The Sugar Diaries: Type II Diabetes and Going Cold Turkey

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Technically, Day 9 is coming to a close on my current abstention from refined sugar and artificial sweetener.  This effort is more than a week old, and most would say that the hardest part is over.  For me, the initial pangs and cravings aren’t the most difficult aspect of this endeavor.  For me, the hardest work will be in keeping it up, maintaining the habit, and resisting the temptations yet to come. In light of that, I thought I’d begin a new blog thread about my experiences.  I’d also like to offer information for those who are considering it, whether you suffer from Diabetes or not.

 

The Drug Your Body Wants

As a species, we’re wired to seek out substances our body needs that are scarce in the natural environment.  Salt, fat, and sugar are the three things your brain has a constant BOLO listed for, because, when we were coming along, these were things not regularly in abundance.  Now, however, you see all three conveniently grouped together, in a superabundant supply, everywhere you look.  This has posed some major problems for our kidneys and liver, our cardiovascular system, and a number of other other vital parts of our physical bodies.  The glut is real.

I remember someone telling me that artificial sweetener didn’t harm anyone.  I have mixed feelings about that, but they aren’t what you think.  Do they cause cancer?  Hm.  The data to date are inconclusive about that, and human tests are scarce.  Do they do other things that we should keep an eye on?  Absolutely.  One of these is very important, but first, let’s talk about the brain’s reward system.

Every time you press the sugar lever, your brain rewards you by giving you a bump of dopamine, among other things.  “Good hairless ape.  That’s right.  Do your drugs.”  ZDczMjgzYWQzYyMvR2kxd0JuUzBPLTBVZUZzbUp2QS1vQjdKRUxnPS8xMzl4MDoxNTYyeDg5Ny84NDB4NTMwL2ZpbHRlcnM6cXVhbGl0eSg3MCkvaHR0cHM6Ly9zMy5hbWF6b25hd3MuY29tL3BvbGljeW1pYy1pbWFnZXMvZGFlZTgzNzk2YTVmYzgxZWJlM2EyOTJiMWVmODE3MTAxZTBmZTBDrugs?  Absolutely.  Not only is sugar addictive, in part because we are wired to look for it–honey, fruit, some grubs and insects, flowers–but because, in this supersaturated sugar landscape of modern life, we have become dopamine addicts.  And those feel-good chemicals made in-house are often stimulated to make up for deficiencies in our emotional and professional lives.

It’s Not Directly About the Insulin

Artificial sweetener does not stimulate your body to dump insulin into your bloodstream.  This is a myth.  In fact, it doesn’t actually register on your brain’s dopamine dispensary radar.  It’s not real. It doesn’t exist in nature.  Its sweetness is an illusion.  You’d get as much reaction from licking a battery in terms of dopamine and insulin response.  What it does do is much worse than the myth, at least from my perspective.

You eat these foods–which are nutrient deserts in your mouth–lots of flavor, but very little in the way of actual substance, since sugar free, fat free, and reduced calorie tend to flock together.  Your brain feels cheated, and gives you very little in the way of reimbursement for that Diet Coke.  The drug addict just under the surface of your consciousness starts hurting for it.  It needs its fix.  Wasn’t sugary sweetness just here…?

WHERE’S MY DRUG!?! I WANT MY DRUG! YOU LIED TO ME!

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The Horseman, Famine

Cue hunger, even if you just think you ate a snacky cake/diet snack/fat-free sugar-free chemical cookie.  You will respond to it.  You will heed it.  Your will is nothing in the face of this.  So you eat.  And eat. And eat.  And until you consume the right food that your inner drug addict wants, you’ll still be hungry.  Lest you assume that this is simple appetite, I can assure you, it’s not.

Your body is waging chemical warfare on you as revenge for the fact that you’ve cheated it and fed it a nutrient vacuum.  By the time a Diabetic has hit the appropriate lever in the fridge, at the drive-thru, in the grocery store parking lot, they’ve been driven into a semi-hysterical fury and mistakes have been made.  Your body is now sated, but it took you 3,500 calories to feed it the thing it wanted.  That’s one of the big reasons I stay away from artificial sweets–the other has to do with gut flora, but that’s another story for another day.

 

Diabetic Relativity and Sugar

People who don’t have issues with insulin production or receptivity–type I and II Diabetes–will simply have to shoulder through the first couple of weeks and tough it out.  No big deal, apart from the psychological and physical freak show that the cravings will make of them occasionally.  However, if you’re like me–type II–there are a few additional things to be kept firmly in mind.

First, everyone and their other brother Daryl think that all Diabetes are the same.  They aren’t.  09880233c8d78e2e16c30dd28aeb158fEven within a type group, there’s a lot of variation and wiggle room.  For instance, when you have uncontrolled Type II, “low” blood sugar is incredibly relative, because your body has gotten used to dealing with insane blood glucose levels all the time.  For example:

Let’s say your fasting level is 140, the norm being around 70. You eat, it spikes and comes down a bit, but is still over 200 for your 2-hour reading, when the norm is generally between 100-120.  For your body, that’s become “normal.” If your blood sugar troughs and you feel like death warmed over, with all the horror story symptoms of low blood glucose, it could still read around 100.  That doesn’t change how it feels.

article-bloodsugarimbalances_clip_image001You see, Diabetes is something your body works around.  That doesn’t mean you’re healthy, but your body’s job is to keep you moving around, even if it has to do some serious duct tape and zip ties to get it done.  While you’re still walking around eating ho-dinkies and guzzling Coca-Cola, your body is falling apart.  You feel a bit unwell, but you push through.  It’s nothing compared to the agony of deprivation that a diet represents, you rationalize.  Please stop lying to yourselves.  I know what you’re doing.  I did it for years.

When you decide it’s time to take your destiny in hand and abandon the Good Ship Lollypop like a fucking plague rat, here are a few things to keep in mind.  I can only speak from experience of Type II.  Type I individuals should follow what they know about their needs and the requirements of insulin dependent diabetes.

  • Watch your blood glucose levels like a hawk.  Part of Type II is glucose instability, not just a really high number.  296b7bed8959cf2f772a41785f596385When you eschew the sugar teat, you’re going to feel it.  The first time I did this, I lived alone.  Waking and not knowing why, feeling the world was caving in on me and having to crawl into the kitchen because I couldn’t stand was terrifying.  My blood glucose levels tested around 40, and that was immediately after I sucked down some honey.  So, keep glucose tabs or a honey bear handy.  Keep your test supplies easy to hand and get into the habit of testing more often.
  • Keep a record, along with your levels, the time you tested, what you’re eating, and how you feel.  Trust me, it seems like a pain in the ass, but this log will be your best friend when it comes to assessing what’s working and what isn’t.  It will also help you to identify potential foods that you should avoid or eat more of, based on these records.  There’s all manner of processed foods that are full of high fructose corn syrup–like pizza, packaged bread, or sliced meat.  Get a nasty spike from that sandwich? Look at the ingredients and figure out why.
  • Exercise.  Anything more than you normally do, even an extra flight of stairs or walking the dog to the mailbox, is better than doing nothing.  Start small, keep it manageable, but do it every day.  Every. Damned. Day.  And add intensity or duration as you become used to it.  This, believe it or not, is one of the big things that I noticed helped me to stabilize my glucose levels relatively quickly.  I still had highs and lows, but they were nowhere near as extreme, and I often tested in the range of Normal People after a while.
  • Keep snacks handy, but try to avoid processed foods, if possible.  Some good things that I found worked for me where:
    • Tree nuts or peanuts
    • Wasabe peas
    • Unhulled, roasted pumpkin seeds
    • Sunflower seeds
    • Berries
    • Melon cubes
    • Apples, pears, oranges, and ruby red grapefruits (seasonally)
    • Peanut butter
    • Carrot and celery sticks, kept in a mug of water in the fridge
    • Hummus (I like roasted garlic or super spicy, but there are other flavors.)
    • Blue corn chips or any that are less processed
    • Falafel chips (a little pricy, but a few will do for a snack.)
    • Chicken salad (made at home, prepped and ready to be eaten on a whim)
    • Raw honey (for emergencies)

Now this is by no means a comprehensive list, nor is it intended to be a dictate.  You should find the best snacks for your budget, needs, and preferences.  But do try to skew towards the less processed whole foods, as opposed to pre-packaged snacks.  What matters is ready availability of snackage, because you are going to feel like someone scooped out your innards with a spoon–hollow as a pinata, and ravenous nearly all the time at first.  This is your body screaming for its drug.

Try to be strong, and monitor your glucose levels carefully.  Pace yourself when snacking, so you don’t eat 3,000 calories of healthy snacks.  That’s not healthy, and your blood sugar will spike.  Another reason to watch your levels is that your liver stores reserves of sugar that your body wouldn’t process as glycogen.  For those with advanced and untreated diabetes, your liver also looks like fois gras–full of fatty inclusions, precisely because of all that sugar.  As you clean up your diet, your liver is going to dump those reserves faster than China in a fit of pique can dump their U.S. Dollars.  It’s ultimately a good thing, but the process itself makes for a bit of a glucose roller coaster at times.

Alright.  I think that’s more than enough for now.  I’ll be back another night, chattering about my experience with this particular sugar cleanse.

 

 

The Animal Beneath the “I”: Sleepeating Disorders

I’m writing a piece of pay copy about Nocturnal Eating Disorder.  Now, people who have this are fully conscious when they eat at night.  Either they snack continuously during late-night television time, or they will wake and not be able to go back to sleep without a snack.  I do this, but it’s usually tied to plummeting blood glucose levels that can occur with diabetes.

Eating While Unconscious

The other type of disorder is akin to somnambulism.  A person partially wakes and makes their way to the kitchen.  They then proceed to consume a large amount of typically unhealthy food.  This disorder is associated commonly with sleep medications. lunesta+moth Remember those horror stories you’ve read about people driving while taking one of the little luna moth pills? This is in the same vein.  What I have to wonder is, why “typically unhealthy” food?  What is it that we are suppressing during our waking moments that feels the need to sate itself during our sleep?  What if you don’t keep such food in your house?  Will you get in the car and go in search of it?

What does that say about our culture–both the high level of people on such medications and the fact that we’ve had enough data to name the behavior?

Our brains typically turn off the motor functions during sleep to keep us from wandering into danger as we dream.  While some suffer from sleepwalking, it’s not actually that common.  At least it wasn’t.

Now, we are at the mercy of our unconscious programming to glut when the glutting is good–something left over from times when food wasn’t always readily available for anyone.  When you couple this with the trends of self-denial and sensual austerity that seem to be perniciously popular in certain circles, what you get is the animal part of you gorging on ice cream and chips, the zombie waiting for its Hot Pocket.  binge1Or, if my uneasy hunch is correct, you get a glassy-eyed Maud swerving into the parking lot of the Quik-e-Mart at 2:30 in the morning, clad in a nighty and one bedroom slipper.  Her unconscious self is on the hunt for prey–Ben and Jerry’s prey.

Green Goddess Dip and Dressings: Fermenting Classics

Yummy! She offers lots of tasty recipes. Swing by and have a look.

Kitchen Counter Culture

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After that success of a dip with the fermented gooseberries, I began to ponder party dips and the social and gustatory joys of standing, chatting and especially gesturing with crudités of carrot and celery decorated in blobs of creamy green.

I’d remembered the pleasure in the days of yore eating dips made from packets of dried onion soup mixed with sour cream, and others in a Green Goddess family in which herbs like parsley and dill are mixed with garlic and chives with sour cream and often mayonnaise too, and perhaps anchovies, for a little secret umami.

And there saying hello on my kitchen counter were the herbs I began to ferment nearly two months ago according to traditions of Ukraine and France and probably other places as well.

So I made Green Goddess Dip with:

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Talking to Myself in the Grocery Store

 

When it comes to genetic modification, I’m a case-by-case girl.  No, I see absolutely no reason to put flounder genes in potatoesscared-woman-retro or other cross-species splicing projects.  That’s just fucking ridiculous.  As well, I’m not a fan of systemic pesticides, double-stranded RNA or any of the other freaky styley shenanigans Monsanto is getting up to these days.  I like organic whenever possible, but then again, I’m often too broke to support the hard-working farmers in their quest to provide foodstuffs that haven’t been meddled with or poisoned in the flesh. Feel free to imagine me staring very hard at a piece of fruit under the flow of the tap, whispering, Are you going to poison me?”

No, It’s Not the Same as Sugar…

So, apart from my personal quirks with fruit and systemic pesticides, one thing that really gets me going is the inclusion of high fructose corn syrup in…well…everything.  Okay, so, if you have no problems with this engineered sweetener, I’m not here to convert you.  I don’t care what you eat.  That’s between you and your brain, stomach, liver, pancreas, intestines, and colon.  But one thing I must shout from the mountain top is that high fructose corn syrup is not just the same as sugar.

First, do you know what they have to do to make it?*  It’s an industrial grade sweet shot.  It’s sugar on steroids.  Honey can’t compete.  Dixie Crystals bows out of the running.  And even the fig won’t touch those odds.  It’s not that it’s sweeter than sugar, it’s in how your body processes the grab bag of sugars–glucose, fructose, and others–that result from the bacterial alteration.  I can understand that the food politics involved make it cheaper than cane or fruit sugars to market.  Corn is subsidized into next Tuesday in this country.  Corn is, in one form or another, used in a lot of products on the domestic market.

 

All or Nothing With Labels

What I cannot understand is why such things need to be included in meat products.  I was in the dreaded Walmart the other day to purchase a few things for dinner.  There I was, perusing the sausage selections–of which there were many, and yes, get the humor out of your system now.  I thought it would be a nice change of pace–pasta in a home-compiled sauce of olive oil, garlic, tomatoes, peppers, and grilled sausage.  I had it in my hand–the Johnsonville Italian sausages–and something prompted me to read the label.

This is a dangerous habit to start, y’all.  I sincerely advise taking the time to really understand what the more complex names and words are, because they aren’t always bad, but they can be intimidating.  Kind of like that sentence.  But it really gets dangerous when you are trying to avoid certain things–like gluten, soy, dairy, or unnecessary sugar.  Those things seem to be in just about everything, unless you want to shell out the big bucks for the whole meats and raw foods.  But once you start reading ingredients labels…it’s hard to stop.

 

Drop Those Jimmy Deans and Run

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“Needs Corn Syrup” said no butcher ever.

So there I was, placidly, unsuspectingly standing in front of the cold case with a neatly wrapped, attractively labeled packet of sausages in my hand.  They looked so wholesome, so innocently sausage-like.  I read the ingredients under my breath, “Pork, water,” okay so far.  “High fructose corn syr–”  Stop right there, bub.  “Why the fuck is there high fructose corn syrup in my fucking sausages and why is it the third ingredient?”  My voice boomed out over the polished concrete floor of the Neighborhood Market.  An elderly woman a few feet away dropped the box of Jimmy Dean breakfast sausages to the ground and stood staring at me.

I hastily begged her pardon and put the Johnsonville sausage back in its place.  But you see, I almost always talk either to myself or to anyone who happens to be nearby when I go out shopping.  I don’t have enough social exposure, so I get it where I can.  What I was apologetic over was dropping the f-bomb like a 12 pound bright pink bowling ball in the middle of the afternoon.  But there was good reason.  I’m a diabetic.  I don’t want to be eating a sausage that will spike my blood sugar just as sharply as a Happy Hour Special Dark milkshake from Steak and Shake and not understand why.

 

The Right to Choose My Poison

Moreover, if I’m going to consume something that hits my beta cells like hfcs, I want to do it knowingly, consciously, deliberately–not in the course of having a nice, savory sausage.  That’s a stupid waste of a nasty sugar buzz.  Perhaps what I really am on about with all this is the unnecessary addition of substances to foods that are perfectly fine, and perhaps better, without them.  While I can very well read labels and ingredients lists, it seems that there are more and more brands that include these undesirable substances every time I shop, and a swiftly dwindling number of foods that haven’t been unnecessarily meddled with.

Yes, we could talk about the industrial food structure, but I think we both know that many of the additives that cause puzzlement or consternation in the consumer public are not matters of making a product better.  Rather it comes to two things–politics and the artificially buoyed agricultural economy–wheat, corn, and soy to name a few crops that are particularly subsidized.

What I would love to do is to be able to purchase a package of sausage that doesn’t have high fructose corn syrup in it for less than $10.  It would seem that avoiding adding an ingredient is an expensive show of integrity for a producer.  If I’m going to have a wicked buzz, I’d prefer to spend my indulgence on a bowl of ice cream or a carefully selected sweet.  I don’t want to be a snarling jerk–which is an unfortunate personal quirk with high blood glucose–and not understand why.  But that’s precisely what would have happened if I hadn’t innocently turned over the package to peruse the ingredients.

 

I know it’s crazy, but I get the nagging feeling that it shouldn’t be a constant battle to find food that hasn’t been messed with, augmented, changed, or fundamentally ruined.  Is the sausage so bad that they simply had to add a sweetener to cover up the fact, or is it a vicious cycle of the American Palate–the need for sweetness at any price, in everything?

*http://www.diabeteshealth.com/news/how-high-fructose-corn-syrup-hfcs-is-made/

**http://www.johnsonville.com/products/mild-italian-links.html

We Will Not Eat Crude Oil

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This is a fascinating piece. How many of you saw anything of this in the news?

Climate Space

Lome Declaration of Oilwatch Africa on Climate Justice and Food Sovereignty in Africa

Members of Oilwatch Africa network met in Lome, Togo, on 9 June 2015 and robustly considered the implications of the world’s stubborn dependence on fossil fuels on climate, food sovereignty, nutrition and well-being in Africa.

Participants at the conference shared experiences on impacts of extractive activities on their communities and countries. The conference particularly examined the environmental and socio-economic impacts of oil, gas and coal extraction. The impacts on food production, water pollution and deforestation were discussed as well as the growing trend of land grabbing on the continent.

Oilwatch Africa frowns at the trend where corporate interests and international groupings, such as the G7 and the like, aimed at polluting our biodiversity, grabbing our lands, water and seeds, are being promoted under the banners of Africana being hungry and now being malnourished, stunted and going blind…

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Ramadan Begins in Gaza, 2015

Food is the center around which culture gathers. In times of stress, disaster, or grief, we come to the table and rediscover what is most basic in our humanity–our goodness. When we share in a culture’s cuisine and food customs, we should be mindful of their meaning, seeing them in a rich context of life rather than a vacuum.

Kitchen Counter Culture

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What extraordinary pictures.  They show a family breaking the first Ramadan fast in Gaza, just last night, where so many people still live in dangerous homes destroyed last summer.  I saw these photos posted via We Are Not Numbers, an organisation that seeks to tell individual stories as a way to fight injustice.

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