Wednesday, January 26, 2011
YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT -- EVEN DIABETICS
At last month’s Town Council meeting I raised everyone’s consciousness by yelling at the Mayor, who is a woman from Seattle used to corporate culture. What happened was that she tried to soothe my ruffled feathers (I only have to look at her to puff up) by offering me a luxury chocolate truffle. I said, “Thanks, no. I have diabetes.”
She said, “Oh, but these are really expensive fine high-grade chocolate.”
I shouted, “Are you deaf??? I have diabetes.”
She hadn’t registered at all. She’s a tiny, um, “slim” person. In her experience the little social routine is one says “I’m on a diet,” The other responds, “Oh, surely just this once, a little wouldn’t hurt you!” Games people play. Luxury is important to her. “Treating,” obligating, people is what works for her. It’s a script.
I’m not on a script. I’m saving my life. And I’m in a town and next to a reservation where lives are being destroyed daily by the way they eat and treat. I expect that processed foods, baked goods, sugar-saturated foods, empty foods, are beginning to rival the damage done by alcohol. It took a long time for people to fight back against booze and I expect it will take even longer to change the context that creates diabetes. In the meantime, I’m sure that people are still offering to buy a drunk a drink.
I begin to see how many levels are involved. Today at Blood Sugar 101, the topic was the phenomenon that people take their insulin, as prescribed, at mealtime in order for the right dose of insulin to be there to deal with glucose. But their blood sugar takes a nosedive, as though they hadn’t eaten, and then at some unpredictable moment an hour or several hours later, suddenly goes up but out of sync. Evidently what’s happening is that the valve at the bottom of the stomach clenches, so the food doesn’t go into the small intestine where it passes through the walls into the blood stream. Then finally it relaxes. There’s a valve at the top of the stomach as well and it is not served well by food sitting in the stomach. A loose valve at the top of the stomach lets acid-soaked contents all the way up into the throat and mouth where it dissolves your back teeth, upsetting your dentist. GERD, they call it.
So that’s a mechanical problem. Being constantly offered candy and baked goods as a matter of hospitality and social good will is another kind of problem. The theories about what actually happens during the interaction of glucose and insulin, how nutrition gets into the cell and whether the cell is resisting the action of insulin is a biochemistry issue. Then there are things to think about in terms of heredity or life-style. Also, the human body was designed to be on the move all day and many of its systems -- even the pumping of blood -- is meant to interact with that. People have saluted this principle to the extreme of putting treadmills under their standup desks and walking while they work. (No word on whether they actually generated enough electricity to operate the computer or keep the light on. At Heart Butte in the high tech classrooms the body temp of active kids was computed as energy. If they were sedentary while watching a movie, the lights came on to compensate for the lack of human radiation. Very inconvenient.)
All the pervasive contextual problems -- like food distribution systems, the ability of people to home-grow their food or find things to eat that are produced locally, federal subsidies for all the wrong foods (do you think anyone in this village that depends on grain crops is going to fight them?), the genetics of grain -- all have to be changed gradually. Poor people are fat because rich people are increasingly health-conscious so the surplus foods that sustain commodities and food banks are the things not eaten by the rich: cake mix, frozen cookie dough, prepared dry cereal, etc., high-salt processed cheese. What IS locally good is the occasional donation of meat. One woman, not an Indian, told me that she occasionally had to eat ONLY meat for a few days to keep her blood sugar down.
While society either slowly reforms or implodes itself, one has to buck the tide a bit for the sake of personal survival. I assume you have a computer or you wouldn’t be reading this, so at the end I’ve listed some of my sources of ideas.
The main thing to remember about diabetes on a personal level is that NO TWO PEOPLE ARE THE SAME. Every individual has to investigate with the help of an accurate blood monitor, some careful record-keeping, and habits you can’t allow to be challenged if they work for you, but no hesitation about experimenting now and then when something sounds promising. Diabetes II in particular seems to be metabolic failure of a whole interacting system, not just insulin which can be erosive as well.
At the most recent town council meeting, the FORMER mayor brought candy from the Parrot in Helena. I love the Parrot. Looking me in the eye, she told about how she went into the back kitchen to get freshly made hard candies. She waved them around but did NOT offer me any. This is an old Montana game people play: testing, just testing. Not QUITE punishing. She IS diabetic, among other things. I smiled. It was a very exciting meeting. I’ll tell you about it later. They demanded silence -- but it was a public meeting and I’m only giving them a little slack.
This is the state of the art, gold-standard, believe-it-if-you-see-it-here, website. Jenny is NOT conventional or mainstream and far more fussy and into detail than you probably need, but this is what I go by and it works for me.
This guy produces a LOT of information and he seems to be pretty reliable, though he sometimes reminds me of the late beloved Jack LaLane in his level of enthusiasm and encouragement.
If you respond to curiosity about food and a very broad interest in it, this is pretty absorbing.
This one is okay but a little slick. Don’t be captured by “products.”
It’s about fat (lipids) and the writer is a veterinarian. Technical stuff. You might need a medical dictionary, but I’m always fascinated.
Fats and glutens. Celiac. A biochemist.
There are a ton of these websites out there. Find your own “sweet spot.” It’s time for me to fix supper: a can of spinach with two eggs poached on top. (Uh, the can is removed, obviously.) A sprinkle of garlic salt. You don’t have to be THIS ascetic! But I do. I did add a little parmesan cheese and butter. I have not had eye damage (which is how I was diagnosed -- diabetic retinopathy) since I began to eat this way.