diabetes south africa
Our regular guest writer Maryna has some advice to share today about work stress and diabetes. How do you cope with work stress? Maryna shares some helpful tips that have made it easier for her to stay calm.
Stress and diabetes
Life is stressful. In my experience, diabetes and stress don’t play well together.
There are many factors that cause stress, some of them we have no control over, but other factors we can control. Personally, work life is my largest source of a clenched stomach, short breath and continual headaches. Gone are the days when loyalty and hard work paid off: this utopia that my parents so often talk about, I have never encountered.
In my youthful ignorance I chose to pursue a career in advertising. Now, I can’t speak for other industries. But I’ve certainly spent my last fifteen years working eighteen hour days, sleeping badly, drinking too much coffee, fighting stomach ulcers and being guilted into working weekends and holidays.
Constant work pressure
Rising up the ranks didn’t make things any easier, as the work and hours didn’t get any less, but the pressure and stress multiplied exponentially.
Don’t misunderstand me: I love what I do and I’m good at it. Most of my fellow creatives are amazing, brilliant people and the fact that I can wear what I want to work is a massive plus in my eyes! I’ve achieved what many others in the industry never do and enjoyed a career that has given me many opportunities to grow, but what did I sacrifice in the process?
It’s difficult coping in these high stress, high output environments, both physically and mentally. Adding diabetes to the already toxic mix makes it even harder. Looking back at the last couple of years, I can’t say that I would do everything over again and not regret it. My body and soul have taken a beating in so many ways and I certainly have the scars and stories to prove it.
Stress coping mechanisms (for a diabetic)
How do you cope in this crazy stressful world as a diabetic?
It’s taken me many years to learn this, but firstly: come to terms with your condition. I have this innate drive to not admit that anything is wrong with me. I spent years thinking that my diabetes was a weakness. Many of the things that my co-workers do effortlessly leave me in a near catatonic state for days. I have to sleep, I have to eat, some days I’m exhausted beyond measure, I get headaches, my ankles swell up, the list goes on and on, but it doesn’t make me a lesser employee.
Yes, I have issues, just like every other person around me. You have nothing to prove if you work at your best and deliver good work.
The secret here is that you can’t work your best if you feel like a half-asleep zombie all the time, and that’s a message that needs to come across to your superiors. Don’t let anyone guilt you into over-stretching yourself, don’t let anyone tell you that your diabetes is a problem. You can be just as productive as anyone else if you are responsible and give your body what it needs.
Be responsible for your diabetes
That brings us to point number two: be responsible. You, and only you, know your limits, and it’s different for all of us. Say STOP when you need it, and if your boss has a problem with that, then he’s most probably not a very good boss.
Look after your well-being, not only physically but mentally, I have found that your mental health has a lot more to do with healthy blood sugar levels than we are led to believe.
I am a strong believer in meditation and it has helped me to control my raging stress and emotions over time. This might not be true for you, it could something as simple as going to the gym every day or as complex as building a ten thousand piece puzzle. Find that thing that makes you calm. Find the space that gives you time to contemplate, analyse and solve your problems.
Educate others about diabetes
Thirdly: make sure those closest to you at work can recognise the signs when you lose the plot. Over the years I have become a master in casually talking about my diabetes, not in an aggressive or “feel sorry for me” way, just a casual chat. Educate those around you about your symptoms. I’ve found that at times I get so distracted by my work or a specific problem, that I don’t notice what my body is telling me. We’ve all had that unpleasant surprise hypo, that sneaks up from behind and leaves you a blubbering, confused mess.
Fortunately, or rather unfortunately for those around me, I turn into the proverbial bear with a thorn in its paw, so it’s obvious when my blood sugar is on the low side. Always make sure that there is at least one person who can recognise the signs and make you aware of them before you get into trouble.
Lastly: if your gut is telling you something is wrong, there’s most probably something wrong. Go to the doctor if you feel anything odd is going on in your body. Stress does strange things to you: I’ve had everything, from odd circular dry patches on my skin to a septic ulcer that landed me in hospital with a sugar count of 48 mmol/L and a near-death experience. Needless to say, that experience taught me that you can never be too careful or vigilant when it comes to your diabetes.
Our bodies tend to react a lot more violently to issues that most non-diabetic people just brush off as nothing. Learn to know your body and how it reacts to different situations.
There is no right or wrong way to deal with stress. Be aware of what your body is telling you and take responsibility for that. Learn what helps you deal with your circumstances and practice that. Don’t be afraid to stand your ground and defend your own health. Care for yourself and your work will surely flourish.
Victoria wrote to me last week with this glimpse of life with a Type 1 diabetic husband…
Last week, we were informed that Sweet Life has been named one of The Best Diabetes Magazines in the world. We are absolutely delighted – and honoured – to have been chosen from thousands of diabetes magazines on the web. Feedspot uses search and social metrics to rank the top 10 diabetes magazines based on the following criteria:
- Google reputation and Google search ranking
- Influence and popularity on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites
- Quality and consistency of posts
- Feedspot’s editorial team and expert review
Be sure to follow these blogs for more great diabetes information!
Are you in Durban? Do you have diabetes, or know someone with diabetes? Then join Diabetes SA for their 2nd annual fundraising brunch for the Durban Diabetes SA office.
All the details are below – one week today till this exciting event!
Have you heard about the Cape Town Diabetes SA Children’s Camp? Don’t delay, register today! Here’s all the info you need, from Shelly Schutte, one of the organisers. She posted this on the Diabetic South Africans Facebook page:
The Cape Town Diabetes SA Children’s Camp is now just a few weeks away and we are getting all the preparations in place! It will be held from the 31st of August to the 2nd of September. We have a mix of new and more experienced leaders for the upcoming camp and had a fun training morning on Saturday the 4th of August. All leaders were guided through the programme and given advice and training on how to care for children on camp responsibly while also making sure everyone has fun! Please note we will have a doctor and dietitian at the campsite throughout the weekend.
Diabetes Camp is such a special opportunity for children, teenagers and adults to meet others who just ‘get’ what makes Diabetes both a challenge and a gift. It is also a chance to have lots of fun while learning more about how to manage Diabetes.
If you haven’t got your camp form in yet, please email Margot as soon as possible.
The cutoff for camp forms is the 15th of August. The camp is open for 9-14 year olds and costs just R200. If you are older than 14, you are absolutely welcome to come along but may be asked to assist the leaders in some way.
See you at camp!
Our regular contributor Jane Sandwood tackles the topic of how to quit smoking if you have diabetes. Have you managed to quit smoking? Do you have any advice to share? Tell us your experiences, here or on Facebook, and it might help the rest of the South African diabetes community.
The health risks of smoking with diabetes
The health risks of smoking with diabetes are well documented; however, curbing nicotine addiction while managing your diabetes adds another layer of complexity to a notoriously difficult task. In South Africa, the prevalence of diabetes is increasingly rapidly, which in turn raises the stakes for smokers with diabetes to quit while controlling glucose levels. Because standard nicotine replacement options such as patches and e-cigarettes aren’t safe for diabetics, either, many are left with the daunting prospect of going cold turkey without a tangible removal plan. Fortunately, a range of treatment options exists for diabetics looking to quit smoking while managing their disease.
Early stages and treatment plans
Before quitting, smokers should consult their doctors to determine the best course of action. Because smoking suppresses appetite, some research suggests that diabetics who quit smoking struggle to control their blood sugar levels. As a result, individual diets may need adjustment to prepare for withdrawal from nicotine. Doctors can work with patients to devise a schedule or pattern that best suits their needs.
Most smokers will attempt to quit dozens of times before they are successful. While some attempt to gradually wean themselves off cigarettes, others go “cold turkey” and quit all at once. Although individual results vary, some research suggests that smokers who quit “cold turkey” were more successful than those who quit gradually. At any rate, it’s important to remember that quitting smoking is a continual process, and not something that happens ‘all at once’–even if you can pinpoint your last cigarette to a specific day. It’s normal to have setbacks, and plenty of ex-smokers can attest to the efficacy of quitting cigarettes, even it takes more than one attempt.
Moving forward with quitting smoking
Normally, diabetics will be able to quickly observe improvements and results in their own health within weeks of quitting smoking, which can encourage efforts to absolve from nicotine. It is also a good idea to consult medically supported research on the trajectory of nicotine withdrawal to give you a broader sense of what’s happening to your body as you continue the process of nicotine withdrawal. It may also be a good plan to keep a journal logging changes in mood, diet, blood sugar level, and other related factors to track individual growth throughout the process.
Quitting smoking is a frightening prospect for anyone addicted to nicotine, least of all diabetics. However, many viable treatment plans exist to help curb nicotine in a manner that is effective and safe. It won’t take much time to benefit from the wide range of advantages to quitting smoking as you continue the ongoing process of diabetic care.
Earlier today, a mom messaged me on our diabetes community Facebook page, Diabetic South Africans, to say that she desperately needed strips for her Type 1 diabetic son. Their local clinic had run out and they didn’t have money to buy strips, and she didn’t know where else to turn.
I put the request out on our page to see if anyone living near her could help.
Within 15 minutes, someone in her town had offered extra strips, and someone in nearby Joburg had offered to courier her spare strips and a spare meter. A few minutes later, someone else had offered more strips and insulin if necessary, and someone else had offered to buy a month’s supply of strips.
I actually feel quite emotional about it – I am in awe at people’s generosity.
And this couldn’t have happened anywhere else, because only fellow diabetics would understand the panic of not having test strips and not being able to test your blood sugar, and not knowing when you would get strips. It’s the absolute worst feeling, and now this boy doesn’t have it because of the Diabetic South Africans community.
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. And if you haven’t joined us yet, please do.
Bridget McNulty, editor of Sweet Life diabetes community, was recently interviewed on the Expresso show on SABC3.
The segment was about what Type 2 diabetes is, how it is caused, what to do to prevent Type 2 diabetes and how to live a healthy, happy life with diabetes.
What is diabetes?
There are three types of diabetes: Type 1, Type 2 and gestational diabetes. They are all related to how insulin is used in the body. In people without diabetes, when you eat your pancreas releases the perfect amount of insulin to match the food you’ve eaten. In Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas releases very little (or no) insulin so insulin injections are necessary. In Type 2 diabetes, either not enough insulin is being produced or the insulin that is being produced isn’t being used properly – the body is insulin resistant.
Insulin is so important because it acts as a key that unlocks the cells. When you eat, food is broken down into glucose, which is absorbed into your bloodstream. Insulin transports the glucose from the blood to the cells of the body, where they are used as fuel – as energy. People with diabetes have impaired insulin function, which means that if they are not in good control. their blood glucose gets higher and higher – this can lead to complications like blindness, amputation and kidney failure. But only if you don’t look after yourself! It is possible to live a perfectly happy, healthy life with diabetes.
What causes Type 2 Diabetes?
There is a strong genetic component, but Type 2 is often called a lifestyle disease because it is strongly linked to a poor lifestyle – being overweight (particularly around the belly), eating the wrong kind of food (junk food, lots of refined carbohydrates, fizzy drinks etc) and not exercising. If caught early enough, Type 2 can be reversed with a healthy diet, weight loss (if necessary) and exercise. (Type 1 can never be reversed). If lifestyle modifications don’t help, the treatment is generally insulin pills and eventually insulin injections. But the earlier you are diagnosed the better it is, because your body has not been damaged – that’s why we always promote getting your blood sugar checked. It’s a simple, fingerprick blood test at your local clinic or pharmacy.
Is stress a contributing factor – and how?
We all know that stress is bad for us. When it comes to diabetes and how the hormones function in the body, stress releases stress hormones like cortisol which raise blood sugar to give you an energy boost in times of danger (I’m not a doctor, but I’ve experienced this a lot myself). There are a lot of studies being done at the moment about prolonged stress, anger, anxiety, depression, poor sleep and how they relate to diabetes, but nothing has been proven yet.
What diet and lifestyle changes need to be made to fight diabetes?
Funnily enough, the kind of diet and lifestyle changes we should all be making – whether or not we have diabetes. A balanced diet with lots of fresh food and no refined carbohydrates (white bread, white rice, cakes, biscuits, etc), no juice or fizzy drinks, no fast food. Plenty of water, little alcohol, no smoking. Regular exercise – the recommendation is 30 mins 5 times a week, and it doesn’t have to be anything hectic, it can just be walking around the block and getting faster as you get fitter. And losing weight if necessary. Also regular sleep and keeping your stress down. It’s a recipe for health for anyone!
Diabetes and diet is a hot topic at the moment because of Banting and the wonderful results many people with Type 2 diabetes have had on it. At Sweet Life we don’t recommend a particular diet, we give everyone the facts so that they can decide for themselves. What works for one person may not work for others.
We get one question on our Diabetic South Africans Facebook page every week: please can you recommend a diabetes specialist in (a certain city)?
And then we ask the diabetes community, and get amazing answers. So I thought it would be helpful to compile all of those answers in one place. If you’re looking for a diabetes specialist, take a look at the list below. I’ve included comments in italics when people had something specific to say. And if you have a diabetes specialist to recommend, please share! You can either comment on this page or on the Diabetic South Africans Facebook page.
These are all diabetic specialists recommended by the diabetes community – endocrinologists, doctors and a few diabetes educators.
Joburg diabetes specialists:
Prof Wing at Donald Gorden Institute – (011) 356-6000. Amazing. He changed my life 4 years ago!
Dr Adri Kok, Union Hospital, Alberton
CDE in Houghton – 011 712 6000
Fantastic facility! I’m under the superb control and guidance of Dr. Stanley Landau.
1) Doctors and endocrinologists.
4) Lancet Laboratory
Doesn’t get much better than this!
Dr Mayet at CDE Houghton is a diabetologist, Dr David Segal specializes in paediatric diabetes.
Depends on whether you have medical aid or not. As a private patient the fees are less than for medical aids.
Dr Segal is a pediatric diabetic endocrinologist and excellent with children.
Dr Debbie Gordon at the Centre for Diabetes – 011 356 6040. She is absolutely amazing.
Podiatrist – Rae Bernstein
Diabetic Nurse Educator – Vanessa Brown
Ophthalmologist – Dr Peter Van Lingen/Dr A Taylor Donald
Tabitha Hume is a really helpful registered dietician.
Dr Erasmus and associates in Benoni: Dr Erasmus is the best
Diabetic Clinic at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital ???
Johannesburg Hospital (Charlotte Maxeke) has the best diabetic specialist in SA
Diabetic Educator Charlotte Meschede at Parkmore Medical Centre
Dr Reyneke at Life Springs Parkland
Dr Chiba at Clinton Hospital Alberton
Dr Andre Pieterse, Linksfield
Dr Jhetam: ophthalmologist at Milpark Hospital and private clinic in Lenasia
Centurion diabetes specialists:
Dr Wynand Jacobs near Unitas Centurion – he is the best!
Pretoria diabetes specialists:
Dr Jacobus van Dyk in Pretoria – the best ever
Dr Betsie Klopper in Pretoria/Hatfield.
Dr. Smit at Pretoria East Hospital
Dr Helena Oosthuizen at Pretoria East Hospital
Boksburg diabetes specialist:
Dr Coenie Venter, Healthworx in Boksburg
Secunda diabetes specialists:
Jeannie Berg is a diabetes educator at Kosmos Pharmacy
Dr Bahadur – 0176381253
Witbank diabetes specialists:
Dr Lombard and Kate Ratcliff at the Diabetic Clinic in Witbank – 013 697 2407
I have been with them for almost 8 years now and have got my HBA1C from 10.8 to 6.0. They arrange all your yearly appointments with Kate, the diabetic educator, the podiatrist, eye specialist and dietitian. You also see Dr Lombard every time you see the previously mentioned people. They have received awards with the medical association and are all just awesome!
Dr Kathy Bridgens: opthamologist
Durban diabetes specialists:
Dr Diab in the Kloof area (Highway Diabetes Centre – 031 7658741). Fantastic!
Dr Randeree at Parklands is an endocrinologist
Dr Pillay in Westville. He is a paediatric endocrinologist.
Dr Govender, Sedeshan Soobramoney – very good specialist
Dr Jairam at Kingsway Hospital in Amanzimtoti. Very happy with him.
Dr Jo Skelton (endocrinologist) is incredible
Fiona Prins is a diabetic specialist par excellence
Dr Govender in Umhlunga
Julie Peacock is a Registered Dietitian practising in the Durban North, KZN area. She has lived with Type 1 diabetes for the last 43 years!
Pietermaritzburg diabetes specialists:
Dr Devan Gounder based at Netcare St Anne’s Medical Centre
Dr A.Y.D. Moosa – 033 3456222. He is also the MD of Midlands Medical Hospital in Pietermaritzburg. He is brilliant!
Kate Bristow is an excellent diabetes educator
Hilton diabetes specialist:
Dr Claudine Lee in Hilton
Welkom diabetes specialist:
Dr. Colyn: Internist at MediClinic Welkom
Port Elizabeth diabetes specialist:
East London diabetes specialist:
Unathi Daweti: diabetes nurse educator
She is the best…
Cape Town diabetes specialists:
Dr Hennie Nortje – N1 City Medical Chambers – 021 595 0922/3
Prof Francois Bonnici, UCT Hospital
It is a referral hospital but has an amazing team in Endocrinology. Prof Zollner is amazing!
Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital
Also popular with those of us with no medical aid!
Tracy Ugarchund, dietician with a special interest in diabetes: Constantiaberg Mediclinic
Ask the dietician: Genevieve Jardine
From the community: “I don’t understand the whole ‘low carbs high fat or high protein’ idea – how do carbs, fat and protein work together? Is there a happy middle ground, or does it need to be all or nothing?” Wessel Jones
To understand what all the fuss is about, we need to look at the history of diabetes treatment. Treating diabetes (both Type 1 and Type 2) by lowering carbohydrates (carbs) has come and gone out of fashion over the last century. This debate is not a new one and it is probably not going to go away.
Before the invention of insulin, the only way for a diabetic to survive was to cut out the foods (carbs) affecting blood glucose. With the advent of insulin, the focus switched from lowering carbs to lowering fat to help reduce heart disease. Fast forward a couple of decades and we can see that we have failed in reducing obesity, diabetes or heart disease. It’s not as simple as just diet: it’s about physical activity, stress, diet and environment.
How do carbs work in the body?
What is quite simple is that carbs cause blood sugar to rise and the more carbs you eat, the higher the blood sugar goes. If a person wants to control their blood sugar, it’s a very good idea to reduce carbs. The big question is: how low do you go? A “low carbohydrate diet” can have anything from 20g to 130g of carbohydrate per day.
Remember: One portion of carb (a medium apple, a slice of bread) = 15g carb
The amount of carbs depends on the individual, their control, their medication and their weight. There is a growing amount of scientific evidence that low carb diets improve glucose control and help with weight loss.
Where do fat and protein fit in?
When carbs are cut, the amount of protein or fat (or both) go up. And this is where the debate heats up. The concern is not the low carb, but the increase in saturated fat or fat in general. Remember that not all fat is the enemy and there are good fats that play a very important role in the body.
A benefit of protein and fat is that in the immediate, they do not cause the same spikes in blood sugar. When you lower carb intake you have an immediate blood sugar lowering effect. When this happens, and you have fewer spikes and dips in blood sugar, your appetite is better controlled. The fuller you feel, the less likely you are to snack and the fewer kilojoules you consume. The fewer kilojoules you consume, the more likely you are to lose weight.
The problem with the low carb approach is that, like everything else, it needs to be a lifestyle. When you add carbs back into your diet you will put on weight, especially if you have increased your fat and/or protein. You can’t have it all: full fat products and also carbs. The most important goal is to increase your vegetable intake and try to eat as close to nature as possible. Eat foods in their most original form.
When it comes to deciding on the right ratio of carbs : fat : protein, work with a dietician. It may take time to find your correct balance and you need to be monitored properly with blood tests and possible medication adjustments.
The International Diabetes Federation reports an average of three and a half million people in South Africa are living with diabetes. Three and a half million of us struggling with the insufficient production of insulin by our bodies – and many more undiagnosed. There is no question that diabetes is one of the most common healthcare concerns of South Africa and its citizens. So what diabetes treatment updates are there?
Well, there are reasons to hope and possibly celebrate. Recent years have seen great advancements in the diagnosis and treatment of diabetes globally. Scientists and medical professionals alike continue to work tirelessly in pursuit of a clinically tested and dependable way to improve the lives of those living with diabetes and possibly prevent the diagnosis of further cases. That work is beginning to show with some great breakthroughs in the treatment of diabetes. Here are some treatment advancements coming to the forefront and what it may mean for diabetes patients across South Africa.
Diabetes treatment options are changing
In 2016, the world received word of the first artificial pancreas being brought to the market for the first time. Although distribution and availability of the system remain fully explored, it is certainly garnering attention for its ability to help patients living with Type 1 diabetes by reducing the chances of hypoglycemia. The development has been cited by many studies as having the ability to transform diabetes by offering improved glycemic control. It responds to either low or high glucose levels and automatically adjusts the insulin levels accordingly.
With overwhelming success rates, South Africans saw the first version launch in 2009 along with Europe before later being expanded upon and eventually approved by the FDA in the United States of America. New drugs such as empagliflozin have also shown a great deal of promise in reducing cardiovascular risk. South Africa’s senior population has one of the highest cardiovascular risks in the world and this is directly linked to diabetes. The most common causes of death in diabetic patients have been shown to be either stroke or heart disease.
New development in insulin treatment for diabetes
For those living with diabetes, insulin is a key part of their daily lives. Diabetes means the body is unable to process glucose which in turn affects blood sugar. This is caused by the body either producing too little insulin or the insulin produced not working properly. Another exciting development in recent years is the development of longer lasting and more efficient medication for those having to do regular injections of insulin. Technological inventions such as the insulin pen by Timesulin are especially aimed at the senior population. The pen tells you when you last took an insulin dose. The device is now widely available from distributors in South Africa and has been largely welcomed.
Diabetes awareness is shifting
Public awareness around South Africa and amongst South Africans about diabetes is changing. Organisations such as SEMDSA (the Society for Endocrinology, Metabolism and Diabetes of South Africa) have released updated guidelines alluding to dietary guidelines for those with diabetes. The government is playing its part as well with an announced sugar tax taking effect in April 2018.
The Sugar Beverage Levy dictates that for beverages with sugar content exceeding 4g per 100ml is taxed at 2.1 cents per gram of sugar content. The tax is apart of the Healthy Living initiative being pursued by the government and saw information roadshows being held across South Africa to educate the public about the tax. Introduction of a sugar tax is hoped to deter the consumption of sugary beverages, a large trigger for patients and also a contributing factor for being diagnosed with diabetes in the first place.
Diabetes awareness in the workplace
Corporate wellness programs are now being offered by employers and more food establishments and canteens across South Africa are offering healthier options. More and more online resources and publications are promoting the need and tips for healthy eating on a budget. With over 37 percent of the population not being able to afford an adequate healthy diet thanks to food prices, the timing of these promotions is perfect.
Although these steps are certainly in the right direction, there remains a long way to go in fighting the spread of diabetes in South Africa. Better education along with an increased priority on healthcare lists are among some of the pressing options. By preventing and treating diabetes early, it is not only the country’s population that stands to benefit greatly, but also its economic standing.
For radio presenter and TV actor Kini Shandu, Type 2 diabetes gave him new meaning. Here’s what he has to say about his condition.
Kini Shandu is a radio presenter on one of KZN’s biggest radio stations, Gagasi FM, a TV personality on SABC’s biggest telenovela, uZalo, and the founder of Inqaba Media. He’s also a father of two and a Type 2 diabetic.
When were you diagnosed?
I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2010 – six years ago now.
How did you cope with the diagnosis?
It wasn’t easy coming to terms with the new lifestyle, especially because I felt I was too young to be diabetic.
Has it become any easier with time?
Yeah, it has. It became easier once I came to accept that it was my new reality. Having family and friends who support me all the way makes a great difference.
What’s the hardest part about being diabetic for you?
The pressure of making sure I don’t default on my medication: having to keep my medication kit with me, even when I’m travelling. We are all human and we can forget, but this is a challenge I just have to face. Reminders on my cellphone help me a lot!
How do you balance a busy life with eating right and exercise?
I jog every morning and I try by all means to eat as clean as I can. There are times when I miss junk food, but knowing the damage it could do is enough to switch my brain straight to its senses.
You’re a radio presenter on Gagasi FM, do you talk about diabetes at all?
Yes, I do talk about it a lot. I’m fortunate to have Gagasi FM listeners who follow me closely: they know I’m diabetic and are very supportive. I also make sure I spread the word on every platform I get.
Could you tell us about your TV acting?
I play the character of Shaun, a lawyer, on the SABC1 telenovela, Uzalo, weekdays at 8:30pm. The character is the complete opposite of me, but I’m loving it and I’d like to do more TV gigs in the near future.
What advice would you offer to diabetics who are struggling?
Accept the situation and take it one step at a time. Diabetes is a silent killer, so take a stand and fight it. Surround yourself with people who love and support you.
What makes your life sweet?
The fact that I’m diabetic! Joking. I love my life, I live an awesome life, I live with no regret. I thank God for each and every day in my life: diabetes gave me a new meaning to life.
Ask the dietician: Cheryl Meyer
From our community: “I get invited to lots of business meetings and workshops that are catered… Needless to say, none of the catering is healthy! What do I choose or how do I deal with this situation?” Rene Prinsloo.
Many of us consume at least half of our meals and snacks during work hours, which makes our food choices in catered meetings and workshops very important. Here are three steps to consider:
Step 1: Build your plate
- Aim to fill half your plate with vegetables or salad. Look out for vegetable skewers, veggie sides, crudités (chopped raw veg), soup or salads.
- Next, add a healthy carbohydrate: either a wholegrain/high fibre starch or a piece of fruit.
Look out for:
- Wholewheat bread
- A seeded roll
- Wholewheat pita
- Wholewheat pasta/noodles
- Wholewheat wrap
- Brown or basmati rice
- Fresh fruit
- For long-lasting brain and body power, add a source of protein.
Some good protein choices:
- Lean cold meats
- Grilled chicken
- Mini meatballs
- Legumes like beans or lentils
- Fish like tuna, sardines or pilchards
- Cottage cheese
- Boiled eggs
Sauces like low-fat mayonnaise, sweet chilli sauce, hummus or guacamole are optional but not essential.
- Deep-fried foods (like samoosas, spring rolls or vetkoek)
- Sausage rolls and pies
- Croissants, muffins or other pastries
Step 2: Choose portions with caution
- Be sure to start the day with a balanced breakfast and keep healthy snacks or a packed lunch on hand to avoid arriving at a meeting hungry.
- Use smaller plates and serving utensils to help manage how much you dish up.
- Sit far away from the food to avoid “picking”.
- Use the size of your hand to determine sensible and healthy portion sizes and curb overeating:
- A fistful is equal to one cup and can be used to estimate the portion size for carbohydrates (starches and fruits).
- The size of the palm of your hand can be used to estimate the portion size for protein. For a stew, curry or casserole this would be about half a cup.
- The tip of the thumb is equivalent to one teaspoon and can be used to estimate the portion size for all oils, butter or mayonnaise.
- The thumb can also be used to estimate the portion size for peanut butter or hard cheese.
Step 3: Carefully consider your choice of drink:
Some good choices are:
- Still or sparkling water
- Tea or coffee
- Vegetable juice
- Low-fat milk
- Sugar-free fizzy drinks
From our community blog:
I am new to this site.
Last night I was at the casualty section of Wilgeheuwel Hospital in Joburg because my 2 year-8-month year old son has been very listless and vomited and I thought he probably had gastro. He was diagnosed about 2 hours ago with Type 1 diabetes and was taken straight to ICU to be stabilised and to have tests done.
This was an overwhelming, terrifying moment for me — I know very little about Type 1 Diabetes and my OCD thinking went into a tailspin about “what if he is in a situation one day where there is no insulin available and and and…”
Forgive me for sounding so panicked, but I am utterly at sea and trying to come to grips with the news. I am writing in the hope that someone can tell me everything’s going to be okay – that the ‘episodes’ or emergency situations will be able to be handled with confidence and success, and that (bar all the huge adaptations we’ll make to our lives), he will be okay.
I’d really appreciate any comfort anyone can give to this totally inexperienced, upset mom.
My son is also a diabetic. He was diagnosed at age 12, nearly 6 years ago. I just wanted to say: hang in there. Your child will be okay. He will one day be able to cope with this all. Just remember that this is not your fault. Nothing could have prevented this. Do join our group on Facebook: Kids powered by insulin. This group has helped me through some tough times.
Remember there is light at the end of the tunnel. Keep the faith. It will get better, that I promise.
All will be okay as long as you take care of it and treat it accordingly.
Keep monitoring your son’s diabetes and it will be fine!
Oh my, I know the feeling of absolute devastation! I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes three years ago at an oldish age, and I live alone, and thought the world had come to an end. Obviously for such a little one it is very difficult… I’m very aware of what I eat. Living with diabetes is difficult, but doable.
Hypoglycemic episodes (hypos) can be a scary experience for all involved: here’s what you need to know to deal with one.
- A hypo is a sudden low blood sugar episode.
- The optimal blood glucose range is 4 to 7mmol/l. With a hypo, blood glucose levels are usually lower than 3mmol/l.
- Initial symptoms are nervousness, sweating, intense hunger, trembling, weakness, palpitations, or trouble speaking (depending on the person).
- The best thing to treat a hypo is fast-acting carbohydrates: 15-20g of sugary carb (a few sweets, 2 tablespoons of raisins, a tablespoon of honey or half a cup of fruit juice).
- The key is to catch low blood sugar early – as soon as it starts dropping – and treat it with a small dose of something sweet.
- If blood glucose drops too low it can get to the stage where the brain is not getting enough glucose.
- Symptoms of this are confusion, drowsiness, changes in behaviour, seizure and eventually coma.
- In case of a severe hypo, a glucagon emergency kit may be necessary. This once-off injection instantly raises the blood sugar, and is particularly useful when the person with diabetes is unconscious or unable to swallow.
- Notify all those close to you what to do in an emergency and how to use a glucagon injection.
- Test often to keep your levels as well controlled as possible.
From Facebook (Diabetic South Africans):
What’s the secret to a happy life with diabetes?
To not make it an issue. Treat it and forget it. Life is too short.
Most people suffer some type of illness, but we all have to just deal with it and get on with our lives.
Sorry to all those optimistic people out there… but there is no happy life with diabetes 🙁
Finding the right balance… While diabetes is not a good thing to have, one certainly does still have a happy life. Be informed… and that goes for your spouse and family members too.
Support and understanding from the people closest to you makes it easier to live with.
Ask the dietician: Cheryl Meyer
From the community: “Being both diabetic and pregnant makes it difficult to know what to eat – there are so many things I have to avoid! And I’ve been craving sweet things. Any advice?” Sameshnie Naidoo.
The diet for pregnant women with diabetes should be a healthy, well-balanced eating plan aimed at supporting the pregnancy and promoting blood sugar control. This is essential for the wellbeing of both mom and baby.
Of course, pregnancy and diabetes means that there are more foods on the “Do Not Eat” list, as your normal diabetic diet has a new list of things to avoid. But bear in mind that it’s only for nine months, and that it’s for the best possible cause: your healthy child.
Foods to avoid:
Here’s a list of foods that you shouldn’t eat when you’re pregnant because they pose a potential food safety risk and might make you ill or harm your baby.
- Soft cheeses e.g. brie, camembert, and blue-veined cheeses unless the label says they are made with pasteurised milk.
- Processed cold meats or deli meats unless they are reheated until steaming hot.
- Refrigerated paté or meat spreads (canned options can be eaten).
- Refrigerated smoked seafood unless as an ingredient in a cooked dish e.g. a casserole.
- Raw or partially cooked eggs and dishes that contain these e.g. homemade mayonnaise.
- Raw or undercooked meat and poultry
- Unpasteurised juice
- Raw sprouts
- Raw or undercooked fish or shellfish
- The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) recommends pregnant women avoid fish high in mercury e.g. shark, swordfish, marlin. And limit intake of fish and shellfish lower in mercury e.g. prawns, canned light tuna and salmon, to 360g or less per week.
The good news? You don’t need to give up caffeine entirely. The AND recommends keeping your intake below 300mg/day, which is about one or two servings of coffee or tea. And of course rooibos is naturally caffeine free, so you can have as much as you like!
Being both diabetic and pregnant can feel restrictive from a diet point of view… When you’re lacking motivation, just remember that everything you eat your baby is eating too: so put down the junk food and pick up a carrot!
A note on cravings:
Whether it’s pickles and ice cream or other odd combinations, both cravings and food aversions are common during pregnancy. Although the exact cause is unknown, taste perceptions may change with hormonal changes. Cravings are generally harmless*, unless foods you crave replace more nutritious foods, or all you want is junk food. If broccoli loses its appeal, for example, substitute another vegetable that you enjoy and tolerate.
*Cravings for non-food substances like sand or chalk (a condition called pica) can be dangerous as they contain lead or other toxic substances. If you’re craving non-food items, consult your doctor.
When Roxanne and Derick de Villiers wanted to enroll their son Noah in pre-school, they didn’t think diabetes would be an issue. When it turned out it was, they turned the situation around.
Can you tell us about Noah’s diagnosis?
It was just before his 3rd birthday. When Noah got really sick and then diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, we were really emotional. Here was our little boy who had this huge change in his young life: nurses and needles – that’s a picture we will never forget. But we can promise you this: in the midst of those overwhelming emotions, your parental instinct to protect your child immediately kicks in and your mind opens up so much to take in all that you need to. There is an urgency to get on top of the changes and adapt as quickly as possible.
Has it become any easier with time?
It has, it really has. You know that old saying that time is a healer? We believe time is a teacher. Diabetes is now second nature and so much a part of life. Having other family members also educated about Type 1 diabetes has made it easier as well because they can also test and inject when necessary.
When did Noah start pre-school?
Noah actually started pre-school the January before he was diagnosed with Type 1. When the pre-school was informed about him being diagnosed, the principal and his class teacher were at the hospital and were really supportive about this change in his life. What really impacted our lives positively was that they were prepared to learn and take part in this process too.
Could you tell us about the school application process?
At Noah’s first pre-school in 2012, he was already enrolled ahead of being diagnosed. We then made a home move and Noah needed to move pre-schools too. The school we enquired at for enrolment was amazing. Applying for Grade R was a little bit different and more involved. They had never had an application that included full disclosure of the child having Type 1 diabetes. We had a few meetings with the Executive Head and we pressed on for the understanding that we (the school and parents) could put a fair process in place that would protect both the child and the school without discarding school laws.
We needed to be a voice for Noah, for other diabetic children to follow and especially for the parents of diabetic children who go through this worry and want to enroll their precious children at the schools of their choice. The Executive Head and Regional Head of Noah’s grade school were true blessings because they agreed to put the suggested process in place and were on board to becoming the forward thinking, proactive and progressive school that they are. A beautiful school/parent relationship exists now.
What advice would you offer to other parents about diabetes education in schools?
The education is ongoing. It is never a once-off. Urge the school to have more teacher / parent sessions to talk openly about Type 1 diabetes. Whether your medical support is private or public, involve the nurse, the pediatrician, or the professor looking after your child. There is a big need, a big want and a big drive for education in this area. Minds need to be changed about diabetes and its management within the school system.
What makes your life sweet?
For Noah, having control of the DSTV remote and the Smart Tab and for us, his parents, seeing him so confident and secure even though he lives with diabetes.
Photos taken at Noah’s current school, Curro Century City.