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Friday, October 27, 2006

Test, Review, Adjust

When I was first diagnosed, the doc told me to "lose 8% of my body weight" (117Kg, 257lbs at that time) and test my blood glucose before breakfast and before the evening meal. My HbA1c was 8.2%. 8% of 117Kg was 9.4Kg or a little over 20lbs.

So, I did that after designing my own way of doing it using my Weight Loss Cooking and Eating Plan and decided to just keep going after I passed the 8%. In the initial plan I tried to follow the diet guidelines on the pamphlets from Diabetes Australia (DA) - which are much the same as those from the American Diabetes Association (ADA) but I also included tricks and tips from many past diets. The final version is now significantly different.

My A1c only dropped to 7.5% despite losing the weight, so during that period I decided to attend a dietician’s presentation at the local support group meeting. Later, in another post I’ll chat more about dieticians, DA and the ADA. To put it briefly – the high-carbohydrate low-fat guidelines were a disaster for me.

There are interminable arguments these days about "low-fat" versus "low-carb". To be honest - I'm not interested in those definitions. What I was looking for is the "low-BG spike, excellent nutrition" menu that suited Alan. As to the "low-BG spike, excellent nutrition" menu that will suit you - you'll have to test to find your own. Here's how I did that.

I found misc.health.diabetes on usenet and eventually I was directed to Jennifer’s famous Test, Test, Test advice. I’ve also provided a link on the side-bar. Jennifer is not a doctor either – just another type 2 diabetic. But that advice works. And it’s free.

I started following her advice and the results, in a very short time, were quite dramatic. My fasting blood glucose and A1c started going down, my after-eating (post-prandial) numbers dropped rapidly, the occasions when I suffered "lows" with the shakes and nausea a couple of hours after meals disappeared, and my weight loss re-commenced after being stalled for a few weeks.

Take the time, right now, to read it and print it out. Then come on back.

One of the reasons it works so well is that it allows us to discover what works for us as individuals – and what doesn’t. Over time I modified that advice to suit myself. Eventually I had tested often enough at one-hour and two-hours after meals to know the peak blood glucose (BG) spike timing. Once I knew that, I found I only needed to test at the peak unless the number was too high and needed a further check an hour later.

I tested a lot in those first few weeks, but the high volume of testing reduced quickly as I learned and results became predictable. If the thought of a lot of testing worries you, see how to test without pain in my post on Painless Pricks

These days I still test more than most diabetics – but nothing like those early fact-finding days. Then, as I cut or reduced the "danger foods" I reviewed the resulting menu regularly to see if I was missing anything important; over time I added, and tested, lots of new things – especially vegetables and fish – as a result. More on that in a later post.

I added some supplements, but very few. I only add a supplement if I cannot find a way to meet the need from my menu. Thus, I added Psyllium husk for fibre and calcium to compensate for a drop in dairy consumption.

To summarise, it’s as simple as this:

Start with whatever you eat now.

Eat, then test after eating at your spike time and if BG’s are too high then review what you ate and change the menu next time. Then do that again, and again, and again until what you eat doesn’t spike you. You will get some surprises, particularly at breakfast time. The so-called "heart-healthy" Breakfasts are NOT for most type 2's. Similarly, you will find variations through the day - the same thing will have different effects at breakfast, lunch, dinner and supper. But I can't say how they will affect others - only how it affected me - which is why we all need to test ourselves.

As you gradually improve your blood glucose levels, review the resulting way of eating to ensure adequate nutrition, fibre etc are included and adjust accordingly.

Then test again.

Test, review, adjust, always towards better and better blood glucose levels.

And no - you won't have to test so intensively for the rest of your life. As time goes on and you build your knowledge you won't need to test as often because many of your results will become predictable as your numbers improve. You will be building your own personal Glycemic Load database. As that happens you can reduce the intensive testing to "maintenance" levels. I still do two or three fasting tests and several one-hour post-prandial tests randomly each week. Just to be sure that things aren't changing. I may do a few more if I am adding a new dish to the menu or trying a new restaurant. But I no longer need to test after every meal or snack.

Finally – add at least 30 minutes of exercise to your day – but that’s another post.

Cheers, Alan, T2, Australia.
Everything in Moderation - Except Laughter


jolindaTX said...

Alan, Thanks. I have just found out I have diabetes. My A1C was 10.
I have been reading your blog. It has helped me a lot. I did not realize that cereal and 2% milk was not helpful. I will be changing my breakfast, thanks to you.

Anonymous said...

Interesting post, amazing ideas. Keep writing!

Shana H. Neely said...

Thank you, Alan! I appreciate your note and advice as I try to help my Dad stay healthy!
Shana :-)

Mary said...

Mary from the ADA board here. Very good information. Thank you.

Mary said...

Thanks Alan. Mary for ADA board

Lisa said...

I was just diagnosed last week, I too have an A1C level of 10.1. I appreciate your post, I'm starting now today to do what you said and see what works. Went to Dr. and was told to start meds immediately, but to not return for 3 mo., think I'll turn to specialist.

Lisa said...

I was just diagnosed last week, I too have an A1C level of 10.1. I appreciate your post, I'm starting now today to do what you said and see what works. Went to Dr. and was told to start meds immediately, but to not return for 3 mo., think I'll turn to specialist.

My Left Foot said...

Thank you for your information and helpful attitude for people like me who are lost in this new world of diabetic confusion. Although the doctor has told me I am not a diabetic, he said I am pre-diabetic and need to get it under control now.

Wow...I was scared that my A1c began at 5.9, then to 6.0 and now is 5.8 and some people here are at 10.1 and you were an 11!

I have only been on the Metformin for 5 days now. Not sure if this is helping me yet due to the fact that I read it takes a month or more to fully take effect.

Thanks again

Alan said...

G'day Lefty :)

Nice to meet you. Just for accuracy my A1c was 8.2% at diagnosis.

The metformin may take some time. Your dietary changes are more likely to be effective at this early stage.

Cheers, Alan

Teresa B. said...

Almost everyone in my family is diabetic except me, but I was diagnosed as "prediabetic". My Mom's doctor says you are either diabetic or you aren't. He says there is no "pre".
I'm is confused!
MY doctor hasn't told me anything about changing my diet to testing. What now?

Anonymous said...

I'm now not sure where you are getting your info, but good topic. I needs to spend a while studying more or understanding more. Thanks for magnificent info I used to be searching for this information for my mission.
My weblog :: www.diabeteswarrior.net

telerib said...

Sir, your blog is exactly what I needed to find. I have been tearing my hair out over trying to figure out what the "good foods" are, sorting through the conflicting advice, and wishing for clear, simple instructions (I'm an engineer, too).

'Test, test, test' is something I can do. Sounds like I need to get myself a meter!

Anonymous said...

This makes so much sense to me. Eat, test, and then adjust what I eat based upon the test results. I am glad I came here to find some help and information.

Anonymous said...

Thank you.I have been doing exactly the same thing for the past 10 or 15 years.i have been successful and do not check my BG regularly.My meals are perhaps a little bland but I do fine.

Daniel Hodge said...

I've been type II for about 15 years & generally done ok with a1c between 6.3 to 6.6 but recently it rocketed to 7.1 and I literally lost control of my bg. Went on essentially a carb starvation which brought my numbers down and seemed to reset my system. I discovered that I didn't need nearly as many carbs as experts recommend and finally cut out all conventional starches like cereal, bread, pasta and rice. Pretty much protein, vegetables & legumes. It's only been two weeks but my numbers are always good & I stopped using Metformin entirely. Bottom line is I wish I'd known about this 15 years ago.

Jan Bird said...

Thanks for the info. Will be reading regularly and catching up with what I've missed. I thought I wasn't diabetic. Total denial. My highest reading was 8.8 after some canned corned beef so I'm thinking I'm an idiot! 5.2 is my best reading but that's when I'm 'being good' on Atkins. Ditto x