Most people know that diabetics have to keep insulin on hand to help keep their blood sugar in check. But insulin isn’t the only resource available for diabetics, nor is it the only tool diabetics should keep around. Whether you have diabetes or are prediabetic, there are certain diabetes supplies you should be aware of and keep on hand.
Certain supplements have been shown to reduce the likelihood of developing diabetes, and to assist with complications that can arise because of the illness.
Chromium is a trace element found in foods like beef, whole wheat flower, certain yeast, fruits like orange and apple, and vegetables like tomato and green beans. A deficiency of that vitamin can lead to high blood sugar levels, so keeping that in check is important.
Vitamin E has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity. The vitamin is fat-soluble and helps prevent damage to lipids because of free radicals, which happens when diabetes leads to oxidative stress.
Vitamin E supplementation has an important role in delaying the onset of the diabetic complications as well as for slowing down the progression of the complications,” researchers studying the affects of the vitamin on diabetes found. “When highly-reactive species attack the lipids within the membranes or the lipoproteins, they set off the chain reaction of lipid per oxidation. Vitamin E halts this chain reaction, e.g. it acts as a chain breaking inhibitor of lipid per oxidation.
Some researchers have found niacin can be helpful for regulating prediabetes. Niacin is a B vitamin that helps turn food into energy. Its’ often used to treat high cholesterol, which diabetics often have – particularly of LDL, the “bad” kind. Some people were fearful of using the vitamin because it can affect blood sugar levels, but scientists have found that the affect is nothing to be concerned about if the patient takes the proper dosage of the vitamin.
Insulin is a vital hormone, without which a person cannot survive. It regulates blood sugar – as the CDC describes it, “Insulin acts like a key to let blood sugar into cells for use as energy.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explain, the food we eat is broken down into blood sugar, which enters the blood stream and signals the pancreas to release the hormone insulin. That hormone tells blood sugar to go into cells so they can be used for energy and signals the liver to save any extra blood sugar for use later on. When the cells get blood sugar, a signal goes out telling insulin levels to go down because the levels of glucose in the blood stream have decreased. If that doesn’t work, cells stop responding to the insulin and the body starts pumping out too much of it in a cycle where the pancreas doesn’t know to stop production, leading blood sugar levels to rise continually until the pancreas can’t keep up.
That’s why diabetics keep insulin on hand. It replaces the hormone your body isn’t properly producing or absorbing. There are some types of insulin therapy that’s rapid-acting and meant to be injected immediately after eating, and other types that are long-acting to assist with glucose regulation while you aren’t eating.
There are also different ways to get that insulin into your body.
Some people use insulin pumps, which continuously pushes out rapid-acting insulin in a dosage level specifically chosen for your needs by your doctor. That pump also has the option to deliver extra insulin as needed to correct high blood sugar, usually when spikes occur after eating. That pump includes a flexible plastic tube that sits under your skin and hooks up to the pump.
Female wearing insulin pump
The method you may be more familiar with are insulin shots. Those are also sometimes called insulin pens because of their appearance. Those are small syringes with needle attached that are used to inject insulin whenever necessary. Some people need multiple injections a day, depending on their blood sugar levels. The number of injections needed can vary day by day.
Blood sugar monitors
The CDC says the most important thing you can do to manage diabetes – be it Type 1 or Type 2 – is monitor your blood sugar. That lets you know when to administer insulin.
The foods you eat and the energy you expend can affect those levels. If a diabetic’s blood sugar is off, it can lead to extreme or even potentially deadly complications, including things like heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, or ulcers that damage tissues and bone to the point that it necessitates amputation.
There are many different types of glucose meters, but these days most will hook up to apps on your smart phone so you can track your blood sugar levels. If you don’t have a phone, you should keep a daily written record so you can keep track of those levels and present the trends to your doctor.
Most glucose meters will have a lancet you’ll use to prick your finger. You squeeze a small amount of blood from your finger onto a test strip, which you then place into the meter to read. Some blood sugar monitors have lancets built in so you don’t have to carry them around separately. The POGO Automatic Meter, for instance, carries 10 test cartridges in the monitor itself so that when you press your finger against it, it automatically lances your finger for you and then dispenses the used materials. The FDA cleared that system in 2016.
There are also newer models of glucose meters in the works that don’t require constant finger pricking. META is building glucoWISE, a non-invasive sensor that can monitor blood glucose without the stabbing.
On top of monitoring your blood sugar levels throughout the day, you should also get an A1C test at least twice a year. Those inform doctors of your average blood sugar levels over the course of 3 months. The results help doctors better tailor your treatment plan.
Having snacks on hand is crucial for diabetics. They help prevent hypoglycemia, keeping blood sugar regulated as best as possible. Some people may purposely work snacks into their routine at certain times of day; others may carry them around for when their glucose levels start dipping. The goal, researchers say, is to carry foods that are easy to digest and have between 15-45 grams of carbohydrates. Good options are animal crackers; popcorn; rice cakes; fruit like bananas, grapes, apples, or oranges; vegetables like broccoli, cucumber, cauliflower, or celery; nuts; or sunflower seeds.
There are medications other than insulin that are also used to treat diabetes. Metformin stops the liver from producing as much sugar. Thiazolidinediones, also called glitazones, are pills that help remove sugar from the blood stream. Some people take starch-blocking pills or pills that increase the amount of insulin the pancreases releases. There are pills and injections of Incretin that slow the absorption of food to reduce the amount of sugar produced in the liver. And lastly, there are Amylin Analogs, which are injections that have the same effect as Incretin.
When a person’s blood sugar level drops too low, it makes it difficult to speak and may lead to confusion. In some cases, it may cause a person to pass out. If you have diabetes, it’s a good idea to have a medical identification bracelet. There are many different kinds, some of which are simple metal bands or medallions on another bracelet with information etched into them, and others which are higher-tech.
That bracelet will clearly state your identifying information and the fact that you have diabetes. It should include emergency contact information, a list of important medications that you take, and any major allergies you have to any drugs that a first responder may administer.
It’s also a good idea to keep that information on a card in your wallet. If you have a lot of information you think would be important in a crisis, you may want to write “more info in wallet” on your bracelet so people know to check there.
Diabetics should keep a first aid kit on hand at all times. Their kits, however, are different from the regular box of Band-Aids and alcohol swabs. A diabetic’s first aid package should include all of the items listed above: medication, insulin, a glucose meter and spare battery, water and snacks, a list of emergency contacts, and the usual ointments and gauze that come in a typical first aid kit.
A diabetes diagnosis can be scary. But it doesn’t have to overwhelm you or even cause any major lifestyle changes. As long as you’re prepared and have the necessary routines and supplies in place and on hand, you’ll be just fine. The only hold-up then is how expensive some of those treatments can be. The U.S. government has been working overtime trying to find a way to make insulin more affordable for patients. Buy Canadian Insulin is well ahead of them in that mission. BCI offers low-cost insulin to diabetics, and will even deliver the medication straight to your door so you never have to worry about being without the supplies we now know are so very crucial to a happy life.