Dia-Blog – my journey with Diabetes

General ramblings from a Person With Diabetes

Diabetes-another year gone by

I can’t believe it’s been so long since I last posted on my main blog. FYI I am still taking organic cider vinegar every evening before I go to bed!

It’s been a roller-coaster of a year. By last Christmas I had piled on the weight and stopped bothering about what I was eating. After New Year I decided I had to take drastic action. I had been investigating the Endo-Barrier and it seemed like a really good way to reverse diabetes and also lose weight. However, the closest clinic that advertised the procedure was in Edinburgh and, when I phoned to speak to them, it turned out that they had only done one procedure around 18 months before. In fact, a surgeon from Southampton actually carried out the procedure while the Edinburgh chaps looked on. I’m afraid I wasn’t prepared to put my duodenum in their hands.

If you’ve looked at my other blog, you’ll know that I embarked on the Newcastle Diet last February. In the first 8 weeks I lost 21 lbs. Over the next month or so, I put on around 4 lbs, but this was to be expected when coming off a very low calorie diet. I did another few weeks before going off to Portugal in the summer, and my total weight loss was 31 lbs.

In the meantime I had bought a Freestyle Libre continuous monitor, which works by measuring glucose in your interstitial fluid. Although I was (and still am) sceptical about its accuracy, it gives invaluable information about the peaks and troughs throughout the day and night. All indications were that my HbA1c was at a very respectable level but, as my GP’s practice nurse doesn’t believe in regular blood tests, I have no idea what it is!

True to form, I have put on weight since the summer -probably about 10 lbs -so I have plans to get rid of them by having another go at the Newcastle Diet. I realise that this yo-yo weight loss and gain isn’t good for me, but if I can make sure the loss is always more than the gain, at least I’m heading in the right  direction.

I wish you all good health in the New Year!






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Diabetes – Cider with Kati

Not quite Cider with Rosie, but Cider with Kati reveals the latest weapon in my armoury to fight this disease.

Aspall cyder vinegarA couple of months ago I read about an American pilot study on cider vinegar, said to lower blood glucose.  The study was very small – only 11 participants – but demonstrated a reduction in fasting blood glucose when 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar were taken at bedtime.  As I suffer from “dawn phenomenon” – my fasting BG can often be the highest reading of the day – I decided to become a lab rat and conduct my own clinical trials.

For a week, I monitored my fasting BG (average 6.9), then I began taking 2 tbsps of organic cider vinegar at bedtime. After a week, my fasting BG averaged 6.3!  Here are the stats – the first column is the benchmark week, the second is with cider vinegar:

Mon 8.0 6.4
Tues 6.6 6.4
Wed 7.2 5.7
Thurs 5.7 6.1
Fri 6.3 6.1
Sat 7.2 6.3
Sun 7.4 7.4
Avg 6.9 6.3


The first night that I took the vinegar I felt sick all night so, after that, I watered it down and ate something with it (the pilot study included a small piece of cheese). In fact, when I diluted it in half a glass of fizzy water, it was just like drinking cider!

I’ve kept taking cider vinegar every night, but am planning a repeat experiment in a couple of weeks’ time.  I’ll be off on my travels again and decided this would be an ideal opportunity for a washout period.  I’ll stop the cider vinegar while I’m away, then have a week at home monitoring my fasting BG, before going back on the vinegar.  If I can repeat the results I got the first time, then I’ll know it’s worth making this a permanent part of my regime.



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Diabetes – another weighty matter

A few days ago I met up with someone for an informal chat about some voluntary work I’m thinking of undertaking.  She is also a Person With Diabetes – I don’t know many of those so we had a lot to talk about besides voluntary work.

In my last post, I spoke about the penny finally dropping about weight, and how I would benefit from losing a few stones.  She is one of those slim PWDs – or so I thought until she showed me a photograph of herself a few years ago at twice her current weight.  I couldn’t believe it – it was like looking at a different person altogether.  When she shared her BG stats with me I could hardly believe that either – virtually the same as a “normal” person’s.  Like me, she isn’t on any medication.  Unlike me, she has a family history of diabetes so her diagnosis came as a real wake-up call.

Now I’m very cynical about those magazine articles describing how people have lost humongous amounts of weight, but here was one sitting opposite me in real life.  It made me realise that these stories are not fairy tales – weight loss is do-able for anyone, although for PWDs with messed-up metabolism it’s not the easiest thing in the world to achieve.

So how am I doing?  I’ve been dabbling with 16:8 as well as 5:2 and 4:3.  16:8 is where you fast for 16 hours, and eat all of your meals within an 8-hour window. The 16 hours without ANY food allow your body to get out of “digesting” mode and into “fat-burning” mode.  I really find that difficult, as I’m usually snacking until around midnight – only brushing my teeth before bed can stop me eating – so I can’t eat until around 4pm the next day!  This is a good explanation, if you’re interested in the science.

Progress to date? Well my weight goes up and down like a yo-yo – I’m sure it’s to do with water and glycogen – but it looks as if I’ve lost a respectable half stone since I started.   That’s around 1lb a week which is sustainable and more likely to stay off than a huge and rapid weight loss.  At least that’s what I tell myself as I tuck into a bar of Plamil sugar-free chocolate on my non-fasting days!

PS I finally got the blood tests done and my HbA1c was 48 – not brilliant, but lower than this time last year (49) and well within NHS guidelines for controlled diabetes (under 55).


Diabetes – happy birthday!

I can’t believe it’s so long since I posted anything on my blog!  I’ve spent a lot of time recently pretending I don’t have diabetes, acting as if I don’t have diabetes, and generally just wanting to be “normal” again.  I have no idea what my HbA1c is, as we have a new practice nurse who believes that too many patients are getting too many blood tests, so I was turned away from my last appointment and left in the dark.

However, on 6 January – my diabetes’ 2nd birthday – I had a long hard think about what I was doing.  You see, it’s all very well going to the gym (not often enough), and eating low-carb meals, and buying special chocolate (see my Shopping Trolley), but the bottom line is, if I had fewer fat cells that were insulin resistant, my blood glucose would be lower.

So I stepped on the scales and was horrified at what I saw – 1 stone heavier than this time last year.  I’ve been convincing myself that (a) nuts are good for you (they are, but not a whole bag of M&S luxury roasted nuts at a time) and (b) I need to eat full-fat foods because low-fat variants are usually full of sugar (they are, but I don’t need double cream on my blueberries).

5 2 diet bookAround Easter last year I tried the Four Corners Diet and lost not an ounce.  So that was that – normal eating resumed.  Now the most talked about diet last year was the 5:2 (intermittent fasting) Diet. I gave it a go and only lasted until lunchtime on the fast day – 500 calories doesn’t even come near my daily snack quota, never mind the meals.  But when I read a magazine article about it last week, it all seemed to make so much sense.  I also knew some friends who had successfully lost quite a bit of weight, so I though I’d have another go.

The difference this time is that some like-minded friends have formed a secret group on Facebook, so I have a ready-made support network.  I’ve done a couple of fast days now, and really it wasn’t that difficult. I post what I’ve had for breakfast, along with the calories, and immediately get “well done”s from my friends. We’re also posting pics of our low-cal meals, sharing recipes, and just generally encouraging each other.  But the best thing is, I know I’m not alone – there are always one or two others fasting on the same days, and it makes such a difference knowing that my friends are doing just what I’m doing.

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Diabetes – flight food

Feel Good Snack BoxWhen I went to Spain last year I flew with Easyjet, and discovered the Feel Good Snack Box.  I’ve never really been into airline sandwiches and the other junk food that’s usually on offer but, now that I have diabetes, I have to constantly think about what I’m putting in my mouth.

So when I ended up on an Easyjet flight to Portugal a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t worry about packing any food as I planned to have a Feel Good Snack Box.  OK it’s not ideal if you’re counting carbs, but it’s a nice little selection of semi-healthy food.  It also comes as a meal deal – £5.50 for the box and a choice of drink.  Oops – another diabetes-hazard there.  Green Tea with GinsengThe drinks on offer were pure fruit juice, “This Water” and “Little Miracles“.  I’m getting quite good at the guessing game – I know fruit juice is a no-no as it’s full of fructose.  I remember in the dim and distant past checking out This Water and ruling it out, so that left the Little Miracles Green Tea with Ginseng.  I asked the cabin crew chap to check which drink was lowest in carbs (bemused look), and my guess was right – 6.3g per 100ml.

I brought home the empty packets from the Snack Box so I could check out the carbs –

Over 50g of carbs in my airline snack – not ideal as I’m trying to keep each meal under 20g.  Never mind, I’m not intending to fly Easyjet again for – oh – at least another month!


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Diabetes – soy ploy

I had a soap-box moment in Starbucks a couple of weeks ago!

Costa coffeeAs you’ll remember, I’ve really been cutting back on carbs and one of the books I’ve been reading suggests cutting out altogether the sort of “habit” carbs that don’t really make a huge difference to how your food tastes.  So as part of the plan, I try and drink soy cappucinos – this cuts out the lactose in regular milk that just converts to glucose (albeit more slowly than sucrose does).

I remember asking for soy latte at an airport Cafe Nero recently, and being surprised that they charged extra for soya milk.  So I popped into Starbucks in the station and sure enough, they’re charging extra for soya milk too.   I flounced out and went to Costa, where a handsome barrista assured me that they wouldn’t do anything as dastardly!  Next campaign is to get those lovely cookie stores to start making low-carb chocolate chip cookies.

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Diabetes – a weighty matter

I think I’ve already mentioned that Metformin – the drug that’s prescribed for very many Type 2s – is an appetite suppressant among other things.  I had already lost around a stone in weight before I was diagnosed – that was the first thing that alerted me to the problem.  I then managed to lose another 12lbs or so through a combination of Metformin and a complete change in my diet.

I know I have already mentioned that since August last year, I’ve been off Metformin completely, having got my HbA1c down to 43.  Since then, my weight has gradually crept up again, so I’ve been reading more books!

Blood Sugar 101 I discovered the website Blood Sugar 101, which explores a lot of the physiology behind diabetes – particularly Type 2 – and comes to the conclusion that carbohydrate is the problem.  As you’ll know from this blog, I’ve been concentrating on eating low-GI carbs, and have virtually eliminated sugar and processed starches from my diet.  I was generally happy with my blood glucose levels 2 hours after meals, until I read the book that goes with this website.  The author suggested that, with low-GI foods like wholemeal pasta, blood sugar should be monitored 4 hours after eating.  Well, that’s a different story!  Suddenly I realised that my BG levels weren’t as good as I thought – it just took longer to reach that too high level.

The very sensible advice – backed up by reports of clinical trials which you can read through the website – is to find out your own tolerance levels of carbohydrate, keeping BG below 7.8.  This seemingly arbitrary figure has been established as the level at which neuropathic damage begins.  Basically if you don’t want your toes to fall off, your BG needs to stay below 7.8 most of the time.  So that 75g plate of wholemeal pasta is out for me.

It’s quite simple – calculate the quantity of carbohydrate in what you’re about to eat, and test, test, test to see how high your BG goes, and how long it takes.  If it goes too high, try a smaller portion.   Like everything related to the body, it isn’t an exact science, as your BG will be slightly different for different foods.  But you get the idea?  Yes, it flies in the face of what the NHS Dietician and the Diabetes Specialist Nurse told me – eat a normal healthy diet with carbohydrate as 50% of every meal.

I’ve been on a new regime to test this theory, but I’ll tell you about it in due course when I have some blood tests as evidence of whether or not it works!

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Diabetes – DESMOND

When I was diagnosed last year, I was immediately sucked into the “system” – appointments with a dietician, podiatrist, retinopathy clinic, and endless eye tests at the optician’s.  I also heard about DESMOND – a course developed in Leicester for patients with newly-diagnosed type 2 diabetes.  There is a DAFNE course for those with type 1.

When I asked, my GP thought I wouldn’t find it beneficial, but I insisted that I wanted to go anyway.  After many months of to-ing and fro-ing between primary care and community health, I finally made it to a DESMOND course a few weeks ago.

There were 6 of us with diabetes and 2 spouses had come along for a day out.  The two trainers were diabetes specialist nurses and delivered a very well-thought out course for those who don’t know much about the disease.  I found that I (literally) knew all the answers because I’ve done so much reading and research in the year since my diagnosis, but I still found it a useful reminder of what I should be paying more attention to.

sconesOne of the funniest moments was when one “patient” pulled out a Twix bar to eat with his coffee – immediately after our session on avoiding foods with high sugar and fat content!  It struck me that I often feel quite isolated as I tackle this disease – this feeling was reinforced when we discussed the medication we were on.  I was the only person to have come off drugs and manage the diabetes through diet and exercise.  Sometimes I feel that people think I can’t really have diabetes if I don’t take medication, or somehow my diabetes isn’t as severe as anyone else’s.  Not true – there’s a lot of hard work going on behind the scenes to keep my HbA1c at  a reasonable level.

If you get the chance, go to a DESMOND course as you’ll get a real insight into, for example, what 100 calories of various foods actually looks like.  The illustrations of how the disease works are very good and give a thorough explanation for those who aren’t really aware of what’s going on inside!

OK I’m off now to eat one of the no-sugar, low fat, high-fibre scones that I made this afternoon!

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Diabetes – 1 year on

In some ways it doesn’t seem like a year since I lived through the fear and anxiety I felt when I experienced the awful side effects of the medication, and particularly when my eyesight went totally crazy!  I can’t believe that was a whole year ago.  In other ways I look back at what I’ve achieved in a relatively short time and give myself a pat on the back.

DogTo recap, my fasting BG was 19 and my HbA1c was 114 so I was prescribed 2000mg of Metformin a day.  Since August I’ve been off Metformin altogether, and my most recent blood tests – in November – showed fasting BG of 6.1 and HbA1c of 43.  I’ve proved to myself time and time again that exercise is the most effective way of reducing BG – and the effect lasts all day. In fact, I’m convinced that, when I manage to get to the gym 3 or 4 times a week, the effect is cumulative.   (A 2-hour walk with this little dog at New Year got my BG down to 5.6).  I also know how much chocolate containing Xylitol I can eat before I get the skitters (good Scottish word for diarrhoea!).

I had 3 trips abroad – the first an impromptu visit to the Algarve on my own – and survived self-catering and hotel food without doing too much damage.  I also managed to stay with friends for a whole 3 days before confessing that I had diabetes.  I knew the game was up when I turned down my hostess’s home-made apple crumble and ate an apple instead.

So what are my New Year’s resolutions?  Lose more weight?  Go to the gym more?  Get my HbA1c down to under 40?  No.  I’ve resolved to go abroad 4 times this year!  Life is too short … carpe diem … go for it.  I’m going to start acting on my good ideas and visit more places while I still have the eyesight to see them, and the 10 toes to get around them!

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Diabetes – going viral

View from the planeWhen I got home from Spain a couple of months ago, I’d developed an “Easyjet” cold.  I used to get frequent sniffles when I travelled a lot for work, and put it down to everyone’s germs being recycled in the confined environment of an aircraft.  My GP promptly prescribed antibiotics and warned me that it wasn’t a good idea to contract lingering infections, as these can cause complications in diabetes sufferers.  I also learned that I’m now in one of the categories of patient entitled to free flu jabs every winter, but didn’t get round to doing anything about it.

So, I’ve had a sore throat for 2 weeks now – you know the one – like swallowing bits of broken glass.  Then I lost my voice.  I struggled on – I was abroad for a week on business so, apart from not being able to talk very much, I didn’t really have an option not to carry on.  What was slightly worrying was the BG readings I was getting – particularly high on waking.  I realise that was my body trying to fight the virus, but it’s very frustrating not being able to do a thing about it.

As an aside, let me tell you about the hotel breakfast.  Buffets are a bit wasted on me as I don’t eat meat and avoid lots of bread and pastries, so I opted for a la carte “English” breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast.  This was delivered along with a lovely mixed salad!  How nice to get my daily fix of greenery at breakfast.

I got home a few days ago and my body knew that it could give in completely to this virus once it was back in its own bed!  The locum GP prescribed antihistamines for the viral rash that was itching its way across my neck and chest, and other than that, advised rest and more rest.  Since then, I’ve had endless coughing fits leading to sore ribs and diaphragm, aching muscles and joints, and the shivers.  I feel a bit better today although it’s as if I’m wearing someone else’s skin – not quite in my own body.  I haven’t been very hungry and can barely taste anything, so lots of hot and cold drinks, and nourishing soup.  A very different experience to the pre-diabetes colds that I could shake off in a few days!

Here’s an interesting article on diabetes and colds, and a link to the sugar-free cough lozenges I found in Boots (the usual laxative-effect warning applies!).

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