The Cure For Diabetes

A number of people wanted me to see this yesterday, and I can understand why. A couple of hot takes on this:

The Junior Woodchuck’s Guide To Diabetes

Diabetes is a series of conditions linked by the major effect, that the body does not produce enough insulin. Insulin is what the body uses to break down glucose in your blood into energy, so if you don’t have enough insulin, a) your body doesn’t get enough energy, and b) the glucose builds up in your blood.

In some of these cases the body doesn’t produce any insulin at all, but in Type 2, it is usually that either the Pancreas can’t produce enough for the amount of body you have, or the insulin is not of sufficient strength to get through the fat around your organs.  (This is a Very Simplified Explanation, and is therefore Importantly Wrong in some respects on the details)

Your Pancreas Doesn’t Work As It Should, is the big takeaway.

The treatments are varied depending a lot on exactly what your body is doing or not doing correctly, but generally start with medication that reduces the sugar in your blood by adjusting how it’s absorbed during digestion, and then advance to further. Alongside this, you are advised to adjust your diet to attempt to lose any extra weight you’re carrying, because that will reduce the problems the insulin has getting to the right places if that’s the problem, and also by reducing the amount of insulin your body needs, simply because there is less of you for it to have to go to.

In fact, on average, if you can lose 15% of your body-weight from the time your diabetes starts to become an actual issue, it can go into remission, because your shitty pancreas is now producing enough insulin to do all it needs to.

Second takeaway: Eating sugar doesn’t cause diabetes, overloading your pancreas does, and some people’s pancreas isn’t that great to start with.

A) You’re not cured, though. It’s remission. Your pancreas isn’t going to get any better. In fact, the likelihood is that as you get older, it’s going to fail – along with everything else. Also if you put on weight again – as people who lose weight quickly tend to do – it’s going to come back again.

B) The symptoms of diabetes can range from pissing a lot, through feeling tired, being bitten more often, more skin infections (because your sweat has sugar in it which bacteria feed on), more bug bites (because same) and escalate to heart problems (because you have sugar syrup for blood). Or it could look like nothing at all for a long time. Unless you’re getting blood tests every few years (and, if you have a family history in it, you should) (I am not a good example in this respect), it’s hard to catch early. By the time you know, the losing weight goal may have already passed.

The cure is diet and exercise!

So this is why I think Tom Watson’s advice is dangerous. 

First, good on the chap. Losing that amount of weight is hard, because you’re fighting against your own model of how food works as well as your body’s expectations of energy levels. It’s an impressive achievement.

I did the NHS Diabetes Education session (Diabetes2Gether) last week

But generalising it isn’t great. An emphasis on diet is already in the NHS education training for people newly diagnosed, and while it was fantastically useful once I got on the course, because it explained in simple terms exactly what the problem was, it still ended up mixing the concepts of “Things that are bad because of the disease you have” and “You should avoid these things because they’re bad for your health”. For example, Carbs turn into glucose. It’s not _sugar_ that is bad, but they are the “worst” kind of carbs. So in a perfect world, cutting out carbs completely would be the solution. Sadly everything else contains stuff that’s also bad for you without moderation, and the eduction pieces have to mention that, so you end up with a message of “This is bad for your condition, but these things are bad for you anyway, and don’t do this (for condition), don’t smoke (for health), eat five portions of fruit and veg a day for health (but not too much fruit because of the condition).

And the public announcement that Mr Watson has “reversed” his diabetes with a strict diet and new exercise regime is something to be congratulated, but it’s also something that, in his position on a decent salary with a job that gives him a lot of freedom over his own schedule, is not available to everyone. It’s a lot like the apocryphal TED talk by a multi-millionaire who did it by winning the lottery, recommending everyone give up working and buy lottery tickets instead. It worked for them, it’ll work for some people, but it’s advice as part of a general set of solutions.


So I’ll stick with my stack of mediation and my lower calorie diet – plateaued though it is – and the advice of my doctor. Which is, incidentally, that congratulating yourself overmuch for rapid weight loss makes it a lot harder to admit when you can’t sustain it long term.


Nutrient Sludge Reviews

Week One: Replaced lunch each day with my chosen brand of nutrient sludge.

Monday, “New Vanilla” flavour, blended with ice:

An expensive cheap vanilla milkshake. A day out at the beach in England, pleasant enough to be fun, but just enough cloud to keep the joy at bay. Notes of vanilla, a dream of hospital walls, a lick of the cliffs of Dover.

Tuesday: Same, blended with ice, frozen peaches and banana:

A day trip back to the holidays of yesterday, mostly unchanged. A more expensive cheap vanilla milkshake, luxuriously thicker, bananas litter the sidewalks, with the peaches a photograph of a fading memory. More notes of vanilla, the dream is the same, the taste of the cliffs remains.

Wednesday: New Vanilla, blended with frozen peaches and refrigerated overnight:

The same day out, fewer bananas, the peach still a distant memory. Thin particles of chalk dust on the air, like someone cleaned a blackboard eraser nearby some minutes ago, perceptible but unseen.

Thursday: New Vanilla, blended with cocoa powder, made in the morning and refrigerated until lunch.

A seventies version of a fifties diner on the sea shore, off-brand covers of rock and roll on the jukebox and quorn-burgers on the grill, a chocolate milkshake with your third-best partner and the agreement that you’ll go to the prom together if nobody else asks you. The kind who cleans the blackboards is in the booth behind you, and you can tell.

Friday & Saturday: New Vanilla, blended with cocoa powder and frozen strawberries and fridged for a couple of hours:

An actual fifties diner, a jukebox with nothing but the hits of Elvis. A promise made with haste and honour, a dance into the night. Maybe it’s you who cleans the blackboards all along, but it doesn’t matter.

Sunday: Vanilla blended with ice and Huel “Pineapple & Coconut” flavour sachet

A bright day on a sunny beach, the skies of blue and the sands of gold. The memory of a piña colada on the breeze. Hardly anyone for miles in any direction, and your “Blackboard Monitor” badge reflects the sun back on itself.



A Brand New Day One

It’s all a bit male-author-self-discovery-novel, to be entirely honest.

After a couple of decades of dodging the issue with increasingly obvious symptoms, I eventually signed up with a GP who told me a few things I already know (It’s bad to leave 20 years between doctors appointments, and I display signs of depression), and – after a bit of blood work and admin faffery – that I’m type-2 diabetic, my blood sugar is mountainous, and I should get this under control before it very literally actually kills me.

(She was nicer than that).

A collection of paraphernalia

The resulting changes come in waves, as administration and postal services cause things to arrive. Prescriptions for pills to lower my blood sugar arrived automatically and – Thanking our better past for the NHS – free, and ramp up to their full dosage over the next month. With that I got a pill management thing, because pre-prep and routine help me actually do things and feel more comfortable with it.

Being me, I found a glucose monitor that interfaces with my phone and produces various nerdy graphs I can obsess over, and that arrived this morning, so I can stab myself in a medically approved manner.

Over the next week I’ve got appointments to get my feet stabbed to check for nerve damage, referrals for other bits and bobs.

It’s also finally kicked me into getting back on the “exercise” bandwagon, and back into watching my calorie intake, which will also help me get my blood sugar under control, rather than the four times “normal” it’s currently hovering below.

So I’ve signed up for the slimfast of a new generation, at the moment in the form of Huel, as a meal replacement thing. First results are… not great, to be honest. It’s filling, if a bit chalky to drink. However: If you have any opinions upon this, especially if they involve comparing the thing I am consuming in order to improve my health to vomit or worse, I would appreciate restraint in comments here or elsewhere.

So yeah. It’s been something of a week, and to be honest the diagnosis of an incurable medical disorder isn’t the best news I’ve had this year.