Newly diagnosed? Read Jennifer's advice.

When I began looking around t'internet for information about managing diabetes I kept coming across something called "Jennifer's Advice" which made a lot of sense to me and though it seems to be written with type 2 in mind, it applies equally well to type 1 diabetes (with the addition of bg tests before each meal and some more elastic post-meal test timings, I would suggest). In fact to my mind T2s on diet and exercise should test pre-meal too as it helps to isolate the action of the food at that particular meal.

Unfortunately I don't know who Jennifer is, but I have taken the liberty of reproducing her advice here in the hope that some might find it useful.

Jennifer's Advice for the newly diagnosed - Test, test, test

Written by Jennifer, November 2008

Sounds like you're planning to take control of your diabetes... good for you.

There is so much to absorb... you don't have to rush into anything. Begin by using your best weapon in this war, your meter. You won't keel over today, you have time to experiment, test, learn, test again and figure out just how your body and this disease are getting along. The most important thing you can do to learn about yourself and diabetes is test test test.

The single biggest question a diabetic has to answer is: What do I eat?

Unfortunately, the answer is pretty confusing. What confounds us all is the fact that different diabetics can get great results on wildly different food plans. Some of us here achieve great blood glucose control eating a high complex carbohydrate diet. Others find that anything over 75 - 100g of carbs a day is too much. Still others are somewhere in between.

At the beginning all of us felt frustrated. We wanted to be handed THE way to eat, to ensure our continued health. But we all learned that there is no one way. Each of us had to find our own path, using the experience of those that went before, but still having to discover for ourselves how OUR bodies and this disease were coexisting. Ask questions, but remember each of us discovered on our own what works best for us. You can use our experiences as jumping off points, but eventually you'll work up a successful plan that is yours alone.

What you are looking to discover is how different foods affect you. As I'm sure you've read, carbohydrates (sugars, wheat, rice... the things our Grandmas called "starches") raise blood sugars the most rapidly. Protein and fat do raise them, but not as high and much more slowly... so if you're a T2, generally the insulin your body still makes may take care of the rise.

You might want to try some experiments.

First: Eat whatever you've been currently eating... but write it all down.

Test yourself at the following times:

  • Upon waking (fasting)
  • 1 hour after each meal
  • 2 hours after each meal
  • At bedtime

That means 8 x each day. What you will discover by this is how long after a meal your highest reading comes... and how fast you return to "normal". Also, you may see that a meal that included bread, fruit or other carbs gives you a higher reading.

Then for the next few days, try to curb your carbs. Eliminate breads, cereals, rice, beans, any wheat products, potato, corn, fruit... get all your carbs from veggies. Test at the same schedule above. [Note: this advice is for T2s on diet and exercise/some oral meds, if you are T1 and on fixed doses you should be eating a measured quantity of carbs at each meal to match your insulin dose. T2s on insulin and other injected meds need to reduce carbs with more caution to avoid hypos. Testing after meals will help you see how steady or spiky your levels are when you eat different foods. M]

If you try this for a few days, you may find some pretty good readings. It's worth a few days to discover. Eventually you can slowly add back carbs until you see them affecting your meter. The thing about this disease... though we share much in common and we need to follow certain guidelines... in the end, each of our bodies dictate our treatment and our success.

The closer we get to non-diabetic numbers, the greater chance we have of avoiding horrible complications. The key here is AIM... I know that everyone is at a different point in their disease... and it can be progressive. But, if we aim for the best numbers and do our best, we give ourselves the best shot at heath we've got. That's all we can do.

Here's my opinion on what numbers to aim for, they are close to non-diabetic numbers.
  • Fasting Under 6
  • One hour after meals Under 8
  • Two hours after meals Under 6.5

or for those in the mg/dl parts of the world:
  • FBG Under 110
  • One hour after meals Under 140
  • Two hours after meals Under 120

Recent studies have indicated that the most important numbers are your "after meal" numbers. They may be the most indicative of future complications, especially heart problems.

Listen to your doctor, but you are the leader of your diabetic care team. While his/her advice is learned, it is not absolute. You will end up knowing much more about your body and how it's handling diabetes than your doctor will. Your meter is your best weapon.

Just remember, we're not in a race or a competition with anyone but ourselves... Play around with your food plan... TEST TEST TEST. Learn what foods cause spikes, what foods cause cravings... Use your body as a science experiment.

You'll read about a lot of different ways people use to control their diabetes... Many are diametrically opposed. After a while you'll learn that there is no one size fits all around here. Take some time to experiment and you'll soon discover the plan that works for you.

Best of luck!

See also:
Test, Review, Adjust by Alan S
You did NOT eat your way to diabetes excellent article/research roundup on the causes of Type 2