Straight Talk From Diabetic To Diabetic

For each of us, the more we take care of ourselves, eat the proper foods, and exercise regularly, the better. If you are diabetic, eating the right kinds of foods and getting appropriate exercise can mean taking less insulin; and the less insulin you use, the better off you are. No doubt, food is an important part of our modern lifestyle, but the type of foods we eat every day can make all the difference to an individual with diabetes.

"Sweet" is one of a human being's primary taste sensations, and most people have a natural desire for sweet-tasting foods. But to a person with diabetes, sweet can be deadly. When you eat something sweet, your body does not know "what" you just ate (an apple or a candy bar), it simply receives the life-essential energy substance (sugar) you just provided it, and goes to work processing it. Whether a sugar or a starch, your body is receiving a "carbohydrate", and to the diabetic, a carb is a carb is a carb! Saturated fats and certain food chemicals also spike blood sugar and may require more insulin for the diabetic. So just cutting out sugar isn't enough.

A True Account By A Diabetic

I was diagnosed in 1989 at the age of 37 with diabetes, and am insulin-dependent. At the time of my diagnosis, I was told not to eat sugar, but that I could have any and as much of the artificial sweeteners as I wanted to satisfy my sweet tooth.

Since I have a tendency to put on weight, I have always used saccharin. I've never had a problem with saccharin. I've never noticed bitterness or an aftertaste, so it is my sweetener of choice. (By the way, the only thing I sweeten is my coffee.)

Before I was diagnosed with diabetes, I never drank diet drinks. At the time I was diagnosed, NutraSweet® was the hottest sweetener on the market and Diet Coke® was the hottest soft drink around. After I was diagnosed, I was the best little diabetic a doctor could hope for - as my doctor advised, I adjusted my diet to eliminate ALL sugar, I walked three miles a day, and I ate three small meals plus three snacks a day. I tested my blood sugar at least four times a day.

I did, however, add NutraSweet® to my diet for the first time - about three Diet Cokes a day, plus I started putting Equal® in my coffee instead of saccharin. I figured, why buy two different kinds of sweeteners? After about six months of drinking Diet Cokes, I began having problems controlling my bladder. It got so bad, I was afraid I might have to wear Depends® before I was even 40!

I spoke to Dr. Hull about my bladder problems, who suggested I stop drinking the diet drinks. I did, and the problem cleared up within two days, and has never returned after sixteen years. I went back to using saccharin in my coffee, and if I really want a Coke®, I make it the real thing - sugar and all. If I want something sweet, I eat it - sugar and all - but I don't do so very often, and when I do, I just have a little. For example, if I'm craving chocolate, I eat one little Hershey Kiss® if I want cake, I have merely a bite or two. That's all.

I would like to share an experience with your readers regarding Splenda®. Because I know what works for my diabetes, I don't try new sweeteners when they come on the market; I stay with what I know won't negatively affect my blood sugar, and I avoid adding more chemicals to my already compromised body. Last fall my husband and I went on a ranch retreat. The first evening I wanted a cup of decaf coffee after dinner. The only artificial sweetener the lodge provided was Splenda®. I decided to try it. However, since I had never used it before, I was interested to see the effect it would have on my blood sugar; so I took a glucose reading. It was 150. I used about one-half a packet of Splenda® and was pleased with the bitterness.

However, the next morning my fasting glucose was 310 - it more than doubled! I can only account for that kind of rise in blood sugar to the Splenda®. (A person with diabetes KNOWS their blood sugar patterns very well, as we monitor them throughout the day. A spike in fasting glucose that extreme is usually sourced to the last food item consumed. You can decide for yourself, but no other sweets were ingested.)

I do believe sucralose in Splenda® is not good for me. Each diabetic is different and each responds to food differently. If it is a choice between sugar-free or sugar, I choose sugar! (And only a tiny amount.)

As I said before, I don't try all the "new sweetener products" because if I try something new, I don't know how my body will react. What may seem like a little change to a non-diabetic can be a big change for a diabetic. It might raise my blood sugar or it might lower my blood sugar, and the result of the change can make me feel as if I've been slammed against a wall. Then to compensate for the change, I feel as if I've been slammed against the other wall! So, I stay with what works for me. And please understand that what works for me as a diabetic doesn't work for all diabetics. If there is one thing I've learned about diabetes: all diabetics are individuals. Surely, there are common factors, again, what works for one doesn't necessarily work for another.

A couple of things I want your readers to know, especially diabetics - in many ways, my diabetes has been a blessing. It has made me pay more attention to my body and it's reactions to different foods and regimens. I am more in tune with how my body reacts to foods, stress, environmental changes, etc. For that, I am grateful.

The other thing: no matter what kind of illness, disease, or condition a person might have, they are not their disease. I think of myself as a person with diabetes; I am not a diabetic. What's the difference you might ask? Well, when I thought of myself as a diabetic, the disease was in control. As a person with diabetes, I am in control of the disease.

-B Williams
Georgetown, Texas

Posted April 2006 | Permanent Link

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