I have diabetes!

First appointment
One Tuesday at the beginning of March 2021 I was aware that I was doing very small urinations, quite frequently. Also, I was experiencing pain in the intestines and a dry mouth. This was worrisome, new and somewhat upsetting, as well as giving me anxiety. Accordingly, I sought an appointment with my GP for the following day.

She examined me and could find no problem, other than a very slightly enlarged prostate, perfectly normal at my age. As for the urinations, she advised me that this would settle, saying that relaxation and not worrying about it would help.

It continues ...
I continued like this for about six weeks. It turns out that the abdominal pain was unrelated, and was "just one of thise things." It was the dry mouth that was irksome. Some days it was quite slight; other days it was intolerable. I could barely raise enough saliva to lick a cigarette paper. I should add that there were absolutely no other symptoms. I figured it must be dehydration, and started to drink lots of fruit juice. The thing is, it was NOT dehydration, and accordingly the fluids just ran straight through me. I collect my grandson from school two days a week, and the frequent urination was a problem. I needed to stop drinking fluids in time for it to have gone through me before setting off to collect him. Similarly with shopping trips and other outings. It became a mathematical exercise. When collecting my grandson I was quite relieved if it was raining, then we could just go home and be near the toilet.

Is there a convenient bush?
I persevered. I told myself that maybe dry mouth was just something that happened in old age. But what was bothering me was the inability to go out. I'm a great walker, and try to do two or three miles a day, but this proved to be difficult. I planned my walks to places where I knew there was a convenient bush to hide behind to have a wee. But ultimately, this was no good; it was becoming intolerable.

Back to the doctor's
Finally, 21 March, I phoned the surgery to seek another appointment. It was clear that there just were not any routine appointments; presumably the doctors were all out at a vaccination centre administering the jab. The advice, via recorded message, was to use the online form on the website to describe the problem, whereupon a doctor would get back to me as soon as possible. This I did, mentioning nothing more than dry mouth, since there was nothing more to mention.

The doctor texted me the following day. She asked me to take in a urine sample, saying that she wanted first of all to exclude diabetes. I took in the sample and waited to hear. Funnily enough, my daughter and I had mentioned the possibility of diabetes.

High sugar!
She telephoned me the next morning. She said that there was a very high sugar content in my urine, and I needed to go for a blood test at the local hospital immediately. Meanwhile she passed the request for blood investigations to the hospital electronically, and off I went. She telephoned me two or three days later (the weekend intervened) and told me the tests were unequivocal: it was definitely diabetes type 2 (**). We discussed at length what I needed to do. I had to cut out all sugar and as much carbohydates as possible at once! She prescribed a medication called Metformin, of which I needed to take two tablets of 500mg per day. She advised me to just take one a day at the beginning because Metformin could cause bad side effects such as nausea, intestinal pains, even vomiting.

So it was with trepidation that I took my first tablet. Nothing; no side effects! I must be one of the lucky ones! Therefore I took two the next day and every day since. Meanwhile my daughter was the lucky recipient of a bag of sweet and carbohydrate goodness and I learnt to take unsweetened coffee and consider my diet. I was a big eater of sugar, and that had to end. And what to eat?? As regards coffee, I bought a Stevia-based sweetener. Hmmm, after-taste unpleasant, so abandoned.

I image that when I go shopping, other shoppers probably wonder "why is that man studying the back of every packet?"

Sweet potatoes?
Short on research at this point, I felt that obviously potatoes were out, so I went out and bought sweet potatoes. Never had them before; I found them much too sweet. But then a little research revealed that in fact they are just as bad as potatoes in the carbohydrate department. Ditto rice, so how would I fill my stomach?

I determined that vegetables were the way to go, and overnight became almost a Vegan. But also meats, particularly chicken and turkey were fine, as were eggs in moderation, so I've built up a diet featuring these. I was able to survive two entirely sugar and carbohydrate free days up until yesterday, and I'm so pleased to report that urination is back to normal. I'm also very pleased to say that beer in moderation and a spot of red wine seem to be just fine. Thank goodness for that, as I enjoy a drop of alcohol before dinner.

Measuring and quantifying
There are two measurement features involved in watching your diabetes: HbA1C and blood glucose. Blood glucose should ideally be between 4 and 6 pre-meal and under 7.8 after. For diabetics these figures are 4 to 7 and under 8.5, so there isn't a lot of variation between normal and diabetics. I bought a blood glucose monitoring kit from Amazon and started using it; my figures have been so far been 5.8 and 9.5 before and 7.9 to 9.9 after dinner. That 9.9 was after eating sweet potato for dinner, so the effects of the"wrong" food are quite quickly apparent. Since ditching all carbs my after-dinner reading is down to about 8.2, with around 7 before. Quite pleasing.

(In a mid-July update, I seem to have stabilised at a gross overall average of 7.1, and as low as a mid-afternoon of 4.9)

The other measurement is HbA1C. This is quite a complex measure. The sugar in your blood is called glucose. When glucose builds up in your blood, it binds to the haemoglobin in your red blood cells. The A1c test measures how much glucose is bound. Red blood cells live for about 3 months, so the test shows the average level of glucose in your blood for the past 3 months. Normal A1C is around 42 or below for non-diabetics. Over 48 would indicate the presence of diabetes; mine, at the recent blood test, was 67. Although that looks pretty high, it's not the worst I've seen online. Remember, that figure was the result of two sugars in about 4 coffees per day, plus starchy foods, and doughnuts, and lots of chocolate! In three months it will be tested again, and I would be very disappointed if it wasn't a lot lower.

And so in conclusion
I find it interesting that such a serious disease shows absolutely no symptoms except for this dry mouth. And that's getting much better since I started to watch my diet and began taking Metformin. Right now, as I write this, it's barely dry at all. It's incurable, and can only be controlled, not fixed. However, I'm absolutely determined to get it right under control. I'll probably be on Metformin forever (though I have read of others who were so successful that they came off the drug) and may never taste sugar or a spud again. This bothers me not. I'm very relieved to be able to go out without worrying about where I can go for a wee, knowing that it can wait till I get back home.

September 2021: Wonderful news!
The HbA1C test, spoken of above, is meant ideally to be performed every three months, because the red blood cells, whose glucose content it measures, have a life-span of three months, so in theory, since one started carb-less, the HbA1C will show the effects of the new diet.

So I had another blood test recently, and indicated to my GP surgery, via email, that I would very much like to speak to the diabetic nurse. In due course she telephoned me, and cut straight to the chase: 40. Remember, a figure of 48+ = diabetic. 42 or below is normal. Mine was 67 at my first test. The latest result is 40. Yes, 40. To say I'm delighted would be a gross understatement! All my hard work of cutting out sugar and anything containing carbs has paid off, and now my HbA1C is normal. No, it doesn't mean I'm cured, there's no such thing with diabetes, but it means either that I'm in remission, or certainly that my efforts are working well.

I have to continue with the Metformin, but I could have an occasional biscuit (cookie) or slice of bread, which will be useful when I get soooooooo hungry in the evenings.

March 2022: I'm wondering if I actually have diabetes?
Since that news, above, when my diabetes nurse indicated that, since my HbA1C was looking so good, I could cautiously look at biscuits and bread. Well I did, and my glucose readings were looking great. Since then, I've been gently increasing my biscuit and bread intake, and have also veered in the direction of chocolate, and other naughty stuff, without any negative effects on the glucose readings.

Now I'm eating normal biscuits (not sugar-free!), sandwiches, and make a pig of myself on chocolate an hour or so after dinner. I try to avoid starchy stuff, but I must report that we recently held a 6th birthday party at Pizza Hut. I'd been wondering what I could eat in such a place. In the end I said, to hell with it, and had a full size thin-crust. Two hours later I pricked my finger: my reading was 8.0: within normal after-dinner range of under 8.5. Some of my random afternoon and evening readings are as low as 3.9, even after biscuits and chocolate. So what's going on?? A few minutes ago, at about 3:15 in the afternoon, I took a reading and it was 6.1. For comparison, I once pricked my daughter's finger at roughly the same time of day, and she was 6.3, and she's NOT a diabetic. Most perplexing!

About that (**) and about diabetes types 1 and 2
I have diabetes type 2. Its cause is insulin resistance and is not hereditary. Type 1 is caused by insulin deficiency and is hereditary. Type 1 is normally treated by insulin injections daily while type 2 is treated (usually) with drugs such as Metformin. But this isn't the place to go into too much detail about the differences. Wikipedia has, as is usual, deep and accurate information about all facets of both types.

Read about ..... ..... how I measure my glucose readings

I'm here!
If you have diabetes type 2 (not type 1 - I don't know much about type 1) or think you might have it, I'm always here and welcome emails to discuss the matter. You can email me at alansworld at gmail dot com any time.

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