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Food for thought from a foodie living with type 1 diabetes

Jen Grieves


For 20 years, I have paid attention to (nearly) every morsel of food I have put in my mouth.  This isn't uncommon - most people are interested in what they're eating.  But like all people with type 1 diabetes, whether I like it or not I have to have a thorough understanding of what I'm about to scoff in order to dose what is hopefully the correct amount of insulin.  This is ultimately in a bid to avoid the post-meal 'spikes' in blood sugar that are one of the bugbears of life with type 1 diabetes.

A post-meal high for me tends to linger stubbornly.  Its counterpart - a post-meal low blood sugar - can be fixed fairly promptly as long as there is some sugar to hand, but a hyper will remain, wholly unwelcome for hours, threatening to take over my day.

Managing my blood sugar around mealtimes has always been a matter of trial and error.  When I was first diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, I was placed on an insulin that required me to inject it 20 minutes before my meal.  I would then wait impatiently, sometimes while everyone around me torturously tucked in; the delighted 'ohhhs' and 'yums' of approval emitting involuntarily from their mouths.

A few years later I switched to what's known as fast-acting insulin.  'Great' I thought, 'I can dose and immediately eat!'

It took me a long time to work out that this was not the case and that waiting 10-15 minutes, depending on my blood sugar level, is a huge help in avoiding post-meal highs.

I didn't understand carbohydrate (or carb) counting for years; now I couldn't live without it.  I didn't know that splitting doses was a thing for a long time (if you haven't heard about this chat to your GP or healthcare team!), now it's crucial for me if I ever want to indulge in the occassional pizza (and who doesn't?!).

Similarly, two years ago when I switched from injections to pump therapy, I had to start all over again.

As I cross-referenced various glucose metres, gadgets and carb-counting apps, wondering if I should split my insulin dose, by how much, for how long, the thought of eating at all made this greedy, food-loving human's shoulders sink with the chore of what it entailed, and the near inevitability of not getting it right.

This too, much like everything else, steadily became easier with time and practice.  Thay say practice makes perfect, and at least with mealtime management you are guaranteed to practice multiple times a day.

I'm not sure it's possible to completely avoid post-meal spikes in blood sugar, but, the more I tune into my body and it's needs, the more I practice with the trickier meal dishes, the better I get.

I love cooking.  I love eating out.  My relationship and friendships can be bookmarked, chapter by chapter, by restaurants, dinners and food-filled adventures.  My friends and I never face the same plate of food with exactly the same mind-set - they get to tuck in immediately, while I have to stop and think and count and dose before I get to the indulgence bit.  But I have, through practice, got to a point where I can approach mealtimes with just as much joy as anyone else at the table.



This page is intended for UK healthcare professionals only
UK/WB/0916/0049 November 2016


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