce the risk of heart disease.
When using the paleo diet you shouldn’t find you have any issue getting enough protein in either, which is something that’s critical for both the fat loss and muscle building process as you’ll be including lean meat sources with each meal. By choosing to incorporate a wide spectrum of fruits and vegetables in your menu, you’re also going to help to keep calorie intake on the lower side, so this will be beneficial from a fat loss point of view.
If you are someone who happens to actively looking to build muscle and thus require that higher calorie surplus, you can simply add larger doses of nuts and seeds into the plan to help boost your calorie and healthy fat intake up higher.
Most of you already know that I love to exercise. My day starts out at 4am, early yes, but its the only time that I get to myself during the day. As a stay at home dad of 4, I consider this a small sacrifice for my sanity as well as to benefit my bottom line as a type 1 diabetic, my health!
What makes exercise so important? Well I think we all know the answer to that question as there are so many benefits including better control of our overall blood sugars. There is a list of exercises you can do, but lets take a closer look at how you can exercise safely for better control!
Diabetes And Exercise:
Whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, diabetes and exercise should go hand in hand, at least when it comes to the management aspect of the disease. Not only can exercise can help you improve your blood sugar control, boost your overall fitness, it can reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, provide more stable blood sugar readings, and help lower blood pressure ~ all risk factors that we face.
While exercise is great for us and the benefits are well documented, as diabetics it also poses some unique challenges. To exercise safely, it’s crucial to track your blood sugar before, during and after physical activity. You’ll learn how your body responds to exercise, which can help you prevent potentially dangerous blood sugar fluctuations.
Exercise And High Blood Sugars?
This was one of the biggest hurdles for me when I was first diagnosed. My numbers would skyrocket after a workout or even during a gym session. The issue is that exercise triggers the body to release stress hormones, like adrenaline. Adrenaline tells the liver to release glucose, or cortisol which makes you more resistant to insulin, and since strenuous activity triggers an increase in these stress hormones, chances are (even temporarily) your blood sugars are often increased.
That being said different exercises affect us differently and we also know that we’re all very unique, and lets face it, type 1 diabetes effects everyone differently and no situations are ever the same. Our blood sugar response to exercise will also depend on our level of physical fitness and personal exertion. Generally speaking, 30-40 minutes of high intensity interval training will bring different results than an hour of running, doing the stair climber or even walking the dog so it will be important to closely monitor your blood sugars during exercise and see how these activity levels effect you.
While you’re catching some rays this up coming summer, think about vitamin D. Sometimes its called the “sunshine vitamin” because it’s produced in your skin in response to sunlight, but what about vitamin D3? Is it as simple as getting out into the sun and voila, vitamin D3! I mean, what is vitamin D3 anyway? How much vitamin D3 should I take?
Did you know that the human skin makes vitamin D3 when exposed to ultraviolet rays of the sun? According to the National Institute of Health, some of the best food source for vitamin D3 are fish products, such as: cod liver oil, salmon, tuna, and sardines. With that being said, lets take a closer look at how vitamin D3 can benefit you.
Vitamin D3 Benefits:
Vitamin D3 promotes calcium’s absorption and functions for teen’s and children’s healthy teeth and bones, prevents loss of bone mass, and treats bone disorders.
It protects against adult and elderly muscle weakness and immune system issues, and lowers the risk of colon, breast, and prostate cancers. Rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis is improved with vitamin D3.
Vitamin D3 has been show to prevent/treat rickets, post menopausal osteoporosis. The vitamin also been show to help treat multiple sclerosis. Something that I found extremely interesting is that they are still conducting studies (more research is definitely needed) seeing if there is a connection between lack of Vitamin D3 and the development of Type 1 diabetes.
Benefits of D3 in the elderly and fractures are still under investigation. An analysis, reported in August 2007 by the University of Ottawa Evidence-based Practice Center, showed higher doses of vitamin D3 of between 700-800 IU’s per day combined with calcium help prevent hip fractures for institutionalized elderly. The study did not include elderly living independently in the community.
Vitamin D3 And Your Immune System:
Cells of the immune system, such as macrophages, which hunt the body for dangerous pathogens such as viruses, bacteria and cancer cells, have receptor sites for vitamin D3. Research suggest that D3 may play a role in stimulating these cells to be more active in their hunt for disease-causing microbes and act as an immunity booster especially during the winter months when sunlight is more scarce.
I just love flaxseed, and one I supplement with daily. Flaxseed has an amazing amount of benefits to help promote overall health. In saying that, how can one find flaxseed? What actual benefits does organic flaxseed provide? Can it help prevent your blood sugars from spiking? For that and much, much more, continue reading!
Flaxseed oil is an excellent supplement that supports the body’s vital systems. It is rich in the omega-3 essential fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA. Although omega-3s are crucial to human health, they are not manufactured by the body, so it’s important to get a steady supply through dietary sources and supplements.
There are two types of essential fatty acids, omega-3 and omega-6. Most Americans get enough omega-6 fatty acids from dietary sources such as meat, eggs and dairy. Omega-3s are necessary for growth, heart health and brain function, but many of us do not get enough of them from dietary sources. MayoClinic.com reports that multiple studies have shown that omega-3 supplements may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.
These supplements have also been studied as a treatment for depression and other mental illnesses, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, PMS, ADHD, osteoporosis, and even cancer prevention.
Benefits Of Flaxseed:
Flaxseed oil offers a wide range of health benefits. There are some studies showing that flaxseed oil can reduce total cholesterol and LDL (low density lipoprotien also known as bad cholesterol). This, however, is dependent on how well the alpha-linolenic acid is broken down into EPA and DHA. Flaxseed oil is likely to make platelets less sticky, which could help to reduce the risk of heart attack.
Flaxseed may also lower blood pressure and triglyceride levels (fat in the blood). Flaxseed oil has anti-inflammatory properties and has been shown to regulate the heartbeat, further supporting good cardiovascular health. In addition, the flax seed contains compounds called lignans. Studies show that patients taking lignans had a 75% reduction in atherosclerotic plaque buildup.
Flaxseed itself is recommended for those who suffer from Crohns disease or irritable bowel syndrome because it is thought to be able to heal the lining of the stomach and reduce inflammation.
The ALA found in flaxseed inhibited tumor growth and incidence in animal studies. In addition, the lignans in flaxseed are thought to bind to estrogen receptors, reducing the risk of estrogen driven breast cancer.
I must admit, I’m not a huge fan of “hot/spicy foods”, but I love cayenne pepper, well, in the right quantity, LOL! Cayenne pepper (aka capsicum) is used in a variety of ways for both cooking and medicinal purposes. There are a number of ways you can incorporate cayenne pepper and cayenne pepper capsules into your daily diet.
Your metabolism can be boosted in a number of different ways through the consumption of spicy foods, but the key is eating the right spices, in the right quantities, and through the right foods, so lets take a closer look!
Cayenne Pepper And Hypertension:
Cayenne pepper helps to make blood pressure levels normal. It regulates the flow of blood from the head to the foot and equalizes blood pressure. It also equalizes blood pressure in the arteries and veins instantly. It removes blockages present in the arteries and thus, improves the flow of blood. Since cayenne pepper reduces the risk of atherosclerosis, it simultaneously lowers the risk of hypertension.
Cayenne Pepper Weight Loss:
The main active ingredient in cayenne pepper is capsaicin. It is said to be a “thermogenic chemical” which will help speed your metabolism and decrease your appetite. It’s actually a wonderful herb. It not only can promote weight loss, but it does many other wonderful things such as: increase blood flow, maintains healthy blood pressure, increase your sex drive, may help reduce ulcers and promotes a healthy digestive system.
Cayenne Pepper And Pain Relief:
Per the University Of Maryland medical center, capsaicin has very powerful pain-relieving properties when applied to the skin. It reduces the amount of substance P, a chemical that carries pain messages to the brain, in your body. When there is less substance P, the pain messages no longer reach the brain, and you feel relief. Capsaicin is often recommended for the following conditions:
- Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as joint or muscle pain from fibromyalgia or other causes
- Nerve pain from shingles and other painful skin conditions (postherpetic neuralgia) that happens even after the skin blisters have gone away. Research is mixed, and it may be that it works for some people and not others. Check with your doctor to see if trying capsaicin ointment is right for you.
- Pain after surgery, such as a mastectomy or an amputation
- Has shown to assist in pain from nerve damage in the feet or legs from diabetes, called diabetic peripheral neuropathy, check out the study here.
- Low back pain. Several studies suggest capsaicin cream can reduce lower back pain.
So we’ve all dealt with the symptoms, shaky, lethargic, confused, sweaty and the list goes on and on but what happens when we don’t realize or notice these symptoms? People who don’t have diabetes start to feel hypoglycemic when their blood glucose reaches 50- 55 mg/dl. In people who have diabetes, hypoglycemia can’t really be defined as a specific blood glucose level, because the point at which they feel “low” changes, depending on their usual BG level.
So, individuals who are not properly controlled can “feel low” at normal or high BG levels, and individuals whose blood glucose runs consistently in the low-normal range and have frequent hypoglycemia may not “feel low” until their BG falls to a dangerously low level. This has happened to me once and it was not fun. So lets take a look at what hypoglycemia unawareness is and what we can do prevent it!
Hypoglycemia Unawareness Causes:
Hypoglycemia unawareness is actually quite common. It happens to me and that’s why I am so grateful for my dexcom. Studies show that 17 percent of us with Type 1 diabetes suffer from some sort of hypoglycemia unawareness. Symptoms of a low blood sugar become less obvious after having diabetes for several years because repeated lows tend to impair the body’s release of stress hormones. As we are probably aware at this point, or maybe not if your newly diagnosed, the major counter-regulatory hormone that causes glucose to be released by the liver to raise the blood sugar is glucagon, but is reduced in most people who have Type 1 diabetes within the first two to ten years after diagnosis.
Drinking alcohol increases the risk of an unacknowledged low because the mind becomes less capable of recognizing what’s happening, the liver is blocked from creating glucose needed to raise the blood sugar, and free fatty acid (the backup to glucose for fuel) release is also blocked. These factors make symptoms milder and harder to recognize and personally after a couple trips to the ER due to severe low blood sugars…lets just say I’m not a fan of alcohol any longer.
Over the past couple of days, we’ve been discussing several diabetes related topics but what about one of the most important ones, especially when it comes to keeping us type 1 diabetics alive. No I’m not talking about okra, some exotic fruit, cinnamon, or essential oil I’m talking about insulin!
Before we go there though, for those of you who make these claims (especially about okra and cinnamon) in regards to treating or as many of you like to say “cure” type 1 diabetes, you really need to stop. Over the past year I’ve been getting bombarded with sales pitches and I’m honestly tired of it. Cinnamon is a great antioxidant and comes with some fantastic health benefits but when it comes to type 1 diabetes, don’t you think if it was that easy, it would be mainstream information and the millions of us that battle with this disease day in and day out would avoid the BS that we deal with daily?
Or perhaps the miracle lies within the specially formulated product you are trying to sell me? Its utterly ridiculous, and the fact that you know nothing about the disease itself or how it works, you need to take a step back and take your products with you.
I mean, you realize that you produce insulin naturally, its a normal human bodily function. What makes you think that okra, cinnamon, or your essential oil is going to magically wake up my dead beta cells (these are the cells that actually produce insulin, feel free to google, its a fascinating read). Perhaps your cinnamon, shake or oil defies all science and type 1 diabetes research?
Or perhaps you have magic okra that you purchased from the same person who sold Jack his beanstalk beans? Perhaps the laws of physics cease to exist in your potent concoction? Either way you need to stop before you seriously put someone in a very bad predicament.
Now I can only talk about type 1 diabetes as this is what I eat, breath and live with daily. With type 1 diabetes, the body’s immune system attacks part of its own pancreas. Scientists are not sure why, but the immune system mistakenly sees the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas as foreign, and destroys them. This attack is known as autoimmune disease.
Insulin is vital for survival because without it, simply put, life would cease to exist (including yours). So what is insulin and why is it so important for type 1 diabetics, lets take a look!
What Is Insulin?
So the most basic question, what is insulin? When you digest food, your body changes most of the food you eat into glucose (a form of sugar). Insulin allows this glucose to enter all the cells of your body and be used as energy. When you have diabetes, your body doesn’t make enough insulin (zero in the case of type 1, unless your in your honeymoon phase) or can’t use it properly, so the glucose builds up in your blood instead of moving into the cells. Too much glucose in the blood can lead to serious health problems.
All people who have type 1 and some people who have type 2 diabetes need to take insulin to help control their blood sugar levels. The goal is to keep your blood sugar level in a normal range as much as possible so you’ll stay healthy. Insulin can’t be taken by mouth. It is usually taken with injections (shots). It can also be taken with an pre filled syringe or an insulin pump.
Types Of Insulin:
Manufactured insulin comes in several types that differ in the way in which they act inside the body. Each type differs in three ways:
- Onset: The length of time after injection that the insulin begins to work
- Peak: the length of time after injection that the insulin takes to reach its maximum effectiveness
- Duration: the length of time in which it remains effective
The four basic types and their respective onset, peak and duration are as follows:
- Rapid Acting: begins to work after 15 minutes, peaks in 30 to 90 minutes, and has a duration of three to four hours.
- Short Acting: begins to work in 30 to 60 minutes, peaks in two to three hours, and has a duration of three to six hours.
- Intermediate Acting: begins to work in 90 minutes to six hours, peaks in four to 14 hours, and has a duration of up to 24 hours.
- Long Acting: begins to work in six to 14 hours and remains effective for 24 to 36 hours.