diabetes community blog

A Sweet Life update

Hello friends!

For those of you who’ve been here for a while, you’ll know that we started this online community (both here on the blog and on Facebook – Diabetic South Africans) at the same time as we started Sweet Life magazine. It’s been over 5 years, and 20 issues of our free quarterly diabetes lifestyle magazine, and the response from you – our readers – has been amazing. We are constantly told what a relief it is to find a safe space to be able to talk about diabetes, and learn from each other and our amazing Panel of Experts.

We’ve been able to print and distribute Sweet Life for free for all these years because of the generous support of our advertisers – diabetes brands who saw the worth in the information we were sharing, and wanted to be part of it. But the times are changing, as we all know, and at the beginning of this year all our major advertisers told us that their marketing budget had been removed from print and so they wouldn’t be able to advertise in Sweet Life any more. The world has turned digital!

It’s taken us a few months to decide what to do next – we knew that without the print publication every 3 months you would still need a space to be able to get information and inspiration on how to live a happy, healthy life with diabetes, so we’ve been revamping our website and social media presence. You’ll notice that we have a lot of new sections on the site, and over the next few weeks we’ll keep adding more and more articles: we want this to be a database of helpful diabetes information, with all the features from the last 20 issues of Sweet Life right here in one place. And if you prefer the magazine format, you can also read all our past issues here.

So it’s a new start for Sweet Life: an online home that draws together all the best of the past magazines and lets us move forward in a way that everyone will be able to contribute to. We’re excited to have you on this journey with us!

Mr South Africa contestant is a Type 1 diabetic

We just got an email from Derick Truter, who is a Type 1 diabetic and also a Mr South Africa contestant. Here’s his story – let’s all support him on his Mr SA journey!

Let me quickly introduce myself.
My name is Derick W Truter (Age: 21), and I am one of the Top 50 Finalist for the Mr South Africa Competition of 2017.

As challenge one of four (1/4), we had to raise a minimum amount of R10,000.00 for CANSA. We are being judged on our creativity and hard work during the contest. I held a “Potjie” Contest and family day to raise funds for this good cause; we have raised R13,000.00.

I was born in Carletonville, Gauteng (06/06/1996), and grew up living in Gauteng. I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes on 14/10/2010 in the Potchefstroom Medic Clinic hospital, after I was rushed to the medical department after my local doctor tested my sugar and found the meter saying “HI”. This was after my grandma noticed diabetic symptoms. At the time of hospitalisation, my blood reading showed 34.4mmol.

In 2011, I was also diagnosed with Pancreatitis (Inflammation of the Pancreas, causing abdominal pain). I went for several medical procedures, including CAT Scans and Endoscopy. With the time passing, I have already begun to experience diabetic complications, as my eyesight is getting poor, and I still experience occasional abdominal pain caused by the inflamed pancreas.

But today I am standing strong as one of the MR SA contestants.

As a diabetic, I fully understand the emotions we have to deal with daily: this is not an easy condition to live with, because it takes time to manage and a lot of patience…

Sometimes I also experience ups and downs and days I am not feeling well, and I know how hard it is to educate other people, who think diabetes is caused by eating too much sugar.

Insulin is not a cure: it is life support.
I want us to find a cure.
I will stand strong, and fight this condition every day.
I want to be a voice for every other diabetic!

Stress and diabetes

I’m so excited to introduce you to Gabi Richter, a Type 1 diabetic and counsellor, and a new member on our Panel of Experts who’s going to be dealing specifically with the emotional side of diabetes with a monthly column. Let us know if you have any specific questions for her! Today she’s talking about stress and diabetes.

It does not matter how long you have been diabetic, for whether it is years or if you are newly diagnosed, living with a chronic condition comes with a certain amount of stress. How you manage that stress will determine the effects it can have on your sugar levels. To much stress or mismanaged stress can affect control of your levels, however having diabetes with its constant control and management can cause stress. Therefore we need to find a workable and manageable balance between the two.

There are many definitions of stress but simply put: stress happens when pressure exceeds your perceived ability to cope. It is an emotional strain or tension that occurs when we feel that we can’t cope with pressure.

Research shows a physiological difference between pressure and stress,

People experiencing stress have higher levels of various stress hormones in their blood stream then those that merely feel challenged. When we are stressed, the body releases hormones that give cells access to stored energy known as fat and glucose to help you get away from perceived danger. This instinctive response is known as the Fight, Flight or Freeze response.

When we are confronted by a threat, a hormone called cortisol are released to help us get ready to either Fight, Flight or Freeze. This hormone allows for the increase in blood sugar for energy and an increase in blood pressure for fresh oxygen to flow to the working muscles and the release of adrenaline for heightened vigilance and alertness. However, in diabetics this instinctive response does not work well since insulin is needed to get the stored energy (glucose) to the cells and we either do not produce insulin or we produce too much of it. We are then left with an excess build-up of glucose in the blood, which results in higher levels and one more thing we need to manage and worry about.

In today’s world, it is impossible to fully avoid stress even in small doses and since the body is still programmed to release this hormone whenever it detects a threat, we as diabetics are at a bit of a disadvantage and therefore need to have a good stress management plan in place that we can fall back on when we feel stressed.

Stress can be brought on by a number of factors: a higher Hba1c or a new treatment plan or even being late and getting stuck in traffic. And then of course work and family expectations – all of these situations will lead to some level of stress. It is never a good idea to ignore stress and to think that emotions like anger and sadness don’t affect our levels, because unfortunately that is wrong and as we know everything can affect us. Ongoing stress can wear you down and lead to poor management of levels: this in turn can then lead to depression.

As diabetics we need to always look at the bigger picture and have many management programmes in place. The simplest one I have found for stress so far is to rate my stress on a scale of 1 to 10 when testing my levels and to make a note next to each reading. This will allow you to see if your high or low reading could possibly coincide with stress of any kind.

When dealing with everyday situations in life, we need to try and remember that stress of any kind is not good. Our bodies are wired to cope with a small amount of stress and for a short period, however if we continue to stress for a long period this will have negative effects on our heath. It will not only lead to depression but has also been known to lower the immune system which in turn will make us more prone to colds and illness. Therefore, we need to try and take many deep breaths when we feel overwhelmed, and to try and find ways that we can relax. Even if that means having coffee with a friend and simply talking about our problems.

– Gabi Richter

 

The low carb diet debate

Remember when low carb wasn’t as well known as it is today? We do! Here’s an article from Sweet Life magazine published a few years ago that explains all the ins and outs…

Professor Tim Noakes says that a low carb, high fat diet is the way to go. We gathered your questions and asked him how the low carb diet affects diabetics. Here’s what he had to say.

  1. What exactly is this diet?

    A low carbohydrate, moderate protein, high fat diet. This diet is most effective for people with diabetes – either Type 1 or Type 2, or pre-diabetes, like myself. It also helps treat obesity, but it’s obviously not the diet for everyone. The question is whether it’s for 10% of the population, or 90% of the population – I think it’s about 60% or more.

    Low carb means no bread, pasta, cereals, grains, potatoes, rice, sweets and confectionery, baked goods. You have to be resolute – and the more severely affected you are, the more resolute you have to be. If you’re already diabetic, you have every reason not to eat these foods.

  1. Can you explain what carbohydrate resistance is?

    My opinion is different from the traditional teaching. Carbohydrate resistance is traditionally described as someone who is unable to take glucose out of the blood stream and store it in their muscle and liver. I disagree with this explanation: I think we’re all born with varying degrees of carbohydrate resistance, and the children who get really fat very young are the ones who are most carbohydrate resistant. The carbs they take in they simply store as fat. That’s the first group.

    The second group are people who become pre-diabetic at 30 or 40, and then they become diabetic at 50. They are overweight, and that’s a marker of the high carbohydrate diet. They eat a high carb diet, they are carb resistant and it gets more and more severe until they become diabetic. I think it’s genetic, and the reason I think that is because in my case, although I’ve lost weight, I’m still carbohydrate resistant – I can’t go back to eating carbs.

  2. What if you have high cholesterol? Isn’t it dangerous to eat so much fat?

    Firstly, the theory that high cholesterol is a good predictor of heart disease is not true – it’s a relatively poor predictor. A far better predictor is your carbohydrate status. Everyone knows this – if you’re diabetic or pre-diabetic, your risk of heart disease is increased. Diabetes, hypertension and heart disease are linked, but most heart attacks occur in people with cholesterol below 5. It’s very frustrating, because the public has got the wrong idea.
    A high fat diet corrects everything, in my opinion – your HDL goes shooting up, your triglycerides come shooting down and that HDL to triglyceride ratio improves dramatically: that’s one of the better predictors of heart attack risk. The LDL small particles are the killers, and on a high fat diet, those go down. Your total cholesterol can go up, but that’s because your HDL has gone up, and the large, safe LDL particles have gone up. So unless you measure all those variables: HDL and LDL and triglycerides and glucose tolerance, you can’t judge the effects of the diet.

  3. What carbs do you eat?

    The good carbs are veg – that’s it. Sweet potatoes (not regular potatoes), butternut, squash and then I also eat dairy: milk, cheese, yoghurt. I don’t eat any fruit except apples, but that’s because I severely restrict my carbs. You’re not cutting out nutrients if you eat nutrient-dense foods like liver, sardines, broccoli and eggs – those are the most nutrient-rich foods you can eat. You can get vitamin C from meat if it’s not over-cooked. The key is that you eat lots of fat, and you don’t avoid the fat. I eat lots of fish, like salmon and sardines. And you want to eat lots of organ meats – that means liver, pancreas, kidneys, and brains if you can get them, but particularly the liver. Liver is very nutritious.

  4. Is this diet possible for people who don’t have a lot of money?

    You don’t have to eat meat every day – you can eat sardines and kidneys, for example, which are both very cheap.

  5. Could the positive effect of a low carb diet on insulin resistance be because of the weight loss and not because of the new diet?

    No, absolutely not. Because it happens within one meal – your insulin requirements go down within one meal, because you’ve shut off the production of glucose by not eating carbohydrates.

  6. What is wrong with the old fashioned idea of a balanced diet? Why does it have to be so extreme?

    If you’re diabetic, you have a problem with metabolising carbohydrates. You have to understand that if you want to live a long life and have minimal complications, you want to minimise your carb intake. Start at 50g a day. What that looks like is two eggs for breakfast, with some fish – salmon or sardines, and some veg. And dairy: cheese or yoghurt. That will sustain you until early afternoon. For lunch, I think you should have salad and some more protein and fat – and exactly the same for dinner. Chicken, cheese, nuts, salad, tomatoes, broccoli. It’s an incredibly simple way to eat, but you don’t get bored.

Last words:

Once you’re on this diet, you feel so good, and you get rid of all these aches and pains and minor illnesses: you won’t want to go back. If you do go back to eating carbs you’ll put on the weight again. It’s not a diet, it’s a lifelong eating plan. It’s not a quick fix.

I think the diabetics who live to 80, 90, 100 are the ones who eat this kind of diet.

Sundowner snacks

Ask the dietician: Genevieve Jardine

From the community: “My wife and I love having friends over for sundowners but never know what drinks to offer and what snacks to serve so that I can actually enjoy myself too. Any advice?” Riyaaz Benjamin.

Luckily, there is a way to enjoy (guilt-free) sundowners… It just takes a little planning. Let’s take a look at the when, what and where of it.

When?

The main problem with sundowners lies with the timing. As the name suggests, they usually occur long after lunch and just before supper. This means that you may arrive hungry and tired with low blood sugar levels: a recipe for overeating, drinking (sugary) alcohol on an empty stomach, and filling up on unhealthy snack food. After sundowners, you may then go for supper, which means even more food and alcohol.

The key? Sundowners are best handled when prepared. Make sure you have an afternoon snack just before arriving (preferably one that contains protein to help stabilise blood sugar levels). Upfront, decide to either have the snacks as a replacement dinner (only a good idea if there are healthy snack options) or hold back and leave room for a light supper.

What?

What is being dished up? The good news is that sundowner snacks are usually savoury and not sweet. The bad news is that savoury snacks – like chips and cream dip, sausage rolls and salty peanuts – are often high in starch and fat. Try to choose the healthiest options on the table, and don’t forget to dish up a plate rather than snacking so that you know exactly how much you’re eating.

Sundowners are also synonymous with cocktails (not the right choice of drink for anyone with diabetes!) When it comes to alcohol, good options are light beer, a wine spritzer made with Sprite Zero or soda water, or single spirit tots with diet mixers. Sparkling water with ice, lemon and cucumber is a refreshing drink if you’re not in the mood for alcohol.

Healthy snack ideas:

  • Lean proteins like nuts, lean biltong and grilled strips of chicken or beef.
  • Fresh vegetables like cucumber strips, baby carrots, baby tomatoes and celery sticks, served with a low-fat cottage cheese, avo or salsa dip.

Where?

The last thing to consider is where the sundowners are being held. If you’re hosting or going to a friend’s house, you can simply bring along what you would prefer to eat and drink. Restaurants can be more challenging, but easily overcome with a bit of forward planning. Call the restaurant beforehand and make sure that there are snacks or drinks on hand that you can enjoy. Most restaurants are more than willing to help – if not, at least you know and can plan for the evening.

Having diabetes doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a cold drink and a delicious snack as the sun goes down, it just means you need to forward plan a little to enjoy it!

A strong sugary drinks tax in SA

We just got the following letter from HEALA and had to share it with you – Sweet Life has submitted comment, feel free to do the same!

 

 

Dear Friends,

ACT NOW TO TELL THE NATIONAL TREASURY AND PARLIAMENT TO PASS A STRONG SUGARY DRINKS TAX

BACKGROUND: WHY THIS MATTERS

In recognition of the negative health effects of sugary drinks, Minister of Finance Gordhan’s 2017 budget speech included a plan to tax sugary drinks—such as fizzy drinks and energy drinks—to help South Africans live longer and healthier lives. Tackling obesity-related diseases needs to be a national priority, and the proposed tax on sugary drinks is a first step in addressing this national epidemic. It’s important to raise as many voices as possible to strengthen and pass the tax.

Treasury and Parliament are acting NOW to further consider the proposed tax. The South African government has been under immense pressure from beverage companies and retail groups to weaken this important policy with exemptions, loopholes, and watered-down regulations—and they are having an impact! Even though there’s a proposed tax in the legislation, it’s critical to raise voices to encourage our leaders to strengthen and pass this life-saving measure!

That’s why Parliament and Treasury MUST hear from YOUR ORGANIZATION to make sure the final policy is strong and effective in reducing consumption of harmful sugary drinks among South Africans. They will accept comments on the proposal through 31 March.

Your organization has a unique voice and story to tell about why this policy is important to you. While it is critical to be active and engaged in speaking out on the necessity of a strong sugary drink tax, submitting public comments to Parliament and Treasury on the tax policy is especially impactful. Below are some key messages you can customize when submitting your comments, which are being accepted until Friday, 31 March 2017.

KEY MESSAGES: WHY WE NEED THE TAX

We support the National Treasury’s sugar drink tax and applaud them for their efforts to improve South Africans’ health; however, the tax can be strengthened to make it even more effective.

Sugary drinks are one of the most significant contributors to health problems such as diabetes, obesity, heart diseases, certain cancers, and dental caries in South Africa and globally. South Africans are among the top ten consumers of soft drinks in the world. In addition, South Africa is already ranked the most obese country in sub-Saharan Africa, and a recent study found that diabetes was the second leading cause of death among South Africans in 2015.

Sugary drink taxes work to reduce consumption, improve health, and save healthcare rands. Global experts—including the World Health Organization (WHO), World Cancer Research Fund, World Heart Federation, and International Diabetes Federation—recommend sugary drink taxes as a way to reduce sugar consumption. Evidence from Mexico and other jurisdictions that have passed taxes show declines in consumption that will work to decrease diabetes and other diseases without costing jobs.

The sugary beverage companies know that the tax will work to reduce consumption and make South Africans healthier. That is why they oppose it so vehemently. By passing a strong sugary drink tax, Treasury and Parliament can protect South Africa’s health and children rather than the special interests who target their unhealthy products to our most vulnerable consumers.

 

FOUR WAYS TO STRENGTHEN THE TAX

Tax all the sugar in all sugary drinks

The proposed tax design exempts a large portion of the sugar in sugary drinks—giving a “discount” on the first 4g of sugar per 100mL, no matter how unhealthy a beverage is. The discount reduces the health impact of the tax and is a giveaway to the beverage industry and manufacturers whose products have the highest and most harmful levels of sugars. There is no health justification for the exclusion, and no other country with a successful sugary drink tax has followed this structure. Treasury and Parliament need to remove the 4g discount and tax all the sugar in sugary drinks.

Increase the tax rate of concentrates

The current tax proposal includes a tax rate for concentrates (squashes or syrups) that is half the rate for ready-to-drink products. South Africans are drinking more and more concentrates than ever before; it is the fastest growing segment of the sugary drink market. Consumption in terms of kcal/capita increased from 16.5 percent in 2009 to 32.9 percent in 2016; by comparison, consumption of regular cola carbonates in 2016 was only 29.3 percent. To achieve its objective of improving health, the tax must encourage South Africans to consume beverages that are lower in sugar—instead of switching to cheap sugary concentrates. The tax rate for concentrates should be increased to align with the rate for ready-to-drink sugary beverages.

Tax all drinks with added sugar

The current proposal doesn’t include all sugary drinks. Fruit/vegetable juices and dairy-based drinks with added caloric sweeteners contain equal or higher levels of sugars, despite their illusion of health. Treasury needs to clarify their proposal so that all fruit and dairy-based drinks with added caloric sweeteners (whether using a fruit juice, concentrate-based sweetener, or any other caloric sweetener) are taxed.

Some revenue from the sugary drink tax should be used to promote health

While the sugary drink tax itself will be effective in improving health, it will be even more effective if some of the revenue is used to fund programs to promote healthy eating and improve health. It’s critical that the intent expressed in the budget speech to do this is carried out in practice. South Africans need to know that revenues will be used to benefit the health of the country. Revenue should be directed towards health promotion measures, such as increasing the number of community healthcare workers, funding nurses in schools, developing and implementing effective health and nutrition education campaigns, or improving water and sanitation infrastructure.

3 SIMPLE STEPS FOR SUBMITTING COMMENTS

  1. Introduce your comment by discussing why this is important to your organization; this is your chance to personalize your comments with your own experience
  2. Draft your comments on why the tax needs to be passed and strengthened, using some or all of the key messages in this document
  3. Email your comments by Friday, 31 March 2017 to: Ms Mmule Majola atmajola@treasury.gov.za and Ms Adele Collins at acollins@sars.gov.za

The South African government MUST put the health of South Africans before special interests who target vulnerable populations with their unhealthy products. Please make your voice heard today!

Best Wishes,

Tracey Malawana

Healthy Living Alliance

Humans of South Africa

Hi there,

I am a writer, copywriter and journalist; I have been running Humans of SA for 2 years – we also have a Facebook page. I wanted to create a space where I could share South African stories. My aim has always been to open windows into worlds we might know nothing about. I interviewed a lady recently who lost her father to diabetes.

Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 12.18.07 PM

She speaks about a lack of understanding in terms of care and treatment. I feel it is important to bring attention and help create more awareness by telling stories of people who are diabetic, of professions who can advice and help.

If you have a story you are happy to share, please get in touch by emailing me.

Thank you!

Sandy

Diabetic Eye Problem

Hey,

I’m Nicolene from Bloemfontein, I’m almost 19.

I was at the doctor today for my eyes. I have bleeding in the back of my eye. Just want some advice how can I make this better?

The doctor said less sugar and sugar controlled. Just want to know who also has or had bleeding in the back of their eye on this page and what did they do to make it better etc.

Thank you,

– Nicolene