Teaching diabetes care in Copenhagen, traveling in the Netherlands

It’s been a few weeks since I posted. I’ve been in Europe both working and relaxing. I was invited to present the Flourishing Approach to practitioners at, and related to, Steno Diabetes Center in Copenhagen. Steno is a leading research institute and clinic in Denmark. The interaction was extremely successful, including a meeting with the CEO of Steno, Allan Flyvbjerg, who is looking for innovative ways to progress diabetes care and sees the value of the Flourishing Approach.

That morning I and the husband presented the Flourishing Approach to health psychology students at the University of Copenhagen. It was enormously rewarding relaying ideas of a different way of seeing and working with people who have a condition to such young, curious and fertile minds. And not one was on their iPhone during our talk! Instead they were surprised, fascinated and curious what diabetes really is and is like to live with. I am grateful to psychologist Timothy Skinner who invited us to take over his class.

It’s both fun and rewarding that Copenhagen is one of the world’s cities where the Flourishing Approach is connecting since I lived there for a semester during my junior year of college. How well I remember sleeping under the hugely warm white, white duvet and bicycling in the dark from house to train station to go into the city for classes. As I told the students, I could never have envisioned I would be back teaching at the university one day.

All to say it’s been rewarding work and a wonderful trip. Now back in the Netherlands, the husband’s home country, there’s a week left to wander down these beautiful cobblestoned streets and admire the centuries old buildings and canals.

A smattering of the trip in photos:

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Painting: The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp. Painted in 1632 I use this in my presentation to show how focused we are in health care on the body alone. I took this photo in the Mauritshuis museum here in Holland.

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Totally insulin-worthy Appel Cake at a bookstore in Amsterdam

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A popular bridge in the center of Copenhagen. The locks represents couple’s love.

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Lecturing health psychology students at the University of Copenhagen

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Presenting at Steno Diabetes Institute in Copenhagen

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A new T1D friend, Helle. We were LinkedIN until she reached out and showed us her Copenhagen. I am indebted.

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Leaving Copenhagen. They don’t let you forget smoking is not good for your health.

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KLM snack on the flight back to Holland. A teaspoon of egg in a wrap. Putting profit before health. Sad to see.

See how far we’ve come in managing type 1 diabetes

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Clicking this link is almost like being swept off to a theme park. The theme: the innovations that have come through almost a century to help manage type 1 diabetes.

First, the link will ask you to enter your birthday to see what was going on when you were diagnosed. It led me to a picture I remember still of early insulin pumps that were the size of a backpack, above.

While JDRF launched this I’m sure to raise funds, I appreciate it as well to be grateful for all we have today. Glucometers, which I didn’t have the first 10 years of my diabetes life, CGMs, faster insulins, no longer having to snack for your shot and a short window before we have an automated artificial pancreas.

While I don’t expect a cure in my lifetime, I do expect more and more ease living with T1D. Maybe one day I’ll barely remember I have it. Let’s hope that’s due to innovations, not dementia.

A hospital stay with diabetes means you are at risk

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Adam Brown above

I just read Adam Brown’s unfortunate, and wonderful, review of his recent hospital stay, “My Appendix Ruptured: Scary Lessons Learned About Diabetes in the Hospital.” Adam has type 1 diabetes, is a patient-expert and works for diaTribe. In other words, he knows diabetes inside-out.

He went into the hospital with appendicitis that turned into a ruptured appendix during surgery. It also turned into a horror show of 4 days in hospital with doctors wanting to give him more than two times the amount of insulin he needed, an IV drip full with high amounts of sugar, a hospital full of nurses who’ve never heard of a continuous glucose monitor and diabetes ignorance and standards that put any patient with diabetes at risk. All this at one of the nation’s most prestigious hospitals.

You owe it to yourself to read the post. And you owe it to yourself to have an advocate should you ever be in the hospital, and to expect to continue your own care if you manage your diabetes well and know what you’re doing.

I have long told my husband if I ever go into the hospital, “You must make sure I can manage my diabetes on my own.” What a sad statement that going into the hospital with diabetes can worsen your health.

Free T1D advice with Dr. Jody Stanislaw

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My friend and fellow T1D, Naturopath Doctor Jody Stanislaw, has launched her YouTube T1D channel. What will you find? Two to three minutes videos of Jody sharing a tip or technique for good d-management and a growing library of twenty minute interviews with other T1D advocates and patient experts like Ginger Vieira and Christel Oerum.

It’s an easy watch, nice to pop into the community, and you just might learn something. In fact I learned something this morning. Now if I could only remember what it was 😉

 

A focus on flourishing promotes a healthier interaction

Today my interview with Susan Weiner, MS, RDN, CDE, CDN, was published in Endocrine Today. It centers on what changes when we aim to help people with diabetes flourish with the condition, and how to do it.

Excerpt:

(HCPs) are often inspired and find it (the Flourishing Approach) both innovative and common sense. I’ve presented the approach worldwide and facilitated workshops in the U.S., including at the American Association of Diabetes Educators annual conference and American Diabetes Association chapter conferences. After I described the approach in Bangalore, India, a dietitian came running up to me after her patient left. Almost giddy, she said, “My patient and I couldn’t stop smiling the whole visit. For the first time I didn’t push him like I usually do, and he’s eager to take the next step he himself came up with.”

As health care moves increasingly toward industrial care – standards, mechanistic, averages, big data and rushed – we need to remember that people are not machines. Patients do best when they feel safe and connected to their health professionals.

My dearest hope is that we begin to move back to embrace those “old-fashioned” values of truly seeing each other, listening and demonstrating our caring.Screen Shot 2018-10-10 at 2.20.23 PM.png

 

“Laugh at diabetes you say?” You will with Haidee Merritt

The very talented Haidee contributed many of her amazingly snarky cartoons to my last book, Diabetes Do’s & How-To’s, action steps to help you manage diabetes around food, fitness, medicine and attitude.

While creating the book, Haidee shared with me a number of cartoons that aren’t in the book. You’ll find them, and/or tons like them in Haidee’s books, FingerPricks and One Lump Or Two?

Looking them over again, I just wanted to share a few. Because I do believe we must take time to laugh in order to keep on keepin’ on with this never-ending condition we live with. Enjoy.

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Top UK cardiologist, Aseem Malhotra, talks about immense bias in medical guidelines

Like the many alternative MDs, nutritionists and dietary investigative journalists I follow, Dr. Aseem Malhotra, cardiologist and author, chants the same mantra: We got nutrition and chronic illness wrong. LDL cholesterol is not responsible for heart attacks, sugar and insulin resistance are, and statins are no wonder drug.

As a cardiologist his primary focus is heart disease. He relates a story of when he worked in the ER and doctors, himself included, put patients with heart attacks on statins before they even rolled them into the operating room. Now says Malhotra, it’s clear, statins benefit few and cause muscle aches and fatigue for many.

You can see this very informative interview between Malhotra and Dr. Mark Hyman, including their conversation about medical bias, in this episode of Hyman’s series, The Doctor’s Pharmacy. 

It really struck me how vulnerable we are as patients not knowing what to believe from our doctors, the government, the media.

A central focus of Malhotra’s work is as a champion of transparency in medicine. His conversation with Hyman, as I said, about how unreliable and biased the medical research that gets translated into the medical guidelines doctors follow, is frightening.

“Only approximately seven percent of clinical studies for medical therapies fulfill criteria for being both high quality and relevant to patients,” said Malhotra. Hyman returned with, “JAMA published an article that only ten percent of cardiology guidelines are based on good science.”

All to say, where does that leave us patients? More than ever you must do the research yourself and choose what you think makes sense for you.

I am only somewhat comforted by the fact that more respected doctors and journalists are exposing much of medical and nutritional science that has long been suppressed. We are finally reaching a tipping point where it is more available and more discussed, and being taken seriously.

 

 

ZenoBar is really low carb!

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I don’t know how they do it. I do know the ZenoBar’s co-founders Russell Long and Susan Papuga were kind enough to send me a sample of their bar in three flavors: Cocoa Hemp, Almond Hemp and Strawberry Hemp. I’ve only tasted the Cocoa Hemp bar so far.

I gave the Strawberry one to a friend who also has type 1 diabetes and blew in from Kansas City last week to attend the UN conference on non-communicable diseases. Outside of the boozy receptions, and the dinner I made her, I think she was only living on bars.

Me, I don’t really do bars. My life is not that unpredictable and I prefer eating food. But I came home late last night from Connecticut and it was 8:45 PM before I rustled up a salad for dinner, so I ate a third of the Cocoa Hemp bar.

It was good. Moist, chewy, richly flavorful. And, it appears to be true: it barely, if at all, nudged my blood sugar up. On the label the Cocoa Hemp bar says 25 grams of carb with 10 grams of dietary fiber.

Susan and Russell say there’s only 2-4 net carbs in a bar. Truly low glycemic, you won’t ride the “roller-coaster” of up and down blood sugar, you’ll enjoy stable energy and lovely ingredients like almonds and hazelnuts, chia, flax and hemp seeds, cocoa and or organic fruit and the sweetness comes from allulose, a sugar found in figs and corn.

Check out their web site. It’s fun, colorful and you’ll meet these lovely inventors and likely learn something.

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Remaining bar reflects slightly less than half. The husband stole a bite.

Obesity is far more complex than you thought

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How can a six month old be obese? More and more are today.

My interest in obesity is decades long. Personally, I was overweight as a teen. I spent years dieting, shopping in the “chubby” section of A&S (Abraham & Strauss), being hungry and failing…Weight Watchers, Snackwell cookies, you know.

Somehow, luckily, through the years I managed to learn about food, wean myself off of my beloved scones and bagels, give up the junk and add more healthy foods and daily walking. I don’t quite know how I did it, but I imagine I was partly spurred on by the improvement I saw in my blood sugar management, and the ease. I remember reading Dr. Richard Bernstein’s book, The Diabetes Solution, it was eye-opening. I vacuumed a good portion of carbs out of my diet and never looked back. My blood sugars improved and the weight fell off.

As I began eating less sweets and salty foods, my tastebuds changed and the craving for these foods disappeared. My husband says I was able to change my diet because through the years I became happier. Maybe, but the truth is I’m a different person today with a different body, and for me food is no longer an addictive pleasure but nutrition.

Researching and writing three books on diabetes I had to learn a lot about food and how it works in the body. I came to understand being overweight, while a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, doesn’t cause it. In fact for most people being overweight is a consequence, not a cause, of type 2 diabetes.

Our SAD (yes, our diet is sad, but the acronym stands for “Standard American Diet”) drives insulin resistance which in turn causes type 2 diabetes. Huh? Our modern diet, full of processed foods, sugar and refined carbs, spikes our blood sugar. This causes the pancreas to produce extra insulin to lower blood sugar and ferry the excessive amounts of sugar in our bloodstream into our cells for energy. These excess carbs get stored in our cells as fat. After all, insulin is a fat storage hormone.

Eating an everyday diet of these foods causes the pancreas to overwork until it can no longer produce enough insulin for the SAD’s needs. Poor maligned fat all these decades; eating fat doesn’t make you fat, a high carbohydrate diet makes you fat. I get it, I have for many years.

Then I read this article on obesity recently in the HuffPost and found it thought-provoking. Everything You Know About Obesity Is Wrong. I sent it to some friends, including a friend of mine who’s a health professional.

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Image by Finlay MacKay

An email exchange occurred between us, and while we’ve been friends for almost four decades, and she’s since told me she basically agrees with everything I wrote, during our exchange she reflected the knowledge and attitude many health professionals hold – while the problem is not only calories in and calories out, most fat people do eat too much and move too little. And, that it’s up to them, “individual responsibility” for them to lose the weight. “Adding to the problem,” said my friend, “I wasn’t taught anything about obesity when I went to school.”

She also said which I hadn’t thought about, “as a medical person I don’t want to be blamed for people being fat. The system isn’t set up for me to treat people’s runny nose, cough, frequent urination, sprained ankle AND their obesity in one visit.”

Who thinks about the pressure on the shoulders of our health professionals in the midst of this obesity epidemic? Not just to treat the fallout of obesity – type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cancer, dementia, heart disease and fatty liver disease – but  that they’re also supposed to get people to lose weight. Which frankly is basically impossible within today’s society.

And our American view – just pull yourself up by your bootstraps – doesn’t work here. Obesity is not a matter of willpower, it’s largely biochemical and far more complex. Most individuals alone can’t solve the problem.

We need societal-efficacy as well as self-efficacy. We need governments and big food manufacturers to make healthy food and activity affordable and accessible. We need to feed our soil and our animals the proper diet and create an economic system that allows people to get back into the kitchen to cook.

We are living in the perfect storm for obesity – cheap, portable food available everywhere, labor-saving devices so we no longer move, industrial feedlots and food scientists who chemicalize food-like substances to release dopamine in your brain when you eat them, and hook you. And a diet of highly refined carbohydrate foods, sans fiber, that spike your insulin and for most people will lead to insulin resistance and weight gain.

I close with a great and easy explanation in the video below, according to Dr. Robert Lustig, what we can blame obesity on. Lustig, a pediatric endo and professor at SFUC, is relentlessly fighting against what he sees as the biggest cause of obesity – sugar and processed food, and perhaps the most frightening of all, if your mother was obese. That means during utero, when you were a fetus, her high insulin levels were being passed to you and you then become designed to be obese. Thus, the baby above.

Now you know, and now you know too, there’s no easy fix. This 8 minute video is one in a series produced by UCSF: The Skinny on Obesity (Ep. 3): Hunger and Hormones – A Vicious Cycle

 

 

 

Ending the fast: Day 3 & 4 at 2:53 pm

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It’s mid-afternoon of day 4. I finished my fast last night.

I lost 4 pounds, that feels great, but I’m sure they’re racing back to me today as I re-introduce food. My blood sugar is still hovering low as it did during the fast, and I’m really sleepy. I think my body’s return to eating and digesting is taking a lot of energy.

Yesterday, day 3 of this bone broth, leafy greens and water fast, I was full of energy and not hungry. The only time I was hungry was immediately after I posted (my last post) about days 1 and 2 and said I hadn’t experienced any hunger!!! The hunger lasted from 4 PM to 9 PM when I dissolved it with a cup of decaf coffee with half & half.

Yesterday, all day I felt light, clear; like a younger version of my now Medicare self. I had an appointment with my ayurveda practitioner in NJ. I went with a friend. Afterward, we stopped at a diner on the road as she (we) hadn’t eaten lunch. I bolstered myself to be in a place with food and food aromas. It wasn’t necessary.

She ordered a spinach omelette and I ordered a cup of coffee. As the waitress put down my friend’s platter with egg, potatoes and toast, my eyes grew bigger, but still I wasn’t hungry. I did however reach over to pluck a piece of spinach out of her omelette. That’s when I thought hmmm…spinach is a leafy green, so I called the waitress back over and asked if they could make me a side of sautéed spinach. Sure enough, they could, and that and my coffee thoroughly satisfied me.

When I got home at 5 PM I made keto rolls. The husband can’t get enough of them and now friends I’ve shared them with say the same. Everyone I know broke their fast last night with whitefish, smoked salmon and rugelach (Yom Kippur). We broke our fast at 7 PM with the keto bread and what we usually eat for lunch – a vegetable soup that’s chock full of vegetables and aruvedic spices – cumin, coriander, fennel, digestive masala, turmeric, Indian sarsaparilla, ghee, salt and lime – they release toxins from the body.

Reaching for my Humalog before the meal it was other-worldly. I actually had to think again about my injection process and how much insulin to take. It’s amazing how quickly I forgot. The husband finished the meal with a piece of chocolate. For me, my second course was my I’d-take-this-with-me-to-a-desert-island-if-I-could-only-take-two-foods yogurt and almond butter.

At 11 PM my blood sugar was low, darn, so I ate a prune before going to sleep. I woke up at 69 mg/dl. I think I’m learning when you change something like this, the body takes some time to readjust.

Now day 4 I’m reflecting. I’m really glad I did a 3-day fast. I saw what it was, how it felt and if there’s a health benefit it’s nice to think I reaped it. I don’t, however, feel the need to do it again as I said at the end of day 2. Partly because my ayurveda practitioner said depriving the body of food heats the liver and most of our livers, including mine, is already too hot from years of ingesting things like vegetable oils, baked goods and refined carbs.

So, I expect to continue doing intermittent fasting a few days a week, and maybe a 24 hour fast every few months. All in all it was a great experience, even just to be able to say “I did it!.”

I know many people would like to try a fast but fear it will be too hard, how could they possibly not eat for a day much less three. I was one of those people. But it wasn’t hard. If you try it, you’ll know that.

I also really enjoyed discovering that I have more control over my hunger than I ever thought possible, and that is a really good thing. So when that voice comes, “eat, eat something now,” and half the time it comes out of boredom or habit, I have the choice to say, “thanks but no thanks,” and let it go to find someone else to mess with.

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Vegetable soup and keto bread with ghee

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The dynamic duo